The Branch Warren Training Program!


Branch Warren is one of the most popular and successful bodybuilders in the world. Branch won the Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition two years in a row from 2011-2012 and came in second place in the 2009 Mr. Olympia contest. If you are looking for a bodybuilding role model then it doesn’t get any better than Branch Warren!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Branch Warren’s Chest Routine
  • Part 2: Branch Warren’s Back Routine
  • Part 3: Branch Warren’s Shoulder Routine
  • Part 4: Branch Warren’s Leg Routine
  • Part 5: Branch Warren’s Arm Routine

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about Branch Warren’s bodybuilding training program.

Branch Warren trains using a high-volume / high-intensity bodybuilding program. He hits each muscle group once per week with several different exercises and he trains close to failure on almost every set. 

Here is Branch Warren’s training split:

  • Monday – Back
  • Tuesday – Chest
  • Wednesday – Off
  • Thursday – Arms
  • Friday – Legs
  • Saturday – Shoulders
  • Sunday – Off

As you can see Branch trained each muscle group on its own separate training day using a traditional bodybuilding bro split. The only exception is his arm workout where he trains biceps and triceps together.

Branch Warren feels that the only way to train each muscle group with maximum intensity is to train each muscle group once per week on its own separate training day. Here is Branch Warren himself describing his training style:

“I would never have turned pro training like an average bodybuilder. There is no substitute for intensity.”

Branch Warren had a unique way of performing his sets. He performs all of his reps ballistically with an explosive lifting phase and a very rapid lowering phase. His goal was to bounce the weight out of the bottom position on most exercises so that he could lift more weight and damage as many muscle fibers as possible.

Here is a great video of Branch performing ballistic reps on the barbell overhead press:

Talk about an intense set! Branch practically launches the bar off his chest on every single rep. These ballistic reps are an advanced bodybuilding strategy and they worked like a charm for Branch Warren.

Branch Warren had a specific way he liked to train each body part. He always started his chest workouts with different types of dumbbell and barbell pressing movements. Later in the workout he moved onto dips and different isolation exercises to really isolate the chest.

Here is one of Branch’s favorite chest workouts. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Chest Workout #1

  • A1: Flat DB press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: 30 degree incline bench press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps**
  • C1: Football bar flat bench press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: V-bar dips, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine pec dec, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Cable chest press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

**Perform a triple drop set on your last set. Branch Warren used 405 pounds, 315 pounds, 225 pounds and 135 pounds for each attempt on the drop set.

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is a very typical chest workout for Branch Warren. He trains as heavy as possible on six different chest exercises including 4 compound pressing exercises and 2 chest isolation exercises. Branch even performed a huge drop set on his last set of incline bench presses. This is too much training volume for most people to recover from but it worked like magic for Branch Warren.

Here is another chest workout that Branch Warren performed during his competitive bodybuilding career. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Chest Workout #2

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Flat DB press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Neutral grip bench press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: V-bar dips, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Flat DB fly, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Cable crossover, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Branch Warren mixes up his exercises a little bit from this workout vs the previous one. For example he starts this workout with the incline bench press and follows up with the flat dumbbell press. However, for the most part Branch stuck to his favorite chest routine throughout his career with very few changes from one workout to the next.

This reminds me of other great bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates who used the same exact training program throughout their entire careers.

Now let’s look at 2 of Branch Warren’s back workouts. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Back Workout #1

  • A1: Barbell shrugs, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Chest supported row, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: One-arm dumbbell rows, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: 30 degree incline lat pulldown (v-handle), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Machine row (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a high-volume back workout! Branch Warren performs 7 different exercises for his upper back. This is enough volume to send most bodybuilders to the hospital but for Branch this was just business as usual!

Once again Branch trains with his trademark ballistic reps. On exercises like chest supported rows he uses plenty of cheating or “body English” to get the weight moving so that he can overload his muscles with an ultra-heavy weight for high reps.

