Kai Greene: Pecs in the City

The Predator trains chest in the old-school Brooklyn gym where it all started

Physically Impressive Specimen

Next up is an exercise so basic it doesn’t even require a weight, and it too was a favorite of Arnold Schwarzeneg- ger, Franco Columbu and cohorts before Kai Greene was born. The dipping bars are crammed into a shadowy space near the men’s showers, but their worn patina says they’ve never fallen into disuse. As Greene dips, he leans far forward to focus more on his pecs and less on his triceps, and he keeps his thighs approxi- mately perpendicular to his torso. His stocking cap is pulled down so low it covers his eyes. Reps are long and slow. Ardon counts 15 of them before Greene stops near failure. Two additional sets follow, with just enough rest for Brown and Ardon to do their sets. The two-time Arnold champ reaches 10 reps on the second set and 8 on the third, slowly raising and lowering his bodyweight, which is just a sandwich short of three bills.

I later ask Green about the emphasis on compound basics for chest. “There was a time when I got very far away from that, and it didn’t help my physique much,” he explains. “[More isolation and machine exercises] helped me make very strong mind/muscle connections and perform func- tionally, but it didn’t help me become a more physically impressive specimen onstage.”

"LET'S GO"

“I know Jack Shit” reads a sticker affixed to a battered metal locker behind the parallel pulley station as Greene pumps out 20 reps of cable crossovers with 70 pounds on each side. Another sticker says “Fifth Ave. Gym. ‘Blood and Guts!’ Brooklyn, NY.” As evidence, these 20 reps of crossovers are the back half of a superset. They were preceded by 15 reps of f lat bench dumbbell f lyes with 40s. On the second set, Greene goes up to 50s for 12 on the dumbbell f lyes, followed immediately by 15 reps of crossovers with 80 on each side. “Squeeze! Let’s go!” Ardon encourages. The final superset consists of 65-pound dumbbell f lyes for 12 reps and a drop set of crossovers: 10 reps with 80 followed immediately by 10 reps with 50. Greene goes to failure on each of the three segments of the super-and-drop-set, sometimes using rest-pause to recover just enough to eke out another couple reps before pausing brief ly again. 

The Biggest Dream

Greene strides back up the steps — the same stairs he has traversed thousands of times before — to the clinging August heat and persistent bustle of Brooklyn. The world of iron and sweat and pain below isn’t just where he worked and learned and grew. It is also where he dreamed — of one day having his photo on the wall, then of being an IFBB pro like other men who toiled within those windowless walls, then of being celebrated wide and far for his physique and his posing, perhaps even winning a Pro League contest.

The Sandow will remain out of his grasp for at least another year, but he will continue to pursue bodybuilding’s ultimate dream. He’ll chase on a flat bench under approximately 500 and at an incline under 400 or so and on dipping bars, the old way, the 5th Avenue way, his way — for, wherever he is, when he’s repeatedly moving metal, sweating, straining, hurting, growing, Kai Greene is truly at home.

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