From the scans that Zoknat posted a while ago, here is the full article.
In his own words, Phil Heath breaks down the back workout that helped him crash the top three in his first Mr. Olympia contest.
Having just taken third in my Mr. Olympia debut is like winning the lottery for me. Other guys who made the top three in their first Olympia include Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone, so Iím feeling pretty good about being in that kind of company.
Iím sure some of you reading this think I had it easy. After all, October 8, 2008, marked the sixth year to the day since I became a bodybuilder, and Iím aware that not a lot of guys can go from nothing to a top spot at the Olympia in six years. Yeah, they call me "The Gift," but Iíve worked hard to get to this point. I put in my share of grueling workouts and had to focus extra hard on some areas to make sure I came into my first O looking balanced and complete.
One such area that I knew I had to bring up was my back. I had been hammering on it since I first started training seriously, but for me, my back just took a while to grow. I always felt I could have one of the best backs in bodybuilding, but unlike my arms, which responded even with minimal training, my back took work and patience.
I credit Jay Cutler with opening my eyes to what it means to train your back intensely. You may remember that training shoot he and I did that appeared in the November 2006 issue of FLEX ("Phenom Backlash"). That workout was no joke - Greg Merritt and Peter McGough were there and can tell you how much I was sweating. You see, I thought I trained hard before that day, but after training Jay style, I realized I was only scratching the surface. After that I started hitting it hard all the time.
I think the results speak for themselves. I was just checking out some of the Olympia comparison photos between me and the champ, Dexter Jackson, on FLEXonline.com, and I think I hung with him. Itís not like he dominated me or anything, and you could make the case that Iíve got a better back double biceps shot. From the waist down for sure, but from the waist up, I think I looked pretty solid, too.
Of course, the best is yet to come. Hany [Rambod, Heath's trainer] and I are going back to the drawing board to figure out the things we need to do to improve upon what Iíve already got. Right now, weíre looking at adding middle back thickness. We want to see more detail in the spinal erector area and see the lower lats filled out a little more.
Weíre talking a bout adding partial deadlifts to my back routine, which is something Jay does. The reason weíre going to do partials rather than full deadlifts from the floor is that I donít want to add mass around my hips and glutes. Theyíre fine where they are right now. I definitely donít want to mess up the lines I have now, just improve upon them.
Iím positive that my back is going to be one of the best in the sport. Iíve watched it progress and I feel it still has room to grow. Like I said before, Iíve only been bodybuilding for six years. I still have a lot of growing to do. Plus, Iím only turning 29 this year, so muscle maturity hasnít even kicked in yet.
I didnít want to tell too many people about this during the Olympia Weekend, but on Friday night for prejudging I was an even 230 pounds, and for the Saturday night finals I was actually 227 Ĺ ! [Editor's note: Heath weighed 234 at the '08 Arnold, and 215 when he won the overall and his pro card at the 2005 USA Championships.] I couldnít believe it myself, but Iím like, Hey, the judges arenít looking at scales, theyíre looking at physiques. If I weigh 227 and look 240, imagine what Iíll look like when I am 240.
Hany and I are pretty confident I can step onstage at 240 next year, especially if I decide not to do the Arnold. Iím leaning toward doing it at the moment, but then again, I could make a bigger impact at the O if I devote a whole year of training to it.
In any case, now Iím more psyched than ever to knock it out of the park at next yearís Olympia. As of this interview, itís two weeks after the Ď08 show and Iím eating clean - tilapia and spinach. Iím serious. Yeah, Iím going to be eating more than that during the year (I have a guest posing I want to look good for next weekend), but Iím basically going to keep it clean all year. Now that I know the Sandow is within reach, Iím pulling out all the stops. A year from now, no matter what the outcome, I want to know I stepped on that stage looking the absolute best I could.
Dexter looked great at the Olympia and Iím happy for him. Of course, Jayís my brother and I really wanted to see him redeem himself and win a third title in dominating fashion. But it is what it is and Dex is the man now - heís Mr. Olympia. I take my hat off to him. But he should know that Iím knocking on his door. No disrespect, but I think he realizes that. The simple fact is that heís looked pretty much the same way for the last seven or eight years, which is great. He always brings it and he always looks amazing.
I plan to keep improving, by a lot, for years to come. If Iím in the mix with Dexter now, I think I have a chance to leapfrog him next year. What you need to remember is that what you saw on the Olympia stage was a work in progress. Next year will be another work in progress, just further along. I also think Jay is going to come back looking the way heís supposed to look next year, which means like Mr. Olympia. Even he admits he was way off that Friday night [at the prejudging]. Itís too bad, but the result doesnít have him down. Heíll bring it again for sure.
The scenario Iíd like to see play out on the Saturday night of the 2009 O would be it coming down to the final two - Jay and me - with Dexter having already been announced third. Then Bob Cicherillo announces the winner and Ö itís Jay, taking his third Sandow. Man, Iíd be so happy for him. Iíd be the first to congratulate him. But after that, it would be great if he retired, because Iíd be gunning for him next.
"If I had to pick my number one back-building exercise, it would be barbell rows. Dumbbell rows and T-bar rows are right up there, too. When Jay was knocking at Ronnieís door, Jay knew that the only thing standing between him and the Sandow was back thickness, so he relied heavily on rowing movements. And it worked."
"I just felt I needed to do everything in my power to shoot down the naysayers - all the people who said, ĎOh, heís narrow. He has a weak clavicle structure.Ď Well, yeah, Iím not the widest guy structurally, but that doesnít mean I donít have the ability to build enough muscle onto my frame to look wide."
"So, although rows are traditionally thought of as an exercise that builds thickness rather than width, having thick lats gives me the confidence to stretch out my shoulders in the back relaxed shots and the rear lat spread."
"I did something new with my training this past year, mostly because I prepped for three shows [the Ironman, Arnold and Olympia] - something Iíd never done before. Whereas I had focused on only going heavy in the past, I decided not to risk possible injury between the Arnold and Olympia. So I did four exercises per bodypart, with the first three consisting of three sets and then, for the last one, I would do seven sets using only 80%-85% of my maximum poundage."
"What ended up happening was that I weighed seven pounds less than I did at the Arnold, but I looked 10 pounds heavier. Itís just that I build denser muscle with better quality. I mean, who would have thought that I weighed 227 Ĺ at the Olympia finals?"
"I focus on things like the burn and the stretch, especially when Iím doing the last seven-set exercise of my workout. Itís all about feeling the muscle, not just lifting the weight. In fact, the weight doesnít even matter to me. Actually, weight does matter, but what I mean to say is that I donít focus on lifting the heaviest weight I can. Itís all about lifting the right amount of weight to make my muscles respond the way I want them to."
"Iím a big believer in fascia stretching, which is something Jay also believes in, so Iíll do a lot of stretching of my lats throughout my workout. Even during exercises like chins and seated cable rows, thereís ample opportunity to stretch at the end of each rep, so you have to take advantage of every bit of muscle growth you can get out of each exercise."
"A lot of people have told me that I overtrain because Iím doing 18 sets for my back, but I disagree. If youíre eating enough protein, making sure you rest and continuing to see improvements, then you canít be overtraining. Anyway, was Arnold overtraining? He seemed to do pretty well for himself."
"One thing that has come out of this old-school style of training is that my muscles have more Ďpopí to them now. You know, when Iím just standing there relaxed, my muscles look good and round, but then when I hit a shot, ĎBam!í they jump to attention and become rock hard. This is something Arnold had as well. I like that look. It makes it more dramatic when Iím posing."
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