Written by Ron Harris
01 September 2017


Dallas McCarver: 300-Pound Ripped Beast Unleashed

Can This 25-Year Old Win the 2 Big Shows?


Originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of MD.

Dallas McCarver burst on the scene in the summer of 2012 at the IFBB North American Championships in Pittsburgh, when the unknown 21-year-old became the youngest overall national champ in the history of our sport (a record that fell three years later, thanks to Cody Montgomery). At 242 pounds, he was a diamond in the rough. Teaming up with Hany Rambod, he bided his time and spent nearly three years toiling away before he was ready to smash his IFBB debut at the 2015 California Pro at 260 pounds. By the time he stepped onstage at his first Mr. Olympia that fall, the big country boy was 272. Now partnered up with wunderkind prep-coach Matt Jansen, Dallas continued to grow more massive. At the 2016 Mr. Olympia, McCarver was 284 pounds and found his way into the coveted top 10 with an eighth-place finish. Now, Dallas is working with none other than Chad Nicholls, the man who guided Ronnie Coleman to eight consecutive Olympia victories. At nine weeks out from this year’s Arnold Classic, Dallas posted photos of himself at a morning weight of 312 hard, freaky pounds, and things suddenly got a lot more interesting. I spoke with Dallas about his chances in Columbus, the complicated matter of leaving a coach who also happens to be his best friend, and what it may take for him to reach the ultimate pinnacle in our sport one day, the Mr. Olympia title.


When I first spoke with you over four years ago, you told me a little bit about your childhood on your family farm in Jackson, Tennessee. I suspect that your work ethic started at a very young age. How old were you when you had to start doing chores on the farm, and what did you have to do?

The farm was actually in Blue Goose, Tennessee, and that was my dad’s home. My parents were divorced, so I spent half my time there and half at my mom’s. When I was 10 years old, my dad told me I was old enough to work like a man and I was expected to do whatever any other man on a farm would do. That meant driving equipment, hauling hay, working the cows, all that. And just to be clear, I was a normal-sized kid at 10. I didn’t start outgrowing everyone else until high school.


Have you ever talked to Branch about his upbringing? He was doing chores on his family farm in Texas early every morning, and he went on to become one of the hardest-working pro bodybuilders ever, too.

I never did speak to him about that, but it makes perfect sense. When you’re used to working hard, it’s a habit you keep for life and apply to other areas.


A giant like you just doesn’t happen by accident. There are usually some favorable genes involved. I believe you once told me you have a few uncles who are very large men.

I have cousins on my dad’s side who are big, and my mom’s uncles were all well over six foot and 250 pounds. So yeah, I have some good genes for being larger in general.


One story I love is how you wanted to train with weights at 14, but had no access to them. Instead, you made up your own routine using bales of hay and pails of water. What would one of those routines look like?

I’m not really sure where that story came from, but it’s not true. I never did any of that stuff for fun or to get bigger, I did it because I had to. I had to throw hundreds of bales of hay a day and haul dozens of buckets while I was watering the horses. Feeding the animals meant lifting heavy bags of grain. You do all that stuff for two or three hours, and it’s a hell of workout whether you want it to be or not. But once I was 16 and could drive to a gym, that’s when I started working out.


So at 16, you got your driver’s license and finally got to a gym. What were your first couple of years of weight training like, and what results did you see?

Everything I did was geared toward being a better football player, so mainly squats, deadlifts, bench presses and power cleans. I was eating as much as possible and made great gains, even though I was pretty chunky. By the time I started college, I was 320 pounds and very strong.


You held off on bodybuilding for a few years while you focused on football, even though you really wanted to be a bodybuilder. Were you thinking about the time when you could really devote yourself to bodybuilding that entire time you were playing high school and college ball?

Honestly, no I wasn’t. My dream was to play in the NFL. Bodybuilding was something I thought was really cool that I definitely wanted to try at some point later in my life.


In 2012, Steve Blechman signed you to MD before you had even turned pro at the North American. What advice do you remember him giving you at the time?

He had seen my pictures and was very impressed with my potential. My frame was big enough to hold a lot more size, and I had good structure and shape. Steve cautioned me to make sure I never lost my lines and shape, and to be very careful to keep my small midsection. He told me that being a massive guy with a small waist would really set me apart, and I have always been very conscious to keep my midsection small.


Almost three years passed between your North American win and your IFBB debut when you won the California Pro. Was it hard for you to wait that long to compete? What did you focus on to keep from getting anxious about wanting to compete sooner?

