Branch Takes The Oak's Contest!

Branch Warren held his conditioning between shows and looked like a true champion throughout the entire competition. In addition to taking the overall title, he won the Most Muscular Award for the fifth time!

Branch Takes The Oak's Contest!

First things first: Here's the top six, with their "take-home" pay:

Sixth Place: Ronny Rockel/$10,000
Fifth Place: Dexter Jackson/$15,000
Fourth Place: Evan Centopani/$30,000
Third Place: Victor Martinez/$50,000
Second Place: Dennis Wolf/$75,000
First Place: Branch Warren/$130,000

  • Branch Warren was thick as a redwood, and his conditioning was off the hook.
  • Dennis Wolf had his best showing ever.
  • Victor Martinez came back to prove that he's still a contender for the big IFBB titles. Evan Centopani placed fourth in his Arnold classic debut.
  • Dexter Jackson again was off in his conditioning, finishing only fifth.

Now, to analyze their physiques in more detail:

Branch Warren was ready for this show. He was in the driver's seat the entire time. His prep went well, and his only cardio was walking his dog. You're just not gonna beat a guy like that! He was in crazy shape.

Dennis Wolf's V-taper dropped jaws because his shoulders are mile-wide and his waist and his hips are very narrow. That's why he can carry a lot of mass and not look bulky. Like I noted in my review of the judging, Wolf's midsection was bone dry; the skin on his sides above his obliques, paper thin. I guess those peanut butter cups he was eating during the pump-up time did the trick again tonight!

Dennis also won "best presentation," and $10,000, for his stellar posing routine.

When you look at Dexter or Victor on stage, and then at Branch, you see two very different-looking type of physiques. They all have a lot of mass, but Dexter and Victor look like they stepped out of mold that was cast in marble sculpture. Their physiques feature sweeping curves and round, full muscle bellies. Branch, on the other hand, looks like John Henry pounded a sculpture out of a large rock with just his hammer.

This sort of match-up of body styles is nothing new. One of the better examples of this same contrast was Dorian Yates versus Flex Wheeler. Both men possessed outstanding physiques in their own rights, but on stage, those physiques looked radically different.

Evan Centopani stands out on any pro bodybuilding stage. He's been criticized for a flat chest, a sub-par back lat spread, and a poor front double bicep pose, but he sure makes up for it with calves, huge arms, and thick, meaty deltoids. Yes, his midsection could to be a little tighter and he could pull that epic front double bicep pose a little better. He needs a) more muscle control while posing and b) mastery of pulling a stomach vacuum.

If he does-watch out.

After a tremendous showing in his rookie debut last year at the Arnold, Roelly Winklaar went on to win the New York Pro a few months later. He caused quite a stir; some predicted a top-six finish in the Mr. Olympia in September. Things didn't go as well as he'd hoped there, however. He took a few months off to rest up, and this show was his chance to show major improvement.

Despite my niece sending me a Facebook message earlier this week that Toney Freeman was training at the gym she works at in Columbus, and appeared to be in crazy shape, I wasn't convinced he'd bring it to the stage. I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but you just never know how Toney will look at any given contest.

He might be dead-on or he might be flat; he might even be really smooth, but full. You never can tell with the X-Man, but he's turning 45 this week, and you can't argue that there are any other guys that age who are more impressive.

Victor Martinez looked better tonight than he did this afternoon. He was feeling good about his showing, and you could tell it in his beaming face. After a disappointing showing at the last Olympia, where he failed to make the top six, Victor was feeling pretty good about making the switch to using Oscar Arden for his prep this time. This was the best Victor we've seen in years. Look out for him at the Olympia this September.

Ronny Rockel was again consistent. He always looks really good and seems to place sixth place, including last year at the Arnold and Olympia both. Maybe next time he'll move up one more place.

Top-Six Pose-Down

Ronny Rockel, Evan Centopani, Branch Warren, Dexter Jackson, Dennis Wolf, and Victor Martinez were called out for the final round. The resulting pose-down was fun. Wolf hounded Branch nearly the entire time. At one point, Wolf playfully pushed Dexter back and to the side a bit. Dexter took it in stride, and they both laughed at it.

When the top six were announced, Dexter placing fifth wasn't very popular with crowd. He was off, though. Victor Martinez was announced in third and the crowd really booed. Again, I thought Victor looked good, but Wolf was in better shape and tighter and deserved to place higher than Victor. Wolf in second received well-deserved applause.

Congratulations to Branch Warren for a well-deserved victory!

Random side notes from the evening:


It's always a treat to attend the Arnold Classic. The theater setting lends itself to a great show with professional sound, lights and special stage effects. The 2011 Arnold Classic did not disappoint. This year the athletes entered through a huge metal-framed globe of the earth.

In the very background of the stage was a silhouette of a world map with a large scrim lit with LEDs that changed color. I don't know if it was by chance, but sometimes that glowing background matched the color of the trunks the competitors wore. I noticed it most with Toney Freeman and his bright neon green trunks.


During one of the intermissions, an acrobat duo performed some amazing feats of strength. I was speechless while watching it and couldn't find a description for some of the things they did. They were "flipping" amazing. If they are on the replay of the webcast, you need to watch them.

Lifetime Achievement

The recipient of this annual award was Lou Ferrigno. He offered an eloquent speech about how far bodybuilding has come, and what it's meant to him personally. From starting out with homemade barbells to becoming an actor, Ferrigno shared an incredible story of his success.

Strong Man

As usual, the very popular Strong Man competition finals were held near the end of the show. These giants get the crowd roaring like nothing else—not even Branch. Sorry, Branch, but the Columbus crowd really loves the Strong Man. Brian Shaw won the $45,000 first-place prize.

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