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.”
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.