John Hansen's 2008 Arnold Classic Report.

This year's event was one of the most entertaining and exciting contests I have seen in awhile. a night filled with exciting performances, moving tributes, inspiring speeches and the flawless production of the biggest bodybuilding show of the year.

The 2008 Arnold Classic was the 20th Anniversary of this epic event since Jim Lorimar and Arnold Schwarzenegger started promoting one of the biggest shows in bodybuilding back in 1989. The bodybuilding world should be eternally grateful for the promotional efforts of Jim and Arnold, who began promoting competitions back in 1976 with that year's Mr. Olympia contest. To their credit, the promoters have stayed loyal to their roots, promoting all of their competitions at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio since the very beginning.

This year's event was one of the most entertaining and exciting contests I have seen in awhile. It was not just because of the quality of the competitors onstage, although that certainly played a part. It was the whole event, a night filled with exciting performances, moving tributes, inspiring speeches and the flawless production of the biggest bodybuilding show of the year. If you ever want to see a bodybuilding competition at it's finest, you need to see the Arnold Classic.

This year's contest began with a tribute to Reg Park, one of the great champions of bodybuilding who recently passed away last November at the age of 79. Reg was Arnold's idol when he began training and he used the career of Reg Park, a bodybuilder who won multiple Mr. Universe titles, played Hercules in the movies and went on to raise a beautiful family with his lovely wife Mareon, to inspire him to dream of success in bodybuilding and the movies. It's possible that without the influence of Reg Park, there might never have been the Arnold Schwarzenegger that we all know.

The men's competition was very competitive with the top four bodybuilders all in superb shape and furiously battling for the title. Dexter Jackson was returning to win the title again for the third time after losing to Victor Martinez last year. Phil Heath was also looking for victory after a very productive off season that had him weighing 18 pounds more than when he competed in the Arnold Classic last year. In addition to these two contenders, Kai Greene was returning to the stage after a very impressive year in 2007 and Branch Warren was hell-bent on proving that he was still one of the top bodybuilders on the planet after a very disappointing second half of the 2007 season.

Here are my impressions of the competitors in the 2008 Arnold Classic:

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15th place - Adorthus Cherry:
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    Adorthus was making his pro debut at the 2008 Arnold Classic. He won his pro card at last year's NPC Nationals where he won the heavyweight class. Adorthus was out of his league here and he seemed to know it.


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Adorthus Cherry At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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    He was too smooth for this contest to make an impact. He does have good shape in his physique with wide shoulders, a narrow waist and big thighs but he will need to add more quality size in addition to showing up really ripped for his next pro show.

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14th place - DeShaun Grimez:
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    DeShaun is also competing as a professional for the first time this year. His pro debut was two weeks earlier when he entered the Pro Iron Man Invitational in Los Angeles but he did not make the top 15. DeShaun is a very big guy with enormous arms and big legs. His weak point seems to be his back, which is not as developed as the front. He also could have competed in much better condition for this contest.


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DeShaun Grimez At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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13th place - Ronnie Rockel:
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    Ronnie Rockel is one of my favorite physiques competing today. Although not one of the biggest guys, Ronnie is very thick with great balance and shape to his physique. He almost always competes in rock hard condition too. However, today was one of those days when he did not compete in top condition. He was the smoothest I have ever seen him so he placed way out of the money this time.


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Ronnie Rockel At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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12th place - David Henry:
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    David Henry placed a disappointing 12th tonight at the Arnold Classic, duplicating his placing two weeks earlier at the Pro Iron Man. David has a great physique with lots of thickness but he is one of the smaller bodybuilders onstage so he really needs to be ripped everytime he competes.

    I didn't think he was that far off from peak condition tonight and he could have placed a spot or two higher. Perhaps David is planning to really peak for the Olympia later in the year like he did in 2007 where he placed in the top ten.


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David Henry At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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11th place - Moe El Moussawi:
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    Probably the biggest drop in the placings from the Pro Iron Man two weeks earlier was Moe El Moussawi. At the Pro Iron Man, Moe shocked everyone by placing third and beating top bodybuilders like Silvio Samuel, Johnnie Jackson and Toney Freeman in the process.

    At the Iron Man, Moe combined extreme conditioning with his massive arm development and qualified for the Mr. Olympia by the end of the night. At the Arnold Classic, however, Moe failed to create the same type of impact. He looked very flat in the pecs and his structural weaknesses (narrow shoulders and weak calves) stood out.

