2010 Arnold Classic: Men's Prejudging Review!

It was no surprise. The four men most experts predicted to be in the running to win the show were in the first callout. Get our indepth review right here!

It was no surprise. The four men most experts predicted to be in the running to win the show were in the first callout. It was clear the judges had a difficult time with this group just like they did at the Mr. Olympia about six months ago in Las Vegas. Branch Warren, Dexter Jackson, Kai Greene and Phil Heath are all in Columbus with hopes of chalking up a win at the Arnold Classic.

I knew this year's title was up for grabs before I even set foot in the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium this year. Think about it. Dexter has beaten them all. Branch placed ahead of Dexter - at the Olympia no less. And Kai Greene and Phil Heath have both beaten each other and Branch. How could this show not be close?

As stated earlier Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, Kai Greene, and Branch Warren were in the first callout like most people predicted. After one round of comparisons, the group was put through another series of poses after they switched positions on stage.

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Branch Warren:
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The Texan, who hunts buffalo and wild boar, came to Ohio hunting for an Arnold Classic trophy. With the conditioning he displayed during the judging, Branch Warren might capture the mighty prize he's been searching for. Coming off an astonishing second-place finish at the 2009 Mr. Olympia, Warren is focused and came to Columbus to clearly show everyone he was the man to beat.

The first thing you notice about Branch Warren's physique is that it doesn't look like the other physiques standing next to him on stage. It's as different as Sean Hannity is to Keith Olbermann or Ann Coulter is to Rachel Maddow.

Warren looks like a piece of granite blasted into form by a sledge hammer while Heath, Jackson, and Greene look more like they've been sculpted carefully from marble. Whatever analogy is used, however, Warren has created a physique that is not being ignored by the judges or crowd.

Branch is the man's man. You just have to like the guy. He's hard working, strong as a bull, soft spoken, has a beautiful wife and he hunts his own meat for protein. Any other pros out there going through 500 pounds of freshly hunted bison this year? How about hunting wild boar with only a bowie knife? Nah, didn't think so.

I talked with Kris Gethin a couple hours before the judging and he told me Branch was in great condition again just like the Olympia. When Warren started hitting his poses it was obvious he definitely was in very good shape again.

He even striations on his hamstrings. That was incredible to see. Branch still needs to bring up the detail in his back to really dominate. Everything else is on par or even superior to the other competitors.

Branch Warren At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Branch Warren At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Branch Warren At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Phil Heath:
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The world was waiting to see the new-and-improved Phil Heath last fall after viewing the dramatic photos from his guest-posing appearance at Dexter's NPC show, which is appropriately named the Dexter Jackson Classic.

Heath was in tremendous condition a few weeks before the Mr. Olympia and he appeared to have packed on a lot of extra mass. Many writers thought that Phil Heath might even pull off a win, but a battle with food poisoning the night before the Olympia judging relegated him to fifth place due to his flattened-out appearance.

If you mention Phil Heath's name in bodybuilding circles you're going to hear, "he's got narrow clavicles." (I had to chuckle last year when I asked him about that and he clarified it by saying there are bones and there are short and long clavicles - not narrow.)

To combat his clavicle dilemma, Phil has been blasting his side delts like there is no tomorrow. His shoulders aren't as wide as Cutler's yet, but they are showing improvement. Another year or two and the naysayers will have to find something else to complain about.

Phil Heath nailed his conditioning this time. He wasn't flat at all this time. His sweeping muscle bellies gave him a very round and billowy appearance. It reminded of the physique that Kevin Levrone used to bring to the Olympia stage. Phil could take the title this year.

Phil Heath At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Phil Heath At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Phil Heath At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Kai Greene:
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Last year's champion has returned to defend his Arnold Classic title. Last year amid rumors that he had dropped out or wasn't in shape, Kai Greene dominated the competition and was the last man standing on stage with the big man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Greene was hoping to take the momentum from his Arnold Classic win into the Olympia last fall. Greene "only" placed fourth in his first Olympia, however.

Kai was in shape again and when he hit his thigh shots, gasps were heard throughout the auditorium. His unique hairstyle received some applause too when he first walked out onto the stage.

Kai Greene At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Kai Greene At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Kai Greene At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Dexter Jackson:
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Dexter Jackson has won the Arnold Classic three times and he's hoping to win a fourth title and tie Flex Wheeler's record of four wins. Dexter came out first to hit his mandatories and, much to my surprise, he looked like he was actually holding some water.

