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The IFBB wheelchair division has been hitting new heights every year since its inception, propelled by the inspiring onstage presence of the competing athletes. Harold Kelley is not only a shining example of the division’s growth but also the most dominant athlete in it. Most recently, he’s gone back-to-back at the Arnold Classic, standout victories in a pro career already full of first-place finishes. After a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down in 2007, the husband and father focused on what he was able to control—his family life, his businesses, and his upper body. That focus has led him to the success he’s attained thus far in bodybuilding, and he believes he’s far from done.
FLEX: Do you feel the accident brought your family closer together?
HAROLD KELLEY: We were already pretty close. My wife was my girlfriend at the time, but we already knew we were meant for each other. Our family is involved in everything I do, from the businesses like King Kong Nation [Kelley’s family-owned health and fitness business, kingkongnation.com] to my training and even my diet. My daughter will text me, “You get all your water today?” My wife will make sure I’ve eaten all my meals. I couldn’t do this without them. Family has to be in your corner.
How do you feel the wheelchair division is doing so far?
Man, a lot of credit has to go to Nick Scott, who did a lot to get us started—and he was competing, too. We started with one show a year in Texas, and now we’re in Toronto, we’re at the Arnold Classic, and hopefully, at some point, maybe this year, there will be a wheelchair show at the Olympia. We’ve come a long way in a short time, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.
What has it been like for you as an athlete? Many see you as the top guy in the division, and it’s hard to argue with the two Arnold wins.
I guess for me it’s more of a realization of the position I’m in. It’s not an ego thing for me, but I know that being here gives me an opportunity to help the division grow and become better. Arnold had his run, Ronnie Coleman had his, and I guess this is mine. I tell these younger guys, “It could be you. You might be up next, so be ready.” I’m 46, so I know this won’t be forever. If I can do this now and help the sport grow so the guys coming up can be in a better position, then that’s great for everybody.
SEATED DUMBBELL PRESS
During Kelley’s warmup sets, he sits on the bench and tries to keep himself stable with his core. Once he goes below 15 reps, he will secure himself with a belt around himself and the seat. “I want to make sure I can train as heavy as possible, so the belt helps a lot. My partners help lift the weight up to my shoulders so I can take them and lift.”
Kelley likes supersets to pump lots of blood into the muscle, and he feels that they really help him ll out his shoulders. “Supersets are a great way to add intensity to the workout, and I can still go high-volume.” With lateral raises, he focuses on strict form for the first two or three sets. “I’ll squeeze and pause at the top to make it harder. When I go really heavy, then I’ll allow myself to use a little momentum to start and will keep constant tension on the muscle by performing the reps without stopping.”
BENTOVER LATERAL RAISE
Kelley understands the importance of rear delts as well as balance, so he works on them one side at a time. “I start with my left hand every time. I don’t know why. I’ll place my right hand on a box or stable object for balance and bend over as far as I can. I actually will unlock the wheels on the chair because it will slightly roll as I lift, which helps me maximize the lift. If I lock the wheels, I can lose balance. That might seem weird, but it works better for me. When I finish my left side, I switch hands and do the same with the right.”
Although he is still focusing on his rear delts, he uses upright rows for their bene t to the traps as well. “I love upright rows. I will take the bar with a close grip and pull it up as high as I can. I squeeze the muscles and lower it under control before doing the next rep. I can really feel these in the traps as well as my rear delts.”
BENTOVER CABLE LATERAL RAISE (not pictured)
Kelley likes using the cables as a finisher for the bene t of having constant tension, and he supersets them with the upright rows. “I like to have them low so I can pull them up and across, but I do also occasionally adjust the height so I can have them high and pull down. Both have their own benefit, so I take advantage of as many angles as I can.”
HAROLD KELLEY’S SHOULDER ROUTINE
NOTES: Kelley rests while his partners perform their sets and immediately performs his next set. Due to Kelley’s hectic business schedule, he has no standard training split. He trains when his schedule allows it.