Written by Steve Blechman
24 December 2012

Muscular Development February 2013 Issue

The Return of the Classic Physique?

By Steve Blechman, Publisher/Editor in Chief
Dennis Wolf February 2013 Cover MD

When Phil Heath won the 2011 Mr. Olympia contest, ousting Jay Cutler from the throne, many wondered if we had officially entered the “Phil Heath Era.” Will future Olympians be judged and rewarded for aesthetics and superior shape and condition, over mass and condition? Have we returned to the classic physiques of the past, such as Mr. Olympia champions Sergio Oliva (1967-1969) and Frank Zane (1977-1979)? Sergio was symmetrical and classically built, but he was also the most massive bodybuilder of his time. Zane took the “classic” look to another level with his great shape and proportion, and that crazy vacuum that made his waist look 28 inches!

In the last 25 years, we haven’t had a classic physique dominate the sport since eight-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney (1984-1991). Lee was the biggest and most classically proportioned bodybuilder of his time! Once Dorian Yates became Mr. Olympia (1992-1997), things started to shift to more size and massive physiques. Dorian also set a new standard of unbeatable, hard, grainy conditioning. Dorian was succeeded by eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman (1998-2005), a mass monster who took freaky and extreme to a whole new level. Then came four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010), “a cut above” with his wide frame and extreme mass!

Was 2012 the return of the classic physique? Did Phil Heath, Shawn Rhoden, Cedric McMillan and Dennis Wolf win based on their classic shape and proportions? As Flex Wheeler says in his “How I See It” column this month, “It’s nice to make observations about a certain type of physique winning and calling it a trend, but you definitely need more than one season’s worth of shows and winners before you can truly say a real trend is emerging.” According to Flex, “At the end of the day, structure, shape and an X-frame are all well and good, but a physique still needs to have enough mass and be in great condition.”

Peter McGough puts the “classic physique” question into historical perspective in his feature, “The Shape of Things to Come?” “Classic” brings to mind a time when the most massive bodybuilder in the world was also the most symmetrical and classically built. Peter defines classic as “A physique which exhibits proportion and balance throughout all muscle groups, and in which musculature is hard and separated. Plus the shoulder girth is wide and the waist small to give the optimum V-taper look.” Most of the leading physiques of the ‘70s and early ‘80s era had that look. Do recent results indicate that the classic look is making a comeback?

Dennis Wolf is on this month’s cover because he has a classic-looking physique, and also because the Big Bad Wolf howled to a strong finish in 2012, with his third pro career win at the EVP Prague Championships— beating Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden, someone with classic lines of his own (check out the free Shawn Rhoden poster). A retooled and energized Dennis this month talks about his decision to sit out all of the spring 2013 shows and focus 100 percent on next year’s Mr. Olympia— and how he plans to do major damage in 2013.

For fans of the classic physique, Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden’s classic shape and structure, and tiny waist, is exactly what the sport needs. In an era of big guts, Shawn’s waist measures less than his thighs! In “The Evolution of Shawn Rhoden” we learn how this iron warrior launched a comeback with a vengeance to place third at the 2012 Mr. Olympia win last year’s Arnold Classic Europe and British Grand Prix, after his bodybuilding career was on hold for a few years.

When Cedric McMillan won the NPC Nationals in 2009, he displayed that rare combination of height, width, shape and mass that could make him the ultimate incarnation of the classic physique. In “Cedric McMillan— Could He Be the Greatest Classic Physique Ever?” MD industry experts, pros and Hall of Famers Lee Haney, Shawn Ray, Kevin Levrone, George Farah, Peter McGough, Dan Solomon, Jay Cutler, Jose Raymond and Rich Gaspari talk about Cedric and his potential. Can he go all the way to Mount Olympus?

Victor Martinez has one of the most classic and aesthetically pleasing physiques that bodybuilding has ever seen. He’s had his share of bumps in the road, but with his iron-willed determination and drive, Victor always bounces back. In “It ain’t over ‘til I say it’s over!” Victor tells MD’s Ron Harris that he plans on being the world’s ultimate classic physique. And a panel of MD athletes and experts— including Flex Wheeler, George Farah, Peter McGough, Lee Haney, Shawn Ray and Ronnie Coleman— talk about whether Victor still has what it takes. It will take everything in me to get there, but I am not afraid of hard work,” Victor said. “I’m looking forward to it. I know a lot of those other guys don’t think I’m a real contender anymore, but I plan on making it very clear that I am.”

No discussion of the classic physique would be complete without speaking to Lee Haney, who some consider the greatest Mr. Olympia of all time. In “The Classic Physique: an Interview With 8-Time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney,” Shawn Ray sat down with Lee— who shared his thoughts on the “return of the classic physique” and which current pro is the embodiment of what a classic bodybuilding champion should look like.

The rest of the book is packed to the binder as usual— with all the latest cutting-edge research and information on bodybuilding by the industry experts and insiders who make it all happen. See you next month!

Wishing everyone a happy holiday and a healthy and prosperous new year.

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