Flex Lewis' Back Workout: Build a Strong & Sculpted Back

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 10, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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If you want to transform your back into a powerful, sculpted masterpiece, Flex Lewis’ back routine is here to help you achieve just that.

Drawing inspiration from the training philosophy of the seven-time 212 Olympia champion, this program caters to athletes of all levels.

As a seasoned trainer with over a decade of experience working with bodybuilders, I spent a week looking through Lewis’ social media to learn more about his back routine.

Here’s what I found.

Flex Lewis Stats

  • Date of birth: November 15, 1983
  • Height: 5’5” (165 cm)
  • Weight: 225–235 lbs (102–107 kg)
  • Chest: 54 inches (137 cm)
  • Biceps: 22 inches (56 cm)
  • Waist: 31 inches (79 cm)

Flex Lewis’ Back Workout

A person at the gym working out his back like Flex Lewis

Based on my research on Lewis’ workout regimens, I found two versions of his back routine.

Typical Flex Lewis Back Routine

Here’s what Lewis’ typical back routine looks like:

  • Front pulldown and straight-arm pulldown: Superset of 3 sets x 15 reps and 3 sets x 20 reps
  • Low-pulley rows and high-rope pulls: 3 sets x 15 reps and 3 sets x 20 reps
  • Power rack deadlifts: 4 sets of 6–12 reps
  • Machine T-bar row and back extension: Superset of 3 sets x 15 reps and 3 sets x 20 reps

“I’ve been doing it [back extensions] for a number of years and it does help. It’s isotension on the lower lats, and I picture the Christmas tree popping out.”

- Flex Lewis

Flex Lewis’ Back Training Routine for Andrew Jacked

A person doing back workouts at the gym

Flex Lewis designed this back workout to train Andrew Jacked, an IFBB pro bodybuilder, for his contest prep.

Andrew Jacked and Lewis did this workout as training partners in preparation for Andrew to step on the Olympia stage.

This training session took place at the Dragon’s Lair gym in Las Vegas.

Pull-Ups

Lewis begins the training session with two sets of pull-ups to open up and stretch the lats and fire up the back muscles.

He recommends performing both sets until failure. And since it’s just a warm-up, Lewis doesn’t focus on performing full reps.

Chest-Supported Low Rows

A person doing Chest-Supported Low Rows

Lewis then moves on to four sets of chest-supported rows.

Perform the first set with a weight that lets you do 20 reps until failure.

The other three sets are done in the following manner:

  • 10 normal reps
  • 10 hammer-grip reps
  • 10 hammer-grip partial reps

For this exercise, Lewis emphasizes paused reps with a slow eccentric to increase muscle engagement in the lower lats.

Superset of T-Bar Rows and Bent-Over Cable Straight-Arm Pulldowns

The next two exercises involve three supersets of rows and bent-over straight-armed pulldowns.

For the first set, perform both exercises for 15 reps each.

The third set should be done in the following manner:

  • Rows: 10 reps with double the weight and a drop set with the normal weight for 10 reps
  • Pulldowns: 15 reps

Lewis states that the pulldown reps should be done with a pause after the concentric.

Kneeling Close-Grip Lat Pulldowns

A person doing Kneeling Close-Grip Lat Pulldowns

Lewis follows up with three sets of kneeling close-grip lat pulldowns with a focus on higher reps, half reps, and a five-second pause on the last few reps.

Here’s the breakdown for each set:

  • 10 reps with a full range of motion
  • 10 half reps
  • Remaining half reps with a five-second pause at the top of the concentric

The primary goal of this exercise is to engage the core (achieved with the kneeling position) and work the latissimus dorsi.

Seated Rows

Lewis does two sets of seated rows as a finisher.

The first set involves 12 normal reps, followed by 5 half reps.

For the second set, Lewis does 12 normal reps, 5 half reps, and another 5 assisted reps to work the muscles to failure.

“The push (Flex Lewis gave me in this workout) was crazy. I need someone that can get me past my limits which is what I will definitely work on in my off-season after the 2022 Olympia definitely. Because to be the best, I have to work with the best.”

- Andrew Jacked, IFBB Professional Bodybuilder

Workout Principles

A person flexing his back muscles

Here are five workout principles Flex Lewis abides by:

Supersets

Lewis performs supersets for most of his workouts to get the most out of his back.

Slow and controlled motion

Lewis emphasized slow and controlled motions through most exercises, especially during the eccentric phase, to maximize muscle and strength gains

A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that eccentric training performed at high intensities was shown to be more effective in promoting increases in muscle mass measured as muscle girth [1].

Paused reps

To reach failure and enhance hypertrophy, Lewis used paused reps toward the end of many exercises.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), muscle failure promotes greater muscle hypertrophy [2].

Suicide grip

Lewis is a fan of the suicide (thumbless) grip when doing certain back exercises because it takes the forearms out of the picture and engages the back muscles more.

Trying the suicide (thumbless) grip for certain back exercises has been a game-changer for engaging my back muscles more.

Failure

For Lewis, the key isn’t how many reps you squeeze or the weight involved, but how hard you work the muscle in every rep.

Related Posts:

Flex Lewis’ Meal Plan for Back Gains

A person preparing breakfast for muscle growth

When he was in season, Flex Lewis ate seven meals a day to fuel his muscles.

Here’s how to eat like the seven-time 212 Mr. Olympia winner:

  • Meal #1 (Breakfast): 4 oz. oats, 1 scoop protein isolate, 100 grams low-fat bioyogurt and 1 small banana
  • Meal #2 (Pre-workout meal): 8 oz. salmon, 8 oz. sweet potato, 3 oz. broccoli and 2 oz. pineapple
  • Meal #3 (Post-workout meal): 1 whole egg and 5 egg whites, 3 oz. turkey, 8 oz. baked beans, 3 oz. green beans and 4 walnuts
  • Meal #4 (First dinner): 8 oz. lean steak, 2 oz. rice and 3 oz. broccoli
  • Meal #5 (Second dinner): 8 oz. turkey, 8 oz. sweet potato and 3 oz. green beans
  • Meal #6 (Snack): 1 slice of whole-grain toast, 1 teaspoon peanut butter and Omelet of 9 egg whites
  • Meal #7 (Snack): 2 scoops of protein isolate, 2 oz. oats and 3 walnuts

I've followed Flex Lewis' meal plan for back gains during my own bulking phases, and it has made a significant difference in my muscle growth.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18981046/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31895290/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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