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Flex Lewis: How to Grow Subborn Pecs

The 212 Olympia champ's advice on building an impressive chest.

Photos by Per Bernal

When I first met 20-year-old Flex Lewis in 2004, he was celebrated mostly for his legs, so much so that I tried to nickname him “the Wales Wheels.” He hated it. Never call him that. He’s Flex or the Welsh Dragon. Besides, “TWW” no longer applies. At 32, he won his fifth-straight Olympia 212 title this past September, not because he wows with any one body part but because of his remarkably complete development from top to bottom and side to side. Such proportions haven’t come easy. The lights are bright on the Olympia stage, but the 12-year journey to symmetry has taken the Welsh Dragon through the darkness of thousands of grueling workouts. That quest continues. Chest has always been his most stubborn body part, and in his quest to get his pecs in line with his calves, Flex has turned himself into a chest master.

FLEX: What were you doing wrong in your chest training in the early years, and how did you correct that?

FLEX LEWIS: Early on, some of my body parts blew up, like my legs. Others didn’t, like my chest. Part of that was because I was pressing with my shoulders and triceps. Chest took a backseat, not because I wasn’t training it but because I was training it wrong. I never really had someone say, “Slow yourself down, concentrate on the squeeze.” It wasn’t until I’d won a couple of shows and was traveling back and forth to the States that I said to myself, “Something isn’t right. I need to learn the essence of the mind-muscle link.”

I lightened the weights and started pressing the bar again just to get that mind-muscle connection. It’s something you really have to concentrate on. You need to feel the muscles working. And I’d lose that feeling when I was going too heavy. I’d bench-press 315 for reps, but I’d be getting a pump in my triceps and delts. It was more of a powerlifting movement. I wasn’t feeling it in my chest. But I understood what I was doing wrong, and I was willing and able to correct it, which meant dropping a plate on each side, slowing down the reps, and concentrating on the feel.

 

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