I wasn’t anxious to compete, because I knew I wasn’t ready yet. Those years were all about focusing in bringing up my weak points.


You were coached by your good friend and training partner, Matt Jansen, for about a year and half. How hard was it for you to make the decision to work with Chad Nicholls?

Yeah, it was very hard from a friendship standpoint. I consider Matt one of my best friends. Obviously, I knew he would be upset, at least to some extent, and a little let down. But I had reached the conclusion that neither Matt nor myself was familiar with feeding, prepping or peaking an athlete of my size, and with my individual needs. It became apparent that I had two options. I could more or less figure it out as I went along until I found the winning formula, or I could go to somebody who already had it, that being Chad. It was very difficult from a personal standpoint. I never wanted to do anything to upset or discredit Matt, because he is such a good friend. I also felt that for the advancement of my career, and to eliminate the unknown variables, it needed to be done.


In what ways are Chad and Matt similar in coaching styles, and how are they different?

It’s not so much coaching styles being different, really. At the end of the day, Matt was my best friend, so we had a relationship where we discussed things, then came to conclusions and decisions together. Now, I have totally relinquished all that control to Chad. I do things the way he says to do them. I guess if there is one major difference, it’s the diet. The first thing Chad did was pull my protein up. I went from eating six or seven ounces at a meal to 10-12. They’re both good coaches. They both believe in hard work and consistency. The ground rules never change; just minor details.


I heard that you train at the same gym in Florida as Flex Lewis, and that you two have trained together a few times. Is that true? What were your impressions of him in the gym?

Flex has a private gym in Boca Raton where he does his Project Flex training camps with his fans. We don’t train together every single day, but when we do, Flex is as hard a worker and as intense as anybody you’ll find. He’s very detail oriented. It’s nice for me to train with someone like that. Obviously, he moves big weights too, but someone like him can make my refocus on what I’m doing from time to time, as opposed to just banging heavy weights. It’s a good partnership, and we both feed off each other.


One thing that is interesting about how your training has changed since starting to work with Chad is that you are now following Ronnie Coleman’s training split, hitting every body part twice a week. Do you break those into two-daily workouts? And how are you responding to it? Do you think it takes a certain type of bodybuilder to be able to thrive on a schedule like that?

I do the whole workout in one shot, and it’s going very well. I think it’s something you have to work up to. It’s definitely not what someone who is just starting out in bodybuilding should jump directly into. However, I do think that a lot more people could train this way and benefit from it. To a certain degree, I think it’s a matter of mental toughness. It will wear on you. It will take its toll on you, but you need to stay motivated and not feel sorry for yourself.


People love to comment whenever they see a guy like you who is moving weights that maybe a handful of other bodybuilders alive today are able to use. Some give you props, but others act concerned and caution you that you’ll end up crippled like Ronnie. You made an interesting about that, saying you would gladly cripple yourself for eight Sandows. Do you really mean that?

Obviously, living in pain would not be ideal, and nobody wants that. In anything you do, if you want to be the absolute best in the world, or one of the best, you’re going to have to sacrifice. That might be a businessman who misses out on some of his personal and social life, or an athlete who sacrifices his body. There is going to be sacrifice in anything you do that’s exceptional. There’s going to be pain, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental or all three, if you’re looking to be the best at something. I think if you’re truly committed to being the best, you have to come to terms with the sacrifices ahead. For me, one of the potential sacrifices, God forbid, would be injuries or other problems down the road. I don’t want those, so I am doing everything in my power to keep my body healthy. I do several therapy sessions a week, whether it is chiropractic, deep-tissue massage or various other things like mobility work. So it’s not like I’m recklessly asking to be injured or crippled. At the same time, if you want to be the best, you have to come to terms with putting it all on the line. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.


You entered your first Arnold Classic this year, and I mean the big Ohio one, not the Arnold Classic Europe. [Note: this issue of MD went to press before the 2017 Arnold Sports Festival.] If someone like Dexter or Kai was in it, I would say you have no chance of winning. Just being very honest. But with all due respect to the top men like Cedric, Josh, Lionel, Juan and Maxx, you could feasibly win this thing. How do you feel about your chances?

Well, Cedric beat me at the Olympia, and Josh beat me in Spain right after that at the Arnold Europe. Lionel is a hell of a bodybuilder who’s capable of beating all three of us. That being said, I don’t really feel good about my chances. I feel like I’ve got to bust my ass, do the best I can and pray that it’s enough. It honestly frustrates me when I see people making comments like, “You got this in the bag, you got this whooped,” and so on. I know they mean well and they’re trying to show their support, but I don’t see it that way at all. For one thing, I think it’s disrespectful to the other competitors and also, me winning is very far from being a foregone conclusion. It’s going to be a hell of a show, and wherever I fall, I fall. The way I see it, I’ve just got to bust my ass and pray for the best.


