Written by Ron Harris
05 January 2018


Mass Training Secrets of the Olympians - Part 2



TRICEPS – Roelly Winklaar

How He Built Them

MD readers should be aware of the enormous role genetics play in bodybuilding, so the following confession Roelly made to me about his triceps in 2010 shouldn’t shock you too much. “They actually grow so easily that I can’t train them more often than once every three weeks, or else they grow out of proportion and make my biceps look too small. I can maintain them the rest of the time just from the work they do assisting in pressing exercises for the chest and shoulders.”

It should also be said that Roelly spent his youth as a gymnast, and years of parallel bars, pommel horse and ring work would beef up anyone’s triceps and give him a great head start for bodybuilding. He doesn’t use extremely heavy weights, but sticks with more moderate loads he can better control and focus on the contraction and stretch with.



Unique Exercises or Techniques

Roelly hasn’t had to pull out any crazy methods to make his triceps grow. However, he does credit one exercise as playing a key role in their development that most of us readily dismiss and few even do anymore— the dumbbell kickback. “A lot of people think kickbacks are no good for building triceps size,” he begins. “Where do they get this idea? I think someone made it up a long time ago and it just kept getting passed on. It’s a free-weight extension movement that has always worked well for me. One key is making sure your elbows remain up high. I have seen a lot of people do kickbacks with their elbows pointing down at the ground, which means the triceps have almost no stress being put on them at all. Keep the elbows high and don’t let them swing, and squeeze the weight up with pure triceps contractions. Again, because I don’t want to spend too much time on my triceps workout, I do these with both arms at the same time.”




Roelly’s Triceps Routine

Pushdowns                               1 x 20 (warm up)

                                                   4 x 12, 10, 8, 6 (increasing weight)

Decline EZ-bar Extensions     4 x 6-8

Dumbbell Kickbacks               4 x 12

Seated Machine Dips              4 x 8-10



QUADS – Branch Warren

There will never be another Tom Platz, the man who set an entirely new standard for lower body development over 30 years ago. That being said, many consider Texan Branch Warren to be the Platz of our generation. His quads are an assault on the senses, thick like tree trunks from hip flexors to the hanging meat of his vastus medialis, deeply separated and etched with striations. They scream raw power— you know in an instant these quads were built over years of attacking tons of unforgiving iron with an unrelenting fury.



How He Built Them

Make no mistake— Branch had the DNA for monstrous quads from way back in the womb. Photos of him in his teenage contests show a physique that was quite bottom-heavy. His quads respond so well relative to the rest of him that there have been two periods in his career when he did not train them at all, so the rest of him could catch up. But none of this should negate the fact that Branch’s legs didn’t blow up on their own. Many years of very hard work on the same staples used by his other Metroflex counterpart, Ronnie Coleman, were the stimulus: squats, leg presses, hack squats, leg extensions and walking lunges. The degree of effort and intensity Branch applies to his leg workouts is nothing short of frightening to behold, and believe me when I say that very few of his fellow pros could keep up with him. Several, who shall remain nameless here, have tried and failed.



Unique Exercises or Techniques

Squats are hardly a unique exercise for quads, yet so many bodybuilders avoid them. Branch could easily be forgiven for foregoing squats, given both his incredible quadriceps development and the fact that he tore his right quad off the bone in the summer of 2011. “I never feel like I really trained my legs unless I squatted,” he explains. “Nothing can take the place of squats, which is why I still do them after all these years.”

As far as techniques, drop sets are his favorite for quads. He’s been known to do sets of leg extensions that total 100 reps, starting with the entire stack and still using roughly half of it by the time he hits rep number 100. When I trained legs with him, he killed me on a drop set of leg presses that came after both heavy squats and the aforementioned 100-rep set of leg extensions. Starting with all the plates the leg press would hold, he did 30 reps, had me strip off two plates from each side, did another 30, then had me take off two more for a final 30 reps— a total of 90 reps without any rest. The man is a machine of molten intensity, and it’s that type of insane work ethic in the gym that has helped him build what most feel are the best quads in the game today.



Branch’s Quad Routine

Leg Extensions                        6 x 30

Leg Press                                5 x 25 (finish with 28 total plates - 1,260 pounds plus sled)

Hack Squats                            4 x 10 (up to 7 plates per side)

Nautilus Duo Squat                +4 x 15 (stack)

Inclined Lying Leg Curls           4 x 15

*Warm-ups not shown

+Legs are alternated with this machine from the early 1980s, so it’s really a single-leg press.


Training Split

Monday:          Chest

Tuesday:          Legs

Wednesday:    OFF

Thursday:        Back

Friday:             Shoulders and calves

Saturday:         Arms

Sunday:           OFF



HAMS & CALVES – Kai Greene

Truly outstanding hamstrings have always been a commodity in bodybuilding that are even more rare than great quads, mainly because few put the same level of effort and intensity into their ham training. That’s why Kai Greene’s hamstrings stand out above nearly every other man’s on the Olympia stage, with perhaps the exception of Phil and Branch. The Predator’s hams sweep out like crescent moons. In his side poses, there literally seems to be a dark chasm splitting the vastus lateralis from the thigh biceps, a canyon that travels all the way up to the hip. In his back poses, his hams resemble thick bundles of steel cable. These are hamstrings that make you suddenly decide to start working yours a whole lot harder! As for his calves, they aren’t even close to the cows belonging to men like Ben Pakulski or Flex Lewis. But those men were essentially born with big calves. Kai built his from scratch, which means you can learn a great deal more about how to build your own from him than those luckier men.



