Samir Bannout had the pleasure of competing against Arnold Schwarzenegger during his career, which mostly occurred from the 1970-90s. In a Muscle Maturity Podcast, Bannout named Schwarzenegger as the greatest bodybuilder of all time and said he built his physique with hard work before the ‘Growth Hormone Era.’
When identifying the greatest bodybuilder in the history of the sport, long standing Mr. Olympias come to mind, like eight-time titleholder Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman, and seven-time champions Arnold Schwarzenegger and Phil Heath.
In addition to those mentioned, some have dubbed four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler as the all-time ‘GOAT.’ According to Olympia President Dan Solomon, he chose Cutler because of the 49-year-old’s consistent ability to draw others into the sport of bodybuilding.
Meanwhile, Phil Heath named Ronnie Coleman as the best to ever do it. ‘The King’ Coleman separated himself from the competition with unparalleled size, conditioning, and fullness. The latest Mr. Olympia to offer his ‘GOAT of Bodybuilding’ is Samir Bannout, who elaborated on the decision in the company of Nick Trigili and John Hansen.
Samir Bannout: Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘GOAT’ of Bodybuilding: He Grew Muscle ‘Pre-GH, Pre-IGF-1, Pre-Insulin’
He credited Ronnie Coleman as a close second, but underlined that Arnold Schwarzenegger is number one, and built his physique primarily with hard work.
“I know them all from Ronnie Coleman to Jay Cutler, I’ve seen Phil Heath at his best,” said Samir Bannout. “Although Lee Haney is my favorite man in bodybuilding altogether. No, my favorite bodybuilder of all time – and there’s a reason – and I’m going to explain it to you in detail why… Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And here’s why. Remember, Ronnie Coleman, who was unbelievable, probably the most muscular man pound for pound in history without a doubt and I saw him as the best quality overall. I was shocked when I saw Ronnie, I was in a state of shock. But you have to realize that Arnold did it before the GH era. Arnold did it before the excessive harsh whatever we have done.”
Bannout also named Dorian Yates and Phil Heath as honorable mentions. He specified that Arnold’s beauty and artistic display trumped Coleman’s overall packages.
“The reason why, remember Ron Coleman, he competed early on before he went to the crazy coaches who took it two steps higher where he got some of the stuff he used,” shared Bannout. “When Ron Coleman went on the gear, he really grew a lot and changed a lot and was probably one of the hardest working men ever, besides Dorian. I have to agree with you both, Dorian and Ronnie are way up there. Definitely, Phil Heath is in the loop too.”
“The reason why Arnold is good, all around champion, he had that 24-carat quality. He had that pretty skin. Every pose Arnold did was meticulous. Every move he did was done meticulously. I can’t say the same about Ron Coleman. Although Ron Coleman is probably the most muscular man in the history, and I would say Ron Coleman is a close second but you have to go with Arnold when it comes to the beauty and art of bodybuilding.”
Bannout added that Schwarzenegger didn’t have access to many of the performance-enhancing drugs used today, like Insulin, IGF-1, and Growth Hormone.
“And the muscles he grew pre GH, pre IGF-1, pre Insulin — he did it with hard work. Our guys today, they are taking different kinds of gear. So, yeah, they got bigger than Arnold. If Arnold took that same gear, oh my Lord, Arnold competing at 300 pounds? I don’t think he’d be as pretty as the Arnold we know.
Based on that alone to me, Arnold is numero uno. Come on, I’m an old schooler. Muscle-wise, no one was more muscular and freaky than Ron Coleman. Same thing goes for Lee Haney. Lee Haney didn’t use anything. He just used the average stuff that we took early on right. Anyway, my vote goes to Arnold.”
Drugs in bodybuilding have become a controversial topic. In Bannout’s opinion, gurus in the sport today are too reliant on steroids instead of reaping the benefits of adequate nutrition. At the time, Bannout emphasized that the drugs used today weren’t the same as what Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane utilized.
Bannout isn’t the only bodybuilding veteran taking aim at athletes’ dependence on drugs. Popular 1990s Open standout Rich Gaspari also touched on the issue. Gaspari has made it clear that dosages today are ‘way higher’ than what he used as an IFBB Pro. Additionally, he called out athletes for depending on drugs more than quality training.
Bannout believes Arnold Schwarzenegger was ahead of his time as a bodybuilder. He maintains Schwarzenegger’s combination of muscle mass and artistry made him stand out as the best ever.