Most of you probably imagine that the top pros don’t face any greater challenges in their training than perhaps deciding whether to wear the sleeveless shirt or tank top on arm day. Not so with Germany’s Dennis Wolf, a top-five Mr. Olympia finalist who many feel is destined to take the title sooner or later.
One day back in 2001, when he was still years away from winning the IFBB World Championships and turning pro, something popped inside his knee while he was doing heavy squats. The injury turned out to be so severe that he was unable to do even light lower-body training for six months.
“For a time I was depressed because I truly thought my dreams of being a pro were over,” he recalls. Eventually, though, he rehabilitated the knee on his own and returned to training legs—but quite cautiously.
“I have to admit I was very scared every time I trained legs, especially squats,” he says. “I was so worried that I would get hurt again and ruin everything.”
That fear led Wolf to adopt ultrastrict form and devote far more time to warming up than he ever had in the past. If he couldn’t handle a weight in perfect form, he wouldn’t do it, period. Some would say that an overly wary approach limits gains, as it prevents you from truly attacking the weights and going heavy enough to stimulate growth. Dennis hasn’t found that to be true.
“My legs are better than ever, and they keep improving every year,” he notes. “Yes, I will always have that voice in the back of my head telling me to be extra careful, but it’s not a bad thing in my eyes. When you’re hurt, you can’t train, and then you miss out on valuable things like important competitions—look at what happened to Victor Martinez with his knee earlier this year.”
It’s okay to be cautious when it comes to your training. As much as others like to beat their chests and chant, ‘No fear,’ injury prevention is an integral component of muscle gain.