What if Arnold Schwarzenegger Was At His Peak Today?
By Geoff Roberts
As we rapidly approach the 2013 Mr. Olympia contest I cannot help but ponder something I have been discussing with other bodybuilding fans for years. How would Arnold Schwarzenegger do at this year’s Mr. Olympia contest or in modern times in general, assuming he was born in the mid-1980s? This would put the Austrian Oak in his bodybuilding prime going into this year’s show!
In Rocky VI or “Rocky Balboa” a large aspect of the movie was the discussion of whether or not Rocky was a better fighter in his prime than the current champ at the time, Mason Dixon (obviously Rocky would win the fight, come on it’s Rocky). The movie went so far as to broadcast a simulated fight between the two fighters on television.
I have always been intrigued by the thought of star athletes from different eras competing at their prime, assuming all technology and resources were equal. Prime examples I have discussed with sports fans include Michael Jordan versus Lebron James (that is a tough one) and Jack Nicklaus versus Tiger Woods (In the early 2000’s Tiger was one of the most dominant athletes pro sports has ever seen).
This brings us to bodybuilding, which is even more interesting due to the fact that modern training, nutrition, and supplement technology as well as knowledge have progressed drastically. These factors tend to affect our sport to a greater degree than most other sports.
It would be easy to compare “Ronnie Coleman versus Arnold Schwarzenegger,” but that is just too cliché. So, for the sake of discussion, let’s just say a 29-year-old Arnold will be entering this year’s Mr. Olympia. What would Arnold's physique look like on stage in these modern times? Would Arnold have better arms than Phil? Would he appear bigger than Big Ramy?
Allow me to break it down a bit with a combination of statistics, observation, and opinion to come up with a rough, and quite frankly frightening (to other bodybuilders who would have had the misfortune of standing next to this hypothetical 2013 rendition of the Austrian Oak) estimate.
When Arnold was dominating the Mr. Olympia in the 70's he was beating men by the names of Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane, Franco Columbu, Lou Ferrigno, and Serge Nubret. Looking back at these lineups, the average body weight was roughly 210 pounds. Doing the same with today’s Olympia lineup which includes monsters such as Phil, Kai, Ramy, Wolf, Branch, Cutler and Toney Freeman, you get a weight average of at least 255 pounds.
Mathematically speaking, this means the competitors today are 1.2 times heavier on average. Arnold at his best was in the high 230's. Judging based entirely on body weight (Aceto would love that), Arnold would be coming into this year’s Olympia at approximately 6'1" (I dare anyone to find solid proof of Arnold's actual height) and roughly 290 pounds. Now obviously Arnold did not have the conditioning in the 70's at 237ish that competitors currently display onstage. So it’s only fair to take a few pounds off Arnold's weight to hypothetically “allow” him to achieve similar condition. This still puts Arnold in the low 280's onstage making him the heaviest competitor in the show, with the possible exception of Big Ramy.
The best comparison to Arnold in the sport today in terms of a single physique in my mind would be Cedric McMillan. Assuming Cedric did or does the 2013 Olympia and he is in any kind of shape, it’s safe to say that your attention would be pulled towards his physique due to his height, width, lack of distention, and roundness. These are all attributes Arnold also possessed in strides in his prime. As imposing a figure as Cedric may be on stage, thoughts of a modern day Arnold gives imposing a whole new meaning with his Looney Tunes arms, pecs that each resemble 72-ounce steaks, and cannonball delts that would make me want to visit Gettysburg.
The classic vacuum pose is disappearing as fast as our rainforests today and nobody hit a vacuum like Arnold did, even when he weighed over 240 pounds, from the side his waist appeared to be only a few inches thick. This said, I fully believe with the right precautions Arnold would still have his nutty vacuum pose at over 280 pounds which would be astounding. In comparing a modern Arnold to Cedric it’s safe to say that Arnold would outdo Cedric in all of these shared attributes and take every pose outside of the rear lat spread.
In the Olympia first call out, assuming the top guys were all on their game, Arnold may not only be the tallest and heaviest competitor, but also the only one with the ability to hit a legitimate vacuum pose. It’s hard to say whether or not Arnold's weaknesses would still be weaknesses with modern knowledge and technology, however it’s only fair to assume they would be for the sake of this argument. With this in mind, Arnold would be vulnerable from the back, especially the back lat spread which is why finding a picture of Arnold hitting a back lat spread is similar to winning the lottery.
This is only one pose, however, and I personally feel his monster arms and delts would keep him above water in the back double bi. As far as the front shots it’s hard for me to imagine the show being anything but “lights out” for any competitor onstage not named Arnold. In Arnold's most muscular at a grainy 282 pounds his delts, arms, and chest would look like two shaved Belgian blue bulls all wrapped up in numerous pythons attempting to constrict them to death.
Who would win this epic battle – Phil looking like something even a cartoonist would say is unrealistic, Branch looking like he carbed-up on QUIKRETE (Aceto line), Jay looking as though he must have custom-made wide doors in order to fit through them, Big Ramy making the scale moan under 285 pounds at only 5'10” with a small waist, or Kai looking as dense as a scalding meteor pummeling towards earth?
Rather than beat a dead horse and attempt to mathematically compare waist sizes, arm sizes (if Arnold's arms were 22-plus inches at 240 pounds, what would they measure at 290 pounds?) etc., why don’t you go ahead and find a photo of Arnold's 1974 front double biceps and attempt to imagine him with modern day grainy conditioning. Oh, yeah, and 40-plus pounds of extra muscle evenly distributed over his physique. If the image this creates in your head does not evoke considerable chills down your spine you're either clinically blind or just simply not a true fan of bodybuilding!