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2008 Arnold Classic Bodybuilding Contest Report



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The competitors were called out one by one:

Deshaun Grimez - USA

Deshaun was looking very big and in good condition too. I think his problem is structure in relation to other bodybuilders of similar size such as Phil Heath.

Silvio Samuel - USA via Spain

Silvio was looking much improved from his Ironman performance and possibly at the best that I have ever seen him. I can't quite tell if the reason for his improved performances was due to different lighting or some other quality unrelated to physique development should as oil, but I do believe that he truly did improve as it would seem to me that only dramatic changes in the physique can make him look so drastically differently than he did at the Arnold. Silvio was shredded everywhere and was on his way to a high placing at this show.

David Henry

David Henry also looked much improved compared to his Ironman showing, although once again it may just be that the quality of the lighting (as seen through the webcast) was simply improved. The quality of the webcast was much better in my opinion. David Henry did look much better from my vantage point.

Moe El Moussawi

Moe was looking awesome and brought some amazing conditioning to the table, possibly even sharper at the Arnold, but at the very least, just as sharp. His glutes were shredded and his back was very detailed. Talk about an amazing bodybuilding seemingly coming out of nowhere. I look forward to seeing Moe compete with the best in the world once again at the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest.

Toney Freeman

Toney Freeman was in very good conditioning as seen from his shredded glutes and lean lower back. He was looking better than he did at the Ironman, although not quite the best we have ever seen him so far.

Johnnie O. Jackson

Johnnie was in good condition and sporting good size as he always has. This was particularly evident in his chest and traps which are both trademark muscles for him, and his calves which have always been a weak point looked slightly improved, as can be said about his legs. For a powerlifter, he never really had incredibly huge legs, but he has brought them up in recent time. His most muscular pose is always a knockout.

Gustavo Badell

Gustavo was looking very good as soon as he walked on the stage. I would even go so far as to say that his size and conditioning combination was as good as it was at the 2005 Mr. Olympia contest where he beat a best ever Gunter Schlierkamp and beat Ronnie Coleman in the challenge round. I wasn't even sure if Gustavo could get back to this conditioning, but he clearly proved that he could tonight. To me, he looked to be the best competitor to come out so far.

Desmond Miller

Desmond looked good, although coming out just after seeing Gustavo Badell, did not make his conditioning look as good as it would have been, seen separately. Still with shredded glutes and an excellent hamstrings/glutes tie-in, Desmond came into this show ready, a show which is definitely one of the most competitive Arnold Classic competitions in all of its tenure.

Ronny Rockel

Ronny came into the show in good conditioning, but I agree with Bob Cicherillo that Ronny has neither any standout strengths or weaknesses. In a competition where freaks are often the winners, Ronny falls short of the requirements to win. That said, amazing shoulders help him in many poses, and Ronny is always one to come into contests in shape.

A.D. Cherry

Without question, an excellent bodybuilder, but A.D. went straight to the Arnold Classic after achieving pro status. That is definitely a big feat and something that most professional bodybuilders would wait for before doing. He looked good, but would appear to need more mass in relation to some of the other pros we have seen.

Dexter Jackson

Dexter showed up in incredible conditioning as always. He was no slouch in the size department, and more or less looked about the same as we have always seen him throughout the years, which isn't exactly a bad thing. He was lean everywhere as always, and it doesn't appear that his metabolism has been affected by age at this point (Dexter is close to 40). Definitely a contender for a top placing at this show, and possibly even the first place spot.

Phil Heath

Phil Heath came on stage and looked to have maintained his conditioning from the Ironman. His glutes and hamstrings were shredded and his back was very detailed and has shown improvements in size since previous years. He was definitely in the top three amongst competitors showing up so far (along with Gustavo Badell and Dexter Jackson), and it will be interesting to see him side by side with those bodybuilders later on in the contest.

Branch Warren

Branch was in fantastic shape and definitely shredded. His chest was huge and in no area is Branch lacking in size. When he hits a most muscular pose, everything is absolutely ripped to shreds. He is a monster and really brought it in terms of conditioning too. In my mind, he was another definite top contender at this show. Branch said himself that he went back to the drawing board and the result is clearly shown here.

Melvin Anthony

Melvin without question has an outstanding physical structure and his balance is amazing. His lats are huge and flaring in the rear double biceps and his rear lat spread demonstrates great width. Although Melvin was looking incredible, I'm not so sure that Melvin was quite at the level as some of his competition before him. That said, he was looking very good.

