BODYBUILDING BY HEART – Branch Warrens way to the headlight

If you’ve ever wondered where that gritty, bad ass, kill or be killed attitude comes from when he trains, look no further. We got right to the heart of where he comes from and put the focus on the beginnings of the two times Arnold Classic Champion, Branch Warren.

GASP: So Branch, I´m curious about your best story about starting out, and at what point, the moment when you knew you were going for it.

Branch: Ya man, I’ve got a good story for you. I grew up in West Texas on a cattle ranch. Tough life, hard work. All that stuff. I made the football team pretty easy then, so life was good. Then one day we moved to Dallas, and all of a sudden I was a small fish in a big pond. I had to work harder to make the team. Coach told me to put some weight on over summer, so I figured I better join a gym.

I had a friend who worked at a gym, so he would let me in the back door to sneak in a workout, and I started going all the time. I had no money to pay for it at all though. I would sneak in and train with my buddy. It was a blast, but we had no idea what we were doing.

”He KILLED us. We were truly f*cked up after that workout.”

There was one bodybuilder there, he was HUGE. Easy 270 pounds, and back in those days not a lot of bodybuilders were 270. His name was Mark Hanlon, and he was everything I ever wanted to be. He was cool (everyone liked him), he was tough (nobody messed with him) and he got the ladies (he also drove a convertible Vette). Everything a young kid sees, and wants to have. One day Mark came over to us and said “Hey kids, if you wanna do this right, come in tomorrow and we will do legs”.

He KILLED us. We were truly f*cked up after that workout. We did everything and he pushed us as hard as possible. I puked, and wanted to run and hide, but survived. Had to use the railing to get down the stairs.

He gave me a diet to follow, because I had no idea what to eat. I put on 20 pounds that summer. Had to get a job to pay for the extra food. Made the team as a Fullback when I got back to school, so I was very happy to be playing ball.

GASP: So, when did you wind up at Metroflex gym? How did that all come about?

”We met at the gym and got in his Vette. Took a drive out to Metroflex. When we got there, I couldn’t believe it…”

Branch: Haha well, that’s the second part of the story. After I’d learned to train a bit more and had followed the diet for a while, Mark said to me one day: “Meet me tomorrow. I’m going to take you to a real gym”.

We met at the gym and got in his Vette. Took a drive out to Metroflex. When we got there, I couldn’t believe it. There were actually chicks in bikinis squatting in the parking lot. The music was blasting so loud you could hear it in the parking lot. The gym was rough. Lots of gangsters, cops, strippers, bodybuilders, thugs, and really strong powerlifters. He introduced me to Brian Dobson, who took a look at me. Brian told me that I should compete in the juniors. I told him I had no money for a membership. So he made the proposal that if I won, I would get a free membership. If I lost, I would have to work to pay for the months I owed.

”Mark Hanlon who had taken me under his wings, and another freak amateur from the gym named Ronnie Coleman…”

I agreed. Then I began training for my very first bodybuilding show at Metroflex Gym. With Brian as my master motivator, and my two new training partners; Mark Hanlon who had taken me under his wings, and another freak amateur from the gym named Ronnie Coleman… Needless to say, I won that show, and I’ve had a free membership since 1991.

GASP: Dude, are you serious? You trained for your very first show with Ronnie Coleman?

Branch: Well, Ronnie was a freak since day one, and he was very good, but he was still an amateur then, so we had no idea. It was quite the time. Those days, in that gym, are something special to me. I’ll never forget them.

GASP: Branch, this is a true inspiring story. It goes to show what can happen when someone sees something in you and helps you to realize it.

”That gym taught me a lot about life. It made me a man.”

Branch: Ya for sure. If it wasn’t for Mark, Brian, Ronnie, and all those guys at the gym, I wouldn’t have learned the full extent of what’s possible when you just work your ass off. It’s the main ingredient. That gym taught me a lot about life. It made me a man.

GASP: So when did you think you could be one of the very best?

Branch: I remember going to the 2002 Arnold. I was standing at the railing at the end of the show, and Jay Cutler had just won. I remembered beating him at the Teen Nationals when we first started out, so I said to myself “You’re gonna win this show one day”. And that was the moment when I decided I would win the Arnold. The rest is history.

GASP: Thanks Branch. This is hell of a story.

Branch: No problem man.

 

Written by: Ron Partlow