    Moe still looked very hard but maybe the two extra weeks of dieting flattened him out so he didn't have the muscle fullness he had at the Pro Iron Man.


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Moe El Moussawi At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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10th place - Desmond Miller:
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    Desmond Miller placed in the top ten at this year's Arnold Classic and he looked great. Desmond will probably be one of the top pro bodybuilders in the near future because he has the structure and the physique to go far.

    He has incredible leg development and is super ripped and hard. He can bring up the development of his arms and back a little more and he needs to keep his gut in check but he looks like he has a great future and should start winning pro shows very soon.


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Desmond Miller At 2008 Arnold Classic.
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9th place - Johnnie Jackson:
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    Johnnie Jackson dropped to ninth place after finishing in the top five at the Pro Iron Man two weeks earlier. Johnnie was not as hard here as was last year at the Olympia. He has incredible thickness throughout his physique, especially his pecs, traps and back, and he has brought up his leg development in the last year to better match his huge upper body.

    However, the competition at the Arnold Classic is the best in the world so being even just a little bit smooth can result in a drop in the placings of 4-5 spots.


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Johnnie Jackson At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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8th place - Melvin Anthony:
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    Another disappointing showing was Melvin Anthony placing in the eighth position after making the top six in last year's Mr. Olympia. Melvin looked like he added some quality muscle to his physique but he was still too soft in the back and hamstrings to place higher.

    He did not disappoint with his posing routine and he won the Best Poser award again despite great competition in this department from bodybuilders such as Kai Greene, Dexter Jackson, Toney Freeman and David Henry. Melvin did his traditional posing routine but added a couple new moves and he had the audience going crazy by the time he finished his routine.


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Melvin Anthony At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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7th place - Toney Freeman:
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    Toney made some significant changes to his physique and he moved up from 8th place at the Pro Iron Man to seventh place here against much tougher competition. It looked like Toney was flat for the Iron Man and he corrected that problem here. He looked much fuller and harder for this contest and he gave a great performance at night with his posing routine. Toney wasn't at this all-time best but he looked great and hopefully, he will be better than ever at this year's Olympia.


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Toney Freeman At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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6th place - Gustavo Badell:
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    Gustavo was making a strong comeback after a disappointing showing at the Mr. Olympia last year. He charged into the Pro Iron Man this year, taking second place to Phil Heath and he was hoping for a strong showing here also. Gustavo is very animated and aggressive onstage and he showed off his huge arms and hard physique to his advantage at the pre-judging.

    However, he could have been a little harder in the hamstrings and glutes. At the evening show, Gustavo used the same posing routine and music that he used at the 2005 Mr. Olympia where he paid tribute to all the previous Mr. Olympia champions on the 30th Anniversary of that show. Seeing as how this was the 20th Anniversary of the Arnold Classic, Gustavo missed the chance to do the same thing here with his posing routine, paying tribute to the past winners of the Arnold Classic.


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Gustavo Badell At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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5th place - Silvio Samuel:
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    Silvio placed in the top five at the Arnold Classic this year, beating out some very tough competition. Silvio is gaining a reputation for having incredible conditioning every time he competes and he competes often. Last year, Silvio competed at nearly every professional contest on the calendar.

    Although Silvio has freaky hardness and definition, he looks like he could use more size throughout his physique, especially his arms and back. Now that he is qualified for the Olympia with his fifth place finish here, he should take advantage of this and take some time off to build more size into his physique before the big show in the fall. Some added size to Silvio's physique with the same conditioning would do some real damage in any contest.


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Silvio Samuel At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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4th place - Branch Warren:
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    One of the most impressive physiques onstage at the 2008 Arnold Classic was Branch Warren. After a disappointing second half finish to the 2007 season, Branch went back to the basics and competed tonight in his best ever condition. He was probably the hardest competitor onstage that night and some of his poses were downright freaky.

    From the back, Branch looked scary with incredible hamstrings, calves, glutes and a thick, vascular back. If you are looking for a thick, vascular and freaky bodybuilder, Branch is your man. He was the audience favorite and he won the coveted Most Muscular Award for the second time at this contest, the first time was when he placed second to Dexter Jackson at the 2006 Arnold Classic.

