James “Flex” Lewis is a Welsh bodybuilder who’s won five Mr. Olympia 212 titles. He’s widely recognized for possessing the world’s best 212 physique.
James began his bodybuilding journey as a 12-year old; training at home with a simple set of weights made out of plastic. From there, he transitioned into sports, particularly rugby. Where he earned the nickname “Flex,” due to his flexibility, and the ability to avoid tackles.
He started training in the gym at the age of 15, to gain more size, and strength required to excel at Rugby. However, the process of gaining muscle mass “captivated” the youngster so much he decided to quit Rugby, and instead, dedicate himself to bodybuilding.
Since then, James has turned into a true bodybuilding star. He’s won over 28 contests since he first stepped on stage – becoming one of the greatest bodybuilders from the UK.
This is his story:
“Just a small town kid with a dream, cheeky Welsh charm and a passion to be successful in life… don’t let anyone tell you can’t, when you believe you can!”
Full Name: James Lewis Weight Height Age Date of Birth 225 - 235lbs (102.1 - 106.6kg) 5'5" (165cm) 39 November 15, 1983 Nationality Profession Alias Welsh Professional Bodybuilder "Flex" Era 2000, 2010 Weight 225 - 235lbs (102.1 - 106.6kg) Height 5'5" (165cm) Age 39 Date of Birth November 15, 1983 Nationality Welsh Profession Professional Bodybuilder Alias "Flex" Era 2000, 2010
- 2016 Mr. Olympia Weekend Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2015 Mr. Olympia Weekend Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro, 212 1st Place
- 2015 IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2014 IFBB San Marino Pro: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2014 EVL’s Prague Pro 212 Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2014 IFBB Korea Grand Prix 212: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2014 Mr. Olympia Weekend Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2014 IFBB Arnold sports Festival: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2013 EVL’s Prague Pro 212 Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2013 Mr. Olympia Weekend Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2012 EVL’s Prague Pro 212 Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2012 British Grand Prix 212 Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2012 Mr. Olympia Weekend Bodybuilding: IFBB Pro 212, 1st Place
- 2011 Arnold Classic Europe Men’s Bodybuilding: Pro Men, 5th Place
- 2011 Mr. Olympia Weekend Men 202: Open, 2nd Place
- 2011 New York Pro Championships Men’s 202: Men’s 202 Class, 2nd Place
- 2011 Mr. Europe Grand Prix Men’s Open: Men’s Open Lis, 3rd Place
- 2011 IFBB British Grand Prix Men’s 202: Men’s 202 List, 1st Place
- 2009 IFBB Atlantic City Pro 202 Division, 1st Place
- 2009 IFBB 202 Challenge (Mr. Olympia) 202 Division, 5th Place
- 2008 Europa Pro Overall Division, 7th Place
- 2008 Europa Pro 202 Division, 1st Place
- 2008 Tampa Pro Open Division, 7th Place
- Amateur Competition History: 2007 British Nationals (Earned Pro Card) Overall Division, 1st Place
- 2006 Mr. Wales U90, Overall U90 Division, 1st Place
- 2006 Mr. Britain U90 Division, 1st Place
- 2004 Nabba Mr. Universe, 1st Place
- 2004 EFBB Jr. Mr. Britain, 1st Place
- 2004 EFBB Jr. Mr. Wales, 1st Place
- 2004 Nabba Mr. Europe, 1st Place
- 2004 Nabba Jr. Mr. Britain, 1st Place
- 2004 Nabba Mr. Wales, 1st Place
- 2003 EFBB Jr. Mr. Britain, 1st Place
- 2003 EFBB Novice Mr. Wales, 1st Place
- 2003 EFBB Jr. Mr. Wales, 1st Place
Training with Plastic Weights
James “Flex” Lewis began his bodybuilding journey at the age of 12, after he discovered a book full of pictures of Tom Platz. James was so impressed by Tom’s physique, especially his legs, that he said he wanted to look the same one day.
Another inspiration for James to start training was Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most iconic bodybuilders of his time.
James had a modest start to his bodybuilding journey – he would train using plastic weights at home at night, when his parents were asleep. Although his parents prohibited him from using the weights. James was so “enthralled” with them, that he continued to train regardless of his parents’ warnings.
A New Environment
At the age of 15, James began training more seriously; stepping into a gym for the first time in his life. The weights and machines he saw in the gym were much more complex than the basic weight set he trained with at home. So it took a couple of months before he adapted to his new training environment.
James initially started training to improve his performance in Rugby. However, after he saw the results from weightlifting, bodybuilding became his main priority in life.
