The Bodyparts That Changed Bodybuilding
Every sport has those special moments in its history that fans and experts alike look back on and realize how that accomplishment or event somehow changed things. The benefit of hindsight often allows us a level of clarity that escapes the moment. It would be easy to cite the obvious moments…Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman and Lenda Murray scoring eight Olympias. Wheeler, Levrone, Atwood and Heath winning their pro debuts. Jay slaying Ronnie as he chased true bodybuilding immortality at the 2006 Olympia. And the list goes on.
But bodybuilding is about more than contests. At its core, it is truly about the outrageous development of body parts, and the athlete with the best combination of those body parts usually wins the event. So we decided that part of the celebration of Musclemag’s 300th issue should be a coronation of the athletes who took a particular body part to the extreme and made us, and their fellow athletes, realize the degree of insane muscularity and detail that was possible. And just for fun, we’ll acknowledge some of the athletes who didn’t necessarily break the mold, but took it up another notch after the mold had already been broken.
What better bodybuilder to start the awards with than the most famous of them all? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chest development was nothing short of mind-boggling. Who can forget the images of him on stage and in the gym doing cable crossovers from “Pumping Iron”? Arnold’s chest didn’t have a single weak point and was covered with slabs of ripped, dense muscle. Massive upper pecs that resembled a shelf, striated inner pecs and thick lower and outer pecs that formed a perfect line in the side chest pose. And remember, this was in the late ’60s and early ’70s and few have even come close to Arnold’s chest development despite the many “advancements” in the three-plus decades since.
Overall Mass and Thickness
For overall mass, thickness and density, we’d be hard-pressed not to go with 6-time Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates. When Dorian dominated the Olympia, everyone knew that the show was over once he turned around. Who can forget the deep, grainy detail of the Yates back, complete with a Christmas tree that was deeper than we’d ever seen? Now if Dorian opened the freaky back door, Ronnie broke it down. The back Coleman put on stage in 2003 and 2004 still ranks as the best back EVER, with more density and detail than anyone thought possible, even after seeing Dorian. I also want to give a quick mention to Flex Wheeler for one of the most detailed, striated Christmas trees and inner lats ever on stage when he won the Arnold, although he couldn’t hang with Dorian and Ronnie when you factor density into the equation.
A few names come to mind with this one. Probably the most dramatic of the bunch would be England’s Brain Buchanan. Newer fans of the sport probably aren’t familiar with Brian, but this guy had one of the most dramatic lat to waist differentials you’ll ever see on a human who can still stand upright. His waist was freakishly small and his lats billowed into a heart shape that was stunning.
Another guy who had tremendous lat width was New York’s own, Orville Burke. Orville had high lats, but the width from lat to lat at the high point resembled a barn door being flung open. Honorable mention in this category would go to Flex, Ronnie and newer pro, Will “World” Harris, who has a waist more like a teenage girl and looks like he might fly away if a strong gust of wind hits while he’s doing a rear lat spread.
Although he now sits in prison, Bertil Fox’ traps were so thick and came up so high that it almost appeared like they’d cover his ears. Like Arnold, that was over thirty years ago and few have come close since.
1985 Nationals Heavyweight Champ, the Motor City’s Ron Love, was the name often uttered in the same sentence with “Cannonball Delts”. Ron’s delts almost looked as big as his head and created a delt to waist taper that scored him three pro wins. The next guy to have shocking shoulders was Kevin Levrone. They just didn’t even look real!
These days, for sheer inhuman mass, good luck finding a more gargantuan set of shoulders than you’ll find on Markus Ruhl. Simply massive. For overall quality and shape, the dazzling delts of Dexter Jackson get my vote. Shredded, dense and damn near perfect.
When it comes to fullness and peak, it’s tough not to go back to the Austrian Oak. Arnold’s front double bicep pose is the most famous in history, for good reason. Long before anyone ever heard of synthol, the peak in Arnold’s bicep almost came to a point, like a mountain. In the modern day, Ronnie and Lee Priest have a level of bicep fullness that their fellow pros only dream about.
Another old-timer that has to be in any bicep conversation is Boyer Coe. No one who has ever seen the dramatic splits down the center of his biceps can say they’ve forgotten them, or that they wouldn’t have loved to have had a set of their own.
