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The Best Bodybuilder of All Time?


BodybuildingPro.com Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by Matt Canning The Best Bodybuilder of All Time?



The Best Bodybuilder of All Time?

The question of who the best bodybuilder of all time was is debated quite frequently. Before you start reading this - don't think that I have an answer. In fact, even my own opinion isn't solidly formed quite yet. With all the greats, it's nearly impossible to pick one clear winner. With that I'll spend this article describing the strengths and weaknesses of some of the greatest bodybuilders the sport has seen. I will try to include the most frequently discussed names, and divide them into two classes (as seen below). For the sake of this article, I'll list the athletes in alphabetical order to try to make this as objective as possible (still, really hard to do!). If you have any other bodybuilders you would like to see included, please e-mail me at the webmaster@bodybuildingpro.com



The Mr. Olympias

Go to: Ronnie Coleman

Go to: Lee Haney

Go to: Sergio Olivia

Go to: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Go to: Dorian Yates



The Uncrowned Mr. Olympias

Go to: Chris Cormier

Go to: Jay Cutler

Go to: Kevin Levrone

Go to: Shawn Ray

Go to: Flex Wheeler



Honourable Mention

Go to: Paul Dillett

Go to: Nasser El Sonbaty

Go to: Rich Gaspari

The Mr. Olympias

Ronnie Coleman
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Photo © Ron Avidan of GetBig.com

CLICK HERE TO BUY RONNIE COLEMAN ON DVD & VHS!

Strengths:

Where to begin? This man is massive basically everywhere. Many have said that he has several bodyparts in the top 10 of all time - back, chest, biceps, quads, forearms, you name it, he's got it. His back is so enormous, it's almost hard to believe he's human. It's surprising that any human being has the potential to carry that much lean, dense muscle mass - yet Ronnie does it, and does it pretty well at that. His arms have the perfect 1/3:2/3 split between his biceps and his triceps, and I would say they enter a show contest ready at 23.5" - absolutely massive. His legs are big and still shredded and his conditioning is on the nail.

Weaknesses:

Ronnie has highly developed calves, but being 287 pounds contest ready with quads as big as his, they look small - he needs to bring them up a notch or two in order for them to balance with his upper body. His abs are also not up to the standard of the rest of him. His abdominal shape is genetic, and he doesn't have it in his cards to have the perfect six pack like a lot of the other contenders. Jay Cutler and Lee Priest come to mind. That comes down to genetics - one thing is for sure, his midsection is cut up, whether or not it lacks the ideal shape for a bodybuilder. Ronnie also has a problems with stomach distention. But the reality is, he gets more flak for that than he deserves - people always want to bring down the champ. Ronnie's stomach wasn't too sightly in the 2000/2001 Mr. Olympia contests, but in recent contests (starting at the 2002 Mr. Olympia), Ronnie has been improving his midsection by practising breathing exercises. They helped a lot and at 287 pounds for the 2003 Mr. Olympia, his stomach was the best it's been for a long time. Still - his midsection doesn't bring back memories of Frank Zane, but who would at almost 300 pounds on a sub six foot tall frame? Ronnie, at 40, is improving all the time, so don't be surprised at whatever he brings in to the 2004 Mr. Olympia.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Ronnie Coleman photo gallery!

Lee Haney
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Lee Haney Front Double Biceps


CLICK HERE TO BUY LEE HANEY ON VHS!

Strengths

Lee Haney had a lot of good going for him - to the point where he dominated the 1980s as only the best of bodybuilders ever did. He had a great chest, a back both detailed and thick and best of all - balance as few bodybuilders have ever achieved. This is illustrated perfectly in the photograph above. He had impressive overall size, full muscle bellies, excellent conditioning, a small waist and joints, and at 250 pounds, he had a phenomenal vacuum. He was quite incredible from head to toe.

Weaknesses:

Lee was big and balanced but lacked a bit on the overall development of his arms for a man of his size. His calves were superior, but maybe not as superior to his upper body development. Maybe the one major component he lacked compared to his closest competition was conditioning - he was ripped and dry but not quite to the level of some of the other great bodybuilders to walk on stage with him. In the end, his strengths outweighed his weaknesses and he became the Mr. Olympia champion an unprecedented eight consecutive times. Although it's possible that Ronnie Coleman catches up to him, that is no feat to scoff at, even if it is ever matched. But for now, Lee Haney is still the most prolific Mr. Olympia ever.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Lee Haney photo gallery!

Sergio Olivia
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Sergio Oliva Famous Myth Pose


Strengths

Here's a guy who was 20 or 30 years ahead of his time. Sergio brought mass to a level that bodybuilders only started catching up to in recent years. His back and chest were both massive, as were his legs (rare in his era), and his arms and shoulders were so big they dwarfed his head. Top it off, he had a small waist and streamlined midsection. He was also one of the few bodybuilders who could display the hands over head pose (above) without displaying any glaring weaknesses - in fact, he was the originator.

