Another Arnold Sports Festival has come and gone and this year’s event did not disappoint. Despite there being many withdrawals in men’s open bodybuilding, it ended up being a very interesting contest for men’s open, and every event was exciting in its own right. We want to talk a little bit about the surprises from men’s open, and lessons learned from the show.
First off, the new, two day format of the Arnold really made it interesting to see which competitors could improve their conditioning, and who slipped up, letting someone in the door to take a placing. Day 1 prejudging was a huge surprise, with the line-up favoring some of the more up-and-coming bodybuilders. The biggest comparison was the shockingly big, full and shredded Justin Rodriguez next to Brandon Curry. These sorts of comparisons pointed toward a placing as high as second place. However, at finals, he seemed to spill over and look smooth, which knocked him all the way down to fifth place. This was perhaps the biggest swing in placings in the show, allowing Dauda to come in just ahead of him. One of the relative disappointments of the show was the darkhorse Brett Wilkin, who was hyped up a lot in the bodybuilding community, but was easily out-muscled and out-conditioned by most of the lineup. However, this is only his second pro show and a sixth place finish is nothing to be disappointed about.
The only other big plot twist is between the most important placings — 1st and 2nd. In pre-judging, it appeared as if both Curry and Bonac were sort of a toss up. Curry is naturally gifted in terms of the symmetry and flow of his physique, but he was lacking detail and that became even more apparent in the Saturday evening show when he appeared to be even softer. On the other hand, the blocky and well muscled physique of Bonac is not as pleasing, but he checked off all of the boxes as far as muscularity, symmetry, and above all, a level of conditioning that was clearly superior to Curry. At the end of the day, Brandon ended up with a 6 point lead over Bonac, giving him the victory. Many bodybuilding fans are in an uproar, making this another controversial show.
LESSONS FROM COLUMBUS
Social Media Hype Trains
Not all hype is created equal. Hindsight is 20/20, but much of the bodybuilding world was wrong about how fast some of these up-and-comers have improved in the past 18 months. The biggest example of this was Brett Wilkin, who did show up with an amazing package, but the hype surrounding his progress almost made us forget how good veterans like Curry, Bonac, and Kuclo really are. All of those guys had long, 10 year come-ups. Although it’s fun to watch a freak like last year’s winner Nick Walker make unreal progress in only a few short years, it’s a very rare thing. This was a great reminder that nothing matters except for show day. Everything else is just talk.
Fullness Vs. True Mass
Our Reigning Mr. Olympia is a mass monster, and therefore there is some added pressure to push the envelope in terms of size to live up to the judges preference of the day. But not everyone has the genetics to have that sort of mass. So, as a substitute, some of these competitors are clearly choosing to push the envelope when it comes to carb loading for show day. Now, the key to peaking is balancing conditioning and fullness, and pushing fullness to the max can easily to awry and turn you from a freak to a water balloon. As a result, conditioning seems to be slipping, even at these top level shows. The lesson here is that there is a difference between fullness and true mass, and there is no substitute for real contractile tissue.
However, you just never know how the judges are going to score on any given day. As mentioned, many bodybuilding fans are in an uproar about Bonac’s second place finish in light of his superior conditioning and well muscled physique, compared to Curry’s fading condition. But that’s just the nature of bodybuilding. It’s a unique sport that has a unique kind of excitement and the controversy sometimes makes it that much more fun. What’s your take on the show? If you were the head judge, what would you do?