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 I'm feeling pretty good about being in that kind of company.
I'm 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 I'm aware that not a lot of guys can go from nothing to a top spot at the Olympia in six years. They call me "The Gift," but I've worked hard to get to this point. I put in my share of grueling workouts and had to focus extra hard to make sure I came into my first "O" looking balanced and complete.
Click To Enlarge.
Phil Heath At The 2008 Olympia.
View More Pics Here.
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"). 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. It's not like he dominated me or anything, and you could make the case that I've 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.
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 Ronnie's 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.
For the details of the workout that helped 2008 Iron Man Pro winner Phil Heath transform his back, pick up the January issue of FLEX on newsstands now.