IFBB Pro League Men’s Open bodybuilder Hunter Labrada is prepping for two shows in 2023 season prior to the 2023 Olympia in November. He kicks off his season at the Tampa Pro on the weekend of Aug. 3-5, and intends to enter the Texas Pro on the weekend of Aug. 19. That gives the second-generation competitor at least two opportunities to qualify for the 2023 Mr. Olympia contest, scheduled for Nov. 2-5, 2023, in Orlando, FL
Labrada has openly shared his prep with fans and followers, as he did on a recent pull session workout published on his YouTube channel on May 8, 2023. He was 16 weeks out of the Tampa contest when that workout was filmed. Check it out below:
This was the first workout of Labrada’s contest prep. His back and hamstrings were the focus of this workout. The volume for his first few training sessions during this prep is higher than he is typically accustomed to and will decrease the volume as the contest approaches.
Seated Machine Row
Labrada started with a Rogers brand seated row machine. His heaviest set was with five 45-pound weight plates and a 25-pound plate on each side. By the last set, he was down to four 45s per side. Portions of three sets were shown, with the final one apparently a rest-pause set.
Why He Does It: Labrada started with a heavy rowing movement to help develop back thickness, specifically in his lower lats. This helps him increase his overall width and make his waist appear smaller.
How to Do It: Sit on a machine and position yourself so a stretch is necessary to grip the handles. Sit straight and tall with the handles in hand and arms outstretched. Pull the handles in toward the chest by contracting lats as the scapulae are depressed and engaged. Squeeze and hold this position briefly before easing the handles back to the starting position. Allow the lats to stretch before performing the next rep.
Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown
The 2021 Chicago Pro winner moved to a lat pulldown for his second exercise. He attached two single handles to a connecting bar and sat on an adjustable bench with his chest against the back pad. Portions of three sets were shown, but the fourth one was shown in its entirety. Labrada performed 10 reps plus one assisted rep.
Why He Does It: Even though Labrada pulled in a different direction, his target for the second movement was also the lower lats. It’s likely he feels the need to bring up his lower lats because he devoted his first two movements of the session to them.
How to Do It: Position an adjustable bench with the back pad on the highest position next to a pulldown station. Grab the handles and sit on the bench with the chest on the back pad. Pull the handle down towards your upper chest by contracting the lats.
Squeeze and hold this position for a moment before releasing the tension slowly. There should be a stretch in the lats without allowing the pinned weight to touch the stack.
High Seated Machine Row
Labrada’s third back movement was another seated row but on a Magnum machine with multiple handles. He used two of them, with the majority of the reps performed with an underhand grip. This exercise biased the upper back.
Why He Does It: Labrada targeted the upper lats, rear delts, and rhomboids, and his underhand grip allowed him to pull farther back.
How to Do It: Sit on the machine and grab the handles with the preferred grip. The arms should be able to stretch while holding the handles without the pinned weight touching the weight stack. Pull the handles in and contract by drawing the elbows back. After a brief hold, allow the arms to return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired reps.
Lat Pulldown Machine
Labrada’s fourth movement was similar to his second as it was another lat pulldown. He used an overhand grip while lying back at an angle and pulling towards his chest, biasing the mid-back.
Why He Does It: The Nautilus machine Labrada used targeted his mid-to-upper back. That is a vital area for muscle separation as a back double biceps pose for the judges is a requisite in competition.
How to Do It: If you don’t have access to a Nautilus machine, a traditional lat pulldown station will work. Sit with the knees under the knee pads while holding the handles for the machine or attachment if on a cable station. Drive the elbows down and pull the handle towards the shoulders. Contract the upper back at the bottom before slowly returning to the starting position. Repeat for the desired reps.
Lying Leg Curl
Labrada shifted focus to his hamstrings with the lying leg curl. The specific machine he used let him emphasize the portion of the rep closer to peak contraction. Labrada highlighted three sets; the heaviest weight used was one 45-pound plate and three 25s.
Why He Does It: Labrada wants denser, thicker hamstrings. Doing a paused contraction and controlled negative help him control the weight.
“Not moving the weight with the muscle is wasted energy and wear and tear on your body.”
How to Do It: Lie face down on the bench and place the feet under the foot pad. The knees should connect to the pad on the machine. Bend the legs and lift the foot pad toward the glutes by contracting the hamstrings. Once at the top of the exercise, slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
Labrada said he’s been deadlifting regularly for four months. He started pulling from blocks until he had the flexibility to pull from the ground. His heaviest weight was 224.4 kilograms (495 pounds). Portions of five total sets were shown.
Labrada’s final set was with 206.3 kilograms (455 pounds). He wore a weight belt and used lifting straps to support his grip.
Why He Does It: Deadlifts work the entire posterior chain, but Labrada appeared to bias his erectors and hamstrings because of his slower motion from the floor to near lockout. Since the exercise was last in his routine, he didn’t use as much weight.
How to Do It: If you’re using a conventional stance as Labrada did, stand behind the barbell with the feet at shoulder-width. Bend the knees and lower the upper body to secure a grip on the bar. Bend the knees and position the bar as close as possible to stack the shoulders over the ankles. Don’t allow the feet to move, keep arms straight, and keep the chest up and proud with the shoulders back.
Keep the spine and neck neutral after bracing before the initial pull. Think of driving the feet through the floor when beginning the ascent. Once the bar reaches the knees, think of driving the hips forward to stand tall with the weight. Once at lockout, flex the lower back by bringing the hips forward slightly. Slowly lower the weight back to the floor and repeat for the desired reps.
Sample Back Workout
A general sample workout that you can try is below.
Low Seated Row — 2-3 x 8-12
Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown — 2-3 x 8-12
High Seated Row — 2-3 x 8-12
Lat Pulldown — 2-3 x 10-12
Lying Leg Curl — 2-3 x 10-12
Deadlift — 3-4 x 8-12
Labrada finished seventh at the 2022 Mr. Olympia, three spots below where he placed in the 2021 contest. Since he finished out of the top five in 2022, he needs to win a pro show to qualify for the 2023 Olympia.
Labrada appeared confident he can win either or both the Tampa and Texas shows to clinch his 2023 Olympia invite. He was the 2020 Tampa Pro winner, so he knows how to perform on that stage. If he competes in the Texas Pro, it will be his debut in that contest.
Featured image: @hunterlabrada on Instagram