With seven Mr. Olympia titles to his name (1970-1975, 1980), few understand what it takes to stand on top of bodybuilding’s tallest mountain quite like Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the 75-year-old is up to other matters outside of maintaining a finely-tuned physique these days, the man once nicknamed “The Austrian Oak” still assuredly keeps an eye on the sport that helped make him a household name.
In the aftermath of the 2022 Mr. Olympia, Schwarzenegger took part in a YouTube interview with Nick’s Strength and Power, where the legend shared some of his thoughts on the contest and the current state of the sport. Among the more notable tidbits was Schwarzenegger putting the Men’s Open division in the crosshairs, which he believes has lost sight of what professional bodybuilding should be all about.
One of Schwarzenegger’s primary critiques about the Men’s Open division is that it’s pushed bodybuilding in the wrong direction. He compared the current flagship division of the Olympia back to his heyday in the late 20th century and noted that victory used to be centered around shredded physiques and refined body proportions.
To the legend, size shouldn’t mean everything.
“I think it is crazy, in a way, to have a Classic Physique category. Simply because that should be the Mr. Olympia. Because, what is it that we’re celebrating?” Schwarzenegger said. “… In classic days, we looked for proportion, and now we don’t give an [expletive] about it anymore? Is that what we’re saying?”
Part of Schwarzenegger’s rationale is that he believes the current Classic Physique division captures the true spirit of bodybuilding. By contrast, he didn’t seem to appreciate the general aim of the competitors in the modern Men’s Open category.
“I think it’s odd they had to literally create a Classic Physique competition to give to the person who has the best quality body, the most well-balanced body, a trophy because he couldn’t compete where the monsters were competing,” Schwarzenegger said. “That’s actually wrong. Like I’ve said, bigger is not always better.”
Not by coincidence, Schwarzenegger is a big fan of reigning four-time Classic Physique champion (2019-2022) Chris Bumstead, as he appears to believe he emulates the ideal physique.
“I always feel like the insiders have their own favorites, and then there are the viewers, the spectators, the fans … and he’s [Bumstead] the most popular if you think about that,” Schwarzenegger said. “He’s the most popular bodybuilder right now. What does that say? That says that everyone out there says, ‘That’s the kind of body I want’.“
In looking ahead to the March 2023 Arnold Classic, Schwarzenegger maintained he’d like to see Bumstead make his first competitive appearance at the contest because he thinks the superstar would put on a show.
“I think he [Bumstead] could win [at the Arnold Classic]. There are no two ways about that,” Schwarzenegger said. “I told that to Chris. Chris, as you know, is a big fan of the Arnold Classic. He comes there, and he’s very, very kind to all the fans. He does autographs and all this stuff. I hope that he competes because I think he has a great chance of winning that.”
Ever a steward of the sport, Schwarzenegger seems concerned about where bodybuilding is heading in the future. Perhaps, down the line, his wishes to see the Classic Physique division highlighted front and center could be fulfilled. At the very least, his desire to see Bumstead continue to excel, maybe even at the 2023 Arnold Classic, might have a strong chance of shining through.
Featured image: @cbum on Instagram