Weaknesses:

Sergio's conditioning was not quite at the same level of others of his era. Frank Zane and Arnold come to mind. Although his conditioning was good, it wasn't the best, and since his days, that condition has been vastly improved upon. His arms were genetically very full and lacked the peak that Arnold had that many fans and critics gloss over.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Sergio Olivia photo gallery!

Arnold Schwarzenegger
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CLICK HERE TO BUY ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ON DVD!

Strengths

Arnold definitely made an impact on bodybuilding, as both a personality and with his physique. His arms were huge and peaked and his chest was among the very best of all time - even compared to the likes of Dennis James and Markus Ruhl - Arnold stands out. Of course a lot of that incredible size and shape comes down to genetics (as many have tried to develop Arnie's chest and few have succeeded), but you can rest assured he had drive, ambition, charisma and confidence that few ever did. Okay, this isn't a personality contest - but he did have a lot of strengths. Other than arms and chest, his midsection was very streamlined and his abs were sharp. His back was also very dense and defined. Arnold's calves set a new standard at 20 inches - they were formally a weak point that he brought up after years of intense training.

Weaknesses:

Arnold's legs were not big - at least not by today's standards. At the time they were adequate, but these days, they wouldn't fare well against most contest ready wheels. His delts were small, or at least dwarfed by his chest in some shots, specifically the side ones.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Arnold Schwarzenegger photo gallery!

Dorian Yates
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CLICK HERE TO BUY DORIAN YATES ON DVD & VHS!

Strengths

Dorian is another bodybuilder that can be praised a lot for personality - his confidence, professionalism and expressed love for the sport of bodybuilding helped a lot. But since I'm trying to assess physiques, I'll get to that. BACK - Dorian definitely had one. Although Ronnie's back at the 2003 Olympia may have been bigger, it didn't have the detail that Dorian's did. The one time Ronnie's detail was close was at the 2001 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. But even then, it wasn't quite the combination of size and detail that Dorian Yates was known to display. In fact, the debate over who had the better back between those two still rages on. I would have to give it to Ronnie because to me, his freaky size is even freakier than Dorian's freaky detail and conditioning, but you'll hear opposite opinions on that one. Dorian also probably had the best calves of bodybuilding - the only bodybuilder who I can think of to be in his league for calves would be Mike Matarazzo. On top of this, his whole body seemed to be cut from stone - he had great conditioning, density, thickenss, separation, striations, cuts, whatever you want to say about being bone dry and shredded on game day - Dorian was a poster boy for it.

Weaknesses:

Dorian had a blocky waste compared to some of his top competition. Overall, his body was at its best before the injuries he had later in his career as a result of his high intensity training. He tore his biceps and that became a weakness, but luckily he still had enough strong points to come home with six consecutive Sandow trophies.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Dorian Yates photo gallery!

The Uncrowned Mr. Olympias

Chris Cormier
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Photograph © Ron Avidan of GetBig.com. Reproduced with permission.

CLICK HERE TO BUY CHRIS CORMIER ON DVD & VHS!

Strengths

Chris is another bodybuilder who has great overall balance and shape. He has no overwhelming parts and they all flow together very well. His back is incredibly detailed and thick - maybe not as thick as Ronnie Coleman's, but definitely an impressive collection of mass.

Weaknesses:

Chris is known to rarely come into a contest ON. That is, he is known to not fulfill his potential. It's said that at 100%, he could give any bodybuilder a run for his money. With everyone saying that, Chris did his homework and dialed it in at a high level for the 2004 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, where many said he should have finished first, ahead of Jay Cutler. Chris has the goods as it is now - he just needs to perfect his ability to show that to the crowd on the day of the contest.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Chris Cormier photo gallery!

Jay Cutler
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Photograph © Ron Avidan of GetBig.com. Reproduced with permission.

CLICK HERE TO BUY JAY CUTLER ON DVD & VHS!

Strengths

Jay's strengths are simple to point out - in the day of the giants, he has it all and still manages a streamlined midsection and a razor sharp eight pack. He has superior calves, freaky biceps and great overall balance, and at only 30 years of age, he has all the time in the world to reach his goal of becoming Mr. Olympia.

Weaknesses:

Jay's obliques are overdeveloped, and it prevents him from conveying that classic V taper as well as he could be possible with more streamlined obliques. His back is big and detailed, but not quite to the level of some of his competition - if he could bring in the detail of Dexter Jackson, he would have it all. His glutes were never shredded before the 2004 Arnold Classic, but he showed the audience and the judges he can present many looks. In my personal opinion, the larger Jay is the better bodybuilder. The extra cuts are great, but they don't fare as well as the extra mass. Jay is continually seeking a balance and will continue to improve as new contests come up.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Jay Cutler photo gallery!