I’d be lying if I told you that I ever paid close enough attention to forearm development to choose someone who brought it to the next level. Wait a minute…I’m suddenly having visions of Casey Viator and Larry Scott. As for the modern day, does anyone have lower arms that look more like veiny, striated bowling pins than Lee Priest? Maybe. Let’s stick Frank McGrath in there with Lee.
I’d have to go with the now deceased “Quadzilla”, Paul Demayo. While the Massachusetts native was famous for his quad development, few paid attention to the fact that he may have had the best triceps in the sport. If you want to see huge, striated triceps with as close to a perfect horseshoe formed by three massively developed heads, check out Demayo’s triceps.
For you Ernie Taylor and Kris Dim fans out there, let’s give them a tie for most outrageous/most controversial triceps in bodybuilding.
Since we just mentioned Paul’s nickname, let’s get to the award for quads. And Paul doesn’t get it. This was the easiest one for me. Tom Platz. No one can forget those pix of Tom, from two decades ago, flexing those inhuman quads. To this day, I don’t think ANYONE has ever even come close to Tom Thighs and it wouldn’t surprise if no one ever does.
This one was tough. There’s a lot of guys with some crazy hamstrings out there, but I’m not sure that any of them have fuller, rounder, more ridiculous hams than the set Tom Prince put on stage at the 2001 Night of Champions. Ballooning out from the insertion of his knees and ending right at the inception of his glutes, Prince’s striated hams looked like they were inflated with some sort of futuristic device. If anyone knows where to get one, please let me know!
Every once in a while, an athlete will break a barrier previously thought untouchable and change their given sport forever. Many remember when Roger Bannister became the first man to run the four-minute mile. Within a year, several other track athletes broke that barrier and now it is no longer shocking to see those times broken at meets throughout the world. If bodybuilding has its own “Roger Bannister” it is surely Rich Gaspari. When Rich strode on stage to dominate the 1986 I.F.B.B. Pro Mr. World, turned to the rear and flexed, the bodybuilding world discovered a new body part that would be part of the judging analysis, “shredded glutes”.
Two guys that took Richie’s discovery to the next level are Hamdullah Aykutlu, 1998 World Amateur Bodybuilding Champion. While his glutes don’t look particularly “developed” from a shape and muscularity standpoint, Hamdullah probably has the deepest striations we’ve ever seen on a bodybuilding stage. The most impressive glutes in history belong to Ronnie. When you look at photos of his 2003 and 2004 Olympia wins, his glutes are literally feathered with striations and have the muscular development and shape of another bodypart, like biceps for example. For a 290-pound man to have that type of glute definition and detail is hard to even comprehend.
Take your pick…Tom Platz or Mike Matarazzo. Platz’s calves seem to start at his feet and had more striations than most guys have on their whole body. Mike’s calves simply looked like a sculptor had too much clay to play with and just kept making them bigger and freakier looking.
Here’s a blast from the past…Thierry Pastel from France. Take one look at his photos and you’ll know why I’m choosing him. This guy didn’t have a washboard, he had a laundromat! For the current era, who else but Abzilla, Ahmed Haidar, could win the award?
The Godfather of symmetry has to 3-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane. Of course, real old timers will bring up Steve Reeves, and no one can deny his merit. However, in capturing his first overall Olympia title in 1977 (and the under 200-pound class) Zane transformed the judging standards of the era and set the stage for the aesthetic athlete vs. mass monster debate. Bob Paris carried the symmetry torch when he won the Nationals and the Universe in 1983, but he never won a pro show in his nine-year career. However, one guy who picked up where Zane left off with a tremendous pro career that included 17 pro wins and 4 Arnold Classic titles was Flex Wheeler. Modern-day competitors and fans alike rarely argue over who had the most symmetrical, flowing physique in the game because Flex truly is the “Sultan of Symmetry.”
As easy as Platz was for quads, this one is right behind in terms of an obvious winner…8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman. When Ronnie walked on stage at the 2003 Olympia weighing a completely shredded, ultra-dense 287 pounds, there was a collective “Oh my God” that reverberated through the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The muscularity he displayed that day is still the most amazing thing I have ever seen on a bodybuilding stage and something we may never see again. Will we?