Bodybuilding veteran Branch Warren touts an impressive résumé, having last competed in 2015. He recently joined Dennis James on The Menace Podcast to discuss a host of topics, like how he achieved grainy conditioning, what it’s like training with Johnnie Jackson, and competing naturally as a teenager.
During the 2000s, Warren emerged as Men’s Open threat in the IFBB Pro League. He asserted himself among the best in the world when he won two consecutive Arnold Classic contests in 2011 and 2012. Additionally, Warren narrowly lost to Jay Cutler in 2009 at Mr. Olympia. Looking back on the close call, Warren admitted the outcome was difficult to accept because he placed ahead of Dexter Jackson, who dethroned Cutler the previous year.
Widely respected for his work ethic and grainy muscle detail, Warren and his teammate Johnnie Jackson always pushed the limits as active competitors. While some have suggested their training methods were too extreme, Warren stands behind the sacrifices that guided him through a successful career.
At 48 years old, Warren remains in spectacular shape, especially his lower body. In retirement, Warren occasionally shares training footage. Recently, fans were privy to a massive barbell back squat workout, and given his shape, some believe Branch Warren could do well at the upcoming 2023 Masters Olympia. However, Warren has publicly stated he’s stopped and won’t return to the sport.
Related: Bodybuilders to Maintain Jacked Physiques In Retirement
Branch Warren Talks Training with Johnnie Jackson and How He Achieved Grainy Muscle Detail
According to Warren, bodybuilders usually don’t peak with muscle maturity until the mid-30s, late 30s, and sometimes in the 40s.
“I think the graininess just comes with – I think everybody – I was in my 20s when I did that first show and I think as a bodybuilder we don’t really mature until we’re in our mid-30s, late 30s when you mature and peak out- maybe even 40 for some people. As far as conditioning, I don’t think I can get fat. I mean seriously, I was always the lean kid. Even now.”
Warren credited genetics for staying lean and mentioned he wouldn’t become overweight even if he exclusively ate junk food.
“Right now, you could step on the Masters Olympia stage right now, I don’t even think you would have to diet,” said Dennis James.
“I don’t, dude, even if I started eating junk food every day, I don’t think I could get fat. That’s just my metabolism and the genetics. When you combine eating right with training and all that stuff, you get that look.”
In 2001, Warren and Johnnie Jackson began training together. Unlike today’s era of bodybuilders, Warren stressed that earning a pro card was once far more difficult than how the process unfolds today.
“I hooked up with Johnnie in 2001. Johnnie was out of the military. He got out of the military a few years earlier. We competed against each other several times as amateurs, he always beat me. We did the nationals, USA, the USA, for all our listeners just getting into bodybuilding, back then, it was really hard to turn pro. At the USA, they had like one pro card, so they’re might be 100 or 200 guys in the Open division, and in the different classes, they just gave out one pro card. You could win your class at the USA Championships and not go pro.”
“That’s how we learned. I mean, Ronnie didn’t have good form right, all these guys. I’m always in control of the weight and I never once, never once, did I tell people they need to train the way I train. If you can take something I do and incorporate it into your program, that’s a win for me. I do what works for me. I don’t ever criticize what somebody else does. You know, a 100 pounds is a 100 pounds. That’s the way I learned how to train. My thing was go to failure and get as much blood into the muscle as you can, rest and repeat.”
After sharing thousands of training sessions together, Branch said he could out-bench press Jackson but couldn’t come close to his training partner’s deadlift max records.
“I can out-bench him, but on max deadlift, he’d kill me man. I mean, he’d beat me by almost 100 pounds. He could pull, 38, 40, I think he got almost 850 in the gym one day. He’s a legitimate deadlifter. Squat, probably about the same,” Warren said. “Everyone talked about his legs, but he was doing the exact same workouts I did for 20 years. That motherfuc**r would get it, that just shows you genetics play a part man.”
While Jackson teased a 2023 Masters Olympia comeback, Warren, his close training partner, doesn’t see it happening despite Johnnie’s ‘legitimate’ chance of winning.
“I don’t think he’s doing it,” said Branch Warren. “He’s still got all that muscle. Man, he could legitimately win that show if he gets ready for it. You know, I don’t think he is because his contest is the say day here in Texas; I think that’s kind of a dealbreaker for him.”
Warren Opens Up on Decision to Retire and Competing Naturally as Teenager
Warren kept it simple regarding his decision to retire, and mentioned he didn’t want to be ‘forced out.’.
“I think I know when to say when. What I didn’t want to do is hang around too long and get forced out, you know what I mean,” Branch Warren explained. “
In a trip down memory lane, Warren told Dennis James, Milos Sarcev, and Chris Cormier a story about trying to get steroids when he was 19 competing naturally. He shared that his coach disallowed anyone from talking to him about the substances until he was older.
“I was 21, 22, so, I tried to. I remember I’ll tell you a quick story, so I’m 19, and I’m getting ready for this show, and I’m like, I want to take stuff because everyone else is in the gym taking this stuff. So, Mark went, I asked Mark about it, he said, ‘You’re young man, you need to stay off that stuff, you’re not old enough yet.’ I’m like, ‘Fu** that.’ I started asking everybody to get something; he went and told everybody, I mean everybody, to not give me anything.”
In a recent Straight Outta the Lair podcast with Flex Lewis, Warren reflected on stepping away from the sport and wishes he could have called it a career with at least one Olympia title. Even though he never accomplished that goal, he was thankful to end his career with no major injuries.
RELATED: Branch Warren Reveals If He Plans On Competing Again, Reflects On Beating Phil Heath
Following a tenure of highs and lows, Branch Warren is a valued member of the bodybuilding community who continues to share training insight and knowledge with the newer generation of talent.
Watch the full video below, courtesy of the Muscle and Fitness YouTube channel:
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