Kai Greene

Kai's conditioning was looking amazing. His hardness in his hamstrings was amazing and his rear lat spread was huge. Kai supposedly put on 25-30 pounds of muscle since the 2007 Colorado Pro and if that truly is the case, his conditioning was amazing in light of such gains. His abs and serratus were separated and his quads were cross-striated.

Quarter turns

The bodybuilders went through the mandatory quarter turns and we got to see what they look like side by side. David Henry, as conditioned as he was, looked to be lacking in either conditioning or colour/oil when compared to Silvio Samuel, who was definitely displaying some amazing conditioning.

The bodybuilders next went through the mandatory poses:

  • Front Double Biceps
  • Front Lat Spread
  • Side Chest
  • Rear Double Biceps
  • Rear Lat Spread
  • Side Triceps
  • Abs & Thighs
  • Most Muscular

The pros were looking very good with Gustavo demonstrating great conditioning as mentioned before. Overall it was certainly a strong lineup with a fantastic top five. Although the top five were not known at this point, I had seen enough to get a good idea of what was to come, and my predicted top five were looking very sharp.

When Phil Heath was standing next to Dexter Jackson, I have to say that I did not feel that Dexter was far ahead of Phil. Phil was definitely close. In fact, I have to say that Branch Warren quite possibly impressed me more than any other - his back was the widest on the stage and his quads were huge. His calves were huge to go along with them and he was very dense and grainy. The inevitable top five appeared to be (in no particular order): Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, Branch Warren, Melvin Anthony, and Kai Greene.

The first callout was announced:

  • Silvio Samuel
  • Dexter Jackson
  • Phil Heath
  • Kai Greene

This callout surprised me somewhat, because I could see both Gustavo Badell or Branch Warren in this callout, although I admit it was very close. I still think that Gustavo and Branch were slighly ahead of Silvio, but judging by this callout, the judges did not see it that way, with Silvio likely to end up notably higher in the placings.

The four bodybuilders went through the mandatory poses and by no means did I feel Dexter was dominating Phil Heath, although the same can be said with the two names reversed, with Phil by no means dominating Dexter.

In the next callout, Gustavo Badell and Branch Warren were included along with Toney Freeman and Desmond Miller. I think that Gustavo and Branch both deserve to make the top five, but we will see how that goes when the results are announced at the end of the contest. Branch was amazingly big and dominated the contest in terms of size. It should be noted that Melvin Anthony was not among the top eight announced in the callouts so far, which is unusual given how good Melvin was looking.

The next callout switched things up a little with Silvio Samuel and Kai Greene being compared to Gustavo Badell and Branch Warren which I felt was a good callout, allowing Gustavo and Branch to potentially move up to the top five, along with Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath. I definitely feel that Branch Warren should have be in the top five so I'm happy he got to compare with two of the four bodybuilders who were in the first callout. Branch definitely had the size in his back, although I would say the bodybuilder with the best conditioned back would have been Gustavo Badell who had a dense and shredded back and was looking amazing.

The fourth callout was Moe El Moussawi, Johnny Jackson, Desmond Miller, and Melvin Anthony. Melvin Anthony was understandably disappointed as it looked like he may not even be making the top eight based on the callouts so far. His back demonstrated amazing width and despite Desmond Miller's huge overall back mass, Melvin's back appeared wider in poses standing right next to him. Melvin has a great structure and seemed to hit it in terms of conditioning, so it is unfortunate that he did not appear to do very well based on this callout.

The fifth callout was with Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, Branch Warren, and Kai Greene. I liked this callout because it allowed Branch to be compared with the top competitors at the show and I feel that is fair because I think Branch definitely deserves to be in the top four. The same can be said for Kai Greene who showed up in excellent conditioning and Phil Heath and Dexter Jackson making the top four was basically a given, as you could clearly see in this callout.

I suspect that if Branch Warren was a few inches taller, he could full well be Mr. Olympia, but the fact is, part of the reason why Branch is as stacked as he is is because of his height, so it works as both an advantage and a disadvantage to a bodybuilder.

The next callout was between Silvio Samuel, Toney Freeman, Johnnie O. Jackson, and Gustavo Badell. Seeing Silvio's back next to Toney Freeman's back showed how big the size discrepancy was. Silvio's back looked very narrow compared to Toney's.

