Derek Lunsford etched his name in bodybuilding record books by becoming the first two-division champion in the 59-year history of the Mr. Olympia contest. Coming off that life-changing victory in Orlando, FL that earned him the most coveted title in the sport and a lucrative $400,000 prize, the 18th member of the exclusive Mr. Olympia club paid homage to some of the all-time greats by visiting one of the most well-known gyms in the country: the Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym.
Located in Syosset, NY, the 30,000-square-foot facility opened in 1987 and has served as a training ground for household names like four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler and the legendary Ronnie Coleman. In a video posted on his YouTube page on Nov. 16, 2023, Lunsford shared highlights from his intense back workout at the iconic gym better known as the “East Coast Mecca.”
Before he dove into his training session, Lunsford spent time with Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym owner and IFBB Pro League head judge Steve Weinberger. The 2021 212 Olympia winner signed a few autographs and discussed his mindset with Weinberger, who’s witnessed how former champions handle the post-victory phase differently.
“Your competition holds you accountable,” Lunsford explained. “These guys are hungry, so literally from the time I stepped off stage this past week, I’ve already been back at the gym training, talking to Hany [Rambod], making sure we’re versing out of this appropriately.”
After reminiscing about his first trip to Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym in 2020 and reflecting upon how much his life has changed, Lunsford shifted his attention to training his lats and other back muscles. The workout begins at the 10:40 mark of the video.
Lunsford’s back session began with close-grip cable lat pulldowns. Leaning back slightly throughout the movement, he allowed the weight to completely stretch his lats on the way up before pulling down and squeezing at the bottom.
Rather than performing a high number of sets like he normally would, Lunsford took a different approach during his day at the East Coast Mecca. Between the impact of traveling and having so many machines at his disposal, he opted to do more exercises, capping the number of sets of close-grip lat pulldowns at four.
Next, Lunsford attacked his lats from a wider angle on a plate-loaded pulldown machine. Grasping the handles with a pronated (palms-down) grip, he started with a warm-up set using a 45-pound (20.4-kilogram) plate per side. After completing 15 slow-and-controlled reps, he doubled the weight for his second set.
Inspired by the variety of gym equipment available in training facilities he’s used recently, Lunsford shared some insight about one of his personal goals.
“I went to Ronnie’s gym the other day and saw his gym and it just fires me up for me to have my own gym in Clearwater,” the Florida resident said. “Just have it right there 15 to 20 minutes from the house, and get to pick out all the best pieces of equipment that’s going to help me be my best. I just really can’t wait.”
Lunsford wrapped up this portion of the workout with a third set of wide-grip lat pulldowns using 115 pounds (52.1 kilograms) worth of plates on each side.
Sticking with the same machine, Lunsford simply switched his grip to get a different stimulus. After performing close- and wide-grip versions of lat pulldowns, he utilized a neutral grip to “light up” his lats without placing too much stress on his wrists.
Just as he did with the first two variations, Lunsford executed three sets of this exercise. Having achieved a noticeable pump that brought out the striations in his biceps, shoulders, and chest, the recently crowned champion moved on to the row-based portion of his back session.
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Lunsford chose a chest-supported incline row machine as his first method of attacking the upper part of his posterior chain. With his chest firmly against the pad, his feet anchored on the platform, and his body leaned slightly forward, Lunsford took hold of the handles and engaged his rhomboids, lats, and rear deltoids to perform the pull-based movement.
Before he hit his fourth set, the king of the Men’s Open division detailed how and why he changed his grip during this exercise.
“The first one I went a little bit wider and I tried to tuck my hands a little bit underneath,” Lunsford explained. “It wasn’t a complete reverse-grip row, but that was what I was trying to mimic. The last two sets we’re going to do a little bit closer with a neutral grip so they just hit a little bit different angles of the back.”
To get his core more involved, Lunsford left the chest-supported row machine behind for a back-day 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 squeezed at the top of the movement.
Lunsford completed sets of 15 reps, noting the difference in intensity due to him being roughly two weeks removed from competing.
“Now is the time after a show that you don’t go too heavy and you really focus on the squeeze, the stretch, and the contraction,” he explained. “Just getting that good mind-muscle connection in all of your reps, all of your sets, all of your exercises.”
Lunsford said he plans to train in this manner in the short term to build up strength and keep his muscles healthy. However, he will ramp up the weight and go heavier in about two to three months.
After performing an angled chest-supported row earlier, Lunsford went with a vertical version. Seated with his chest against the pad, he worked with a 45-pound plate on each side to get a huge pump in his lats. This set the stage for another seated row variation.
Lunsford’s penultimate exercise was a traditional cable seated row. He trained unilaterally by using independent handles, making sure to squeeze his shoulder blades together for the ultimate contraction. Looking every bit the part of a Mr. Olympia winner, Lunsford ramped up the weight for his final sets before he moved on to his final exercise.
A low-row machine allowed Lunsford to target his lats and rhomboids, as well as his middle and lower trapezius. He wrapped up his workout with several sets of this strength- and muscle-building movement, ensuring to maintain complete control of the weight to maximize time under tension.
Although the 2023 Mr. Olympia winner didn’t go heavy on any of his exercises, he certainly put in some serious work at one of the most iconic training grounds. Between three lat pulldown variations and five rowing movements, Lunsford’s back workout will surely leave you feeling like you’re ready to walk across the stage.
Derek Lunsford clearly has an appreciation for how far he’s come during his journey as a pro bodybuilder. Humble yet still ultra-competitive, the first two-division champion in Olympia history has the physique and mindset needed to remain at the top of the Men’s Open division for the foreseeable future.
Featured Image: Derek Lunsford / YouTube