James Hollingshead – Working Class Bodybuilder

by Christian Duque

When I saw the footage of British bodybuilder James Hollingshead training with the one and only Branch Warren for GASP I have to admit I did an instant doubletake. I was a huge fan back in the day of Branch and Johnny Jackson when they were both with Muscletech and were hitting it hard. They used to train in the sweltering Texas heat, with chains, dumbbells that looked like they were about to fall apart, and with tremendous zeal. These guys were all about pushing it to the limit. They weren’t out by the supp bar sipping on wheatgrass shots and talking about their playlists.

In many regards bodybuilding has tamed since those days. Ronnie’s gone, Branch and Johnny are retired, and truthfully most guys are so much more GQ today. They don’t want to slum it up in the gym. They’d rather model new watches, lean against freshly waxed sports cars, and/or sit in a basement somewhere with an LED ring light talking into a camera. It’s whole new age now.

And that hardcore training from the past is either passe or looked down upon. We’re such a better place now, right? Where bodybuilders no longer leave the gym dripping sweat all over the place. Instead, guys leave the gym now and you can’t even tell if they trained or not. It’s the age of looking fresh and doing all the work behind the scenes. Well, maybe not. Because the video session I saw with Branch & James really hit the nail on the end.

But this wasn’t just nostalgia. James Hollingshead is a guy they call The Shed. He’s absolutely massive and he gives his all in the gym. The British giant has been fighting hard in the trenches and received some minor successes for his troubles. Oh and did I mention he’s doing the 2024 Arnold Classic? That’s a pretty significant detail given how hard these guys are prepping for the second biggest show in bodybuilding.

In fact, the Arnold is breaking through all sorts of ticket sale barriers. Whereas last year they were down to a measly six guys and the show was in risk of being cancelled, now it’s like they’re firing on all cylinders. They have a free webcast (as opposed to charging an arm and a leg) and now with the pandemic totally in the rearview mirror, the expo is bigger than ever. Finally fans can be in closed quarters again and it seems the city of Columbus is going to have its gravy train again.

So where does The Shed factor in? While he’s not a favorite to win the title, he has had some success in the sport and he is considered to be one of the top guys when it comes to the blue collar faction. He has a big torso, big arms, and good wheels. Even though he’s from the other side of the pond, he’s one of those guys that’s really active on social media and has worked with companies that feature him prominently.
And just for the record, I’m not on here saying that unless you’re American and live in the USA that you don’t matter, but this is a pretty much a U.S. centered sport. When’s the last time the Mr. Olympia was held outside of this country? Where is the most important Arnold Classic? Where do a lion’s share of the pro’s live?

It just is what is, but guys like The Shed make up for it by having very active social media presences and keeping very close to the fans. This is also why a company like GASP is working with Hollingshead. Because even though he’s not a Top 6 Olympian or an Arnold Champion, he has strong links to the fans and he’s a hard worker.

But isn’t every pro bodybuilder a hard worker? I mean you don’t just wake up, get out of bed, and win a pro card do you? Certainly not; however, as I said earlier, a lot of that hard work that guys used to put on front street now they hide. For whatever reason, they don’t want to share their footage doing squats, puking into a trash can, or questioning what does it all mean in between sets. For some bizarre reason a lot of today’s bodybuilders see that as being too much information. It’s more need to know. I honestly don’t have the faintest idea why they hide it, but they do. This is why guys like The Tren Twins and Sam Sulek are so popular. They don’t even compete; much less are they pro’s. They’re also not doing PED’s on camera or talking nonstop about them like the late great Bostin Loyd. They’re not drag racing cars or binge drinking either. All they’re doing is EATING, TRAINING, AND OPENING UP to the viewers.

Shit, that’s stuff Dorian and Ronnie were doing 20 and 30 years ago!! And it sells!! Bodybuilders can’t get enough of that stuff. There’s no secret formula. You give the people what they want. And seeing Branch Warren put James Hollingshead through a workout akin to going to hell and back and people will eat that up like hotcakes. I mean I wrote a whole article about it!

The bottom line is that GASP is a hardcore bodybuilding clothing company that promotes the life. And you can’t get more hardcore bodybuilding than Branch Warren. Seeing these guys train together and especially just days out from such a huge competition is almost like Branch’s generation passing the torch to James’.

Imagine what Branch must have been thinking. He probably has a world of knowledge to share. He could tell James about the training, the ins and outs of competing, but he could also talk to him about the business side. You’d be surprised how much two people can share in just one training session. Plus we only see the finished product, we don’t know what they talked about prior to filming, after filming. What I can tell you is that this video has certainly made the rounds and now with this article I’m sure those of you who haven’t seen it, will want to.

This is what bodybuilding is all about. Hardcore training, eating even when you don’t want to, getting up at the buttcrack of dawn and taking pills and mixing your drinks. At times we hate it. In fact, most of the time we hate it, but it’s worth it. We beat our bodies up and sometimes heal in agony, but we come back stronger and better. It’s like IML’s own slogan, it’s all about MAKING YOUR MARK.

Some pretty boy with designer clothes leaning up against a red corvette might be cool to sell undershirts, but seeing Branch Warren and James Hollingshead smash the iron set after set is hardcore to the max. I don’t know about you, but I know what I like, and hardcore bodybuilding is at the top of the list.

Great job fellas!

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