David Robson's 2009 Arnold Classic Review!

As with all pro bodybuilding events, the 2009 Arnold Classic overall result was not unanimously welcomed. In the end the only opinions that matter are those of the judges and they awarded Kai his first Arnold Classic title. Learn more.


David Robson's 2009 Arnold Classic Review

The 2009 Arnold Classic Men's professional bodybuilding showdown results held very few surprises with the inclusion among the top six of Toney Freeman, Kai Greene, Victor Martinez and Branch Warren, men who over recent years have dominated the final standings in this show. Rounding out the top six was Moe El Moussawi who has proven that he can compete with the established pros at the highest level and who has secured himself a probable top ten placing at this year's Mr. Olympia.

Prior to this year's Arnold Classic, all the talk centred on whether Victor Martinez could assert himself as one of the top three bodybuilders on the planet, and as a potential Mr. Olympia winner, by repeating his dominant performance of 2007. He fell short by a small margin to a thickly muscled and perfectly conditioned Kai Greene and had to settle for second, though he did look very good and could have won had he been just that little more sharper in the conditioning department to battle Kai's ultra-ripped physique.

As with all pro bodybuilding events, the 2009 Arnold Classic overall result was not unanimously welcomed. There were many who felt Victor should have won based on his smaller waist and better proportions, whereas others gave the victory to Kai due to the additional size he had added and - pound for pound - the sheer mass he presented. His presentation skills were also the best onstage and these gave him an additional points advantage over the comparatively more aesthetic competitors such as Tony Freeman and Victor.

In the end the only opinions that matter are those of the judges and they awarded Kai his first Arnold Classic title. With his newfound status as a potential Mr. Olympia top three threat, this year's O will be hotly anticipated and trying to pick a winner will be almost impossible. Will Victor be back for revenge? Will Kai continue to make further improvement reminiscent of Ronnie Coleman during his breakthrough years? Regardless, congratulations to Kai on his first thoroughly deserved Arnold win.

My thoughts on the top ten follow.


Tenth Place: Ronny Rockel

    Competing off compared to his outstanding Ironman showing earlier this year, Ronny Rockel was never going to challenge for the top positions at the 2009 Arnold Classic. Though he does have a physique that lacks nothing, when he is off Ronny fails to impress. Hopefully he can pull it together again for the Olympia.

Ronny Rockel. Ronny Rockel.
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Ronny Rockel At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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Ninth Place: Johnnie Jackson

    Johnnie Jackson displayed his best physique yet from pure muscle standpoint, but did not quite have the conditioning necessary to place any higher. With super full shoulders and back, areas he is known for, Johnnie is always popular. He never really seems to get his conditioning 100-precent and when he comes close tends to lose some of his impact. On the positive side he seems to have brought up his upper leg development, though his calves will always be structurally inferior compared with those of his competition.

Johnnie Jackson. Johnnie Jackson.
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Johnnie Jackson At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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Eighth Place: Sergey Shelestov

    One of the largest competitors onstage, Sergey certainly did not lack impact and, especially from behind, was loaded with striated muscle. His conditioning was very good and he seems to have grown in confidence over the past year. From 15th place at this event in 2007 to eight place on Saturday, Sergey, should he continue to improve, is definitely one to watch, and with his size could be a potential fan favorite.

Sergey Shelestov. Sergey Shelestov.
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Sergey Shelestov At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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Seventh Place: Dennis James

    Once placing as high as fourth at the Mr. Olympia (in 2003), Dennis was one of bodybuilding's rising champions. Over time he has slipped in the placements, but this has been more a case of the competition having caught him rather than any significant physical decline on his part. Still showing one of the thickest physiques in the game Dennis has, however, chosen over recent years to present a more streamlined package. This has helped him reduce his waist size and enhance his V-Taper, but on the other side it has, in some ways, negatively impacted the mass appeal he had from 2001 to 2007. In 2001 Dennis placed 3rd at the Arnold Classic and his physique at that time - loaded with mass and ripped to shreds - reflected such a result.

Dennis James. Dennis James.
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Dennis James At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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    At this year's Arnold Dennis looked very good, but in my view he has lost some of the impact he is known for.


Sixth Place: Moe El Moussawi

    Another who continues to make great progress is Moe El Moussawi. From New Zealand, Moe impresses with his good size and shape, complete with shredded glutes and Christmas tree lower back. I spoke with Moe after he had placed 11th at the 2008 Arnold classic. He was not happy and wanted redemption at this year's event. That he got with a top six placement. With a top ten inclusion in the 2008 Olympia, Moe has proven he is one of pro bodybuilding's best. Knowing Moe he will be training hard to make it all the way to the winner's position in this, and all other contests he chooses to enter.

