A training session with Johnnie O. Jackson plays out like a trailer for a Jerry Bruckheimer movie: The camera sweeps in silently, low and quick across the gym floor to a dusty, isolated corner devoid of the trappings of modern fitness. The approach slows and zooms in on 600-plus pounds of iron crowded onto a barbell. A pause. Just then, the stillness is broken. A chalk-laden hand comes crashing down into the frame, gripping the bar as if to strangle the elements out of it. The subtext reeks of power, aggression and rage.

Circle around and up. Pan out slowly. The peace is further disturbed by the clanging of plates against one another as Johnnie deadlifts the bar from the floor, the 11⁄8-inch-thick bar bending under the strain. Cut to rear angle. Traps ready to burst, back a coiled mess of sinew, he bends at the hips and knees, returning the bar to the floor with a crash only to hoist it again. Another rep, then another. Repetitive, robotic.

A final, seismic drop interrupts the cadence, camera cutting to his face, now flush with disgust. Disgust fades to satisfaction, satisfaction to arrogance, and then you know: This was just a warm-up. Fade out.…

Dramatic? Perhaps. But pulling 600 pounds for reps is just that. Johnnie is definitely comfortable being referred to as “The World’s Strongest Bodybuilder,” and plans on hitting his goal of a 1,000-pound deadlift this year or next. With his bodyweight around 240 it sounds incredulous, but to hear him talk about it, you’d think it a mathematical certainty. “My first goal is to win a show, but pulling 1,000 pounds is a personal goal. I have a big break between shows this summer. Maybe I’ll get it then.”

To see Johnnie lifting weights or working on his mandatories in the mirror, you’d think it his universe. He has said that there is nothing else he’d rather be doing, and he truly believes that he was born for the iron game. But in fact, there’s more to Johnnie than power lifts, posedowns and photo shoots.

A fixture in today’s Texas bodybuilding community, Johnnie grew up in Hammonton, New Jersey, with his seven siblings. Feeding, clothing and raising that many children was a gargantuan task, but Johnnie’s parents were equal to it. His mother tended to the children and the house, leaving his father, John Sr., to bring home the bacon.

Working as a truck driver, Johnnie’s father would pull the long hauls, rain or shine, sometimes against his better judgment and always in spite of how much he missed his family. “One time, he drove for three weeks straight with three broken ribs,” says Johnnie.

His father was definitely made of sterner stuff and Johnnie sought, as young boys do, to be like his dad. “Through strength in him, I found strength in myself,” he says. That included 10 years in the Marines, during which he served in the Gulf War.

When John Sr. succumbed to diabetes in 2003, Johnnie’s world was turned upside down. Stripped of his father and sapped of his motivation, his first instinct was to crawl into a hole. Then Johnnie remembered a promise. “I told him that I’d never give up at anything I did, and that I’d make him proud no matter what.”

In fulfilling that promise, Johnnie has proudly helped raise three kids of his own. But contrary to his father’s brand of strict discipline, he happens to be quite the teddy bear when it comes to his own children. “I’m not as tough as my dad,” says Johnnie. “I let my kids get away with a lot.”

Johnnie is happy to do what he loves in providing for his family, and insists that the furrowed brow and penetrating scowl you see in magazine photos is strictly business. "What I do is a blessing; I try to treat it that way,” he says.

Bone-crushing squats and deadlifts may be worthy of a Bruckheimer-styled sequence, but it’s Johnnie’s hold on his family that will be his most proud accomplishment long after the credits roll on his bodybuilding career. Slow fade out, end tape.… M&F

Birthdate: Jan. 30, 1971
Birthplace: Hammonton, New Jersey
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 240 pounds contest; 265 pounds off-season
Family Status: Single; three children
Current Residence: Euless, Texas
Career Highlights: 2005: Mr. Olympia, 11th; Toronto Pro, 2nd; Europa Super Show, 2nd. 2004: Toronto Pro, 2nd
To Contact: jjfitness@aol.com; www.jojfitness.com

DAY BODYPARTS TRAINED 1 Chest, biceps 2 Legs 3 Off 4 Shoulders, triceps 5 Back 6 Rest/arms (precontest) 7 Off –Twelve weeks out from a show, Johnnie puts in 20 minutes on a stepmill six days a week, adding five minutes each week up to one week precontest. He rarely trains abs or traps.