    Branch also seemed to be the most aggressive and hungry bodybuilder onstage and he must have been terribly disappointed with his fourth place finish. Although thick and freaky, Branch is not and never will be one of the most aesthetically pleasing physiques onstage and tonight he lost out to three bodybuilders who were more aesthetically appealing.


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Branch Warren At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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3rd place - Kai Greene:
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    One of the most improved bodybuilders at the 2008 Arnold Classic was Kai Greene. Kai was rumored to have bulked up to 285 pounds during the off season and stepped onstage at the Arnold Classic nearly 20 pounds heavier than when he competed last year when he won the Colorado Pro Show. Kai is freaky from the back with his low-hanging lats, striated glutes and shredded hamstrings.

    From the front, he is not as aesthetically pleasing with a somewhat wider waist and arms that look like they could be bigger to match up to his torso and legs. Kai is one of the most innovative posers in the sport. He begins his routine by slowly stalking the stage with his dreadlocks hanging over his shoulders, glaring at the audience. He doesn't do the traditional bodybuilding poses but instead responds to the music by gyrating and twisting his body into all sorts of unique positions that show off the incredible development in his physique, particularly his glutes, legs and back.


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Kai Greene At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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    At the Arnold Classic, Kai was three minutes into his routine and just seemed to be warming up when they cut his music. Every competitor at the Arnold Classic is limited to three minutes posing in order to fit in the rest of the program. The audience booed and it would have been interesting to see what else Kai Greene would have shown us but, shortened routine or not, he definitely made an impact tonight.

Kai Greene's 2008 Arnold Classic Posing Routine.
Watch All The Routines Below.

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2nd Place - Phil Heath:
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    One of the most talked about bodybuilders on the planet right now is Phil Heath. Phil has sky rocketed to the top of the professional bodybuilding world after only training for a few years, something unheard of in this incredibly competitive sport. As a result, Phil has earned the nickname "The Gift" for his innate ability to grow muscle with seemingly little to no effort.

    Phil won the first two professional shows he entered and did not lose a contest until last year at the Arnold Classic when he dropped to fifth place. Although blessed with great shape and incredible muscle separation, the complaint on Phil's physique seemed to be that he needed to be bigger, especially his back which was said to be "too narrow and lacking thickness". After a very productive off-season, Phil competed almost 20 pounds heavier in 2008, stepping onstage at 235 pounds. At the Pro Iron Man Invitational two weeks earlier, Phil destroyed the competition by presenting a bigger, thicker version of the winning physique he presented last year.


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Phil Heath At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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    Tonight, he didn't seem to be quite as shredded and ripped as he was onstage at the Iron Man, leaving the door open for returning champ Dexter Jackson to steal the victory from Phil's hands. After seeing the Pro Iron Man online at Bodybuilding.com, I predicted a somewhat easy victory for Phil at the Arnold Classic. However, this contest was very close between Phil and Dexter and I thought it could have gone either way. Phil is only 28 years old, one of the youngest pros competing today, and more victories are definitely on the horizon for The Gift.

Phil Heath's 2008 Arnold Classic Posing Routine.
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1st place - Dexter Jackson:
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    At 39 years old, Dexter Jackson became only the third bodybuilder (along with Flex Wheeler and Jay Cutler) to win the Arnold Classic at least three times. Dexter took his preparation for the this contest very seriously after placing third in the Olympia last year and losing the Arnold Classic to Victor Martinez in 2007.

    A loss here to Phil Heath or any other bodybuilder would have possibly relegated Dexter to the dreaded "second-tier" of pro bodybuilders. Stepping onstage five pounds heavier than the 2007 Olympia, Dexter showed off his thick, ripped and hard physique with his classy posing routine. My only criticism of Dexter was his lack of control over his gut, which he didn't seem to hold in when he was walking on and off the stage.


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Dexter Jackson At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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    However, Dexter seems to be on the right track by slowly adding quality muscle to his already superb physique. The criticism of Dexter over the last few years is that he is not big enough to beat the more massive bodybuilders like Jay Cutler and Victor Martinez. If he can show significant improvements in muscle mass without sacrificing his trademark definition and hardness (they don't call him "The Blade" for nothing), Dexter should be right at the top come Olympia time.

