Talented stars, killer physiques.Read article
Photography by Per Bernal
The bar bends across your shoulders. “No More” by Ruff Endz is thumping the sound system. Everyone has halted their toil to watch yours. Never before have you squatted more than 525. You already trained back in the morning and biceps in the afternoon, but you returned to the gym this evening for the chance to hit legs with arguably the greatest bodybuilder of all time. Now he’s got your back. “Yeah, buddy!” he shouts. “Light weight!” You sink into the hole and spring up, twice, with 600. And when you’re done, when you’ve smashed your personal best, the grinning eight-time Mr. Olympia slaps you on the traps, as if to say, “Welcome to the club.”
On the evening in November 2013 when Josh Lenartowicz squatted with Ronnie Coleman, he couldn’t have known that less than three years later he’d be flexing on the Olympia stage. No, that exceeded even his wildest dreams. He was just another “big bloke” when the Melbourne gym’s owner told him Coleman, touring Australia to promote his supplement company, might train. Uncertain if it would go off, Lenartowicz got in his back and biceps workouts. Then, triple-splitting, he drove to the gym again when he heard the eight-timer wanted to hit legs. “No way was I going to pass that up,” he remembers. Eventually, with Coleman’s encouragement, two extra plates were slid onto the bar.
“I found out I was capable of more than I ever thought,” he states. “That empowered me for a whole year. Whenever I felt tired, I remembered that day I did back and biceps and still came back [to the gym] and did legs and made a 75-pound jump in my squat. Limitations is just another word for fears, and they’re always an illusion.” Within a year of that fateful workout, he was a professional bodybuilder. Within two years, he had won two pro shows. Within three years, he competed in the Mr. Olympia, the pinnacle of bodybuilding.
KING OF THE GYM
Lenartowicz has his own training system called King of the Gym. Let’s review. KOTG is highly progressive. Each exercise is performed for four to eight sets. The reps remain the same throughout the set progression, but the weight increases each set, from very light to, ideally, a personal best like the Coleman-spotted squat. Rest periods also increase throughout the progression. Only the final set, done with the heaviest metal, is pushed to failure. “I train with a lot of light building sets to create a neurological connection in order to prevent injury with one overload heavy max set,” the Olympia rookie explains. “I just go for it on my last set until I cannot go anymore. No supersets, no rest-pause, none of that.”
This overload set is done for roughly the same reps as the lighter sets that preceded it, but because it’s to failure, he doesn’t predetermine when to stop. The system is called King of the Gym for a reason. When you’re as strong as 260-pound Lenartowicz, the overload sets are attention-grabbers and respect-earners. The progression has another advantage. You build up to one heavy set to failure. Then when you move on to the next exercise, the light sets allow you to recuperate before you do your next overload set. “I’m actively recovering during the building sets, all with the use of time under tension, and there is no cheating and no jolting or stressing out tendons.”
KOTG is an eight-week program. Every two weeks the reps for all sets are lowered by two, from 12 to 10 to eight to six, and weights are increased. Then you start over again with 12 reps per set. “The next time through, go a fraction heavier on everything, and keep that momentum going so you’re in a state of constant progressive overload,” Australia’s best bodybuilder advises. After assessing growth, you might want to change some exercises the next time through, but don’t otherwise tamper with the order. The hardest and heaviest exercises should be done first. For example, his leg routine starts with squats followed by walking lunges—both standing exercises in which you need to balance yourself under a bar.
Because his quads have grown fast through the years, Josh has changed little about his quad routine. He mostly sticks to four basics: squats, walking lunges, 45-degree leg presses, and leg extensions. “I have switched in some hack squats or Smith machine reverse lunges,” he states. “Also, I’ll change my foot stance sometimes. Changing that positioning, even just a little, will alter the movement to recruit a different chain of muscles. Mostly, though, the differences now come outside the gym, controlling my rest, nutrition, and supplementation.” The leg routine included here is for a 10-rep workout (Weeks 3 and 4), and though it looks like a crazy amount of volume (50-66 sets), note that the first sets of any exercise are so light he can perform them with virtually no rest.
He does the same number of exercises for both sides of his thighs: four for quadriceps and four for hamstrings. This is designed to place a special focus on the latter and bring his hams up to the elevated level of his quads. He will also alter his training split, sometimes working quads and hams together (as in our sample routine) on a four-day-per-week split and sometimes breaking them into separate workouts on a six-day-per-week split.
“It’s more instinctive these days,” he says of his training split. “I was once of the mindset that it’s hardcore to train every day. Now I’ve reached an understanding about life. We’re all physical, emotional, spiritual, relational beings, and we do have highs and lows, stress and happiness, and those things need to be addressed in the training. If life is great, I can train for six days per week twice a day, but if I have a shit week I need to drop it back to four days only. Just because I’m an Olympia competitor now doesn’t mean I have an immunity to the negatives of life. Not many pro athletes talk about it, but you need a positive mindset in order to be the best version of yourself in all walks of life. When the things outside of bodybuilding are going great for you, then that will help to make you a great bodybuilder because those things minimize stress and external factors.”
LENARTOWICZ’S LEG ROUTINE & TRAINING SPLIT
SIX-DAY TRAINING SPLIT
FOUR-DAY TRAINING SPLIT