The next callout was to determine the seventh place finisher and included Moe El Moussawi, Toney Freeman, Johnnie O. Jackson, Desmond Miller, and Ronny Rockel. That is unfortunate for Toney Freeman since no doubt he wanted to make the top five to qualify for the Mr. Olympia contest. Also, Moe El Moussawi looked as sharp if not sharper than he did at the Ironman, but was not able to hit the top spots at this show, which goes to show how competitive this lineup is, especially in light of the fact that the 2008 Ironman pro was very competitive.

The next callout consisted of Moe El Moussawi, Ronny Rockel, Melvin Anthony, and David Henry. That would indicate to me that Melvin would make the top eight at most, but definitely be between 8-10. That is unfortunate for Melvin given that it appeared he had a good showing, but I suppose a bodybuilder can't keep up such a good streak forever, having placed highly at the Mr. Olympia contest for two years in a row.

The callouts continued which gave a general idea what the placings would be for the bodybuilders - if not the specific placings, at least the range in which any given bodybuilder would likely fall, within a place or two. Toney Freeman stood next to Desmond Miller, and for a bodybuilder who is known to have huge legs (Desmond), his legs were surprisingly not impressive when standing next to Toney Freeman. Toney was slighly taller and his quads, hamstrings, and calves all appeared to be larger than Desmond's, with calves being the closest of the three. That really speaks for how impressive Toney's legs are and in addition to that, Toney's waist is very small for his height and he has an incredible "X" shape which is why they call him the "X-Man". I think the main reason why Toney is held down in the ranks is due to his height which is a disadvantage for someone as tall as him (6'2). At 5'10, I imagine he might be winning this show.

When Branch was side by side with Dexter Jackson, it was obvious to me that Branch carried far more mass than Dexter at roughly the same height. He might not have the most aesthetically pleasing physique around, but he definitely had the size and the hardness to go with it. In the fact, the entire top four looked very good. Kai Greene and Phil Heath also looked very good.

Bob said that the contest consisted of pretty physiques as well as the more muscular physiqes and said that it's "bananas and grapefruits out there." A not so subtle reference to Kai Greene's performance in a previous DVD.

Arnold Classic Finals Presentations

The bodybuilders were announced one by one and were looking very sharp. From my vantage point, all of the bodybuilders appeared to be just as good as they were during the prejudging, if not a little better.

Deshaun Grimez

Deshaun was listed at 5'10 and 250 pounds and did look to be about that. In terms of sheer size, he can stand next to Phil Heath and not be dwarfed. That said, there is of course more to bodybuilding than size alone, especially at top level professional contests like this one. Deshaun carried a lot of mass but did not have the conditioning required for great success at this contest, as seen in both of his back poses as well as his glutes. Impressive nevertheless, but just not enough to do damage at a show of this caliber.

Silvio Samuel

Silvio was looking sharp and was listed at 5'7 and 260 pounds, both of which were not accurate. Given how shredded Silvio was, I highly doubt he was much more than 200 pounds, because he has competed at that body weight before and I highly doubt a 60 pound gain in muscle mass is realistic in such a short period of time. My focus was definitely on his conditioning which was without question, at a very high level, and better than it had been just two weeks prior at the 2008 Ironman pro contest. His back definitely needs improvement - from the front, his lats are high, which is a genetic component very unlikely to change dramatically, and from the rear, Silvio lacks width. Watching Silvio at the 2007 Mr. Olympia contest, I thought that he was at Dexter Jackson's level, but seeing his back in this contest, I can tell that he is not there yet. In the future, we will see how he does, and I imagine he will continue to improve as long as he gives his body a rest to grow. In truth, he competes all the time, and I can't imagine anyone's body can keep up with that forever. He competed eight times in 2007 alone!

David Henry

Dave was listed at 5'5 and 210, although I think he is closer to 5'3, with the weight being close no doubt. In any case, he packs a lot of size on his frame and has a good structure. He generally comes in to contests in good conditioning, but he should make a point to hit it every time and forget about playing the size game since we all know how competitive he can be if he is conditioned - he was as high as tenth at the 2007 Mr. Olympia contest. That makes him tenth best in the world which is pretty incredible. So again, I see no point in him adding more mass when conditioning is the ticket for him, especially when judges will not compare him favourably against the bodybuilders of greater stature if David is even a little off. I would stick with what works, and that is being as shredded as possible. In this contest, David was more shredded than he had been at the Ironman previously in the year.

Moe El Moussawi

Moe was listed at 5'9 and 245, when he in fact he stands at 5'8, although I am uncertain about his weight. It does surprise me how often the weights and heights listed are not accurate, but I suppose no one confirms these things. Moe was definitely shredded and appeared to me to maintain his conditioning since the Ironman two weeks prior. It's tough to say where he will fall in this more challenging lineup, but I think a top three finish as he had at the Ironman is highly unlikely.

