By Anita Nikolich Flex
Dave Henry pretty much has it all right now. He’s an Olympia 202 Showdown winner, he’s on the verge of retirement from the military at the ripe old age of 39, he has a beautiful wife and a young daughter, he never does any cardio for a show, and he has plans for a second career on the East Coast, where he’s building a house. Henry is driven in all facets of his life, and has little time or patience for those whose work ethic or integrity don’t match his own. Not only is his physique getting better as he gets older, his strength consistently improves year after year—a rarity once one hits the pro ranks and the amount of weight lifted becomes secondary to aesthetics. He’s called the Giant Killer for a very good reason. But he’s made some big changes over the past year, which paid dividends at the 2013 Olympia 212 Showdown.
After the 2012 Showdown, Henry decided he needed a change in his training. He’d always followed the nutrition advice of Dr. Scott Stevenson, whom he trusted implicitly. For years Henry had also been the most successful poster child for the mysterious DC (Doggcrapp) style of training, famously putting on 30 pounds of muscle in three short years.
For the uninitiated, both Dante Trudel—creator of Doggcrapp—and his training style are like riddles wrapped in an enigma. You have a general idea of the man and his principles, you know someone who follows DC, but you don’t actually see it in the gym very often and can’t pin down the exact training split and exercises.
And if you think DC is obscure, you’ll almost certainly never have heard of Fortitude Training, or what had originally been called Titan Training. Henry’s nutritionist, Dr. Stevenson, devised his own system after years of meticulous research on kinesiology and body mechanics. Needing a break from years of DC training, Henry agreed to be his guinea pig. He attributes Fortitude to improving his physique for 2013. “The training was ridiculous for this past Olympia [212 Showdown],” Henry said. “It allowed better recovery and faster gains. I blew up in size. It was the ﬁrst time I could feel my legs grow and witness dramatic changes.”
ALWAYS UP FOR A CHALLENGE
Henry relishes a challenge. Retired IFBB pro Dennis James dared him to complete his special leg workout just two weeks before the Olympia. Henry not only came out unscathed, but threw up several times, then proudly stated, “I’m one of only ﬁve people who’ve ﬁnished his training rep for rep. Every person who’s done it has puked. I’ll train with anybody.”
DJ’s leg workout is nothing compared to the punishing madness of Fortitude Training. Based loosely on Leo Costa’s methods, which Stevenson analyzed and then molded into his own program, it’s not about the amount of weight lifted, but the frequency of training. Whereas most sane people would’ve quit within a few days, Henry has embraced it. “It takes a lot of guts to get through this training,” he says. “Everyone who’s contacted him has wussed out. You see what you’re really made of when you do this program. If you can do DC, you might be able to do this. I have the mentality to endure it. I’m a glutton for punishment.”
NOT MANY CAN HANG
It sounds pretty easy in theory. Henry trains only four days a week for 90 minutes, both off-season and pre-contest. By the way, he does no cardio on this training plan: “Your body is in such high gear it’s like you’re doing cardio,” he says. “You only get 10 seconds in between sets.” The regimen is structured as follows: two days on, one day of , one day on, one day of , one day on. It revolves around two distinct types of training days: Base/Volume day and Muscle Rounds day. Between the two types of days, you end up hitting body parts several times in a week. Yet the muscle still grows. It’s counterintuitive but it works. You can see a noticeable difference in size if you look at the changes in Henry’s legs from 2012 to 2013, which he attributes to Fortitude Training.
There’s no typical day or week with this training. The exercises vary immensely, although the sets and reps remain the same. Henry walked me through a sample week and described a few of the “go-to” exercises that make it into his routine more often than not.
Monday and Tuesday are Base/Volume days. The base part entails performing straight sets of one exercise each for thighs, hams/quads (alternating between the two in the same workout), and calves, with descending reps as the sets go on.
The volume part of the workout comes next. Henry supersets one exercise each for chest/back, then shoulders/abs, then biceps/triceps, performing 12–15 reps per exercise per set. The kicker is that you rest for only one to two minutes between sets. The entire Base/Volume workout takes 90 minutes. I ask him the rationale behind these days and how he managed to complete the workout in 90 minutes. “The point is to move to each area as quickly as possible,” he says. “Either Scott was there or I had someone else keeping count of the reps. Someone would also keep track of time. You’re so worn out that you lose track of both.”
The exercises he picks for Base/Volume days are ones he can handle for higher reps. But he makes sure he hits all angles of the muscle throughout the week. The delt exercise on Monday, for example, is seated lateral raises with dumbbells, to hit his side delts. He may have Stevenson or a spotter help him with the last few reps so he gets the weight all the way to shoulder height, but he never swings them or cheats.
For the delt exercise on Tuesday, Henry will hit rear delts by doing cable ﬂ yes on a pulley machine. He faces the machine and positions his hands just above shoulder height on the opposite cables and bends his elbows slightly. Making sure he doesn’t arch his back or use his whole body to do the exercise, he uses only the rear delt to bring the cables back in line with his body.
A favorite chest exercise is standing cable ﬂyes, for which he uses the cables in the lowest position, slowly raising them to shoulder height. Toward the end of his contest prep, machines become more important to his traction better during the high reps.
