Dennis Wolf was always on the verge. From 2007 to 2015, he landed in the Mr. Olympia top six eight times. Only two other legends, Phil Heath (8) and Dexter Jackson (9), can claim the same about those nine years, but those dudes own Sandows. Wolf never finished higher than third in bodybuilding’s ultimate contest. The winner of six pro shows was always great but never quite great-enough in Las Vegas, his adopted home. He was arguably at his best, at 28, way back in 2007 when maybe he should’ve won the Olympia crown, but he was noticed too late to climb higher than fifth. He brought unprecedented width to even the most muscular pose. Ultimately, a spinal injury derailed his career. Nevertheless, the German giant remains a fan favorite for perhaps the most dominant X-frame ever seen on the O stage.  


“With leg presses, get a full range of motion and feel the muscles working. Any gym you go to, you will see guys who put on every plate the machine holds and then do these little half-reps— and nine times out of 10, their legs aren’t very developed at all. Forget about the weight. I can’t even tell you how many plates I use because I just don’t care.”

Dennis Wolf side laterals
Side laterals / Gorilla Wear


“I mix up my exercise order. But when I want to focus more on middle delts, I do them first before I do my presses. That would be my best advice to anyone who wants to get wider shoulders. Make sure you’re doing enough work for middle delts and training them when your strength is at its best.”


“The Hammer Strength incline press machine has been very valuable for me because it targets my upper chest perfectly. If I avoided it because people say machines are no good, I wouldn’t have been able to get the extra thickness up there that I have now.”

Dennis Wolf front double
Restroom front double / Instagram


“I never got much out of lower reps. I like the 10–12 [rep] range. But if I can get more after 12, I’ll keep going.”


“I do my reps very slowly on lying leg curls. That’s the only way you can get the most out of these. I urge all bodybuilders to try slowing down the reps on leg curls and squeezing the hams as hard as they can, and see if they don’t notice a big difference in how it feels and eventually, their results.”

Dennis Wolf seated curls
Seated curls / Instagram


“I’ve picked up a lot of different exercises and techniques so that now I rotate my arm workouts around often. I don’t think any two arm workouts I do now are ever exactly the same. Even if it’s the same exercises, I will change the order or something.”


“I’ve always liked to give shoulders their own day. Delts are involved with a lot of other things—chest, back, even some triceps exercises—so I want to make sure they have a workout focused only on them. As for traps, I can train them after delts or after back, either way. I switch it up sometimes, depending on when I have the most energy left over.”

Dennis Wolf bodybuilding
2006, Redondo Beach, CA / Milos Sarcev


“I don’t squat really heavy anymore. A lot of times what I will do is use only 315, or 365 at the most, for three work sets of 15 reps. But I keep the rest periods between the sets short. By the third set, that 315 feels like 600 pounds and I am getting the most ridiculous pump and burn in my quads— but it’s so much safer for my knees and my lower back.”


“The wide grip you feel more in the upper back, but then, when you flip your hands over, you’re able to reach those muscle fibers in the lower lats better. For me, it was all about where I felt the exercise and how well I was able to contract my lower lats. Once I knew how productive this type of pulldown was for me, I started doing it first while I was fresh at every workout. I keep my torso perfectly straight, and it doesn’t move at all while I do the sets. I pull down and squeeze the lats hard, with no rocking or leaning back. That’s how I found this works the best.”

Dennis Wolf bodybuilder


“You can’t go as heavy with dumbbells as you can with a barbell, but that doesn’t matter. I used to be more concerned with moving weight and with how much I could move, but my chest has improved a lot since I got away from that type of thinking and focused more on the feel of the muscles working. It’s the same for back. I lifted heavy weights with my back for years and didn’t see much improvement. Once I stopped worrying about using a ton of weight and made the feeling in the muscle the most important thing, my back finally started getting better again.”

Opening image: 2013 Mr. Olympia, 3rd place / YouTube

See also: Kai Greene’s Best Training Advice and Lee Haney’s Best Training Advice