“Instead of

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finishing with a half-ass rep, I’d rather pause and get three more good reps.” That’s Flex Lewis’s theory on training.

Of his form, he explains, “If I’m pulling to my chest I tend to throw more traps and rhomboids in it, hitting more of my upper middle back rather than my lats. So when I pull down, I pull down to my chin.” And on the straight-arm pulldowns: “I think about standing onstage and throwing my lats out. So I throw my lats out at contraction and squeeze.”


Before each set of low-pulley rows, Lewis leans all the way back so that he is nearly flat on the bench. This is all about getting his number. “Basically, I’m psyching myself up for the lift and I’m focused on how many reps I’ll go for.” He hits 15 with 200 and follows this immediately with a set of 20 high-rope pulls. He slips on his iPod Shuffle, listening to Disturbed and blocking out Hardcore Horton’s camera and my notepad during his last two supersets, using first 260, and then the whole 300-pound stack on the low-cable rows, pausing when necessary to hit 15 and tacking on 20 reps of high pulls to both sets.

On the low-cable rows, Lewis employs a V-handle and stays relatively upright. “A lot of guys cheat and throw a lot of momentum into it,” he states. “What I do is I keep my back at 90 degrees [to the floor], and as the bar comes in, I throw my chest up and elbows back, and I meet the bar.”

With the

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high-rope pulls, the ropes are together at the start of each rep, and then he separates them as far as he can as he reaches each contraction, lengthening the range of motion and focusing the tension on his rhomboids, rear delts, and middle and lower traps — all the upper-back lumps that splinter into focus onstage when he strikes a rear double bi.


Lewis attributes

FL04227T0_2010 Y3T
his adoption of Y3T training for the appearance of new density and separation in his upper back. It may sound like a millennial computer crisis, but Y3T is the brainchild of trainer/nutritionist Neil Hill, a.k.a. Yoda, a fellow 5'5" Welshman and former IFBB Pro League competitor (he competed once in 2002). Y3T essentially divides training into three-week cycles: two weeks focused on progressive strength gains with compound exercises and low to moderate reps, and the third week focused on blood volumization via higher reps and supersets or giants sets. Lewis is in the third week now, thus the supersets.

Lewis does sets of rack deadlifts with 315 and 405, and a set with 495. The bar begins each rep from power-rack supports set just above his knees. He uses straps, chalk, a belt with FLEX LEWIS on the back and his iPod. “Deads off the floor is a different exercise, and it works glutes and hams, too. Deads off a rack works lower back. I’ve always done them explosive. I psych myself up so much that I go completely blank. I don’t know what I do with reps. I have my training partners tell me.” I count for him. He knocks out 11, plates clattering, banging each rep off the supports.

Click NEXT PAGE for Flex's Back Attack Workout!


Lewis didn’t

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get one of the most decorated Christmas trees in bodybuilding by writing St. Nick. He works for it — at the dining table and on the treadmill during contest prep, but also in the weight room year-round. He follows partial deadlifts with supersets of machine T-bar rows and back extensions. The rows, in which he goes up to four plates, work the meat of his lats, and the extensions, done with bodyweight only, isolate the lumbar region of his spinal erectors. Together, the inner lower lats (branches) and the erectors (trunk) form a dramatic pine-tree shape before and during the unfurling of his lat spread, and these details help Lewis repeatedly win rear shots against wider competitors. The Welshman sometimes does the extensions the traditional way — with his arms crossed in front of his chest — while other times he’ll reach as far down and forward as possible at the bottom position, and then bring his arms back as he rises, so at the top, his elbows are back and he’s contracting both his erectors and his lats. “The hand motion is like hitting a lat spread and it brings out the lower back, but also the lower lats,” he explains. “I’ve been doing it for a number of years and it does help. It’s isotension on the lower lats, and I picture the Christmas tree popping out.”

Flex back workout

The workout — in the third week of a three-week cycle — was devoted to blood volumization with most reps in the 15-20 range and most exercises superset, but Lewis used the stack plus a quarter on pulldowns, he low-rowed another stack and he pulled a bar loaded with so many plates that he nearly got us all booted out of the gym. The secret to his success and the essence of Hill’s Y3T system is intensity. Whether doing 6 reps or 20, and whether using all the weight or none, he brings his everything to every set. And if iron should suddenly snap or walls come tumbling down or the finer sensibilities of tummy-tightening gawkers are insulted by the violent thunderclaps of metal meeting metal, screw it, for he has another rep to get and another after that. And on his next set, he’s using even more — especially if you tell him he can’t. FLEX