Even in retirement, Branch Warren trains at the gym with the same intensity he brought to the stages as a Pro. In a recent The Truth Podcast with Hany Rambod, Warren named his favorite bodybuilders and reflected on training, recovery, and how the Open class has changed through the years.
Texas’ Branch Warren emerged as a Men’s Open frontrunner in the 1990s-2000s with dry conditioning and detailed quads. While navigating his career in the IFBB Pro League, Warren was well-respected for his grit, intense training sessions, and ability to overpower his contemporaries on stage. He also built a fierce reputation training alongside Johnnie O. Jackson at the famous Metroflex Gym which Ronnie Coleman often frequented.
At the 2009 Mr. Olympia that saw Jay Cutler regain his title to make history, Warren narrowly missed out on gold in second place. Looking back on that night, Warren admits it’s been difficult to accept considering he defeated Dexter Jackson but was unable to claim the Sandow trophy. En route to establishing his name among the very best, Branch Warren won two consecutive Arnold Classic competitions at the height of his career (2011,2012).
At 48 years old, Warren continues to prove why he was such a dominant force in the Open. He has carried impressive mass and condition despite not competing since 2015. Aside from maintaining his physique and operating businesses, Warren gives back to the industry with podcasts to help up-and-coming athletes make their way up the ranks.
Branch Warren Names Top 3 Fav Bodybuilders, Reflects on Training w/ Ronnie Coleman
Warren named Rich Gaspari, Dorian Yates, and Ronnie Coleman as his favorite bodybuilders.
“We all got our favorites. I mean I have my favorites growing up. I had two, I’ll give you three answers. I thought Rich Gaspari was a favorite of mine not so much because of his physique but his work ethic. I thought Dorian was incredible.
Once I understood the criteria, man if you ever saw Dorian compete in person, if you see him in pictures, he didn’t photograph well, if you ever saw him in person competing… he was devastating. He walked out on stage and he was beating guys like Flex, Kevin, and Shawn. They had incredible beautiful physiques, but when he stepped out it was like holy shit.”
“I read about how he trained, I’m like, I can relate to this, he trains in a dirty little dungeon just like I do. He ain’t the most genetically gifted as far as shape and all that goes, but this dude is freakin beast man. Can’t nobody touch him. That I related to. Probably more than anybody. And of course Ronnie — Ronnie in my opinion is the greatest bodybuilder of all-time and I had the privilege to be there and witness the whole ride in first person.”
Even though Warren utilized brutal training methods, he wouldn’t change how he approached his career.
“Getting hurt is a risk, right? I mean, would Ronnie had been Ronnie if he didn’t lift weight the way he did. He would never change it and he told me the same thing. I wouldn’t change nothing. I had the time of my life. I still love working out, I just don’t train as heavy.”
“It worked for me, I never told anybody to do what I do but if you take something I do and incorporate it into your system and it’s a win, if it works for you, then it’s a win,” said Warren.
Always up for a challenge, Warren said the only man he couldn’t defeat in a workout was Coleman. He also mentioned how powerful his training partner Johnnie O. Jackson was, saying, “Every day we went to the gym, it was a war.”
“First of all, Ronnie was super strong and Ronnie wouldn’t let nobody beat him in the gym. I can tell you right now, the only person in my entire life I never beat in a workout was Ronnie,” said Warren. “Johnnie [O Jackson] is strong as hell, he’s tough. He can beat me in deadlift. I can beat him at chest, legs, if we’re talking about weight, he can probably out-max me on squat. He could out-max me on the squat not by a lot, but he could get me. Now, if we’re doing reps, I can get him on legs.”
“Johnnie is no joke. All that stuff about world’s strongest bodybuilder, it’s true. I’m telling you, I lived it for 22 years. If you came to the gym and you didn’t feel good and you didn’t feel like working, you were about to get your ass whooped.”
One of Warren’s biggest fears was losing to a competitor who out-worked him, which always fueled his ambitions in the training room.
“I never wanted to get beat because somebody outworked me. I can’t control what somebody else does, how they diet, how they look, but I can control me. I learned from a very young age if I could outwork everyone around me, I could win. I could beat guys way more gifted than me. I could be 100% dedicated to my nutrition and I could out-train them in the gym.”
As for recovery, that’s one area Branch wishes he would have focused on more during the active years of his career.
“So… I always took a week off. Following a big show, I take a week maybe two weeks off. One time I took a month off but to me that was too long. I like to train. Usually a week or two out of the gym and then I’d go back to train. I’d go 60-60% for the first week, the next week I’d kick it up.
Usually, by about a month, me and Johnnie were back in it training hard depending on what the next competition was. But you got to have some down time. One thing I would have done different with all my training — I would have given myself more rest and recovery time.”
Warren also shared his thoughts on how the sport has evolved over the years. He pointed out that when he became a Pro, the league had only 190 Pros in total, whereas now there are many more competitors and new divisions.
“It’s changed completely from the 90s when I started until now. Back in the 90s we had two divisions: bodybuilding, men’s and women. That was it. I think it had to happen for the sport to survive. You know, as a promoter having all these different divisions, my show in Houston we’ve had over 650 competitors just in the NPC portion.”
“When I turned Pro… there was 190 Pros in the world. Actively. Yeah [men and women]. Actively. Of course, there was retired ones, but there was 190 active Pros in the world when I turned Pro. They give out almost that many Pro cards at the Masters Nationals. There’s a lot more opportunities out there.”
This wasn’t the first time Branch Warren had reflected on his hardcore training regimen and career. In February, the bodybuilding veteran joined former seven-time 212 Olympia Flex Lewis to discuss never winning Olympia and his health in retirement. According to Branch, he has zero joint pain despite countless hours of torturous workouts in the gym.
Even though the sport has changed from his days on the stage, Warren still admires the direction in which bodybuilding is moving. Warren has learned from some of the best Mr. Olympias in history, and his mindset and competitive history always make for insightful interviews.