Kevin Levrone
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CLICK HERE TO BUY KEVIN LEVRONE ON DVD & VHS!

Strengths

Kevin is another bodybuilder who manages to bring both shredded size and spectacular shape into the contests he enters. His shoulders are the best in the business and his razor sharp serratus is an eye catcher. His small waist and joints highlight his full muscle bellies.

Weaknesses:

Kevin's legs have not been up to the same level of standard since he had a hernia operation in 2002. If he had come into the 2002 Mr. Olympia contest with the same legs he had 10 years earlier, he may have taken home his first Mr. Olympia title and Sandow trophy. With Kevin's career as a musician taking flight and with Ronnie's new level of mass and conditioning, Kevin may not get his chance to become Mr. Olympia, but he definitely has some good years ahead of him if he puts his heart into it.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Kevin Levrone photo gallery!

Shawn Ray
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Photograph © Ron Avidan of GetBig.com. Reproduced with permission.

CLICK HERE TO BUY SHAWN RAY ON VIDEO & DVD!

Strengths

Shawn is another kind of bodybuilder who I really can't pick out just one good quality about, so I won't even start - he showed the kind of balance of muscularity, shape and conditioning that every bodybuilder should strive for at his level of competition.

Weaknesses:

Some would say Shawn is too small (although I wouldn't). To me, you really can't improve on perfection, and that is one thing Shawn didn't try to do - play the size game. He found his peak, and stayed there. That said, if you put his body on a six foot tall frame, he would probably have a few Sandows to his name. Height is one of those things that is considered, whether deliberately or not, when judging a bodybuilding competition.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Shawn Ray photo gallery!

Flex Wheeler
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Flex Wheeler Relaxed Pose


CLICK HERE TO BUY FLEX WHEELER ON VIDEO & DVD!

Strengths

Flex had amazing detail in his back that few other bodybuilders have been able to duplicate. This was especially apparent in his rear double biceps post. His abs were deep cut and blended perfectly with his streamlined midsection. His full muscle bellies swelled off his tiny joints and he had proportions which can only be compared to a cartoon character. He was nicknamed "The Sultan of Symmetry" for a reason.

Weaknesses:

Flex's rear lat spread did not fare well compared to some of his competition - especially Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates, and that may be one of the reasons why he was never Mr. Olympia. As history has taught us, the Mr. Olympia contest is won from behind. With that, he never did take home a Sandow. Flex also tried to play the size game and it didn't work out in his favour - he looked best at about 225 pounds, but often competed heavier.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Flex Wheeler photo gallery!

Honourable Mention

Rich Gaspari
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CLICK HERE TO BUY RICH GASPARI ON VHS!

Strengths

Holy vascularity, Batman! Rich Gaspari was the man who brought conditioning to a new level. He always came into a contest ripped, crazy and freaky. Bone dry and hard as nails. His legs were quite amazing - a testament to the intensity of his squatting regiment.

Weaknesses:

Rich had short arms and a slightly boxy shape. He was 5'8.5 while Lee Haney was 6'0, coupled with Lee's tight waste and superior proportions, Rich's freaky conditioning couldn't make him Mr. Olympia, but he was runner up to Lee three times.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Rich Gaspari photo gallery!

Paul Dillett
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CLICK HERE TO BUY PAUL DILLETT ON VHS!

Strengths

Dillett had plenty of strengths - a huge chest, legs bigger than his waist (which was tiny compared to the rest of his body), and some of the biggest arms I've ever seen. He had size, coupled with a tight midsection and great abs. His vascularity was freaky and he truly was a dinosaur among bodybuilders.

Weaknesses:

What was said about Dillett was that his back was a weak point, although from pictures I have seen, I don't think it is (as the one above illustrates). His back was weaker than Dorian's and maybe that is the benchmark of perfection it was compared to. Dillett also had problems holding a pose and that is no doubt one of the things he was penalized for.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Paul Dillett photo gallery!

Honourable Mention

Nasser El Sonbaty
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Nasser El Sonbaty


CLICK HERE TO BUY NASSER EL SONBATY ON VHS!

Strengths

Nasser was another beast who looked incredible from the front - great chest, great abs and a tight midsection, which was all the more impressive for a man of his body weight. He was one of the few who could put fear in the heart of Dorian Yates, and came very close to becoming Mr. Olympia in 1997.

Weaknesses:

Nasser from the back and the side was not as impressive as Nasser from the front. It is that which prevented him from ever becoming Mr. Olympia. With a bigger and more detailed back, he may have been Mr. Olympia.

MORE PICTURES! Click HERE for the Nasser El Sonbaty photo gallery!



So, tell me what you think. Send all your opinions to the e-mail address below.

Cheers.

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