Recognize the face? Phil Heath is the guy on whose fast-growing shoulders rests bodybuilding's arguably biggest buzz. He's the genetically gifted wonder (nickname: "The Gift") who blazed out of nowhere (previous experience: a basketball scholarship to the University of Denver) and strutted away with the top prize at both the 2005 NPC Junior Nationals and USA Championships, where he was awarded his pro card. After that? He took first at his first two pro outings (the 2006 Colorado Pro and New York Pro); as for his third, that didn't go as well. He came in a disappointing fifth at the Arnold Classic in March, but after a little reflection, he righted himself. "I really shouldn't complain," he says. "At least I know I'm going to improve, whereas everyone else will be chasing their all-time best."

Sounds cocky, huh? But if you think about it, he's right. Phil is 27 years old in a sport in which the reigning Mr. Olympia is 33 and the guy he dethroned is 43. His muscles haven't even matured yet, and by the time they do, it could be a whole new game. For other young guys, that knowledge could be intoxicating, potentially leading them astray, but it just strengthens Phil's resolve. If he wants to change bodybuilding – and he does – he has to turn a calm, critical eye on himself, his competitors and the sport. Achieving longevity requires a game plan. Here's Phil's.


It hasn't escaped Phil's attention that he's the most buzzed-about newcomer since Alex Fedorov brought his "Z" game to the Olympia in 2005. The difference? Phil has actually lived up to the hype. He knows his mystique makes a good story – and that it's a valuable commodity that can be easily squandered. "I look at it as both an athlete and a fan," he says. "I think, If I were a fan, would I want to see Phil Heath at six shows a year? Probably not. You lose that mystique, especially if you're not winning."

That's why Phil doesn't let anyone – not sponsors, not even his family – make decisions about when and where he'll compete next. "You have to be your own man and do what's best for you and your career," he says. "You have to think about it from all angles: How can it help you? How can it hurt you? That's what I do. I don't allow any outside pressures."


The challenge then becomes main-taining that mystique without letting the hype be a distraction. "Yeah, I want to win more because of the hype, but once you start believing it, you start going downhill," Phil says. "You start reading about yourself, and you start thinking, Wow, I'm the man. That's when you fall."

Instead, he uses the hype to his advantage where it counts – backstage. "Some guys don't like me because I'm young and I probably have as many, or more, pro wins as they do," he says. "So before a show, when everybody sizes each other up, I don't get fully undressed right away. If I take it off piece by piece, I know someone's going to be watching me and not paying attention to what they're doing. Then guess what – onstage, I know who they're going to be thinking about while I'm thinking about hitting these damn poses without passing out. I'm trying to smile while they're too busy worrying about me."


To rank among the best in a competitive sport, you have to think about your odds, where you stand and who's standing next to you. This is what Phil does endlessly, watching his competition at each show, shuffling their order and weighing where he stands against them. One hard-and-fast rule: Competitors he has already beaten are checked off the list.

As a result, he has developed a brutally honest breakdown of the playing field. "The way I see it, there are only seven guys I have to chase: Jay Cutler, Ronnie Coleman, Victor Martinez, Dexter Jackson, Toney Freeman, Gustavo Badell and Melvin Anthony," he says. "Ronnie's going to quit after this year; that brings it down to six. Jay's only going to do it three more years, so then you've got five more guys. Dexter's 37, Melvin's [34] years old – I mean, how long are these guys going to want to do this? Bottom line: Age is going to catch up with them eventually, and so am I." M&F


Birthdate: Dec. 18, 1979
Birthplace: Seattle
Current residence: Denver
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 225 pounds contest, 260 pounds off-season
Relationship status: Recently married to Jen Laxson
Career highlights: 2007: Arnold Classic, 5th. 2006: Colorado Pro, 1st; New York Pro, 1st. 2005: NPC USAs, 1st heavyweight and overall; NPC Junior Nationals, 1st heavyweight and overall
To contact:


Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Reverse-Grip Pulldown 3 12
Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row 3 12
T-Bar Row 3 12
Seated Cable Row With Rope 3 15
Back Extension 2 failure


Day Bodyparts trained
A.M P.M.
1 Back Biceps, abs, calves
2 Chest Triceps, abs, calves
3 Quads Hamstrings
4 Chest Delts, abs, calves
5 Back Hamstrings
6 Delts Traps, abs, calves
7 Rest  

Phil trains three times a day on most days: Cardio five days a week first thing in the morning, then one weight-slinging session before noon and another at night. That keeps him lean enough to do his guest-posing and ensures that he's never too far off his contest weight. He splits his chest and back training into two workouts; the back workout here emphasizes lower lats. Why all the calf training? "I kind of gear my workouts toward other people's weaknesses. That's why you see me doing calves four days a week – there aren't many black dudes with calves in this sport."



