ÂCome on! ThatÂs a light-ass weight! It ainÂt s--t! Olympia, baby! Get that Olympia back!Â Branch Warren shouts.
And so, two days after the Europa Super Show on September 17, 2005, less than four weeks before attaining the shape of his life for the Mr. Olympia, Johnnie Jackson reps out one-arm dumbbell rows with the Âlight-ass weightÂ: a 200-pound dumbbell.
ItÂs a typical day at the office for perhaps the best and strongest bodybuilding training partners in the world. And itÂs a photo shoot for FLEX, nothing faked, real weights, real sweat, real pain. TheyÂd invite you to join in, but youÂd be buried by the third set. So watch and listen, up close and personal, and find out why everything is bigger in Texas.
DEADHEAD | StroudÂs Fitness in Hurst, Texas, has an airy easy ambiance. If it wasnÂt for a long row of framed bodybuilding photos, you might mistake it for a place more fit for glute lifts than deadlifts -- until Johnnie Jackson arrives.
ÂI thought about technique for so long that now it comes automatic. Keeping correct form is very important. I canÂt express that enough. Keep your butt low. Keep the weight as close to you as possible; drag it up your legs. That will keep your lower back out of the exercise as much as possible. The less you use your lower back, the easier the pull is.
ÂKeep your chest and head up. Wherever your head is, thatÂs pretty much where your body is. If you keep your head down, thatÂs going to draw you more forward and pull your butt up and make you use your back more. So pick a place on the ceiling or high on the wall in front of you and watch it the whole time. ThatÂll make you keep your head up and help keep you in the strongest pulling position.Â
THE SWING OF THINGS | When Branch ÂTankÂ Warren arrives, heÂs already dragging. As photographer Kevin Horton adjusts a light, Warren sits on a bench and says with a sigh, ÂI gotta rest till everybodyÂs ready.Â
ÂReady, Kev?Â Jackson asks Horton.
ÂReady,Â Horton replies.
ÂSo much for that,Â Warren says, and everyone laughs as he stands again, a moment after sitting. He tightens his wrist straps. ÂIÂll rest when IÂm dead. LetÂs build back.Â They start with front pulldowns and, after one warm-up set each, they use 250 pounds for 12-rep sets, leaning back on each rep. ÂGenerally, I go a little heavier and lean back and squeeze my shoulder blades together at the contraction,Â Warren explains.
ÂI get a better contraction that way. Some people stay straight up and down and donÂt move much. We do it that way sometimes, just to switch it up, but I get the best contraction leaning back a little.Â
ÂThereÂs nothing wrong with a little movement as long as you donÂt go back too far,Â Jackson opines. ÂYou have a certain range of motion thatÂs safe. We stay within that range, but when youÂre using a maximum weight, you have to use a little swing to help you get the bar down. If we go lighter, I stay stricter and squeeze more.Â
For more on building your back with this awesome twosome, pick up a copy of February FLEX available on newsstands now.