Kevin Levrone, a 1990s bodybuilding great, has watched the Men’s Open division undergo changes for decades now. In a recent RxMuscle interview, Levrone shared that Chris Bumstead‘s physique has influenced the Men’s Open division to move toward aesthetics.
In an incredibly active career totaling more than 65 pro shows, Kevin Levrone established himself as an all-time great with a balance of mass and aesthetics. He holds the distinction of having won the Arnold Classic title twice – in 1994 and 1996. Levrone fought the who’s who of bodybuilding during the 90s, sharing the Olympia stage with Open powerhouses like Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Chris Cormier, and Flex Wheeler.
Despite the successful history of mass monsters in the Open, many believe the division is changing its course. After Samson Dauda and Andrew Jacked finished first and third at the recent Arnold Classic, fans, and even some bodybuilders are suggesting that judges are favoring shape and beauty over conditioning and size.
Bumstead, who has laid claim to a dominant run in the Classic Physique category, continues to grow in popularity following his fourth Olympia victory. Bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger has publicly stated that the Classic Physique winner should be crowned the Mr. Olympia instead of the Open champion. In Levrone’s opinion, Bumstead’s aesthetic physique is putting pressure on Open athletes to present shapelier packages.
Kevin Levrone Talks Direction of Men’s Open Division: “I Pray to God it Does Take a Turn”
According to Levrone, aesthetics, beauty, and shape are making waves in the Open division because of Chris Bumstead’s popularity.
“Well, I think it’s because of Chris Bumstead and how great he looks. And we’re able to compare him to you know as far as the photos not as far as being there on stage but we were able to compare them at the Olympia, you know, those Classic Physique guys too. The way that Mr. Olympia in the Open is going – I think the judges like I said, the judges rewarded the best athletes to place where they placed for the Arnold Classic.”
Levrone said Joe Weider always told athletes to picture themselves as ‘Greek Gods,’ and emphasized that bodybuilding was an illusion that could be crafted and perfected.
“As far as the show taking a turn, I think or where our sport is going – I think they picked the right winner for that show and I would like, like everyone else, I would like to see the sport give back to what Joe Weider created it to be and that’s – Joe would always tell us, ‘Imagine like you’re a Greek God.’ You know, the small tie-in waist, bodybuilding is an illusion; you want to make sure you can pose and hold the midsection because that’s the center of everything,” said Kevin Levrone.
“Looking at the physiques and the winner of the Arnold Classic and everything, I’m glad that he did win because that’s a huge – it’s a huge plus, for you know, the sport. I hope and I pray to God that it does take a turn and get back to where it was when it was created when Joe and Ben created it. How beautiful the physiques were back then… bodybuilding is supposed to be something beautiful – the physiques are just phenomenal – you know, they looked like a statue. I hope and I pray to God that the judges will eventually reward the guys that bring that package.”
Levrone Calls for More ‘Complete Physiques,’ Says Judges Should Score Posing/Presentation Rounds Again
The 58-year-old emphasized that bodybuilding is not just a contest of size, but a balance of showcasing one’s physique without revealing weaknesses.
“All IFBB bodybuilders is probably would tell all of us right now is, bodybuilding is an illusion. It’s not always who has the biggest body parts but it’s who’s the most symmetrical and the most balanced and that brings the complete physique. The complete physique of conditioning, symmetry, and being able to properly display your physique without showing any weaknesses.”
Similar to the position held by Milos Sarcev, Levrone would like to see judges prioritize posing and presentation at contests.
“For me, now I’m starting to think about things like the posing round, the posing routine, I think they need to bring that back. I think it should be scored in judging. Because I think when athletes – when we knew – for me that was the most important part for me was my presentation.
And I knew that, that presentation round, it would give guys like myself an edge because we would be judged on the aesthetics and how well our body flows and how we present that. So, if there was somebody like a Dorian Yates and you know these bigger guys, it would give guys like myself the opportunity to gain points on them to where we always knew that in the posing round – that presentation, we would have the chance to show the tie-ins, the flows, and create the illusion,” said Levrone.
Kevin Levrone is among several bodybuilding veterans to take notice of aesthetics in the Open. In a recent Cutler Cast podcast appearance, Cutler pointed at the physiques of Dauda and Jacked as evidence that the sport is ‘falling back’ into a period similar to the 90s era of bodybuilding.
With aesthetics and shapelier physiques on the rise in the Open class, fans are curious to see how the judges score the next Mr. Olympia contest. Levrone hopes the sport continues to sway in the direction of beauty instead of size and freak factor in 2023.