Photographs by Gary Phillips
Years can go by without it happening. But every now and then a previously unheralded bodybuilder rockets to pro victories with a physique capable of cracking the Mr. Olympia top 10. As the world grows smaller, we need to search farther to spot the next big thing. In 2014, it was Ghana-born Dutchman William Bonac who won two pro shows. And in a single week in November 2015, it was 5'8", 260-pound Australian Josh Lenartowicz who did the same. He defeated Bonac (fresh off an Olympia eighth) to win the San Marino Pro, and then prevailed at the Ferrigno Legacy five days later. And as we set out to learn more about bodybuilding’s latest sensation, we discovered that Lenartowicz’s King of the Gym workout system is even more shocking than his recent success.
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Sale is a rural town of 13,000 in Victoria, Australia, 15 miles from the ocean and a 2ó-hour drive from Melbourne. The Lenartowicz family settled there after fleeing Poland during World War II. On April 5, 1983, Joshua was born. His father “had a failed business but worked his final years as a warehouse manager” before dying of cancer. His mother “was a hardworking nurse on the oil rigs offshore,” Lenartowicz says. He claims he got his never-give-up attitude from his dad and his work ethic from his mom. At 14, he began to apply these qualities to his newfound passion.
Adorning his older brother’s bedroom wall was a Mr. Olympia poster. “I remember looking at the pictures of these massive men and thinking how amazing it was that the human body could get like that. And from that point on there was this fire inside me that wanted to achieve that,” Lenartowicz says. He read all he could about training and nutrition. Because he worked after school, he woke at 5:30 a.m. to hit the weights in a gym void of luxuries like electricity. It was so rural, goats would wander in. “I had that hunger that got me out of bed every morning and made me want to progress,” he says.
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