The 2023 Olympia scheduled for Nov. 2-5, 2023, is less than nine weeks away from the time of this article’s publication. The two-time Classic Physique Olympia champ Breon Ansley is holding his cards close to his chest, having previously announced a move to the 212 division after placing fourth at the 2022 Classic Physique Olympia. However, Ansley has not yet competed in a pro show in the 212 division. The Olympia qualification cutoff to do so is Oct. 9, 2023.
Ansley expressed his interest in competing in the Classic Physique division at the 2023 Olympia after the IFBB Pro League increased the weight caps for each height class. On Sept. 10, 2023, Ansley published a video sharing his back workout for building an Olympia-worthy physique on his YouTube channel that seems likely part of his prep for a return-to-after-technically-never-having-left the Classic Physique division. Check it out below:
Breon Ansley’s 2023 Olympia Back Workout
Here is a summary of Ansley’s back workout:
Ansley grabbed a thick bar with a shoulder-wide underhand grip to bias the mid and lower lats. Training with a thicker bar can improve grip strength and muscle contractions. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that using a thicker grip on a barbell during training “significantly increased electromyography muscle activity (EMA) in the forearm and shoulder muscles,” though the trade-off was a “significant EMA decrease in the upper arm muscles… during deadlift, bent-over row, and pull-ups.” (1)
Ansley maintained an upright torso and used a slow rep cadence to ensure his lats were moving the weight alone. He paused for five seconds at the bottom of his range of motion on the final rep for a deep stretch.
Bent-Over Barbell Row & Bent-Over Cable Row
While vertical pulling exercises like lat pulldowns and pull-ups can help improve back width, rowing exercises like a barbell or cable row promote back thickness. Ansley maintained his torso at 45 degrees, drove his elbows behind midline on concentrics, and paused at the top. He controlled the weight throughout the entire movement.
Ansley superset bent-over barbell rows with bent-over cable rows. Unlike free weights, cables keep constant tension on the working muscle throughout the range of motion, which promotes hypertrophy. Ansley used lifting straps on these exercises to eliminate his grip strength as a limiting factor and more effectively load his lats.
Single-Arm Sideways Cable Lat Pulldown
To perform this exercise, Ansley attached a D-handle to the cable pulley and set it at the highest setting. Kneeling parallel with the weight stack (i.e., not facing it), Ansley grabbed the D-handle with his far-side arm hand.
With his hand over his temple and his biceps next to his ear at the starting position, he maintained an upright torso. He pulled his elbow toward his hip in a sweeping motion by contracting his lat until his upper arm was perpendicular to the floor.
Ansley wrapped up his back workout with classic pull-ups. He used a limited range of motion to maintain the tension on his lats. He avoided full elbow extension at the bottom, and his upper arms were parallel to the floor at the top.
Forward to the 2023 Olympia
As a former Classic Physique Olympia champion, Ansley is qualified for life to compete in that division. However, if he wants to challenge the reigning 212 Olympia champion Shaun Clarida for his throne, Ansley must win a 212 pro show before Oct. 9, 2023.
Ansley intends to bring the best package, conditioning-wise, of his career to the 2023 Olympia. Judging by his current physique, it is unlikely that Ansley will compete in a show in the next four weeks to qualify for the 212 Olympia. However, he has not yet made an official announcement.
If Ansley decides to stay in the Classic Physique division, it will be one of the fiercest battles at the 2023 Olympia. Given the new weight caps allowing competitors to bring bigger physiques to the stage, it will be the toughest title defense of four-time reigning Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead‘s career.
Krings BM, Shepherd BD, Swain JC, Turner AJ, Chander H, Waldman HS, McAllister MJ, Knight AC, Smith JW. Impact of Fat Grip Attachments on Muscular Strength and Neuromuscular Activation During Resistance Exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Feb 1;35(Suppl 1):S152-S157. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002954. PMID: 30694963.
Featured image: @breonma_ on Instagram
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