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Seven-time 212 Olympia (2012-2018) champ Flex Lewis took a break from competition last year to improve and get bigger for his full-blown assault on the Open Olympia title this December. In a way, it’s sort of history repeating itself.
It’s July 2005, and I’m walking along the Venice boardwalk with a 21-year-old Flex. He had just won a slew of UK and international Junior titles and had been introduced to me by British photographer Geoff Collins, who had been the first to alert me to Dorian Yates back in 1983. In his thick, Welsh brogue, Flex excitedly told me how he was going to gamble all he had and come to Venice to work as a personal trainer and pursue his pro card.
He was, and is, an immensely likeable young man, but I had seen shots of him and, honestly, though his legs were world class, I doubted he could overcome the narrow up-and-down upper-body genetics that had been bestowed on him. I didn’t want him to spend his money, time, energy, and enthusiasm in search of a dream that wasn’t going to happen.
And so it was on that idyllic California afternoon I spent two hours advising the future 212 champ to go home, enjoy his bodybuilding and see where it would take him from his domestic base. But my walking partner would not listen and insisted he would make it. I shook my head having done all I could to dissuade him. But he was right — and I was wrong.
MADE IN THE USA
He moved to Venice and slowly and methodically began to mold his upper body into musculature compatible with his knockout quads, hams and calves. In 2007 he earned his pro card by winning the light heavy and overall titles at the British Nationals. The following year he won the 202 class at the Europa Supershow and was third in that division’s finals at Olympia weekend.
By then he had hooked up with fellow Welshman and contest advisor Neil Hill and inked a Gaspari sponsorship deal. In 2009 he slipped to fifth at the 202 Olympia.
He and Hill re-evaluated and decided he had to skip competition in 2010 to make the gains necessary to be competitive with reigning champ Kevin English and co. He returned in 2011 with bigger arms, a new back, and improved chest, plus a dry and crisp conditioning that saw him take runner-up spot — though many thought had beaten English.
In digesting the loss Lewis did not shed a tear, but things were so different when he was announced 212 Showdown champ the following year on Sept. 29. Between sobs he thanked the fans and all who supported him. The fact the he was a thoroughly humble and decent young man was abundantly clear, even in the searing spotlight.
Which is why, a few minutes later, the Gaspari and Lewis tear ducts felt the need to put another spin on solving a major bodybuilding contest prep problem: Water retention.
The lesson contained in this feature is Flex took a year out of competition and reinvented his physique. Don’t bet against him repeating the overhaul when flexing hostilities begin at the 2020 Mr. Olympia contest at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas this coming December. You have been warned.
Peter McGough is a legendary bodybuilding journalist, and former editor-in-chief of FLEX Magazine.
For more information about the December 17-20th event, including tickets, visit MrOlympia.com as Trifecta Presents Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend brought to you by Northern Chill and by Wings of Strength.