Targets: Lower lats

Start: Attach a lat bar to the cable and take a wide, underhand grip, grasping the bar right before the bends. Sit down at the machine so the pads fit snugly over your thighs, your feet flat on the floor, chest up and lower back arched.

Execution: Pull the bar down to your upper chest, focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold the contraction for a moment, then slowly return the bar all the way back to the start.

Heath's Hint: "You can play around with the grips – you can go a little bit narrower – but I tend to go at least shoulder-width, if not wider. It definitely helps build back thickness."

Advanced technique: Do extended sets with this exercise: Start each set with overhand-grip pulldowns to failure. Then flip your grip around and continue the set to failure.


Targets: Lower lats

Start: Stand in front of a barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Keeping your chest up to maintain the arch in your back, bend forward from the hips and take a shoulder-width underhand grip on the bar.

Execution: Remain bent over at the hips and, contracting your lats and middle-back muscles, pull the bar up toward your lower abs, bringing your elbows as high as possible and squeezing your back muscles as you reach the top position. Slowly lower to arm's length.

Heath's Hint: "You want to get a full contraction on this one. Use the full range of motion and go slower – if you can lift that weight in a controlled manner, the fibers you're going to bring out will blow your mind. It'll give you a better pump than just repping out."

Advanced technique: Use the rest-pause technique. After reaching failure, return the bar to the floor, rest 10-15 seconds and then continue the set, getting as many reps as you can.


Targets: Lower lats, middle back

Start: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform and your knees slightly bent. With your arms fully extended, bend at the hips and, keeping your back slightly arched, take a close neutral (palms facing each other) grip on the handles.

Execution: While in the bent-over position, pull the handles all the way to your chest, keeping your elbows back, holding for a count or two at the top before lowering the bar until your arms are straight. Be sure to maintain the natural arch in your back throughout the move by keeping your chest up.

Heath's Hint: "I like to use the inner portion of the T bar because it simulates doing it the old-school way, as you would with the V bar. It targets more of the mid-back, and lets you squeeze and get a good contraction."

Advanced technique: Do drop sets on this exercise, going heavy at the start and then stripping the weight off to get additional reps.


Targets: Lower lats, middle back

Start: Attach the rope handle to the cable and sit on the bench with your feet firmly on the footplates. Lean forward from your hips to grasp the rope with a neutral grip while maintaining a slight arch in your back. Keep your knees slightly bent, chest out and back straight.

Execution: With your hands together, pull the rope toward your abs, focusing on using your lats to pull your elbows back. After squeezing your shoulder blades together for a peak contraction, slowly return to the start position.

Heath's Hint: "I try to visualize pulling my elbows back like I'm in a transition to do a lat spread. This is where you work on your Christmas tree. You can really see the definition in someone's back when he's doing this."

Advanced technique: When your hands are halfway to your body, separate your wrists and pull your elbows out as you pull them back to involve more upper-lat fibers.


By Phil Heath

1. Try to work your back from as many angles as you can. You definitely want to use different grips, but make sure your form stays solid. Focus on the contraction.

2. Keep your spine aligned, particularly when training back. A lot of guys want to look at themselves in the mirror while doing these exercises, but for what? Your back is hidden. Save playing kissy-face with yourself for later.

3. Vary the reps to give your muscles different stimuli. I never do less than eight reps. If I can get only six, then I reduce the weight. Still, I don't shoot for eight every time; sometimes I do 12 or more.

4. Be focused on your workout, especially with these exercises, because you can't really get a spot in most of them. Use a weight that's challenging but that you can lift on your own – know your limits.

5. Be a custom copycat. What works for Jay Cutler or me may not work for you, but picking a couple of exercises out of different people's workouts is a good way to create your own custom routine.

6. Visualize your workout. On your way to the gym, think about what your focus is, what you plan to accomplish, what exercises you're going to do, how much weight you'll use and what it's going to feel like.