Flex Lewis's Top 10 Training Principles

The top 10 training tenets of Olympia 212 Showdown champ Flex Lewis



Before we can discuss the next nine things, we need to start by saying if you write a rule for Lewis he’s likely to tear it up and write another. Change is crucial to his program. In fact, it’s the very essence of Neil Hill’s Y3T (Yoda Three Training) system. Y3T dictates that you cycle through three different styles of training. It works like this. The first week the focus is on compound basics for sets of 6–10 reps. Week 2 you do compound and isolation exercises for 8–12 reps.

The third week is an all-out, high-rep, high-intensity barrage of supersets, dropsets, and extreme pain. Then the cycle starts again. Y3T is still the cornerstone of Lewis’ training, but, at the 212 king’s advanced level, he switches up when and how he attacks his muscles more than the standard Y3T protocol.


The Welsh Dragon flips the script to focus less on his strengths and more on his weaknesses, all with the goal of attaining ideal proportions. His pluses and minuses have altered through the years precisely because his neglect-subject-perfect plan works.

When Lewis first burst on to the bodybuilding scene in 2004, his lower half greatly exceeded his upper. What did he do? He rarely trained legs. For extended periods, he went nowhere near a calf machine or squat rack. Neglect strengths. Simultaneously, he used the extra time and energy to focus more on lagging areas like arms. Subject weaknesses. More recently, his arms have grown so much that he can curtail their training. And now after laying off legs, they need his typical all-out workouts to bring them back in balance. All of this is with the ultimate goal of perfect balance.


Over the years, Lewis has done a lot of hard labor in power racks. He knows deadlifts are considered hardcore while rope pushdowns are supposedly softcore. He just doesn’t care. He’s going to do what best stimulates his muscles. That might be rack deads or it might be a row/contraction move he creates on the fly. And he might do them both in the same workout. The Welsh Dragon’s object is to push his muscles to new limits and thus force their expansion. If he does that with high-rep giant sets at a cable pushdown station then so be it. He’ll take what is traditionally thought of as softcore and make it hardcore via his zest for journeying deep into the pain zone.


Forget about

working in when you see Lewis at a pushdown station.

He’s not pausing, and he’s going to be camped there for a while. He does a warmup giant set and then three or four working giant sets at the same station: five exercises in rotation for 20 reps each with no rest between sets. A typical giant set consists of: wide-grip rope pushdowns, then narrow-grip rope pushdowns, then EZ-bar pushdowns, then one-hand pushdowns, then overhead rope triceps extensions.

“So, all told, including warmups, I’m doing either 400 or 500 reps for triceps in short order,” Flex states. “Afterward, my triceps are already fully pumped, and I’ve spent a lot of reps targeting strong contractions to really focus on my tri’s.” For comparison sake, a typical triceps routine (three exercises x four sets x 10 reps) is 120 reps. After finishing of tri’s with two compound exercises—Smith machine close-grip bench presses and dips—Lewis has racked up at least four times the typical tally. And he’s done most of those reps in short order via giant sets.


As the preceding triceps barrage illustrates, Flex isn’t afraid to crank up the rep count. He’ll frequently push sets to the 20-rep mark. “The key isn’t how many reps you do, the key is how hard you’re working the muscle,” he states. “And for me it might take 10 reps before I really start to exhaust the muscle, so that first 10 [reps in a set] is a setup for the last 10 when I really push it and keep the tension on the muscle for as long as possible. A lot of people think sets of three or four reps really heavy are harder than 15–20 reps with a lighter weight. But if you do three reps, you get in and you get out. I want to keep the set going, keep the tension on the muscle. That’s the hard work that makes you grow.” Lewis uses a variety of rep schemes, so he might pyramid up to a heavy set of eight reps on one exercise, then hit 20 on every set of his next exercise.

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