How He Built Them

Any time you see a leg routine listed for Kai, even here, know that there really is no such thing. Greene trains purely by instinct, and follows his muse in the gym to determine what that day’s workout will entail. He has been known to spend up to an hour warming up on a StepMill before even setting foot on the workout floor on leg day— then spending another half-hour stretching out before his first set. But if you delve into what has built his hamstrings and calves, it’s been decades of very hard work with very heavy weights. One epiphany that turned the tide for his hams was years ago when he realized they lagged badly behind the development of his quads, and his instantly making the connection that doing all of his quad exercises first was the reason why. “From that point on, I would train hams and calves before quads on leg day,” he explained back in 2008. “Later, I would either alternate hamstring and quad movements throughout the workout, or else do them at their own workouts.”



Unique Exercises or Techniques

Footwear may seem like a trivial point to mention, but Kai has long believed that flat-soled wrestling or boxing shoes are the optimal choice for leg training. They especially allow for full dorsiflexion of the foot during any calf movement. Speaking of calves, Kai was told early on that he shouldn’t even bother training them, since his African-American heritage doomed him to tiny calves for life. Obviously, he refused to accept that supposed racial curse. As far as techniques, I would have to say based on seeing him train, that Kai’s level of focus on the target body part and mind-muscle connection are at an advanced level that even most other pros will never approach. He truly puts every ounce of concentration into the job at hand, to the point where I doubt the outside world even exists for him at that moment. One unique exercise Kai did that contributed greatly to his superior hamstrings is the Jefferson Lift, essentially a deadlift done while straddling the bar with one leg on either side. Even Charles Glass noted that since Kai stopped doing those a few years ago, his hams have lost some of their wow factor.



Kai’s Hamstrings and Calves Routine

Lying Leg Curls                        4 x 15-25

Standing Leg Curls                  4 x 15-25, each leg

Stiff-leg Deadlifts                      4 x 20

Seated Calf Raises                  4 x 12-20

Standing Calf Raises               4 x 12-20

Toe Presses on Leg Press       4 x 12-20



ABS – Dallas McCarver

What is this, Men’s Physique? Many modern bodybuilders and fans of the sport pay only passing attention to the midsection, if at all. This is in stark contrast to days gone by, when men like Arnold and Frank Zane would do dozens of sets for that area every day. Ironically, rookie Dallas McCarver, born long after both of those men had retired, is a throwback to that golden age. He puts serious time and effort into training his abs, and it shows. “I always do abs at least twice a week, and for the North American when I turned pro, I was doing them every day,” he tells us. “They are the centerpiece of your physique, and people do often look there first to see if you’re in shape or not, so they need to be developed.” As a result, in a time when we often see lackluster midsection development even in the pro ranks, Dallas has a set of abs and serratus muscles that stand out. Even at his heaviest off-season weight of 310 pounds, they are clearly delineated and tight, and at Showtime, they are razor-sharp and eye-catching.



How He Built Them

One advantage Dallas has over his peers is simply that he trains his abs at all. Believe it or not, there are more than a few pros who never do, and a large contingent who only train abs in the final weeks leading up to a contest. By consistently performing a full workout for his abs twice every week, McCarver has gained the type of quality in that area that most pros 20 years his senior lack.



Unique Exercises or Techniques

There are no “magic” exercises for abs, no matter what some huckster on late-night TV says. Like so much else when it comes to training, it’s not what you do for abs that matters nearly as much as how you do it. Dallas notes that most people go wrong in rushing through their sets. “I see people doing crunches and sit-ups fast and they are totally missing out on the real benefits,” he notes. “I come to a full stop at the top of every rep as I’m blowing out the air, flexing the abs hard. That’s how you really engage the abdominals.” Another thing Dallas does differently is never going lower than 15 reps per set. Dallas keeps the reps higher not only because he doesn’t want to build big, blocky abs, but also because low reps do nothing for him here. “To me, the abs are kind of like the calves— until I get to at least 15 reps, I don’t feel any kind of pump and burn at all.”



Dallas’ Ab Routine

Rope Crunches                                 4 sets of 15-20 reps

Reverse Hyperextensions                3 sets of 15-20 reps

Hanging Leg raises                          3-4 sets of 15 reps


Leg and Hip Raises Off Bench         3-4 sets of 15 reps


Dallas’ Training Split*

Day 1: Quads – a.m.                                   Hams, calves and abs – p.m.

Day 2: Chest – a.m.                                    Biceps and some triceps – p.m.

Day 3: Back

Day 4: Shoulders and traps – a.m.             Triceps and some biceps, abs – p.m.

*Rest days are taken as needed. Typically, Dallas will train two or three days in a row before taking a day off. Morning workouts are done at 12:30 p.m., while evening workouts take place at 7:00 p.m.