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The battle for the soul of bodybuilding has raged for decades. It pits those who want to impress with aesthetics versus those who want to shock with freakishness. The conflict heated up in the ’90s when classicists like Shawn Ray and Flex Wheeler unsuccessfully battled modernist Dorian Yates. Some can combine the best of both factions: sculptor and monster. But more often bodybuilders and fans have to choose sides. Put Henri-Pierre Ano squarely on Team Aesthetics. The 2013 Canadian Nationals champ vows to maintain his slim middle and pleasing lines as he continues fleshing out his tall frame.
Ano was born in Montreal, Canada, on Oct. 15, 1981, the son of a father from Ivory Coast and a native Québécois mother. Both parents were high school art teachers, which likely influenced Ano’s eye for physical harmony. He was proficient at drawing and painting when he was a kid, but he later gave up the pen and brush for a hockey stick. “Being in Canada, my main sport was hockey,” he says. “I played junior league, but I dropped out when it was apparent I wouldn’t make it to the NHL.” He switched to basketball in high school and then played for a small college team.
As part of his basketball conditioning, he started lifting weights. “There was a little gym at school. We didn’t know what we were doing, but I noticed serious changes [to my body] right away. Teachers and others accused me of using steroids, but I wasn’t using anything.” Still, despite his proficiency for gaining muscle and his early Shawn Ray fandom, it never occurred to him then that he could be a bodybuilder. It wasn’t until 2008, when Ano was 27, that he began truly lifting. Through his telecommunications job, he received a trial three-month membership to Pro Gym in Montreal.
BUILDING THE SCULPTURE
He attended firefighting school from 2009–10. “It’s kind of my fallback position,” the current personal trainer and IFBB pro says, though he also explains that firefighter job openings are scarce in Quebec. He returned to training seriously in 2010, and after failing to place in the 2011 IFBB World Championships, he felt he’d progressed as far as he could in drug-tested contests. After a superheavy seventh in the 2012 Canadian Championships, Ano rocketed all the way to the overall title in 2013. “All the guys who’d beat me the year before were looking at me, and their minds were blown by how much I’d improved. I’d brought up my legs, and my conditioning was better. Still, I didn’t expect to win.”
Ano’s first two years in the IFBB Pro League have been highlighted by a sixth at last year’s Toronto Pro and a fourth at this year’s New York Pro. He weighed 250 in the latter contest, but he knows he still needs more. “Every year, I’ve made big improvements. The goal for me is to keep increasing my size without sacrificing the conditioning that I always bring. I just hope to get bigger and place better.” His upper body—highlighted by his capacious shoulders and svelte waistline—may already be full enough to win pro titles, but Ano needs to bring his legs up to the same standard. To that end, he devotes half of the six workouts in his four-day split to his lower body. He stresses quads and hamstrings on separate days and also hits quads twice on the same day—with heavier sets in the first workout and lighter sets in the second session.
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BACK IT UP
Ano’s back routine exemplifies his aesthetics-first philosophy. He isn’t powering up low-rep deadlifts and T-bar rows indiscriminately in the hope that greater and greater weights will pack on more and more mass somewhere on his back. Instead, he has a precise strategy for widening his upper lats for an even more pronounced V-taper and bringing out all the cookie-cutter details that make rear shots magnificent but not monstrous.
His first exercise always involves hanging from a bar—either pullups (overhand), chins (underhand), or close-grip pullups (neutral). “I think more of my back development comes from these than any other exercise,” he avers. “I rotate which one I do, but I do them weighted, and the reps are always six to eight maximum. I can do the close-grips with four plates [180 pounds], hanging from a belt. And I always do a slow tempo—lowering myself for four, and sometimes even five, seconds.”
Next up are two types of rows for higher reps. First are either onearm dumbbell rows, barbell rows, or machine rows for 10 to 12 reps at a slow tempo, holding contractions for one or two seconds. Then he performs seated cable rows for 14 to 16 reps at a faster tempo. He prefers to do these underhand with a long bar. “It lets me pull the bar in low and get my elbows back a little farther to focus on the lower lats and the inner back more,” Ano explains. Then come pulldowns for 10 to 12 reps. “Whichever way I did my first hanging exercise, I’ll do the pulldowns a different way. So if I started with wide-grip pullups, I’ll do the pulldowns with a close, parallel grip.”
He ends his back routine with two finishing movements. The first is straight-arm pulldowns, which apply continuous tension to the lats and also hit the frequently neglected serratus—the fingerlike muscles on the sides beneath the armpits. The 2013 Canadian champ does these at a slow tempo for 12 to 15 reps. His final back exercise is the face-pull. This is a somewhat unique exercise performed with a rope attached to a cable and set at approximately face level. Ano separates the rope ends as much as possible at contractions so they’re on the sides of his ears; he feels the tension throughout his inner back: traps, rhomboids, and teres major and minor. Face-pulls help accentuate the density and details that make a rear double biceps shot pop.
When I ask Ano, this year’s breakout star on Team Aesthetics and someone who still reveres Shawn Ray and Flex Wheeler, what he thinks of the state of modern bodybuilding, he has strong opinions. “Everyone has been wondering about this after what Arnold said [championing Cedric McMillan and more aesthetic bodybuilders the day after this year’s Arnold Classic]. This [emphasizing aesthetics] is just the way it has to be, because the last couple of years we’ve seen so many guys with bloated guts and looking monstrous onstage. It might be impressive, but at the end of the day, look at where these guys end up. I think you still want to be in good shape and health after your career. Of course, certain things like injuries are somewhat out of your control, but that’s what happens when you push it to the limits. You need to know how to limit yourself for your health and for the best look to your physique.
“For me, today, I look up to people like Shawn Rhoden. I like Dennis Wolf’s look, too; he’s big, but he has nice lines. I still love Dexter Jackson’s physique. Even Big Ramy, he’s enormous, but he’s still in proportion with a waist that’s still very small for the size of his quads and his shoulders. So that’s what I think we should emphasize. Of course, these are still giant guys, but they keep it aesthetic. And that’s what I aspire to be as I continue to fill out. I want to get bigger but not at the expense of my aesthetics.” – FLEX
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“THE GOAL IS TO KEEP INCREASING MY SIZE WITHOUT SACRIFICING THE CONDITIONING THAT I ALWAYS BRING. I JUST HOPE TO GET BIGGER AND PLACE BETTER.”
(4 days on, 1 day off)
DAY 1: A.M. Chest, back
DAY 2: A.M. Quads (heavy) & calves, P.M. Quads (light)
DAY 3: A.M. Shoulders, P.M. Shoulders
DAY 4: A.M. Hamstrings, calves, abs
ANO'S BACK ROUTINE
Pullup: 4-5 sets, 6-8 reps
One-arm Dumbbell Row: 3-4 sets, 10-12 reps
Seated Cable Row: 4 sets, 14–16 reps
Close-grip Pulldown: 3 sets, 10-12 reps
Stiff-arm Pulldown: 3 sets, 12–15 reps
Face-pull: 3 sets, 15 reps