David Robson's 2008 Olympia Review: Dexter Puts The Beauty Back In Bodybuilding.

After last year's Mr. Olympia showdown which saw then one-time champion Jay Cutler win a close decision over Victor Martinez, feeling within bodybuilding circles was fairly unanimous. This year, however, Dexter Jackson wins his first Mr. O!

After last year's Mr. Olympia showdown which saw then one-time champion Jay Cutler win a close decision over Victor Martinez, feeling within bodybuilding circles was fairly unanimous: Jay was far from his best and Victor, complete from top to bottom and with his best-ever conditioning, should have been victorious.

This year - in light of Dexter Jackson rocking iron world to win his first Mr. O, and with Jay relegated to second - the reaction has been mixed.

On one side of the debate are those who feel Dexter, who in the current standings best represents balanced size, proportion and conditioning, is, with his crowning, the new streamlined saviour heralding in a new trend in balance, symmetry and beauty for the first time in almost two decades, while on the other is the mass brigade who feel Cutler, with the largest muscular physique on the planet, which holds very few weaknesses, should, even when slightly off, continue winning until someone equally imposing, but with greater definition challenges for the big one.

Whatever the case, it does appear, to the collective relief of many, that the beauty of the pro bodybuilding physique is making a much needed comeback, and, should this trend continue, could do much to re-position physique competition as a more viable, and attractive option for a public who, in recent decades, has witnessed physical development go from the sublime to the ridiculous, in the best possible hardcore professional bodybuilding way of course.

With distended guts and bodies resembling science experiments gracing the Olympia stage in recent years, it is refreshing to note that this trend might yet reverse itself completely. And, of course, this would do much to enhance bodybuilding's reputation to attract many more adherents to the game. Maybe this was part of a grand plan underpinning this year's Olympia decision.

2008 Olympia
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Jay Cutler & Dexter Jackson.

Now with the man who even old-time bodybuilding champions disillusioned with the way the sport had headed physique-wise commend for his shape and proportion being recognized as the best in the world, the bar appears to have been set a few notches down mass-wise, but bumped up significantly for those aspiring to outstanding all-round proportionate size and who refuse to strive for potentially physique-distorting size simply to stand the remotest chance of winning.

And in keeping with the choice to go with Dexter as the new wave in physical development, the judges', it seemed, applied consistency across the board in rewarding shape and conditioning over pure mass.

But as followers of professional bodybuilding have come to learn you will never get 100 percent agreement on a given Mr. Olympia outcome, and so it was in 2008: while some had Cutler as low as fifth and the phenomenal Phil Heath winning the show, others had Dennis 'big bad' Wolf winning, with Dexter well out of the running.

While those suppositions remain speculation and the stuff of fantasy, here is how it really went down.

dot Tenth: Gustavo Badell dot

    At his freaky best, Gustavo stunned the audience with characteristically massive, thick muscular development from all angles. His conditioning was also very good, though not at his best, and his stage presence and overall impact physique and personality-wise was up there with the best.

    However, though his size is admirable, he does present one of the more blocky physiques onstage and on a night that tended to reward the classic X-Frame, he was out of the running and finished in his lowest Olympia position in recent memory.

dot Ninth: Moe El Moussawi dot

    New Zealand's top pro bodybuilder presented what appeared to be the best physique of his relatively short pro career. Absolutely ripped to shreds, even more so, in my opinion, than he was at the Ironman Pro, in which he placed third earlier this year, Moe saved his best for the big one and did not disappoint.

    With perfect skin tone, near flawless muscle balance and prominent vascularity he achieved his best-ever pro result by placing inside the Olympia top ten on his first attempt and, in the process, given the greater scrutiny afforded his physique by the judges', positioning himself' well for future pro contests.

dot Eighth: Dennis James dot

    A man who has evidently read the writing on the wall is Dennis James who has this year transformed his physique into one that better accommodates the massive size he is known for.

    Still one of bodybuilding's largest competitors at around 240-plus pounds of shredded muscle, Dennis has brought his waist down considerably, which has done much to enhance the flow of his physique while improving his V-Taper, a move that has leant his shoulders the illusion of even greater width.

    The only real slight on Dennis from this author's perspective, and something that probably kept him out of the top six (where I personally thought he belonged in 2008 regardless), is the comparative lack of balance between his upper and lower body: with one of the top five upper bodies in the world atop legs that, though very good, are not equally as impressive (high calves and lack of thigh sweep), Dennis continues to place out of the running. Once he addresses this concern he should automatically place three-four sports higher.

dot Seventh: Silvio Samuel dot

    Like eventual winner Dexter Jackson, Silvio is one who, though on the smaller side, presents one of the better-balanced physiques in any show he enters.

    At this year's Olympia he may have been the second best conditioned athlete onstage - other than, of course, Dexter - and his leg development, flawless from all angles, appeared to be, with no Branch Warren in this year's line-up, second to none.

    And on the basis of his placing ahead of massive competitors' James and Badell, Silvio is another who is lighting the way for those in favor of the balanced, more streamlined physique.

dot Sixth: Melvin Anthony dot

    And while we are on the subject of balanced physiques, Melvin Anthony, with his beautiful structure and flawless ability to present it, placed exactly where he landed in 2007. When he is on, something he has been inconsistent with this year, Melvin's physique, while not overwhelming, presents a fine patchwork of finely hewn muscle groups.

