One Mr. Olympia record is likely to stand the test of time—greatest leap in standings. Gustavo Badell jumped 21 places from his first Olympia to his second. The Venezuelan-born Puerto Rican barely made a ripple during his first six professional years. In 17 contests, he made only one posedown. But that qualified him for the 2002 Olympia—where he got punked, 24th out of 25. When he next qualified, he placed a shocking third in the 2004 O. The following year, he repeated that bronze spot. Badell won only three lesser pro shows over his 38-contest, 15-year pro career, but his back-to-back Olympia thirds in 2004–05 mark bodybuilding’s most improbable upsurge.

gustovo-badellJust as Badell skyrocketed from oblivion to Olympia contender, his workouts were similarly unique for the distance traveled. For example, his back routine featured 32 working sets. Even going at a brisk pace, it took two hours to complete. He didn’t always use such marathon sessions. He increased his workload precontest, and he frequently alternated a high-set workout with a moderate-set one. But Badell does attribute this cranking up the volume for some of his stupendous midcareer success.


  • “My first four sets of pullups are only for a warmup and stretch. Then I come back and do them with a weight to build muscle.”
  • “The T bar places more of a pull on your lower back, so you can’t be as explosive as you can with barbell rows.”
  • “This routine is so intense and so high volume that by the time I get to deadlifts, I only need to use 315. Of course, I’m getting 12 to 15 reps, too.”
  • “I go high volume about half the time. The rest of the time, I do about half as many sets.”


Pullup (warmup): 4 sets, 8–12 reps

Behind-the-neck Pulldown: 4 sets, 12–15 reps

Weighted Pullup: 4 sets, 12–15 reps

Barbell Row: 4 sets, 10–12 reps

T-bar Row: 4 sets, 12–15 reps

Hammer-strength Machine Row: 4 sets, 12–15 reps

Low-pulley Row: 4 sets, 12–15 reps

Deadlift: 4 sets, 12–15 reps

Back Extension: 4 sets, 12–15 reps