You’re a great example of a bodybuilder who has risen through the ranks at the same time social media has exploded all over the world. You basically live your life as a pro bodybuilder in a fishbowl. What do you like about social media and what it offers you in terms of opportunities, and what don’t you like about it?

The positives to social media are that it gives you a great platform to grow your image and your brand. The negatives are that everybody out there has a direct link to openly criticize and be negative or hurtful toward you. Social media can be helpful, but I look at it like this. I’m going to use it to my advantage, and I’ve learned not to let anything on it get me down. In reality, I’ve never seen anyone with any credibility or whose opinion I gave a damn about post hateful or negative things. It’s always people who are more or less clueless, bitter or both. They say they are fans or critics, but really they are usually people who couldn’t make it and want to shit on someone else’s day, someone who is going after what they want to achieve. It’s not easy, but you have to learn to not let any of that get to you.


You’re just 25 years old, younger than Ronnie Coleman was when he started bodybuilding. I’m sure you are taking it one year at a time, but when do you see yourself really hitting your prime in this sport? When you think about how you want to ultimately look, what’s different from what you see in the mirror right now?

As for when I will be in my prime or peak, there are far too many variables to put a number on it. What if I get sick or injured? As long as I’m doing this, I hope I never look at myself and say, Man, I’ve reached my prime, I am perfect right now! I don’t want to get to the point where I think I can’t improve at all. Once you think this is as good as it’s going to get, what’s the point of doing it anymore?


Final question. Jay Cutler predicts you will be the man to become Mr. Olympia after Phil Heath. I agree that you certainly could be. Without making any predictions, do you think Phil has to retire for this to happen, or could you conceivably make enough improvements to eventually beat him in the next couple of years?

As for me, I am going to keep on the same track. I will keep growing my back and my quads and hams, and work on overall muscle thickness, density and maturity. If it’s meant to be, and if I have what it takes, I need to keep my head down and keep working. That’s a couple big ifs right there. As for if and when Phil will be beaten, hell, I don’t know. What kind of question is that? If somebody improves enough, they could beat Phil. But as I see it right now, he’s the best bodybuilder on the planet. As long as he stays healthy and keeps doing what he needs to do, I don’t see anyone beating him. On the flip side, Father Time catches up to every man one day. Ronnie was a force of nature, and it caught up to him. If Phil sticks around long enough and decides he wants to try to win 20 Mr. Olympia titles, he would probably get beat by Father Time too. I don’t see anyone out there right now taking him down. It would take one hell of a physique to beat him.


Youngest Pros in IFBB History

Lee Priest – Age 18

1990 Australian Champion

(Pro status not granted until 1993 at age 21)


Shane DiMora – Age 19

1986 NPC Nationals Middleweight Winner


Ian Harrison – Age 20

1989 EFBB British Heavyweight and Overall


Cody Montgomery – Age 20

2015 NPC USA Heavyweight and Overall


Rich Gaspari – Age 21

1984 NPC National and IFBB World Light-Heavyweight Winner


Mike Winters – Age 21

1992 NPC Nationals Lightweight Winner


Dominic Cardone – Age 21

2014 NPC Nationals Heavyweight Winner


Lee Haney – Age 22

1982 NPC National and IFBB World Heavyweight and Overall Champion


Shawn Ray – Age 22

1987 NPC National Light-Heavyweight and Overall Champion



Dallas’ Complete Contest History

2011 NPC Hub City Fitness Quest          Junior Heavyweight and Overall Champion

2011 NPC Battle at the River                  Super Heavyweight and Overall Champion

2012 IFBB North American                     Super Heavyweight and Overall Champion

2015 IFBB California Pro                         Winner

2015 IFBB Mr. Olympia                           13th Place

2016 IFBB Chicago Pro                           Winner

2016 IFBB Mr. Olympia                            Eighth Place

2016 IFBB Arnold Classic Europe           Ninth Place


Training Split

Monday: Back, rear delts, traps, biceps

Tuesday: Legs

Wednesday: Chest, shoulders, triceps

Thursday: Back, rear delts, traps, biceps

Friday: Legs

Saturday: Back, rear delts, traps, biceps

Sunday: REST






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