If that sounds tough, get ready for the Muscle Rounds days on Thursday and Saturday. This is when you push your body to lift very heavy. Similar to Base/Volume day, you pick just one exercise per body part, except back, for which you pick a width exercise and a thickness exercise. After two back exercises, pick one chest, one delt, and one triceps exercise and do six sets of no more than four reps.
Sounds pretty easy, right? If you thought one to two minutes of rest was tough on the Base/Volume day, try resting for ﬁve breaths. Yes, the rest between these sets is 10 seconds, tops. Henry points out that as you move to the next set, you’re still as exhausted as if you’d done eight reps, not just four. So how does he lift heavy with only 10 seconds of rest between sets? “Your whole goal is to make sure you’re going up in weight, but it’s based on feel,” he tells me. “As soon as you break form, you count that set as being done. If I can only get one or two reps with good form, that’s ﬁ ne. If I can do four good reps, I increase the weight on the next set.”
Back is one of Henry’s favorite body parts to train, so he’ll start with pullups for width and seated cable rows for thickness. Pullups are one exercise Henry believes should be included in everyone’s training routine. He varies the grip between wide, medium, and narrow in order to hit the muscle at different angles. However, this is one exercise he says he sees hardly anyone do.
“Everyone can do pulldowns with a crap ton of weight, but I grew up doing body-weight pullups,” he says. “No matter how heavy I get, I keep them in my routine. You can warm up with them and you can ﬁnish with them. You’d be amazed how hard it is to do just three reps at the end of a workout.”
Similarly, he varies his grip on the seated cable rows, switching the type of handle from workout to workout but always keeping perfect form, never rounding his back or using the whole body to pull the weight toward his abs. He squeezes the muscle for a full second, then slowly brings the weight forward, always in complete control of the cable. Another interesting variation is doing these standing up with an underhand grip on a longer bar. Doing this changes the exercise from a thickness one to a width one. He stands on the pad, bends his knees slightly and with the same control, squeezes the muscle as he pulls the cable upward toward his abs.
One of Henry’s go-to exercises for shoulders is the seated overhead dumbbell press, an exercise he says can’t be beat for putting on sheer size, especially on the front delts. This is normally a staple of his Muscle Rounds day because it’s a mass builder. He notes that if you’re doing very low reps and heavy weight, you absolutely need a spotter for this to help you get the weight safely into position. He’s not so egotistical that he doesn’t recognize the fact that it’s important to lift smartly.
With so many choices of exercises, I asked how he and Stevenson know if an exercise does or doesn’t work. “We give it six to eight weeks,” he says. “The training has a blast and cruise phase so if you hit it hard for six to eight weeks then take a two-week break where you dial it down a lot, you can ﬁgure out if a grip or exercise works better. For example, I can’t do straight bar curls for biceps, so I use the cambered bar. But I might position my hands differently to hit the biceps from a different angle.” He’s meticulous about taking pictures and constantly assessing his physique.
FEEDING THE MACHINE
Getting through his workout requires a lot of energy. Henry doesn’t believe in pre-workout drinks, though, saying, “I’ve never used them because you should get yourself motivated on your own accord.” During the workout, he drinks a whey isolate shake. The reason, he says, is that “by the time I’ve ﬁnished training, I’m three to four hours past when I need to get something in my system, so drinking whey keeps me from going catabolic.” He mixes two scoops—roughly 50–60 grams—of ion exchange whey protein along with 10 grams of creatine and ﬁve grams of BCAAs, which he uses throughout the day. Perhaps it’s due to his military training, but he trains insane, operates on very little sleep, and drinks very little water, despite living in Arizona. ”I can push my body the way it needs to respond,” he says. “It may go against complete logic to train this way, but I’m very healthy overall.”
Henry never gets too far out of shape, commenting that, “I do so many guest posings, I always feel like this is what I’m being paid to look like. I’d rather stay big and hard off-season.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy life off-season. He pushes his weight to about 225 pounds during the holidays, an easy feat since cooking is his passion and his hobby. Henry’s a competitive champion barbecue chef, specializing in his own mix of Southwest ﬂavors. In his spare time he caters parties in Arizona. When he officially retires from the Air Force in 2015, he’s considering catering full time between competing in bodybuilding shows, and has been dabbling with the idea of a food truck.
Henry also plans to move back to Massachusetts, where his wife, Nicki, calls home. Now that he has a toddler, Brynna, spending time with his family is one of his main goals. “Brynna makes me laugh every single day. She hasn’t stopped moving since she was born,” he says. He attributes this to the activity level of his bodybuilder wife, Nicki, during her pregnancy. “Nicki did prenatal yoga and even Zumba until her seventh month! I wholeheartedly supported her the entire time,” says the proud dad.
Henry intends to stick with Fortitude Training for the time being, especially since he keeps seeing results. When he travels, he modiﬁes it as necessary, but the rest of the time you can ﬁnd him hitting the workouts like a madman. He directed me to Stevenson’s site (integrativebodybuilding.com) for more info, conceding that the training method can be very confusing. Try following his training split—but if you can complete only a fraction of it, don’t say we didn’t warn you! FLEX
– See more at: http://www.flexonline.com/training/s….puQA9H5D.dpuf