I've never seen that happen before with Dexter. He was still in good shape, but when Heath came out next, it was obvious Phil was much sharper - and bigger! I had predicted Dexter to win, but his legs looked smaller and smoother than normal. Dexter will most likely fall into fourth place.

Dexter Jackson At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Dexter Jackson At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Dexter Jackson At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Melvin Anthony:
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Melvin Anthony - fresh off a win at the Phoenix show a couple weeks ago - was back in the lineup this year after taking a full year off last year to solely prepare for the Mr. Olympia.

He was disappointed that he didn't crack the top ten at the "O" and Melvin decided to change things up a bit so he has been training in Arizona with his close friend and fellow IFBB Pro, Dennis James.

Melvin looked watery and was not as sharp as he needed to be to secure a top-six spot. To me, he looked a little tired too.

Melvin Anthony At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Melvin Anthony At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Melvin Anthony At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Toney Freeman:
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Toney Freeman has a number of pro wins under his belt, but he's one of the those guys who makes it difficult to predict what his conditioning will be like because he's inconsistent. For instance, at the 2007 Arnold Classic Toney placed third.

At the Mr. Olympia in 2007 he came in really smooth. At the 2008 Mr. Olympia, he looked incredible. He was very lean and full. Last year at the Arnold, I could tell even from the pump-up room that he was shredded, but he was flat too.

This year it was evident that when Freeman made his first appearance on the stage that he was just a bit smooth and holding some water. He wasn't flat like last year, but he needs to be really sharp and full to place higher. But in today's line-up, I don't think he'd crack the top three even at his very best.

Toney Freeman At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Toney Freeman At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Toney Freeman At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Hidetada Yamagishi:
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Another guy who has been working his way up the ranks lately is Hidetada Yamagishi. (I'm so happy I can actually spell his name now without looking at anything!)

Hide made a big impression on his fans at the Phoenix Pro show where he placed second - one spot lower than Melvin Anthony and one higher than Toney Freeman, who many thought would walk in with a win as a warm-up to the Arnold.

Yamagishi is becoming known for his spot-on conditioning. He is not a very tall bodybuilder, but his lack of size seems to be compensated by how well you can see all the details in his physique. Hide was smoother than when I saw him at the Olympia. He'll be in the top ten but he was not at his best today.

Hidetada Yamagishi At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Hidetada Yamagishi At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Hidetada Yamagishi At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Ronny Rockel:
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Ronny Rockel was another guy I was waiting to see. He had a great showing at the Olympia where he placed seventh. It was the best conditioning anyone has seen on him.

Today, Rockel displayed a physique that was on par with his Olympia showing. He was in good shape and will most likely make the top six - maybe even the top four.

Ronny Rockel At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Ronny Rockel At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Ronny Rockel At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Roelly Winklar:
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I have to admit one of the guys I most curious to see was Roelly Winklar, last year's Arnold Amateur Champion. He was getting lots of hype on the message boards and even a few of the guys predicting him to win. Due to some scheduling issues I didn't see him in person at that competition last year so I looked at some photos of him from last year's event.

He's got a good physique, but judging from those photos, I didn't think he had the hardness, separation or detail to hang with the IFBB pros. In my preview article I actually had him pegged for last place.

Once I saw the buzz on the message boards, however, I thought I might be missing something so I was eager to see how Roelly matched up with the some of the best in the sport.Winklar did hold his own with the big boys and he will most likely place in the top ten.

Roelly Winklaar At The 2010 Arnold Classic. Roelly Winklaar At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Roelly Winklaar At The 2010 Arnold Classic.
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Wrapping It Up
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Near the end of the judging, Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath and Kai Greene were called out a second time. This wasn't any easy lineup to judge. They were all in very good shape and after another series of poses, Ronny Rockel and Toney Freeman were brought up to compare with this group.

From my point of view and if I were judging, I would have Phil Heath and Kai Greene in first and second place. Third and fourth place is between Branch and Dexter. I'd give the nod to Branch. Fifth place should go to Rockel and sixth place will most likely be Toney Freeman.

But I will say that Rockel looked very good standing next to Dexter in comparisons and if he falls in fourth place ahead of Dexter, I wouldn't be surprised.

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