Toney Freemman

Toney was huge as always. At 6'2 it's hard not to be. As huge as Toney's arms are, they are so long that they look small (relative to his frame) when side by side to shorter pro bodybuilders like Branch Warren or Phil Heath in particular. Toney's legs were definitely huge, by all standards, even though he is a very tall bodybuilder. At 41 going on 42 this year, I don't know how much more time Toney has left to achieve top results in the professional ranks of bodybuilding, but he still had a great showing today, even if it was not his personal best ever showing.

Johnnie O. Jackson

Johnnie was said to be 255 pounds at the height of 5'8. I'm not sure if he is quite that heavy, and 240 or less seems a little more realistic. No matter what, Johnnie was huge, especially in the chest and traps as he usually is. His abs are hard and his quads appeared to have improved at this contest and this year in general. His calves still need work, but even they looked a slight bit improved (with a long way to go). His glutes and hamstrings looked hard and his back was wide and thick, the result of years of training as a powerlifter. His conditioning was good and all in all, this was a good showing for Johnnie.

Gustavo Badell

Gustavo was listed at 245 at 5'8 which I think is about right, although during the 2002 Mr. Olympia contest, he said he was 5'7. Given the size he carries, 245 seems pretty close though. Gustavo's conditioning was good, although I am not 100% sure he kept his conditioning since prejudging. Not that it matters too much, since the contest is primarily judged during the prejudging, at least if we look at the historical results of bodybuilding contests, that's how it appears to be. I think that Gustavo spilled over just slightly by the night show here and this was visible relatively consistently throughout his physique. Some bodybuilders peak during the night show, but it is better to peak during prejudging to secure a higher placing in contests, so I'm sure this wasn't a major problem for Gustavo, and given how shredded he was during the prejudging, I'm not surprised that he spilled over since it would have been extremely hard to keep that conditioning, even for a few hours.

Desmond Miller

Desmond Miller was listed at 260 pounds at 6'0 which I think is accurate. Having seen him in person at the 2007 Mr. Olympia, he was certainly a taller bodybuilder, and given his size and stature, 260 is realistic. What I don't like about Desmond Miller's physique is his wide waist. He has other flaws, but to me the major one is definitely the size of his waist, and one which I am not so sure he can do very much about improving. He has plenty of muscle and is given a lot of praise for his huge quads which also display good separation and overall conditioning.

Ronny Rockel

Ronny was listed at 226 at 5'6. At that weight, it's hard to do very well in an industry full of mass monsters. Ronny is a very complete bodybuilder, but other than shoulders, he doesn't have any parts which stand out as everything is in balance with everything else. While that is a good thing in terms of bodybuilding ideals, the fact is, freaks do better in modern day bodybuilding contests, and it is no surprise that Ronny does not place higher than he does, even with his fantastic lines and good overall conditioning. That said, I think he could have stood to be a little better conditioned. His posing had improved since other contests he has competed in and he will hopefully continue to improve in all areas. No doubt he will be around the bodybuilding scene for a while yet.

A.D. Cherry

A.D. Cherry was listed at 5'11 and 220 pounds, although I am not so sure he is that tall. In any event, he was not ready for competition at this level so close to having turned pro, and I think he should have chosen another professional competition to begin with before showing up here. Furthermore, his conditioning was good, but not great, and the only way he could have hoped to have a respectable showing at a show of this caliber would have been to come in at his absolute best conditioning, which he did not. He was better conditioned when he turned pro. All in all, a good bodybuilder, my point is simply that he is not at this level - not yet at least. I'm sure that we will see A.D. Cherry at the Arnold Classic again, and better able to do some damage at that point.

Dexter Jackson

Dexter was listed at 217 pounds at 5'6, which is funny because he is routinely listed at 235 pounds. That said, at Dexter's height I highly doubt he has ever competed at over 220, as Shawn Ray would routinely compete at 210-215 and looked to be just as big as Dexter. Judging by Dexter's performance, he was the same old Dexter as always (not a bad thing). I would not lose sleep with Dexter Jackson winning the whole show, although he by no means dominated this lineup.

