To recapture, or even better his best placement yet (second in 2006) at what will be his third consecutive Arnold Classic outing, the man mountain of mass, Branch Warren, 33, will be pounding away at his daily cardio sessions and four-weekly balls to the wall weights workouts with one goal in mind: to present the perfect package of size and cuts come March 1.
A man of few words, Branch is of the breed that lets his body do the talking. And over previous years Warren's has had plenty to say, some good, some not so good. Always impressive by virtue of his sheer size and hardcore approach to packing it on, Branch's career has, however, been inconsistent as of late, with a string of mediocre placements (12th at the 2006 Mr. Olympia and 7th at the 2007 Arnold Classic being notable).
The saddest thing about these results is that Branch, when he brings his best, is as top tier as you can get, with mass and conditioning to compete with the best of them. His shape, particularly in the back has improved significantly over recent years and his legs are, as always, in their own class with unrivaled thickness from all angles (his thigh/hamstring separation resembles a science experiment gone wrong or the result of a frenzied razor attack).
The Branch Warren Physique
The Branch Warren physique is a curious beast. Some say he is a little on the blocky side but with a 32-inch waist, 30-inch thighs and ultra-wide shoulders he appears to have great proportions and desired shape. Maybe it is his height? At five foot seven, Branch is not the tallest competitor, but this, if anything, adds to the mass appeal his physique presents.
At between 240 and 250 pounds, contest weight, he is as large, considering his height to weight ratio, as any pro competing today. And his freaky, grainy conditioning (the only man since Dorian Yates to demonstrate such a look) and complete development give him a decided edge over most.
When he nails it he is hard to beat. The man they call Quadrasaurus is, of course, known for his leg development but I believe this title does him a disservice. While such a moniker might have once been true, his physique over recent years has become more complete signaling the need for a more appropriate nickname: perhaps the "Texas Titan" or "Class with Mass"?
With his favorite movie being Braveheart, it is perhaps no surprise that Branch attacks the weights with a fury seldom seen anywhere. That he trains in the biggest hardcore gym in the US, Arlington Texas's Metroflex, does much to compound the mythic air of invincibility that compels him to push poundages that would break lesser men.
To belie his relaxed demeanour outside the gym, Branch is a human wrecking ball when hoisting the iron and thus it is no accident that he has carved some of the most dense muscle seen anywhere, on anyone.
In fact it would be accurate to describe Branch's physique as being diametrically opposed to the one Frank Zane sported back in the day. And that is just fine with Branch, a true modern day warrior whose approach to lifting - where he typically uses five to ten reps per set comprising what he calls his "power routine" - could be defined as "getting the job done and taking no prisoners along the way".
To give you some idea of just how good Branch has been and of the potential he has to be a consistent threat to the top order, it is worth looking at where he has been and how he has carved his track to the top.
With his 1993 Teen Nationals win, beating no less than reigning Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler, Branch brought mass that would have been home on a seasoned open competitor. And as he worked his way through the amateur ranks he continued to add more of it until he eclipsed the competition at the 2001 Nationals to take out the Heavyweight division, securing his pro card in the process. In his pro debut, The 2004 Night of Champions (now the New York Pro) he placed an impressive 8th.
Then in 2006 he met Dexter Jackson at the Arnold, a man 30 pounds lighter who could not match Warren in size but outclassed him in shape. While Branch placed second and Dexter took the show, many felt it was the Texan's night. Since then Branch has not recaptured his best at the Arnold. Is 2008 his time to shine once again?
Given Branch's shaky contest history, with several standout moments, and a few disappointments, and propensity for not quite putting it together where it counts (come Olympia time), he will seek to leave his competition behind to secure his roots as one of the men to beat in 2008, to become a frontrunner for the Mr. Olympia top six.
If he can put it together conditioning-wise there is nothing to stop him from impressing the judges like he did for his third pro win in May 2007, on the New York Pro stage.
Branch Warren Wallpaper
Winner, 2007 New York Pro.
Week #61 - 5/15/2007
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In late 2007 the Texas Titan, with great foresight, took some much needed rest from bodybuilding competition, bypassing the Olympia contest that he had qualified for, and placed 12th in the previous year, to pack on more size and to make a few improvements (one can't imagine too many needing to be made).
With that in mind it is really only a question of whether he arrives at the Arnold in condition. Then redemption will be his.