It wasn’t that long ago that David Henry served somewhere in the sweltering heat of the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom. He declines to give more than a few details about his ordeal or the difficult conditions that give new meaning to the phrase survival of the fittest. Now serving in his 11th year for Uncle Sam, Dave has relocated to the safer desert confines of Tucson, Arizona. But that’s not all that has changed. Quite frankly, you don’t expect a guy who competed in the middleweight classes at amateur events — at a whopping 167 pounds, no less — to make much of a splash in the pro ranks, even after his 2002 Nationals win. But in his blossoming career, Dave has already notched a pro title and a second-place finish. Now 31, he shares his insight into what it’s like behind enemy lines, and how he became involved in an unusually short but highly intense and effective training program called D.C. We’ll explain that later.

M&F: You’re still active in the military, but it’s been a while since you served in the Middle East. Looking back, how did those experiences affect you?

DH: I found out how easy it is to die in a foreign country; you never know who the enemy is. There are so many infiltrators, you don’t even know whether the guy serving your food is hooking you up for something or what. You better believe it made me extra-cautious.

M&F: How do you balance the long days of your dual professional careers — military and bodybuilding?

DH: It’s very difficult. You make the time to do what you gotta do — that’s the biggest challenge. I’ve been traveling the past three weekends on the road, doing photo shoots, contests. Bodybuilding is by no means a part-time activity. It’s also a challenge to find time to spend with my daughter.

M&F: You follow a somewhat unusual training system of very heavy weights and few sets and exercises. Where did you pick that up?

DH: From a guy named Dante who, along with other moderators, runs the website I checked out some of the people he had worked with and read up on his style of training, called D.C. — it sounded awesome, and I wanted to try something different. You never want to stagnate; you always want something more. It was the first time in my career that I put my trust into a system that wasn’t my own.

M&F: What’s D.C.?

DH: It’s kind of a long story, and I’m not sure how it came about, but it stands for doggcrapp [laughs].

M&F: You said in FLEX [March 2006] that 2005 was a big turnaround year for you. What happened?

DH: Times were tough, man. I just got a divorce and had to make some very emotional decisions. I just had to get my head together. A number of high-quality people who I call friends helped me through that, prayed for me, helped me with contest prep. Never in my life had I relied on people for emotional backing as I did recently; it helped me grow both emotionally and physically. And I made a conscious decision to try and be the best guy in this industry that I can be and show the world that I’m capable and worthy of standing on the same stage as all the top guys.

M&F: Your first pro win was the Olympia Wildcard. How did you beat out a lot of bigger guys?

DH: You don’t win because you’re bigger; aesthetics plays a key part, too. I thought I brought proportion, symmetry and conditioning — everything — which is what it took to win.

M&F: What was it like to compete the following night alongside guys like Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler?

DH: The feeling backstage was phenomenal — no words in my vocabulary can describe it other than I was elated, anxious, overly excited. This wasn’t just another night on the job; I was truly happy to be there. These guys were the names I looked up to long ago when I was still thinking about hitting the national level. And they gave me props for my win the night before. I loved hearing that. M&F


Birthdate: Feb. 24, 1975
Birthplace: Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center, Colorado
Residence: Tucson, Arizona
Height: 5'5"
Weight: 203 pounds contest, 225–230 off-season
Relationship status: Single
Competitive Highlights: 2006: Colorado Pro, 3rd; Ironman Pro, 2nd. 2005: Europa Southwest Pro, 4th; Olympia Wildcard Showdown winner
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Day Bodyparts Trained
1 Chest, shoulders, triceps
2 Back, biceps, forearms
3 Legs
4–5 Rest
6 Cycle repeats


Exercise Sets Reps
Pull-Up 4 12
Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Barbell Row 1 8–10 + 6–8 + 4–6**
Seated Cable Row 1 8–10 + 6–8 + 4–6**
Dumbbell Pullover 3 to failure^

* David chooses only two exercises from this group (which might also include a few others) to construct a workout that’s short on sets but high on intensity.
** David starts with a very heavy weight that he can lift for just 8–10 reps, takes a 15-breath rest, then continues with 6–8 more reps, followed by another 15-breath rest, and finishes with 4–6 reps.
^ David pyramids up the weight on successive sets, reaching failure at about 8–10 reps.

