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The Blade

How Dexter Jackson Slices and Dices His Massive Physique

In today’s pro bodybuilding, where mass monsters weighing 250-plus pounds are the rule, you wouldn’t think that a 5’6 1/2′, 225-pounder could pose much of a threat. In fact, until recently the word on Dexter Jackson among his competitors was that he’d always be in the running for a high placing but wasn’t really top-slot material.

Well, think again, men! Dexter came into ’04 with a new strategy. He started by coaxing noted precontest coach Joe McNeil to come out of retirement and revamp his training and diet. As a result, Dexter came in 10 pounds bigger and even more shredded than before. Joe had helped Flex Wheeler, Paul Dillett, John Sherman and Chris Duffy, among many others, but he’d been out of the game for seven years. Jackson’s results spoke for themselves: The bigger, more ripped version of the Blade, as he’s called, left many of his more gargoyle-carcassed competitors wondering what in the name of everything holy had happened.

The Blade used to rely on his great metabolism and diet to get ready for a show. This year he added cardio, ab work and more food, a plan that gave him the added size while getting him more cut than before.

Take a look at Dexter’s latest contest placings: third at the ’03 Mr. Olympia, first at the ’03 GNC Show of Strength, first at the ’04 IRONMAN Pro, third at the ’04 Arnold Classic, first at the ’04 San Francisco Pro and first at the ’04 Australian Grand Prix. That’s a pretty impressive and lucrative string, considering that the prize money adds up to more than $200,000 and his contract with MuscleTech adds more than a bit to that total. Let’s find out how the 34-year-old Jacksonville, Florida, resident worked out his new plan.

DY: What are your height and weight?

DJ: I’m 5’6 1/2′, and my weight is currently 225 for contests. In the off-season it’s about 238.

DY: So you stay pretty close to contest weight’no bloating up?

DJ: Yes, I don’t see the sense in getting way over my ideal weight.

DY: And how many years have you been training seriously?

DJ: About 15 or 16.

DY: Did you play any other sports when you were in school?

DJ: Yeah, I played football, baseball and ran track.

DY: At what point did you realize that bodybuilding was what you wanted to do or that you had the stuff to make it?

DJ: I think it was when I won the Southern States in 1995. That’s when I decided to go for it, and I never looked back.

DY: You’re at the top of your game right now. How do you stay motivated for your diet when you’re training for a competition?

DJ: I’m very competitive, so that keeps me motivated in itself. I focus on me and improving how I looked from the previous outing.

DY: How many weeks out do you start dieting for a show?

DJ: 10 weeks out.

DY: Do you also change your training at that time?

DJ: Since I started training with a new partner, I’ve changed my schedule around. Instead of training three days a week like I used to, now I’m training five days a week.

DY: You used to train just three days a week?

DJ: Yes, I trained three days a week for the past several years. I would do chest and back on Tuesday, legs on Thursday and shoulders and arms on Friday.

DY: And how many working sets on a bodypart did you do on that three-days-a-week routine?

DJ: About 10 working sets per bodypart, divided over two to three exercises.

DY: So how do split your training week up now? ALL DJ: Monday is chest and abs. I’m training abs now for the first time in my career. Tuesday is back and calves. Wednesday and Thursday are off days. Friday is quads. Saturday is shoulders and arms. Sunday is hamstrings.

DY: You never trained abs before this?

DJ: No, never.

DY: I hate you. [Both laugh] I interviewed Stan McQuay, and he said the same thing. What’s the deal with training quads and hamstrings all by themselves? Do you feel they’re weak points?

DJ: No, they just take a lot out of me, so I’m getting better results by training them by themselves. On leg extensions and leg curls I do 30 reps each set. I need that to get my legs really ripped.

DY: Dang, 30 reps? Ouch! I can feel the burn just thinking about that. But on most other exercises you keep it lower, right?

DJ: Yes, I keep my reps pretty low’six to 10. I need to train heavy to get that full look.