Exercise Sets Reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3* 10–12 Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press 4 12 Dumbbell Front Raise 3 10–12 Incline Rear-Delt Raise 3 15 *Not including two light warm-up sets of 15–20 reps THE EXERCISES

TARGETS: Middle and front delts
START: Sit on a flat or low-back bench with your feet flat on the floor; hold two dumbbells at shoulder level with your palms facing forward. Keep your abs tight and chest high.
EXECUTION: Press the dumbbells directly overhead in an arc and hold for a second at the top before slowly lowering back to the start. The weights shouldn’t touch at the top of the movement.
JOHNNIE’S TIP: “More inexperienced lifters should perform these on a low-back bench for added support. As you progress, you can try the flat-bench variation seen here, or do them standing.”
ADVANCED TECHNIQUE: To increase the total muscular time under tension, do these in alternating fashion, holding one dumbbell in the start position while pressing the other. Keep the motion confined to one arm at a time.

TARGETS: Front delts
START: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with a palms-down (pronated) grip, arms hanging straight down, and hands at your sides or in front of your thighs.
EXECUTION: Keeping your arm straight, raise one dumbbell to shoulder level in front of you. Hold at the top momentarily before slowly lowering back to the start position. Repeat with the opposite arm.
JOHNNIE’S TIP: “If the palms-down grip feels awkward, try using a neutral (palms facing in) grip. This is usually much more natural for people.”
ADVANCED TECHNIQUE: For variety, try performing these with both arms simultaneously. This calls your core into action even more to provide balance, strength and stability. Lighten the load if needed.

TARGETS: Middle delts
START: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells outside your thighs with a neutral grip.
EXECUTION: Keeping your arms straight, simultaneously raise both dumbbells in an arc out to your sides, bringing the weights to shoulder level. Pause briefly and lower to the start position.
JOHNNIE’S TIP: “Going above shoulder level will transfer a bit of the emphasis to the traps. Also, doing these seated increases the intensity because you can’t cheat as much.”
ADVANCED TECHNIQUE: Work your way up to the heaviest dumbbells you can handle for 8–10 reps. Without resting between sets, work your way back down the rack with progressively lighter weights for higher reps.

TARGETS: Rear delts
START: Set a bench at a 30–40-degree incline. Grasp a pair of dumbbells and lie facedown on the pad so that your upper chest and front delts are above the top of the bench, arms hanging straight down and elbows slightly bent, palms facing each other.
EXECUTION: Raise the dumbbells out to your sides as high as possible, contracting hard through your rear delts and middle back. Hold at the top for a count and return to the start.
JOHNNIE’S TIP: “The trick is finding the angle that works best for your rear delts. Set the bench too upright and your middle delts start to take over.”
ADVANCED TECHNIQUE: To further isolate your rear delts, use a palms-down (pronated) grip. Also try varying the angle of the bench from workout to workout to encourage complete rear-delt development.

By Johnnie O. Jackson

1. Warming up properly before any routine is important, but it’s particularly crucial on shoulder day because these joints are more susceptible to injury. Do a 5–10-minute general warm-up followed by a few light sets of lateral raises to get the blood flowing.

2. To get your traps involved, mix in upright rows. I’m pretty well-developed there, so I limit how often I do them now. Precontest, I’ll add some clean and jerks for a cardio element on shoulder day.

3. Train shoulders and chest on different days. When you work your chest, your shoulders — especially your front delts — are already getting a workout, so by the time you get to them, you’re not as efficient. To get the most out of your time in the gym, train chest and delts separately.

4. In general, avoid behind-the-neck presses. Some people get results with them, but it puts you at greater risk for injury because it’s an awkward, unnatural movement — especially when you go heavy. Stick to regular presses instead.

5. Experiment to find which weight load works best for your shoulders. Some people see more growth from big weight and low reps, while others benefit from lighter weight and higher reps. Experience will be your most valuable tool when trying to add shoulder mass.

6. Swinging the weight or using body english to get through reps just takes away from the exercise. Manage your weight loads so your movements are as controlled as possible for the best gains.