ONE OF A KIND
The 39-year-old has often unabashedly cited his ultimate goal: “Over the past 20 years in bodybuilding, I’ve been working to create a masterpiece,” he says. In his view, all the workouts (many of them performed in the hard-core basement environs of 5th Avenue Gym in Brooklyn), along with every single competition since his seventh-grade teacher pointed him toward the stage as a better way to dispel his aggression, have culminated in the person he is today.
Ever since he emerged as a force on the pro scene by winning the 2007 Colorado Pro, his particular “masterpiece” has defied categorization. He’s nearly impossible to compare to any of his contemporaries, because his physique is so dramatically different than just about any body that’s come before it.
He’s had to overcome much along the way, from living as a ward of New York State during his troubled teen years, to dealing today with the certainly less-bleak but still challenging trappings of success—including, for example, the constant demands on his time, which— while appreciated—send him jet-setting across the globe, continually jostling his training and nutrition regimen.
But no matter what obstacle has been thrown his way, Greene has responded with studious aplomb. It certainly helps that his physique has proven eager to respond. “Over the years, I’ve had body parts that at times I haven’t been as connected with as I’d like, and have needed to concentrate on more,” he says. “That’s been an issue at different times in my career, but I’ve had no stubborn body parts.”
Take his biceps, which have blown into cartoonish proportion thanks to an approach that often changes from one workout to the next. Greene walks into the gym with a plan, but it’s malleable and ever morphing as each exercise, set, and rep is catalogued.
“A lot of times people are too rigid in their workouts,” Greene admonishes. “You gotta be fexible, so you can make gains while dealing with varied circumstances.” You also need to be willing to toss aside preconceived notions about what a “perfect workout” really is.
“If you’re an athlete working to see your vision realized, you have to be wiling to do more, to stretch beyond your comfort zone. In so doing, you’ll learn a lot,” Greene says. “But there’s a lot that goes into training that’s not interesting to a layperson. It’s like a baseball player who’ll swing at 1,000 balls in practice. An average person might stay interested for little while, but after 20–30 swings, the enthusiasm wanes.”
How does that translate to a biceps workout? “You can leave no stone unturned,” Greene says. “You may have arm-training sessions that last two hours. It may become an ongoing effort that continues over the course of multiple sessions in three days. It may require doing something related to arms at the beginning of every training session for a little while.”
In many ftness circles, what Greene does is considered overtraining. It’s an argument he’s heard many times—so often, in fact, that he hesitates to talk about it. “People don’t argue with results—if your arms are 22 inches, or look like they are,” he says, “most of the time people don’t care what it took for you to get them there.”
But Greene also offers a counter to those who stick to a preset set-and-rep scheme. “What if, at the end of your workout—say, 12 working sets in—you find that you’re really just starting to get a contraction in your biceps? What if you weren’t working with the presence of mind to make sure each contraction counted? If your approach is set in stone and you see you’ve done all your exercises for the day, what then?"
“The truth is, you can go through your entire ‘training session’ but were really just warming up—so you need to technically ‘overtrain’ just to get the muscle to really do the work that’s needed.”
Just as you need to learn to read the signs telling you to continue, you must also absorb the signs your body gives to tell you your mission’s complete. For those looking for an exact frame of reference, well…you may be disappointed. “You need to use your best judgment, based on your past successful training experiences,” Greene counsels.
But as you gain experience, the signs will become more and more obvious: The tautness of a pump, the fatigue of the targeted muscle group, the feeling you’ve left it all in the gym and that any further reps would be counterproductive—these are all the hallmarks of a fruitful, finished effort.
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