In this Olympia training seminar, defending 212 Showdown champion Flex Lewis demolishes legs, all without the help of one very revered exercise in the bodybuilding canon.Advertisement
“I’ve never been a big squatter, to be honest,” says reigning 212-pound class Mr. Olympia, Flex Lewis. Yes, the bodybuilder whose signature calling card is his giant-slaying quads and hamstrings he with thighs so dominant he had to essentially take a year of of training them hard not once in his career, but twice, to allow his upper body to catch up—doesn’t make much use of the so-called king of all exercises.
Blasphemous? In the circles Lewis used to run in, absolutely. Af er all, the Welsh-born 29-year-old forged his initial love of iron in the realm of powerlif ing, where to speak ill of the revered squat is akin to treason. Bodybuilding books and magazine articles are strewn with odes to the squat. Champions past and present swear by its muscle-swelling capabilities. It’s been decreed that it’s improbable, and perhaps impossible, to build any truly awe-inspiring size in your lower body without it.
Yet Lewis isn’t swayed. “I did squat when I was a powerlifter, but I didn’t see or feel any real benefi t from them,” he says, undeterred by his bold smite of the lif ing gods. “I know some people feel it’s the bread-and-butter exercise, but I think it has nothing on the leg press, to be honest. I feel leg presses of er more stability there’s just one way down, one way up, giving you focus and limiting your ability to cheat.”
Some of the more of ended gym rats, put of by such a squat slight, may stop reading right there. That would be a shame, because not only does Lewis have a lot of wisdom to share including the blueprint to two epic fiber-splitting leg routines but also, he accomplishes something even more important: He’s living proof that in bodybuilding, never blindly following the of accepted mantras of the game is the surest way to reaching your ultimate potential.
QUAD EXERCISE NO. 1
LEG EXTENSION STATS: 5–7 sets (2–3 warmup and 3–4 working sets), 15–25 reps, one-quarter to full stack
■ Lewis’ Take: “I change my other exercises all the time, but I always do extensions first. During warmups, I’ll always stretch in-between sets by placing one leg up behind me on a bench and squatting down.”
■ Do It Right: Lewis settles himself on the seat with the pads set to hit at the front of his ankles. Holding the handles at his sides, he chooses a “mediocre weight” to start, then pyramids up from there. “I focus on the squeeze and full rotation from the bottom all the way to the top,” he says. “I hold the top for a half a second, envisioning myself onstage standing in front of the judges and squeezing my legs, showing the separation between each muscle group.” As he lowers to the start, he’s sure to never let the weight stack touch down for rest between reps.
■ Intensity Tip: “I’ll turn my feet in or out sometimes to get that extra contraction. I’ll also sometimes get my training partner to help me do one or two negatives at the end of a set he’ll lend a finger to get the weight up as I’m failing and I’ll take it down slow.”
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