Flex Lewis: Flex-Plosion!
Posted on 09 January 2014
Should This Picture Have Been Kept Under Wraps?On December 28 the photo of Flex Lewis accompanying this lead-in graphic to this story was posted on Facebook and immediately went viral, spreading faster than a sandwich maker on speed. But should it have been posted? More on that later? The shot was taken at The Dungeon Gym, Tenby in North Wales, owned by Flex’s contest prep advisor Neil Hill who can be seen in the background. But a thought persists that maybe the shot should never have been released – more on that presently.The image of the two-time 212 Olympia champ (2012 and 2013) captured him at 220 pounds, nine weeks out from the inaugural edition of the 212 Arnold Classic class, and he looks like he is ready to explode. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the shot is that, if anything, his upper body maybe seems to overpower his legs: Hitherto lauded as possibly the best on the pro scene.Having turned 30 last November 11, the Welshman is one of the few current pros who has a habit improving over time in terms of muscle accumulation. At the pro level the physique is usually a finished product, improvement being judged on standard of contest condition. Flex bucks that trend. For instance after finishing fifth at the 2009 202 Olympia (the forerunner of the 212 division) Lewis decided that to make improvements he had to bypass contest dieting in 2010 and return to action in 2011. Now let it be said, it’s common for a bodybuilder to say they’re going to take a year out to make major improvements, and then when they re-appear it’s the same old, same old. Lewis is different. Such is his ability to deliver Fed-Ex are talking sponsorship. He returned in 2011 with bigger arms, a new back, and improved chest plus a dry and crisp conditioning which took him to runner-up spot in the Olympia 202s, while many thought he had beaten eventual champ Kevin English.Now it looks like the popular Brit, sponsored by Gaspari Nutrition, has taken another leap forward. Many drew comparisons between the December 2013 shot of Flex and the be-socked iconic photos of Dorian Yates taken by Kevin Horton seven weeks prior to the 1993 Olympia.
THE SHADOWY SHADOWAt that shoot Dorian had insisted on a closed set, so the only people present were Kevin Horton, Kerry Kayes (Dorian’s then business partner), Stuart Cosgrove (Dorian's physio) Dorian's wife Debbie and me and my wife Anne. (Oh, and a guy called Dorian Yates showed up.) On that never to be forgotten day Dorian weighed 269 pounds of sinew splitting muscle. Seven weeks later in Atlanta, Georgia, he took his second Sandow in dominant fashion competing at a sculpted 257 pounds. His Olympia day physique broke new ground and caused pandemonium among the audience. I still say that he could have stayed at that 269, dropped water and been an even bigger sensation. Eventually the six-time Mr. Olympia champ took the same view, citing that the quest for razor condition caused him to sacrifice fullness and size.Which brings us full circle to that December shot of Yates’ compatriot Flex Lewis. The big difference in the exposure of the two sets of photos is that Flex’s were seen and were the talk of the bodybuilding world within 24 hours of being taken. Back in 1993 there was no Internet, no emails or I-phones to send info and images around the world in real time. And if you said “I'll be googling tonight” Father Reilly would be summoned to say an extra decade of the rosary for you. Those legendary pics did not see the light of public consumption until the release of the December ’93 issue of FLEX which hit the stands in early October three weeks after the Olympia had taken place.Thus it was that in the pre-Miley Cyrus/Justin Bieber world (that duo are a bigger pain in the tits than a failed 500 pound bench press) in the seven weeks prior to the 1993 Olympia of September 11, only a certain few saw the sock-it-to-me shots. So when the Shadow stepped out of the shadows for the prejudging the 4,000 fans in attendance were treated to their first sight of the 1993 model of Dorian Yates. Not having privy to the 269-pound Yates their collective comparison was confined to the 242-pound version that had triumphed a year earlier, so they rightly went nuts at what the Birmingham native presented them with that day. As ridiculous as it sounds for a physique that took bodybuilding to a new level, if the bodybuilding community had experienced seven weeks salivating on images of the 269 pound Yates they might have been a little disappointed with the 257 pound version. The roundness, fullness and sheer size of the July physique did not appear in September. Stuart Cosgrove summed it up best by some years later saying to the group who assembled at Temple Gym for the July photo shoot, “We are the lucky few who saw Dorian Yates in the flesh at his best ever.”
FORWARD TO COLUMBUSTaking that what-you-don't-see-you-don't-miss scenario into account a fear is that the Columbus audience will have that WTF pic of a 220 pound Flex taken back in December uppermost in their mind and may compare it to the 212 pound Welsh Dragon who walks out on March 1. Having said that once Flex depletes down, gets drier than a Jerry Seinfeld monologue, and sharper than Phil Heath’s evening threads, he’ll knock everyone’s socks off – apart from maybe Yates. That’s why this humble scribe sees Flex -- despite the magnificence of David Henry, Jose Raymond et al -- receiving the 212 first place trophy from Arnold Schwarzenegger on March 1. As his photo phenomenon predecessor Dorian -- who knows a thing or six about contest prep -- says, "Flex was the best conditioned athlete across all classes at the 2013 Olympia weekend."Postscript: Next week I'll tell the convoluted story of who saw those seven weeks out photos of Dorian Yates before the 1993 Olympia and what their reaction was.
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