DY: What about sets?

DJ: On most exercises it’s three to four sets, but on squats I might do five.

DY: What are your favorite exercises?

DJ: The basics like squats, bench presses, rows and chins. That’s the bread and butter for me’exercises I have to do.

DY: So can you break down your workout for us?

DJ: Sure.

Bench presses
Incline presses
Decline presses
Cable crossovers (precontest only)

Hanging kneeups
Cable crunches

Lat pulldowns
Bent-over rows
T-bar rows

Standing calf raises
Seated calf raises

Hammer Strength hack squats
Leg extensions

Seated machine presses
Lateral raises
Bent-over lateral raises Biceps
Barbell curls
Alternate dumbbell curls
Hammer Strength curls

Cable pressdowns
Skull crushers
Hammer Strength dips

Lying leg curls
Seated leg curls
Stiff-legged deadlifts

DY: What about cardio? Do you do cardio in the off-season?

DJ: No, not in the off-season. For contests I start off at 20 minutes a day, three days a week. Then I add time or days until I’m hitting 30 minutes a day every day. Then at six weeks out I add in a second session, so it’s 30 minutes twice a day.

DY: Is that one of the things Joe McNeil had you change?

DJ: Yes, Joe trained Flex Wheeler for the ’93 Arnold Classic, and people still talk about that being Flex’s best showing ever. I did what my body was not used to doing. I never did cardio before for a show, so when I did, I was able to keep my carbs up. I added size and got better conditioning at the same time. In the past I’d cut back on my calories and carbs, which kept me at the same size.

DY: So once you added the cardio, you could eat more, which gave you more size, but you were still able to get ripped, right?

DJ: That’s right.

DY: What’s your diet strategy? Can you outline a typical a day?

DJ: My contest diet goes like this:

Before morning cardio
MuscleTech Hydroxycut

Meal 1
1 carton Egg Beaters
5 pieces turkey bacon*
1 cup grits with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

Meal 2
MuscleTech Meso-Tech shake with Crystal Light

Meal 3
Filet mignon and shrimp
Steamed rice
Steamed vegetables

Meal 4
MuscleTech Meso-Tech shake with Crystal Light

Meal: 5
Filet mignon
Ore-Ida baked French fries
Before evening cardio
MuscleTech Hydroxycut

Meal 6
MuscleTech Meso-Tech shake with Crystal Light

Meal 7
1 carton Egg Beaters
5 pieces turkey bacon

*I don’t eat the turkey bacon as a source of protein; I eat it to make my meal taste better.

DY: Do you have a cheat day?

DJ: I have a cheat food once in a while, but nothing crazy.

DY: What’s your favorite supplement or nutrient?

DJ: I like MuscleTech’s Meso-Tech shake the way I make it. It’s funny, but when someone else makes it, even though they’re using the same ingredients, it’s just not the same.

DY: Yeah, I’m fussy about that myself. How do you overcome plateaus?

DJ: First, I take a break for a week or two. Then I come back and just change it up a little. Eventually, I’ll start growing again.

DY: What’s your training philosophy?

DJ: I listen to my body. I make sure that if I’m injured, I take the time off to heal. A lot of guys try to work through it because their egos won’t let them shrink a little, and then they never heal properly. That means they’re always training with an injury. Me, I’m in it for the long haul, so I want to heal so I can get back to training full throttle. I try to train smart and not let ego take over.

DY: You’re so right about that. Guys who get injured and try to keep training the same way never seem to recover and reach their peak again. That includes top champions. Do you use supersets, forced reps and other intensity techniques?

DJ: I do forced reps once in a while. Supersets I use all the time.

DY: What about rep cadence?

DJ: Most reps are one second up/one second down.

DY: Dexter, it’s been great. Thanks for filling us in on your strategies.

DJ: It’s been fun. Peace out.

Editor’s note: Check out Dexter’s Web site at Also visit IM

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