Here is another back workout that Branch Warren performed during his bodybuilding career. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Back Workout #2

  • A1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Chest supported row (medium / pronated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Hammer strength pulldown (pronated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: One-arm dumbbell row, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Lat pulldown (V-handle), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Seated cable row (V-handle), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: Bent over rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • H1: Reverse pec dec, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Branch Warren mixes up his back exercises a little bit for this workout. However, he still keeps in many of his favorite exercises like lat pulldowns, chest supported rows, one-arm dumbbell rows and seated cable rows.

Branch Warren knows the exercises that work best for his body and doesn’t waste time on less effective ones. Branch also trains his rear delts on this back workout using two different rear delt exercises. This is a strategy that Branch used off-and-on throughout his bodybuilding career. It is a great strategy to bring up your lagging rear delts and has been used by other bodybuilding champions like Dorian Yates.

Now let’s take a look at Branch Warren’s shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Shoulder Workout #1

  • A1: Seated barbell overhead press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Standing DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Standing alternating DB front raise, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Standing barbell upright row, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine overhead press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Branch Warren almost always starts off his shoulder workout with the barbell military press. Branch performs this exercise in a totally unique way. He leans back against an upper back support and uses plenty of momentum and “body English” to launch the weight up off his shoulders.

I like to call these “ballistic reps” because you are relying on momentum and the stretch reflex to launch the bar out of the bottom position.

After his ballistic overhead presses Branch performs a variety of isolation exercises for his front and side delts. Even on the isolation exercises Branch performs all of his reps in ballistic style so that he can use the heaviest weights possible to overload his shoulders.

Every once in a while Branch will pre-exhaust his shoulders with some isolation exercises before moving onto his ballistic barbell overhead presses. For example:

Branch Warren’s Shoulder Workout #2

  • A1: Rear delt flys, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Dumbbell lateral raise, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Seated military press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Dumbbell front raises, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Overhead machine press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E2: Cable upright rows, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Combo lateral / front raise**, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Perform 1 rep of front DB raises then 1 rep of lateral DB raises. Repeat for 8-20 total reps.

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Branch Warren pre-exhausts his shoulders with some isolation exercises before moving onto his “meat and potatoes” exercise: the standing barbell overhead press. Even though Branch sometimes changes his order of exercises he almost always sticks to his favorite exercises like front dumbbell raises and upright rows.

Now let’s look at Branch Warren’s leg workouts. Branch was known for having some of the best legs in professional bodybuilding. His quadriceps in particular were absolutely massive! Here is one of Branch’s favorite leg workouts. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Leg Workout #1

  • A1: Machine leg extension, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Back squat, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: 45 degree leg press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Seated leg curl, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Lying leg curl, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Kneeling leg curl, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Branch trains his quadriceps and hamstrings with three exercises each. In my opinion Branch’s quadriceps routine is very interesting. Branch actually pre-exhausts his quads with the leg extension machine before moving onto squats.

This may sound a little silly. After all, wouldn’t the leg extensions limit the amount of weight that Branch can use on the back squat? The truth is this pre-exhaust strategy works EXTREMELY well for many people. Many top bodybuilders including Dorian Yates and Stan Efferding got their best results by pre-exhausting their quads with leg extensions first thing in their routine.

This pre-exhaust strategy forces his quads to work that much harder during his back squats rather than the other muscle groups like the lower back and glutes.

Branch’s hamstrings workout is very simple: he goes to town on three different types of hamstrings isolation exercises. Once again Branch uses his trademark ballistic reps to overload his muscles with as much weight as possible.

Occasionally Branch will train his hamstrings first thing in his leg workout before training quads. For example:

Branch Warren’s Leg Workout #2

  • A1: Lying leg curl, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Kneeling leg curl, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Machine leg extension, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Back squat, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine hack squat, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Horizontal leg press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Branch performs 2 different types of leg curls for his hamstrings before moving onto the rest of his workout. This is Branch’s favorite way of injecting some variety into his leg workouts. Even here Branch sticks to his “meat and potato” leg exercises such as leg extensions, back squats and leg presses.

