Written by Peter McGough
07 March 2013



Soft and swell goings-on at the 2013 Arnold.

By Peter McGough


With only Dexter Jackson from last year’s Mr. Olympia top six participating in the 2013 Arnold Classic, a range of cynics said the line-up for the 25th annual Lorimer/Schwarzenegger bash would be soft. Other’s said, no worries, it’ll be swell. In the end both contrasting views were right, as many of the 13 entrants were soft and missed their peak (including Dexter Jackson) and at least six showed up with midsections that were …. well, swell.


In regard to the distended bellies, it became somewhat of an epidemic in the mid 2000s, but these past few years it was not such a common sight; maybe one seen here and there in pro contests. Why suddenly the 2013 Arnold Classic line-up looked like a pre-natal clinic 8 1/2 months after the end of World War II is beyond moi. And Marcus Haley took the “If ya got it, flaunt it baby!” approach by during his routine several times deliberately pushing out his belly to extraordinary lengths. One braced oneself for a repeat of the most famous scene from Alien, or bodybuilding’s first onstage birth.Whatever, maybe the gut glut was a coincidence. There now follows a pregnant pause until someone comes up with the answer.




 On the reality of so many guys not being in top condition it is a fact that in recent years those hitting their peak in contests (pro and amateur) have been in the minority. The paradox is that increasingly over the years “condition” has come to be the deciding factor in contests. It is no longer just one part of the shape/proportion/development/condition assessment it is the pre-requisite for determining victory with the other three aspects taking secondary roles. The proof of conditioning taking pre-eminence over shape and proportion was proved by the freaky but hard Ben Pakulski beating X-Man Toney Freeman, and Cedric “More balanced than a Cirque du Soleil act” McMillan being marooned in sixth place. So if condition is now the ultimate arbiter, the question "Why do so many not hit their peak on contest day?" makes one’s head spin like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. It’s like LeBron James not practicing three pointers.


A personal opinion is that too many guys are striving so hard for condition that they do too much in the last couple of days leading up to a contest and fall short. One loses count of the number ofcompetitors who look like they are spot-on 24 hours before the contest and then fade away by the time prejudging begins. Hate to speak percentages (but as the oil rigger said to the apprentice, “If the cap fits, wear it”), but consider the following. My feeling is that say a guy is at 98% the night before a contest, there's an overwhelming urge to go for 100%. Thus some eleventh hour alchemy takes place and quicker than you can say, "When I said I was going flat out for victory I didn’t mean this for Chrissake!" the guy is at 90% and out of the running. Twelve weeks of dieting gone in a puff of smoke and mirrors. Much better not to tinker and go forward confidently at 98%. Legendary soccer manager Brian Clough used to tell his Nottingham Forest (my home club) players, "Never try to make a good goal scoring chance, a better one." The canny Clough knew that trying to improve your chances, when a good one has already presented itself, all too often ends in failure.



The following is not to suggest that present day bodybuilders are inferior to their predecessors, but it is true to say that overall they have not equaled the conditioning consistency achieved by guys 

from the '’80s and ‘90s like Haney, Gaspari, Labrada, Taylor, DeMey, Benfatto, Yates, Wheeler, Ray, Levrone, Cottrell and Cormier. Ask those guys their encapsulation of how they hit sinew-splitting condition and their consolidated simple answer will be, "We suffered."



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