Phil Heath

Phil Heath looked very good with huge quads and some amazing shoulders and arms. He was shredded in all of the key areas, including his glutes and hamstrings tie-in. His back was lean and had improved and his arms are some of the best ever in the history of bodybuilding, displaying amazing detail in areas seldom seen even at the top ranks of competitive bodybuilding. His thickness was demonstrated in virtually every pose and he could easily win the whole show from my point of view, with his combination of size, conditioning, structure, and posing. A great showing for Heath and I look forward to seeing him continue to improve as the time comes. It should also be noted that Phil is the youngest competitor in the whole contest at only 28 years old.

The top six were called out in numerical order:

  • Silvio Samuel
  • Gustavo Badell
  • Dexter Jackson
  • Phil Heath
  • Branch Warren
  • Kai Greene

The top six were looking fantastic! Branch in particular was looking amazing and was about as good as I remember seeing him at the 2006 Mr. Olympia contest. Gustavo had faded as I pointed out, and I don't think any of the bodybuilders showed up looking better than they were during prejudging. Branch Warren and Kai Greene both appeared to maintain their peak, but everyone else looked the same and possibly even dropped a little by the time of the finals.

The six bodybuilders went through the quarter turns which were followed up by the mandatory poses:

  • Front Double Biceps
  • Front Lat Spread
  • Side Chest
  • Rear Double Biceps
  • Rear Lat Spread
  • Side Triceps
  • Abdominals and Thigh
Phil Heath looked amazing in the hands clasped most muscular pose. This was a pose that Kevin Levrone looked amazing in during his tenure as a bodybuilder. I have to say that all of the top six looked very, very good. Branch definitely looked the widest in the back poses and I would have no problem with him winning the show, although I doubt that would ever happen.

Critics routinely say that Branch Warren is lacking aesthetics, but personally I think he has a good structure. He is simply TOO MUSCULAR. Ronny Rockel would probably look similar if he put on a significant amount of muscle. Branch is just so big and so freaky that merely having that much muscle mass is a flaw in and of itself.

Lonnie Teper next announced the "Most Muscular" award which unsurprisingly went to Branch Warren. I definitely agree with this award 100% as it is a very well deserved award for Branch. Branch also won in 2006.

The best poser award went to Melvin Anthony which is also no surprise to me. He has won posing awards in the past and is definitely one of the greatest posers in the history of bodybuilding. He poses well and includes some dance as well, but balances both of them in a respectable fashion. This is another award which I agree with.

After an entertainment presentation, Arnold himself gave a speech, and included a joke about Lou Ferrigno being outside selling his photos. The crowd laughed at this since it is a running gag that Lou sells his pictures for $20 a picture, and even sells his autographs on photos which are not his (he charges to write his name on another photo). To me, that is nothing more than supply and demand capitalism, but Lou has been the butt of a lot of jokes as a result of this.

The top six were then brought back on stage in numerical order. The top six were then announced:

  • Gustavo Badell - 6th
  • Silvio Samuel - 5th
  • Branch Warren - 4th
  • Kai Greene - 3rd
  • Phil Heath - 2nd
  • Dexter Jackson - 1st

Although I will not be losing any sleep over this judging decision, I could easily have seen it go almost any way amongst the top four. For example, Phil Heath, Kai Greene, or Branch Warren were all potential winners. Branch did win the most muscular award, and he was arguably in the best condition too, so I could have easily seen him win the whole show.

Overall Review

This was an extremely competitive Arnold Classic competition, and from my vantage point, any of the top four could have won the contest. I suppose that aesthetics of the physique were judged first which would explain why Dexter Jackson and Phil Heath were owners of the first two placings. It also explains why Kai Green was placed third with Branch Warren relegated to fourth. That said, in previous years, apples and oranges in the contest were judged side by side. For example, in 2003, Jay Cutler won the whole show, with Chris Cormier placing second, Markus Ruhl placing third and Dexter Jackson placing fourth. So if we denote mass monsters as apples and more aesthetic bodybuilders as oranges, that contest was judged apple, orange, apple, orange. That really doesn't make any sense, but at this show, the judging was more consistent, giving the top three placings to the three bodybuilders with the greatest combination of mass, conditioning, and overall aesthetics, with Branch placing fourth where I could have seen him win the whole show based on a slightly different judging standard. I was pleased with both the caliber of this contest as well as the results. It is unfortunate that Toney Freeman and Melvin Anthony did not place as highly as I'm sure both of them wanted to, but they did come in off, and that is the price they paid. No doubt they will come back again, stronger than ever, although Toney is 42 this year and I'm not sure how much longer he has to be at his best ever. We will see how it goes. Overall, this was a very good professional bodybuilding contest and I look forward to seeing more in the future.

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Take care,

Matt Canning

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