Dennis Wolf: Mass with Class


Wolf does at least one freeweight basic lift for each bodypart, and he typically does these first in his workouts, when his strength and energy are greatest. For example, Wolf starts his chest training with bench presses and biceps routines with barbell curls. 


Although Wolf makes free-weight standards an early focus, he also does isolation and machine lifts to accentuate separation and shape. He also favors mechanical exercises to etch in details; he uses, for example, cable crossovers for chest and one-arm reverse-grip pushdowns for triceps. It’s not enough to simply cram on mass as quickly as possible. Like a sculptor adding clay but molding it, too, you need to train for quantity and quality in every workout.


This big bad wolf knows that moderate reps are best for muscle growth. Wolf sticks to 10-12 reps for most sets, but, for hamstrings, he’ll go up to 20, and for calves and abs, as high as 25. 


Wolf typically does three or four exercises and 12 to 16 sets for all bodyparts except calves and abs, which are trained with less volume more frequently. Wolf explains his seasonal exception: “In the last four to five weeks before a contest, I increase my overall sets.” 

There is no correct formula. Just make sure that you’re doing enough divergent exercises each workout to stress your muscles from a variety of angles and adjust the volume to find what works best for your body.


Dennis wolf stage pose


Wolf is blessed with wide clavicles and narrow hips, and yet he’s also accentuated his X shape by expanding his side delts as well as his upper lats and quad sweep. This architecture is most evident in his front lat spread, which ranks among bodybuilding’s best ever. 

Regardless of your structure, you can also place a special emphasis on your X outline. Do side laterals first in your shoulder routine, and chins or pulldowns first in back training, to prioritize these regions. To hit the outer quads (vastus lateralis), execute hack squats and leg presses with your heels together and toes pointed out. Bodybuilding is largely about creating an illusion, and gaining the right muscle in the right areas to form a bigger X will look much more dramatic than packing on twice as much in areas that make you resemble a box.


The focal point of an X is the center. “Middle management” is the single most crucial component of gaining mass with class. Those who are as big or bigger than Wolf typically have wider waistlines and/or protruding bellies with blurry abs. 

  • Forget “bulking up.” Never let yourself gain so much weight that your abs slip out of view. 
  • Train abs at least twice per week year-round. 
  • Eat clean, minimizing your intake of saturated fat and simple carbs. 
  • Include cardio in your program year-round. 
  • Steer clear of exercises such as weighted side bends and low-rep squats, which expand the obliques and hip flexors, respectively. 
  • Wear a belt during your heaviest sets of lifts like squats, deadlifts and leg presses, as research shows that when you don’t wear a belt, you use more of your obliques during the lift, which could widen your waistline. 
  • At least four times per week, pull in your waist as far as possible, holding the vacuum position for one minute in order to strengthen your transverse abdominis (inner abs), and practice good posture, to minimize your middle.


Wolf, like other pro bodybuilders, relies on photographs and video footage to gauge his progress and determine strengths and weaknesses. You, too, should consult visual evidence instead of the scales or the tape measure to make certain you’re creating a proportionate, pleasing physique. Too many bodybuilders get caught up in perpetually gaining another pound or eighth of an inch, but sometimes a reduction in these numbers will make you look both better and bigger.


Dennis wolf front raises shoulders


Wolf trains calves at least four times per week — he’s assessed this as a lagging bodypart. Such analysis is also why, in his back workouts, Wolf targets his lower lats. 

You need to determine your weakest areas and give those more workout attention than your strong parts. Prioritize by hitting the muscles ranked worst first and/or with more volume. Conversely, if you have any especially good bodyparts, train them last and/or with less volume. Such a strategy helps you attain or maintain a proportional physique.


One thing that distinguishes Wolf and other accomplished pros from many lesser bodybuilders is that they approach each workout with a specific purpose or purposes. They select exercises to bring out aspects of their muscles, and they use techniques they know will push them to new heights. For example, for hamstrings, Wolf performs lying two-leg curls followed by lying one-leg curls. This may seem redundant, but he knows that the latter allows him to focus entirely on the contraction of each leg. A blob of a bodybuilder simply hoists the heaviest weights without a plan, while one who is as concerned with shape as he is size has a purpose behind each and every set.


Bodybuilding, at its best, could more accurately be called bodychanging, for it shouldn’t simply be about acquiring ever more muscle. Often the loss of fat is the primary goal. Frequently, the focus should be the addition of muscle to specific areas, with minimal gains in other areas. Sometimes, on a particularly blocky physique, less muscle looks better. The one constant is change. 

Wolf has been bodybuilding for years, and yet he still endeavors daily to make minor alterations to his physique — minor alterations that add up to major changes each time he steps onstage. If the Russian-born German has a secret, it’s that he know that if you’re forever trying to change for the better and not just the bigger, size follows shape and perseverance pays off — one workout at a time.