May 23, 1972
BIRTHPLACE San Jose, California
CURRENT RESIDENCE Modesto, California
HEIGHT 5'11"
WEIGHT 224 pounds contest, 250 pounds off-season
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS 2006: NPC National Championships, heavyweight, runner-up;
NPC USA Championships, heavyweight, 3rd. 2005: NPC USA Championships, heavyweight, 5th;
IFBB North American Championships, heavyweight, 4th.

"WHEN I GO TO THE GYM, IT’S NOT LIKE, "HEY, we’re going to the waterslides!" I’m going to the gym to get some type of a feeling, because I have only one or two hours in the day to do everything, and I gotta focus. Adorthus Cherry is talking to me on his cell phone from his air-conditioned car somewhere in Modesto, California, where it’s hot with a chance of dust. He’s explaining how he approaches his workouts these days, perched as he is near the top of the amateur heavyweight ranks, one gut-wrenching step from becoming an IFBB pro. "I’m not going to be a jerk to anyone, but after I’m finished, then I can talk about the fun stuff. While I’m there I have to make it count. I never used to sweat in the gym, and I’d be in there for three hours. Now I’m sweating and I’m in there for only an hour and a half."

The three-hour marathon sessions marked Adorthus’ first four years in amateur bodybuilding (1994–1998), when he could win the small shows just by donning his posing trunks but could never consistently break the top 10 in the national shows against amateurs like Jay Cutler and Dexter Jackson. He worked hard in the gym, but something ate at him, a feeling that all wasn’t well with his workouts. “I was all about the pretty back exercises," he says. "Pulldowns to the front. Pulldowns behind the neck. Close-grip pulldowns. And just maybe a row." At the time, he says, he just didn’t realize how hard guys worked out and dieted. That would all change, of course, but not before he almost killed himself with alcohol, a battle that raged for several years, destroying his marriage and leaving his son hanging in the balance. Adorthus knew what it meant to be a fatherless child, and he refused to let his own son live that life. He chose sobriety, and in 2001 came back from his bodybuilding hiatus.

Adorthus Cherry’s second coming is predicated on getting results and climbing out of obscurity, so when he made his decision to compete again, he went to veterans of the game for advice. Part of the vast training overhaul was the replacement of pulldowns with more rows, the exercises that build meaty back muscle.

Adorthus also started working out with a new crew, and he suffered the first few times in the gym. "The only thing that kept me going was that I had so much to prove to these guys. I just couldn’t quit," he says. "We used to do one-arm seated rows on the Hammer Strength, then move to the T-bar row without the pad, where you had to stand and pick that weight up. I could barely pull three 45-pound plates. After my set I remember climbing over to the seat at the counter and sitting there with my head on the cold countertop and thinking, How many more sets are we gonna do?"

Six years later, Adorthus is still doing the rows, and he has the thick back necessary for the big time to show for it. When he turns around, he knows how he wants people to react. "I love to hear the cheering, but I don’t want to win because I’m the biggest and the toughest, or even the prettiest," he says. "I want to win because it’s a look that’s appealing. I want guys to say, ‘Man, I want my back to look like that. I want it to be symmetrical and detailed and really bumpy. You can see the rhomboids, the rear delts and all the little nooks and crannies!’ I want to hear that type of stuff."

In July, at the NPC USA Championships in Las Vegas (which Adorthus was preparing for at press time), the odds are good that he did. He was third in the heavyweight division in 2006, and according to Adorthus and the critics, this year is his time, if ever there will be one. "I’ve learned to be humble, and it’s hard to be humble and want to win," he says. "This is the first time anyone has had me as the front-runner, and I want to show people that I deserve it. I have the chance to show my son, too, that if you work hard and never give up, anything is possible." M&F

1. I don’t use straps at the start of my workout. That way I’m not only getting the forearm work but I’m getting the muscles to do what they’re supposed to do — the forearm and the biceps working in turn for the back. You never want your back to suffer because of grip strength.

2. I like the narrow grip on the seated row because it emphasizes the lower lats more; the wider grip hits the rhomboids more. I like the handle-bar grip on the T-bar row. With the bentover row, I use a natural grip, not too wide and not too narrow, and I pull toward the waist.

3. I use the front pulldown at the end of my routine, after I’ve exhausted my back with the other exercises, to work on width. I make sure to pull to between my chin and my chest and keep a really nice arch in my back.

4. Lifting heavy is important, but proper form is vital. Tighten your core when you row and maintain the arch in your lower back. Bring your elbows past the plane of your body and squeeze your shoulder blades together for maximum contraction of your upper lats, rhomboids and middle traps.

5. Unless you’re a strongman or someone paid to push the limits, going “heavy” doesn’t mean “moving as much weight as you can by any means possible.” Bodybuilding is about shocking your muscles and learning what makes them respond, but you accomplish that through focus and proper form.

6. I always start with heavy rowing exercises such as the T-bar row. When I’m fresh I can go very heavy, therefore stimulating more muscle fibers and influencing more muscle growth with one of the best basic back mass-builders there is.