Branch got fantastic results from these basic exercises so there was never a need to experiment with any newer or fancier exercises.

In my opinion Branch’s arms were one of his weakest body parts. They never quite matched the ridiculous size of his chest, back or quadriceps. This wasn’t Branch’s fault – after all, he trained his arms every bit as hard as the rest of his body.

Here is Branch talking about the importance of building massive arms as a professional bodybuilder:

“If you have great legs but you have little T-rex arms, it ain’t gonna go well for you. So it’s very important that you develop the biceps and triceps and that you get them in proportion with everything else. So don’t skip arm training, don’t skip the intensity, go to failure.”

Even though the biceps and triceps are smaller muscle groups Branch took his arm day very seriously. Here is one of Branch’s go-to arm workouts that he used throughout his competitive bodybuilding career. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Arm Workout #1

  • A1: Standing alternating DB curls (supinating grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Standing cable curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Standing alternating DB curl (hammer grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Preacher barbell curl (medium / supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Cable pushdown (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: JM press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: Standing rope cable pushdown, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • H1: Standing DB tricep kickbacks, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Branch trains to failure on 4 exercises each for his biceps and triceps. Branch’s biceps workout was rather simple. He picks some classic “meat and potatoes” exercises and goes to town on them. In my opinion his triceps routine is much more interesting.

First Branch pre-exhausts his triceps with some heavy cable pushdowns. This is a strategy that John Meadows uses a lot in his Mountain Dog tricep workouts. John argues that you should start your triceps workouts with cable pushdowns because they are very easy on your elbows and do a great job of activating your triceps muscles. I guess great minds think alike!

Branch’s second triceps exercise is called the JM press. This is an exercise that was invented by JM Blakely, a world-class powerlifter who trained at the Westside Barbell powerlifting club. The JM press is almost like a hybrid between a close grip bench press and a lying triceps extension. It absolutely destroys the long head and lateral head of your triceps and lets you train your triceps with a ton of weight.

Finally Branch finishes his workout with rope cable pushdowns and dumbbell tricep kickbacks. Unlike his other muscle groups Branch does like to mix up his arm workouts with some different exercises on a regular basis.

Here is one workout where he really mixes things up with some different exercises. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Arm Workout #2

  • A1: Standing alternating DB curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Standing cable curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: 30 degree spider ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Standing cable pushdowns (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Hammer strength dips, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: JM Press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • H1: One-arm cable pushdown (supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Once again I want to focus on Branch Warren’s triceps routine as I find it more interesting than his biceps routine. Once again Branch pre-exhausts his triceps with some standing cable pushdowns.

Branch performs them in his trademark “ballistic reps” style with plenty of momentum and cheating to get the weight moving. Then Branch moves onto a couple of AWESOME triceps exercises: hammer strength dips and JM presses.

Finally Branch finishes off his triceps with some one-arm underhand grip cable pushdowns. The 6x Mr. Olympia champion Dorian Yates was also a big fan of using this exercise to finish off his triceps.

Conclusion

Branch Warren will go down as one of the best bodybuilders of all time. Branch won 11 professional bodybuilding competitions including the Arnold Classic in 2011-2012 and just barely lost to Jay Cutler in the 2009 Mr. Olympia competition.

In my opinion there is a TON you can learn from Branch Warren’s training style. I really like the way Branch focuses on lifting heavy weights for high reps. This is a strategy that Ronnie Coleman used throughout his bodybuilding career.

Branch knows that lifting the pink dumbbells isn’t going to get you a big chest, regardless of how much volume you do. However, lifting the 200 pound dumbbells for sets of 10-20 reps certainly will.

I also like the way Branch uses the pre-exhaust strategy for different muscle groups like his quadriceps and triceps. This can be a great strategy for advanced bodybuilders to break through hypertrophy training plateaus.

Here is one last quote by Branch Warren to pump you up even more:

“You wanna be big, you lift big weights. You wanna be little, you lift little weights.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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