Derek Lunsford etched his name into the bodybuilding record books by becoming the first two-division champion in the 59-year history of the Mr. Olympia. After that life-changing victory in Orlando, Florida that earned him the most coveted title in the sport and a lucrative $400,000 prize, the 18th member of the exclusive Mr. Olympia paid tribute to some of the all-time greats by visiting one of the country’s most famous gyms: the Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym.
Located in Syosset, New York, the 30,000-square-foot facility opened in 1987 and has served as a training ground for household names such as four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler and the legendary Ronnie Coleman. In a video posted on his YouTube page on November 16, 2023, Lunsford shared highlights from his intense workout at the iconic gym better known as the ‘East Coast Mecca’.
Before starting his training, Lunsford spent time with Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym owner and IFBB Pro League head judge Steve Weinberger. The 2021 Olympia winner 212 signed some autographs and discussed his mindset with Weinberger, who has seen how former champions handle the post-victory phase differently.
“Competition holds you accountable,” Lunsford explained. “These guys are hungry, so literally from the moment I came off the stage last week, I’ve already been back in the gym talking to Hany [Rambod]making sure we get through this properly.”
After reminiscing about his first trip to the Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym in 2020 and reflecting on how much his life has changed, Lunsford turned his attention to training his lats and other back muscles. The workout starts at 10:40 of the video.
Collapsible Lat Cable Close-Grip
Lunsford’s back session began with lat cable pulldowns. Leaning back slightly throughout the movement, he let the weight fully stretch his lats on the way up before pulling down and squeezing at the bottom.
Instead of performing a large number of sets like he normally would, Lunsford took a different approach during his day at the East Coast mecca. Between the impact of travel and having so many machines at his disposal, he opted to do more exercises, limiting the number of sets of close pulldowns to four.
Wide Grip Lat Folding Machine
Lunsford then attacked his lats from a wider angle on a full plate pulldown machine. Grasping the handles with an overhand grip (palms down), he began with a warm-up set using a 45-pound (20.4 kg) plate per side. After completing 15 slow and controlled reps, he doubled the weight for his second set.
Inspired by the variety of exercise equipment available at the training facilities he used recently, Lunsford shared some insight into one of his personal goals.
“I went to Ronnie’s gym the other day and saw his gym and it’s fired me up to have my own gym in Clearwater,” the Florida resident said. “Just having it there 15 to 20 minutes from home and picking out all the best pieces of gear to help me be my best. I really can’t wait.”
Lunsford finished this part of the workout with a third set of flat-grip lat pulldowns using 115-pound (52.1 kg) plates on each side.
Neutral-Grip Lat Folding Machine
Sticking with the same machine, Lunsford simply changed his grip to get a different stimulus. After performing close and wide grip versions of lat pulldowns, he used a neutral grip to “light up” his lats without putting too much stress on his wrists.
Just as he did with the first two variations, Lunsford performed three sets of this exercise. Having achieved a remarkable pump that showed off the rips in his biceps, shoulders and chest, the newly crowned champion moved on to his row-based back section.
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Incline machine with chest support
Lunsford chose a chest-supported incline machine as his first method of attacking his upper posterior chain. With his chest tight to the pad, his feet anchored to the platform and his body leaning slightly forward, Lunsford gripped the handles and engaged his rhomboids, lats and rear deltoids to perform the pull-based move .
Before hitting his fourth set, the Men’s Open king detailed how and why he changed his grip during this exercise.
“The first one I went a little wide and tried to get my hands a little under,” Lunsford explained. “It wasn’t a full reverse grip series, but that’s what I was trying to emulate. The last two sets we’ll make them a little closer with a neutral grip so they hit a little different angles of the back.”
To further engage his core, Lunsford ditched the chest-based row machine for a past classic: the T-bar row. Starting with a pair of 45-pound plates, he maintained a slight bend in his knees and a neutral spine as he drove his elbows back and tightened at the top of the movement.
Lunsford completed sets of 15 reps, noting the difference in intensity due to being nearly two weeks removed from competition.
“Now is the time after a show where you don’t get too bored and really focus on compression, stretching and contraction,” he explained. “You just get that good mind-muscle connection in all your reps, in all your sets, in all your exercises.”
Lunsford said he plans to train this way in the short term to build strength and keep his muscles healthy. However, it will gain weight and become heavy in about two to three months.
Seated row machine with chest support
After earlier performing an angled row with chest support, Lunsford went with a vertical version. Sitting with his chest on the pad, he worked with a 45-pound plate on each side to produce a massive pump in his leg. This set the stage for another variation of the seated series.
Cable seated row
Lunsford’s penultimate exercise was a traditional cable seated row. He trained unilaterally using independent grips, making sure to squeeze his shoulder blades together for the ultimate contraction. Looking at each piece the winner of Mr. Olympia, Lunsford increased the weight for his final sets before moving on to his final exercise.
Low series machine
A low-row machine allowed Lunsford to target his lats and rhomboids, as well as his mid and lower trapezius. He finished his workout with several sets of this strength and muscle-building move, making sure to maintain full control of the weight to maximize time under pressure.
Mr. Olympia-Level Back Workout
Although the winner of Mr. The 2023 Olympia didn’t go heavy on any of his exercises, he certainly put in some serious work on one of the most iconic training grounds. Between three lat pulldown variations and five rowing moves, Lunsford’s back workout is sure to leave you feeling like you’re ready to walk the stage.
- Collapsible Lat Cable Close-Grip
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Machine
- Neutral-Grip Lat Folding Machine
- Incline machine with chest support
- T-Bar series
- Seated row machine with chest support
- Cable seated row
- Low series machine
Derek Lunsford clearly has an appreciation for how far he has come during his journey as a professional bodybuilder. Humble but still extremely competitive, the first two-division champion in Olympia history has the physique and mindset to remain at the top of the Men’s Open division for the foreseeable future.
Featured Image: Derek Lunsford / YouTube