Dexter Jackson's 2008 Arnold Classic Posing Routine.
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Stage Shows
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After all the bodybuilders completed their posing routines, the audience was treated to two very entertaining stage acts that have performed at previous Arnold Classic events. The first was the Calypso Brothers, a tumbling and acrobatic act that thrilled the audience with their exciting act onstage.


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The Calypso Brothers.
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Also included was the incredible Alexis Brothers, a hand-balancing act with two brothers who currently work for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. The highlight of the Alexis Brothers act is when one brother leg presses his brother into the air while he is balancing on his brother's feet using only his hands.

From this position, the brother on the bottom twists his body around so he is lying on his stomach where he does a leg curl with his brother still balancing on his hands. It's incredible to see and it always earns a standing ovation from the audience.


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The Alexis Brothers.
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Awards
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The Lifetime Achievement Award this year went to Ben Weider, the first president of the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding). Ben has had an incredible career, starting the IFBB from scratch with his brother Joe to 177 member countries. Ben gave a very inspiring speech and, at the age of 84, he looked to be in excellent health and vitality.


The Lifetime Achievement Award Went To Ben Weider.
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Before the posedown with the top six bodybuilders in the Arnold Classic, the Best Posing Award was given to Melvin Anthony who has won this award numerous times. One wonders if Kai Greene would have been allowed to complete his routine if he and not Melvin would have copped the Best Posing Award.


The Best Posing Award Was Given To Melvin Anthony.
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The Most Muscular Award was given to Branch Warren and the audience cheered its approval. Branch had become the audience favorite during the evening as he posed with intensity and a hunger that no one else seemed to convey. It was refreshing to see the most muscular, freaky bodybuilder win the Most Muscular Award. Often, the judges award this title to the person who wins the contest. I remember a few Arnold Classics in the past where Jay Cutler, the eventual overall winner, took the Most Muscular Award from the rightful hands of Marcus Ruhl while the audience voiced its displeasure.


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The Most Muscular Award Was Given To Branch Warren.
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Top Six
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The posedown included Dexter Jackson, Kai Greene, Branch Warren, Phil Heath, Silvio Samuel and Gustavo Badell. It was obvious after the posing routines that the top four were Dexter, Phil, Branch and Kai. These four were all in outstanding condition and it was anyone's guess where they would end up in the final tally.

I was somewhat surprised to see Silvio in the top six because of his lack of size and fullness. I thought Gustavo belonged up there because of his impressive mass and hardness but I figured Toney Freeman or Melvin Anthony would have been included in the posedown but the judges seemed to be going for conditioning as the deciding factor.

Gustavo ended up in a disappointing sixth place which must have been a downer for him after taking a close second to Phil Heath two weeks earlier at the Pro Iron Man. Silvio stayed in the top five after placing fourth in the Iron Man, beating out both Moe El Moussawi and Gustavo Badell and qualifying for this year's Mr. Olympia. Branch ended up in fourth place and he was enormously disappointed as was most of the audience. I personally would have placed Branch in the top three as he was harder and more vascular than Kai.

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Then There Were Three
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And then there were three! Kai Greene took the expected third position as the two contest favorites going into the show seemed to be Dexter and Phil. Kai made a big statement by placing in the top three in the second biggest bodybuilding contest of the year.

When Phil Heath was announced second, Dexter threw both of his massive arms into the air as an exclamation of both victory and relief. He no doubt felt the pressure of the upcoming professionals like Kai Greene and especially Phil Heath and it had to feel great to prove himself the best again by winning his third Arnold Classic title.


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Dexter Wins!
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During the traditional post-victory interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dexter portrayed the image of someone who was happy with the victory but didn't convey the hard-work ethic that Arnold was searching for in his questions. When he was asked how many hours a day he trained for this victory, Dexter casually replied that he only trained for about an hour a day.

When Arnold tried to determine how many hours of practice it took to develop his classic posing routine, Dexter laughed it off and said that he never practices his posing because he is too lazy. Arnold finally asked Dexter to what did he credit his outstanding physique and posing ability. Dexter's response was "MuscleTech supplements" to which Arnold replied, "So, basically what you're saying is that in order to develop your body and win this contest, you just take a bunch of pills", a statement that might have come closer to the real truth than the innocent Arnold Classic audience needs to know.


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Dexter Jackson At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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Top 15 Posing Routines
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