Moe El Moussawi. Moe El Moussawi.
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Moe El Moussawi At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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Fifth Place: Silvio Samuel

    How this guy can maintain his astounding level of conditioning contest after contest always amazes me and this is one factor Silvio has to his advantage: he is always in shape. Whether he has the physical gifts to topple Toney Freeman is another question, as he does seem to lack the balance the X-Man possesses. However, the size he does have - and it is respectable - is always presented to perfection with roundness and striations that give his physique an added winning dimension. And that he placed seventh at the 2008 Olympia shows that he is one of the top men on the circuit today, which does much to underscore the importance of conditioning and full round muscle as opposed to sheer size.

Silvio Samuel. Silvio Samuel.
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Silvio Samuel At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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Fourth Place: Toney Freeman

    For many, a controversial placement at this show was Toney Freeman's fourth. With better balance and proportions compared to Branch Warren, complete with a smaller waistline and wider shoulders, and holding his own in the mass department as always, Toney was a likely contender for top three despite placing a dismal 7th in 2008 (where he was off conditioning-wise). After an impressive 5th place at the 2008 Olympia, Toney was on target to dominate the 2009 season with a physique that is considered one of the most overlooked in the sport.

Toney Freeman. Toney Freeman.
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Toney Freeman At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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    Standing alongside his competition at prejudging it was evident Toney had done his homework in conditioning and his razor sharp cuts ably highlighted the additional mass he seems to have added. He appeared slightly dejected when the final placements were announced. The crowd seemed to understand his frustration. Branch, however, may have had the edge in conditioning and this swung the third place decision in his direction.


Third Place: Branch Warren

    In a very close battle with Toney Freeman, Branch pulled ahead to go one better than his 2008 Arnold Classic 4th placement proving he is still one of the best pro competitors around. Still holding the amazing improvements in upper body size - he has always been criticized for his overpowering leg development - he made in 2008, Branch came sporting the same insanely ripped conditioning he is known for. When a competitor competes as ripped as Branch while carrying such immense size on a relatively short frame they are hard to ignore. And so it was with Branch.

Branch Warren. Branch Warren.
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Branch Warren At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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    Appearing to have made improvements in back detail compared even to 2008, and displaying what seemed a smaller waist, Branch is another long time competitor that continues to improve. With his popular image and massive legs (still his standout feature, although this is not a compliment in bodybuilding terms) Branch seems likely to hold his top positioning and is well-placed to land in the top ten at this year's Mr. Olympia.


Second Place: Victor Martinez

    Returning from serious knee surgery of one year ago to be at his very best to win the Arnold title again (he won his first and, so far, only Arnold in 2007) was not going to be an easy task for Victor. However, he came close and looked to be in excellent shape with the same full, round muscle audiences are accustomed to seeing on the Martinez physique. Probably the best-proportioned man onstage, Victor impressed from all angles and, especially in the front double biceps pose, showed probably the best combination of aesthetics and massive size currently gracing the pro stage.

Victor Martinez. Victor Martinez.
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Victor Martinez At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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    Still a main contender for the Mr. Olympia title, Victor will be ginning for victory at the 2009 event. Through his Arnold showing he has proven he still has what it takes to impress the judges and the audience and his besting of top competitors Toney Freeman and Branch Warren added further weight to his efforts.


First Place: Kai Greene

    From 14th place at the 2005 New York Pro to first place at the 2007 Colorado Pro (his first pro win) and victory at the 2008 New York Pro the 5' 8", 257 pound Kai Greene has proven himself one of the pro division's hardest working and most persistent athletes. With his less than auspicious start, few people really gave him any chance of someday becoming a true bodybuilding force. But become that he has and Kai is now poised to contest the top three at this year's Mr. Olympia. He has proven his worth and he is to be commended for that.

Kai Greene. Kai Greene.
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Kai Greene At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
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    Grapefruit frolics and male stripping aside, Kai has become one of bodybuilding's best competitors and has made probably the best progress of any pro in recent times. Having the physical gifts to win big is one thing, displaying them quite another. Kai's presentation skills and ability to accentuate every muscle grouping on his razor sharp physique to their best advantage is another of his skills and, as with his body, he continues to this refine this also. Needless to say, he won the best poser also award at this year's Arnold Classic.

    A man of mystery who continues to surprise, one is never quite sure what Kai will do next, both onstage and off. Weeks' out from this year's Arnold there was speculation that he would not contest the show due to illness or injury. He not only showed, but also presented his best package yet. Who knows what he has in store for future contests. One thing is for sure: should he continue to improve he could be in line for an Olympia title sometime soon.