Phil to the Brim

How Phil Heath trained to build a fuller physique and win his 3rd Olympia.


It wasn’t enough for Heath to grow his legs and fend of the “best punch” of his closest challengers. He also needed to maintain his knockout blow—the rear double biceps. From head to toe, this is the pose that shows the most. It’s the best barometer for conditioning, and it also highlights a wide panoply of diverse muscles. Because of his relatively narrow clavicles, Heath knows he’ll never take the back shots with lat width. But he wins the rear double bi with everything else—all those muscles others might neglect coupled with a stunning collection of details. (Flex Lewis follows the same strategy to win the rear double bi in the 212 Olympia Showdown.)

As with legs, Heath doubles up his rear delt work. He does four sets of rear laterals on a lying plate-loaded machine and another four sets on a seated machine. “I do extra rear delts to accentuate the flow from delts to arms in the rear double bi,” he states. “It also helps you from the side. It adds that little extra. My big thing is what muscle don’t they [my closest competitors] have, and that’s what I emphasize even more. And I know Kai doesn’t have rear delts. I’m just covering all the bases. I have to do this to stay the champ.”

“I’ve come to realize it’s going to be very, very difficult for a lot of these guys who’ve been training longer than me,” Mr. Olympia continues. “Because if you haven’t fi gured out the formula after 20 years for building muscle in your weak parts, you’re probably never going to get it.” One thing Wolf and Elssbiay don’t have is calves. Heath typically trains his lower legs three times per week. “What I do is I choose one exercise for calves each workout, and I do 10 sets of pretty high reps, at least 20. Then the next workout I’ll choose a different exercise.”

Calves, hams, rear delts— those are among the muscles that give him his rear double biceps advantage, but it’s still a back shot. So back development is crucial. What Heath gives away in brute size he makes up for in 3-D density and HD separation. Whereas some others have bloblike backs, his divides into distinct regions: trapezius, rhomboids, teres major and minor, latissimus dorsi, spinal erectors. The key is a variety of exercises (he does six for upper back) and their precise execution. You won’t see him humping up a row or swaying dramatically during a pulldown. He wants to feel the individual muscles working from stretch to contraction.


With another mission complete and a third Sandow in his possession, the Gift is again developing a new strategy. This time, the mission is to win the 50th Mr. Olympia contest on Sept. 19–20. Heath, the 13th Mr. Olympia, is in a quest to grow his legend and climb bodybuilding’s immortal rankings. A fourth Sandow will tie him with Cutler for the fifth most Mr. O titles of all time.

Meanwhile, No. 13 also has to fend of the best bodybuilders on the planet to make sure a 14th man doesn’t join him in the Sandow Society. It’s a role he relishes. “Like Ronnie [Coleman] said, he loved being Mr. Olympia,” Heath states. “And I love being Mr. Olympia, too, especially because I’m preventing quality guys from getting a title. I love the fact that I can do that. I mean it’s not like a personal thing—or maybe it is. But that doesn’t matter. I don’t want to look at my career and say I gave this guy a chance. Hell, no. I prevented you from achieving your dream. And you can have all those Arnold Classic titles. You can have that all day. I don’t care. It’s definitely fulfilling knowing I have that ability to stand in their way. And I’ll still only be 34 next time. That’s what’s great about it. I’m excited to see what I look like next.”

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