    In fact, the beauty of his physique lies not in any particular strength but is shaped through the perfect melding of all individual body parts, something that was evidently rewarded at this year's Olympia.

dot Fifth: Toney Freeman dot

    Looking like a taller, larger Flex Wheeler Toney defied the critics and did the seemingly impossible to present an even more defined muscular physique to that which dominated the 2008 Tampa Bay and Europa pro shows, rendering his dismal 14th place at the 2008 Olympia a distant memory.

    With his unequalled X-Fame, from which his X-Man moniker was bestowed, Toney capped his near-perfect structure off with the best conditioning of his career, which brought into bold relief the additional muscle mass he appears to have added, especially to his thighs and chest, areas he has in the past been criticized for.

dot Fourth: Dennis Wolf dot

    The words "hype", "Wolf" and "Cutler" have appeared more often in the same sentence in relation to bodybuilding competition than any other over the past year, for both good and bad reasons, at least from Dennis Wolf's perspective While many felt Dennis, based on his "better structure and potentially more superior conditioning" would be the heir apparent to Jay Cutler's Olympia title, and thus felt the 'hype' putting Cutler as unbeatable was wrong, others felt Wolf himself was all hype, a claim partly proven correct on the weekend.

    Entering the 2008 Mr. O, Wolf was probably under more pressure than anyone else such was the 'hype' surrounding his widely claimed - by the fans and many insiders - ability to beat Cutler to become the new champ. This may have worked against him as he was, all things considered, less than impressive.

    Sure, from the front Wolf presented probably the widest physique onstage, his conditioning was excellent and his most muscular, again, rocked the house, but he was also noticeably down on overall size and did not present the kind of impact befitting one routinely touted as Big Jay's successor. His physique did not even warrant a first prejudging call-out, much to the shock of many in attendance.

    While he didn't meet the expectations of many, Wolf did present hope for the countless fans of his who feel he will someday snatch the title. His width, potential to gain more size - based on his younger age and structure - and conditioning are indisputable. Perhaps next year the name "Wolf' and title "new Mr. Olympia" will be most commonly mentioned in the same breath.

dot Third: Phil Heath dot

    With a fuller, denser physique compared with Wolf on the night, Phil Heath, sharper than ever and loaded with muscle, did not disappoint and with youth on his side, and acknowledgement from the judges as one to watch, has set himself up nicely for future Olympia appearances.

    The one thing that was readily apparent when Phil walked out for the first prejudging callout was the gargantuan size of his arms and shoulders when standing relaxed. When he posed these took on a life of their own and morphed into truly freaky proportions.

    The only real knock on the Gift is his inferior upper chest development, which loses any impact it might have had when he hits his most muscular pose. Other than that, Phil justified his Gift moniker and presented a physique that could easily have switched places with Cutler. That is just how good he was - a future Mr. Olympia winner for sure.

dot Second: Jay Cutler dot

    Undoubtedly the largest man in the contest, Jay impressed with what we come to expect from him in recent years: pure unadulterated size. With the usual remarkable shoulder development, overall leg mass and Herculean presence, Jay obliterated the competition from a size perspective and, in the minds of many, could easily have won his third title.

    However, one feels his inability to recapture the perfect balance of conditioning and size that won him the Olympia from the legendary Ronnie Coleman in 2006, combined with the insistence by many that the more aesthetically balanced physique set the new standard of bodybuilding excellence, presented the judges with a dilemma they could not ignore.

    And based on his less than impressive showing in 2007, it would have caused shockwaves had he again won not at his very best. It seems the old adage "you must knock out the champion to win" should be reserved for boxing, not bodybuilding, a sport in which changing physical trends serve as much to alter the destiny of the champ as anything else might.

dot Mr. Olympia: Dexter Jackson dot

    Changing bodybuilding trends coupled with undeniable physical impact and presentation excellence afforded Dexter Jackson with his first Olympia win, and in the view of many it has been a long time coming. Having won everything else, the only thing left for the man known as "the Blade" to accomplish was an Olympia win.

    While many fans and insiders had written him off as being "too small", "lacking sufficient impact" and "unable to bring something radically different to the stage for each outing" Dexter has continued doing what he has done best: present a physique that has displayed the kind of conditioning, balance and size that has kept him near the top of the bodybuilding ladder for the past six years.

    While his consistent approach has, funnily enough, garnered criticism from those expecting change, Dexter has proven the adage "if it is broke, don't fix it" correct. His consistency is his biggest strength.

    While his usual dry conditioning, sufficient though - bucking recent trends - smaller size, and undeniable balance have seen him win the Arnold Classic three times, the Olympia title has been strictly reserved for the largest competitors, a trend that has continued unabated - indeed, has intensified - for almost two decades. That is until now.

    True to his roots, Dexter brought the grainiest, hardest physique seen onstage along with near-flawless proportions to win, beating men who outweighed him by, in some cases, 40 pounds or more. But, while bringing qualities he is known for, he also veered slightly from tradition with what seemed a few additional well-placed pounds of grade-A muscle. And his conditioning was harder than ever, if such a thing could ever be conceived.

    With Dexter's win he has silenced those who believe that a champion must weigh 280 pounds ripped, and in doing so has placed the word beauty back into the bodybuilding lexicon.

2008 Olympia Posing Routines