Want the perfect workout program?Take Quiz
Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
January 08, 2023
The Mr. Olympia competition is the pinnacle of bodybuilding, and being crowned the Mr. Olympia champion is the greatest accomplishment a bodybuilder can achieve.
Since its inception in 1965, Mr. Olympia has grown into one of the biggest sporting events in the world, creating a need for more divisions. One such division is the Classic Physique Division. While a young category, it's already a favorite.
This article will discuss the division and all the winners to date, covering:
If you only know the likes of Ronnie Coleman and Phil Heath, you're missing out on some amazing classic physique bodybuilders.
Mr. Olympia began in 1965 as an elite bodybuilding show. Since its inception, it has passed through several eras and physique phases. One of these eras, the Golden Era, was a time period when greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu competed.
The last of the Golden Era competitors was Samir Bannout, who won the Mr. Olympia title in 1983.
The next year, 1984, Lee Haney walked the Mr. Olympia stage. While he was carrying a larger amount of muscle mass than the greats mentioned above, he was still able to possess the lines and symmetry of the Golden Era bodybuilders.
He ruled Mr. Olympia for the next 8 years. Then something happened.
After Lee Haney's 8-time reign, there was a shift to focusing solely on muscle mass. In 1992, Dorian Yates became the next Mr. Olympia champ, beginning the Mass Monster era, a time in which bodybuilders focused more on muscle mass and less on symmetry and physique.
This intrigued the audience at first, but over time, the biggest bodybuilders started to become too big for some fans. The unnatural mass made some feel as though the sport was drifting away from the original intent of the sport, creating a beautiful body.
The Mr. Olympia competition began to notice a need for a division that emphasized proportions, symmetry, and overall aesthetics.
And so, started...
In 2012, the men's Mr Olympia Physique Division was created to help rectify this issue. This division was built with the idea of perfecting the "beach body." So much so that the athletes actually compete wearing board shorts.
In addition, as a beach body focuses more on the upper body and less on the legs, this division doesn't judge the athlete's ability to build muscle in the lower body. No leg workouts necessary for these guys!
While some fans and athletes didn't like the massive amount of muscle mass featured in the open Olympia competitions division, others also weren't looking for a division that neglected half of the body either.
A division that reflected the Golden Era, a classic physique bodybuilding division that awarded a proportionate and aesthetically pleasing physique, was still missing.
Finally, in 2016, the men's classic physique division was created. Its purpose was to bring back the importance of combining muscle mass and aesthetics.
When comparing the open Mr Olympia vs Classic Physique, the classic physique category is more focused on figure competitors, emphasizing aesthetics and proportions. And, unlike the physique division, it judges the entire body.
Because the classic physique Olympia division has only been in existence since 2016, there have only been 7 contests and 3 men to be titled as the Mr Olympia Classic Physique winner.
The three Classic Physique Olympia Winners are:
Let's take a closer look at each of the Mr Olympia Classic Physique winners.
At 46 years old, Danny Hester set the bar for this inaugural event. Danny had already been competing for about 30 years, with his first competition being the 1992 NPC USA Championships where he placed 3rd.
So while Danny Hester wasn't new to the world of bodybuilding, this win really threw his name in the spotlight. Considering the fact he was 46 at the time of his win, this was a truly impressive feat.
Of course, the competition would intensify over the following years, and while he wouldn't be a repeat, Danny Hester will always be the first winner of Mr. Olympia Classic Physique.
The second and third year of Mr. Olympia Classic Physique was dominated by Breon Ansley. Whatever speed bumps needed to be smoothed out from 2016 were definitely fixed in 2017, as some big names showed up.
In fact, 2016 marked the debut of several top bodybuilders, including Chris Bumstead (a top fitness model), George Peterson, Terrence Ruffin, and Flex Wheeler (who came out of retirement).
Even with these big names, Breon Ansley came better conditioned, grabbing his first win in 2017. To prove it wasn't a fluke, he came back in 2018 for back-to-back Mr. Olympia titles. Breon is known for his narrow waist and defined lines.
In 2019, the Mr. Olympia Classic Physique division came into full form. A young athlete by the name of Chris Bumstead, who earned second in 2018, walked out on the stage and came off as champ. In fact, Breon Ansley traded spots and took home second.
Bumstead, truly one of the best bodybuilders, would go on to win the next 4 contests back-to-back and prior to the '22 competition, held the title of Mr Olympia Classic Physique 2021. He just won again, making him the current reigning champion of the 2022 classic physique Olympia division.
While there have only been 7 competitions, Bumstead has won the last 4. We're not the best at math, but that's more than half.
Want to train and eat like a Classic Physique champ? Check out the Chris Bumstead workout routine and diet.
When you're thinking of this category, don't think of it as a "smaller" open division. These athletes don't want to look like those in the open. They looked up to the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger growing up, likely following an Arnold Split, and it's this type of bodybuilder they're trying to emulate.
This is actually a more difficult task when compared to the open Mr Olympia division, as there has to be more finesses in their training.
Rather than just lifting as much as they can and hoping things work well together, Classic Physique Olympia athletes must account for every variable, as each muscle plays off the other.
Unlike the open Mr Olympia winners, one way to ensure athletes focus on aesthetics is through weight limits. Dependent on the athlete's height, they must weigh in under a certain weight, ensuring the athlete has a range to work with.
In order to stand out from other competitors, the athletes are then forced to highlight their physiques by creating aesthetic lines. Weight limits include:
To win the classic physique Olympia title, you must also be able to pose. While many of the bodybuilding poses are similar to the open division, there are some differences with the olympia classic physique results, including the number of poses.
In addition, the classic physique Olympia contest allows a bit more artistic interpretation. The six poses include the following:
Compared to the open division, there are a few key differences, including:
Here's a breakdown of the top 3 Mr. Olympia Classic Physique contestants by year, along with the prize money for each. Please note that the prize money is unknown for the first Classic Physique competition in 2016, which is why no amounts are listed for those winners.
There has been a shift in competitive bodybuilding that arose as a backlash to the mass monsters. This change is even occurring in the men's open division.
In 2022, the former 212-pound competitor Hadi Choopan moved to the open division and took first place at 231 pounds. Winning 2nd place was 215-pound Derek Lunsford, another former Mr. Olympia 212. In the same competition, Big Ramy came in fifth place.
The point is that getting as big as possible may no longer be the priority for winning the Mr. Olympia title. The classic physique division is just what the sport needed to re-bring our attention back to the importance of aesthetics and symmetry.
These men have the best physiques in the world and will be the most exciting division to watch at the Mr. Olympia Performance Weekend for years to come.
We're already excited to see if there will be a new champion in 2023 or if Mr Olympia 2022, Chris Bumstead, will take the title 5 times!
For more great bodybuilding content, be sure to check out these articles:
Some images courtesy of bodybuilder's social media accounts.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
September 21, 2023
September 21, 2023
At SFS we strive to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed for your fitness journey. Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases, killer workouts, actionable fitness content and more. As our motto goes - "You don't have to get ready if you stay #alwaysready!"