A Branch Warren workout is like no other. If you ever undertake one, you best be prepared to give your muscles some hot chicken soup, a foil coat, and some grief counseling. Otherwise, I recommend that you revisit your Jillian Michaels DVD.
Regardless of his surroundings, God-given genetics, travel schedule, and duties required to run his freight company and crop farm, Branch maintains the intensity of a Yellowstone buffalo looking to break your liver because you took a picture with her calf.
Call me sordid or submissive, but I always ensure that I visit the Texan when a leg session will fall during my stay at the Warren household.
The enduring pain of physical manipulation with the 2011 Arnold Classic winner leads me to believe that Dante got it all wrong. There are not nine circles of hell. There is a tenth: a leg workout with Branch.
But what follows this immense pain is absolute pleasure. I can honestly say that nothing is comparable to the euphoria of surviving a brutal leg workout, only to see a pair of largely striated legs staring back at you when you hoist the shorts over your legs.
Entering The Pain Zone
Warren's leg prep begins during the 30-minute drive to the gym from his house.
"I usually stop for a coffee on the drive to the gym to further fuel my fire," he says. "If I'm not 100-percent ready for war by the time I arrive, I will drive around the block a couple more times until I am."
You can adapt a similar mental strategy to ensure that you are as prepared for the workout ahead, as you are physically. Personally, I like to drink a cup of coffee while watching a Zack Khan, Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates, or Branch Warren DVD.
I will study the intensity of the particular body part being trained, the same one that I am about to annihilate myself. It's essential to fully stoke the passion, focus, and drive in order to have a better workout than you did last time you stepped into the gym.
I used to squat as much 700 pounds. I was consumed with the belief that bigger weight equaled bigger muscle.
Of course, this was as dangerous as having condom-less sex with the Octomom, but I didn't care as long as I hoisted the weight to a standing ovation.
My legs grew, as did the pain in my back and knees. But my legs didn't grow as much as they did once I adopted Branch Warren's 7 Wonders to Massive Quads:
7 Wonders to Massive Quads:
- Train with mental and physical intensity
- Apply drop sets
- Combine extremely high- and low-rep principles
- Squat deep
- Wear combat boots
- Listen to loud hard rock music
Speak Now ... And You'll Get Your Ass Kicked
When I began training with Branch, the first thing I noticed was an unspoken law: No talking. Only after the workout ends does he explain the method of his madness.
"After three to five warm-up sets on leg extensions, I like to start my actual leg workout with three 100-rep sets of leg extensions," says Branch. "This warms up the knees, flushes the muscle with blood, and works both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers to assure both size and striations are accomplished."
The completion of 100 reps is achieved via the drop-set principle, starting with the heaviest weight that will allow you to reach failure at 20 to 30 reps.
Having completed this number of reps, drop the weight until another 20 are completed. Follow this pattern several more times until 100 reps are accomplished.
Between sets, I have thoughts of calling ahead for a wheelchair to take me back to my car postworkout. Especially when I am faced with the daunting task of completing two more sets, with only a couple of minutes rest to ease the lactic acid burn.
Branch likes to keep the back support adjusted fittingly for someone of six foot, so that only his upper back touches the pad. This way, he can accentuate the stretch at the bottom of the movement.
This targets the middle portion of the quad, which protrudes from all side poses required in a bodybuilding competition. This provides so much thickness that the distance between Branch's hamstring and thighs carry through several time zones.
The second exercise in the Warren workout is the front squat. This exercise places more emphasis on the quad than a conventional squat, while taking away a large amount of stress from the spine.
Seldom does Branch instruct during the workout. Instead, I am to learn by observation. Taking a "sumo" stance (minus the diaper), Warren will squat very deep while only moving three quarters of the way up.
He will explain later: "I can fully stretch the quads and activate all my muscle fibers by coming up in an explosive manner. I never lock out because I want my time to be under consistent tension in order better stress the quads and not the knees."
On this particular compound movement, Branch will go much heavier and lower the reps. He stares at the four 45-pound plates on each side of the Olympic bar as if to say, You're are going home in a f*g ambulance, before deep squatting his way to 15 reps.
Failure must be reached on all three working sets in order to achieve success. Yes, Branch believes you must fail to succeed.
The third movement is another compound exercise, the leg press, with quads being the prime mover. Hamstrings and glutes also take a beating, particularly when I near the 50-rep mark.
The pain in the quads likes to keep me company for the first 20 reps, before moving on to hamstrings for a brief stint, and then visiting the glutes for the last 15 repetitions. The pain is immense, but what's worse is that the nauseating feeling that accompanies it.
The texture of my stomach feels like a horse's saddle, and my legs appear to undergo severe bouts of Tourette's every time I walk to another piece of gym apparatus for stability and support.
"I like performing high reps because it promotes blood flow through the thighs and drains the thought of intramuscular fat settling, which is essential to bringing in feathered detail from quadriceps to the glutes," insists Branch.
Cooling down isn't a part of Warren's routine. Neither is stretching. So our leg workouts conclude with a drive home for buffalo patties and two large-jacket potatoes.
Survival of the Freakiest
Generally speaking, we are supposed to be almost identical to every other living thing on the planet. If I was to alter your DNA by just two percent while you were distracted, you could find yourself living as a pansy or a thorn bush for the foreseeable future.
If we are already that close to the makeup of Branch Warren, surely we can replicate his training intensity, techniques, and repetitions to encourage our legs to grow towards the realms of Warren's wheels, striations included.
A workout like this certainly separates the men from the boys. Within a year of applying Branch Warren's 7 wonders for massive wheels, I have seen my quads grow, assume a much better shape, and employ enough feathers to fill Hugh Hefner's house of pillows.
So, as a protege of Branch Warren, I proudly say, "Drink some concrete, harden the f***-up, and embrace your right to bare bigger quads."