Targets: Upper lats
Start: David places his hands at the middle of the pull-up bar or about 6 inches outside shoulder width. He uses an overhand grip to keep the stress on his lats, and forgoes straps to ensure that his forearms and grip remain strong. Execution: Without swinging his body, David pulls himself up until his hands are aligned with his ears. He lowers his body under control and goes right into the next rep. David Says: “If you’re not strong [enough for this move], try the assisted pull-up machine that supports your knees or feet, which effectively reduces your bodyweight. Aim to get a little stronger each workout.”

>> David offers these three tips: Briefly hold the top contraction; add weight to a waist belt; or do partial reps from the top, going just halfway down and pulling up from there.

Targets: Lower lats, middle back
Start: David attaches a close-grip handle to the cable and sits erect on the bench, his feet pressed against the footplate and his knees slightly bent. He uses wrist straps only when going very heavy.
Execution: David arches his back and leans farther forward than most trainees because he feels it stretches his lats better. As he pulls the weight to his body, he pushes his chest out and brings the handle to his midsection, moving his elbows as far back as he can while squeezing his shoulder blades together. He holds the peak contraction briefly before lowering the weight under control, feeling a full stretch in his lats.

David Says: “To add variety, try switching handles. You can use a wide, neutral grip to increase the range of motion, enabling you to pull your shoulder blades farther back, which also helps build the outer edges of the lats.”

>> Use rest-pause: Go heavy so you can barely get eight reps, take a 15-breath rest, then do as many more reps as you can with the same weight to complete one full set.

Targets: Lower lats, middle back
Start: David loads a barbell and places his feet shoulder-width apart, grasping the bar with an underhand grip just outside his thighs. With his back straight, he bends forward about 45 degrees, and he maintains this strict position throughout the exercise.
Execution: Using strict form, David pulls the bar to his midsection, exhaling at the top. He squeezes his mid-back muscles hard before controlling the descent.

David Says: “Some people prefer the overhand grip, but I don’t like how it feels. I was inspired by Dorian Yates, who did this version. You can feel the entire back working, and in the stretched position, you feel your lats and traps really pulling like crazy.”

>> David says there’s a time and place to cheat constructively. Do as many reps as you can with good form before using body english for an extra rep or two — that’s controlled cheating.

Targets: Upper and lower lats
Start: David performs this move at the end of his back workout for a final pump and extra stretch. He lies across a flat bench, supporting his upper back and neck, with the top of his head just hanging off. Holding the upper inside plate of a heavy dumbbell with his hands shaped like a V for security, he extends his arms directly above his body.
Execution: David lowers the dumbbell behind his head to stretch his lats. Since he uses a weight close to his own bodyweight, he drops his hips to lower his center of gravity — this prevents him from being pulled off the end of the bench. As he brings the dumbbell back up, he refrains from bending or extending his arms to keep the tension on his back.

David Says: “Many people do this move for chest, but I think elbow placement is critical in which muscle group is most heavily recruited. For back, I normally allow my elbows to bend and flare out, and I pull directly over my face so I can look straight up at the weight.”

>> At the top of each rep (with your arms extended above you), hold the peak contraction for 1–2 seconds, squeezing your lats before releasing and going into the next rep.

By David Henry

1. I always start with a couple of lightweight warm-up sets, which aren’t included as sets in my routine. I do as many as needed until I feel ready. When you’re training with very heavy weights, you need to be thoroughly warmed up or you not only risk injury but also won’t be able to train at full throttle.

2. To build the upper lats that accentuate the V-taper, use a wider grip. Wide-grip pull-ups and wider-grip rowing movements all help build the upper lats. For overall symmetry, though, you need to train your back from top to bottom, so also include close-grip rowing movements to help build middle-back thickness.

3 . I typically do as few as two exercises for my entire back routine, which is really all I need. With the high-intensity work I do with heavy weights, I’ve found a combination that really works. While this style may not work for everyone, give whatever program you try 6–8 weeks and determine if you’re feeling it in your muscles.

4. The current system I use for back training is called D.C., which relies on the principle of rest-pause. I do as many reps as I can — about 7–8 reps with a very heavy weight to positive failure — take 15 breaths, then jump back on it and try and knock out another 6–7 reps.

5. I used to disdain keeping a logbook, but I use one now because it gives me something to shoot for. I make it a point in each workout to beat at least one exercise — either in weight, reps or both. I aim to improve some aspect of my training every single time I set foot in the gym.

6. This technique blasts your muscles at the end of a workout: Hold the contracted position as long as it takes for the muscle to give out (between 30 and 60 seconds). On pulldowns, for example, it requires you to pull the bar down to your chin, hold it there and fight the negative for up to 60 seconds. Let the weight fatigue you.