Branch Warren is known for his intense, heavy-metal workouts endured in the hardcore haven of Metroflex Gym, Arlington, Texas. But the workouts were even wilder when there were no cameras around and no one knew his name, back when he was just a kid, impatient to grow. “When I was a teenager, I had so much enthusiasm, I just trained insane. Seems like I went till I puked in almost every workout,” Warren remembered.

Branch Warren went on to win 9 pro shows, including the 2011 and 2012 Arnold Classics, and finish second to Jay Cutler in the 2009 Mr. Olympia. And in retirement he still trains in Metroflex as he always did—balls to the wall. Years ago, he recounted for us his most intense workout ever, a torture session he survived when he was just 18, the same year he defeated 19-year-old Cutler to win the 1994 Teenage Nationals.

Branch Warren workout
Branch Warren at 18 / Instagram

“I was 18, and we started out with leg extensions for four sets of 100 with some crazy amount of weight.

After that, we went to the leg press, and we did drop sets—four sets of 25 to 100 total, just kept dropping. That was brutal, but we got through that somehow.

And then we went to hack squats. We reverse the pyramid. We did one [45-pound] plate [on each side] for 10 reps. Next set, we did two plats for 20 reps. Then we did three plates for 30 reps. Then four for 40. I got to five plates [450 pounds] for 50 reps for the last set, and I could hardly do it. Both of my training partners were yelling at me to get through it, and I did, but after I racked the weight, I fell to the floor. I crawled, and I tried to stand, but I couldn’t.

That was the one time since I was a baby that I couldn’t stand up. I didn’t want to let my partners see me puke. We had this whole workout planned out ahead of time, but they’d already quit way before then. I kept choking down my puke, because I didn’t want them to see me not make it. So I actually crawled up the stairs, literally pulling myself up the stairs with my hands. I got to this dirty nasty bathroom, with a floor you barely wanted to walk on, much less lay on. I crawled to the toilet, and I puked and puked until I was dry-heaving. I lay there for 45 minutes before I could stand up. I tried three or four times to stand, but my legs just kept giving out.

That was the sorest I’d ever been in my life. Seven days later, when it came time to train legs again, my legs were still sore to the touch. I don’t know how good that was for me, but we used to do insane stuff like that just to see if we could do it. I was the only one who could.”

branch warren workout
Branch Warren still doing the work in Metroflex / Instagram


Leg Extension — 4 sets x 100 reps

Leg Press — 4 sets x 25-100 reps (drop sets)

Hack Squat — 1 x 10, 1 x 20, 1 x 30, 1 x 40, 1 x 50 (reverse pyramid)