Taking Advantage of his Potential
One day, while he trained at a gym, James met a local bodybuilder called Steve Naylor. Steve told James he had the potential to succeed in the sport of bodybuilding; suggesting he should compete on stage.
James took the advice he got from Steve, and began preparing for his first bodybuilding contest. They both trained together for a year, before James entered his first show – the Junior Mr. Wales. He won both his weight class, and the overall category on that day.
James also met an IFBB Pro bodybuilder at the competition, called Neil Hill. Neil helped him prepare for his next competition, which was only four weeks away. Impressively, James was able to win his second competition in a row – this time the 2003 EFBB Jr. Mr. Britain.
For the next four years, James won every show he participated in – including the 2007 British Nationals. A victory which earned him the Pro Card. Because of these feats, James established himself as a “force of nature” in the UK bodybuilding scene.
Moving to the Bigger Stage
After making a name for himself in the UK, James decided to move to the USA in pursuit of even bigger challenges; such as Mr. Olympia, and Arnold Classic.
For the first time since he started competing, James didn’t place 1st in a show; finishing in 7th at the 2008 Tampa Pro. However, James wasn’t “fazed” by this. He continued to work hard in the gym, eventually getting back on his winning streak.
He began taking home titles such as the 2009 IFBB Atlantic City Pro 202 Division, 2012 EVL’s Prague Pro 212 Bodybuilding, and the 2012 Mr. Olympia 212 Champion.
Pinnacle of Bodybuilding
By 2016, James had collected a sensational 28 bodybuilding titles. Including five Mr. Olympia 212 titles.
As a result of such “domination” on the Olympia stage, James is widely regarded as one of the greatest “212 bodybuilders.”
Flex has a strict training program, which is designed by his trainer Neil Hill. The program includes cycling repetition ranges, weight, training frequency, and other factors that are important for muscle stimulation. As James “Flex” says; “Never let your body adapt.”
In the off-season, he trains 6 days per week. His workouts last anywhere between 1.5 to 3 hours.
James Flex Lewis’ Workout Routine
- Sunday – Shoulders
- Monday – Back
- Tuesday – Biceps
- Wednesday – Chest
- Thursday – Hamstrings and Calves
- Friday – Triceps
- Saturday – Rest Day
- Sunday – Legs
- Monday – Repeat Cycle
Chest and Triceps Workout
- Incline Smith Machine Press (warmup) 4 sets of 15-20 reps
- Incline Smith Machine Press, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Seated Machine Press, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Incline Flye, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
- Seated EZ-curl Bar Extension (warmup), 4 sets of 15-20 reps
- Seated EZ-curl Bar Extension, 3 sets of 8–12 reps
- V-Bar Cable Pushdown, 3 sets of 8–12 reps
- Kickback, 3 sets of 8–12 reps
James’ Top 10 Training Tips
- Change Style – James always changes his workout routine to keep his muscles growing at a constant rate.
- Neglect, Subject, Perfect – This principle means focusing more on the weak body parts than the strong ones.
- Rethink Hardcore – James doesn’t follow traditional training rules. Instead, he creates his own rules; doing what yields the best results for his physique.
- Giant Strides – Not super sets, not tri-sets, but giant sets. These are five-exercise sets which James does on a regular basis. His typical triceps giant-set consists of these exercises; EZ-bar push-downs, overhead rope triceps extensions, wide-grip rope push-downs, one-hand push-downs, and narrow-grip rope push-downs.
- Take the Highway – James prefers high reps, over low reps. He would rather do 15-20 reps with lighter weight, than 3 reps with a heavy weight.
- Be Unique – The Welsh bodybuilder advises always creating new training techniques, and exercises. As he says; “Being innovative in the gym is the key to growing long-term.”
- Pushers – According to James, having a training partner always helps. Especially in situations where he needs “extra push” for those last few reps.
- Turn up the Heat – In this principle, James advises training with an extreme intensity. He’s found the best way to do this is to incorporate at least one HIT workout each week; slowly progressing to more HIT workouts done in a week, over time.
- M-2-M – James says that beginner’s’ number one priority should be learning how to achieve the best possible “mind-muscle connection.”
- In the End – “Neglect nothing.” James pays attention to detail, even to the smallest muscles or exercises. He says that it’s those small details that separate champions from the rest.
To build his 5-time Olympia winning physique, James had to dedicate a lot of his time to diet; cooking, preparing, and eating six meals per day.
He eats clean all year round, even in the off-season. Some of the foods that can be found in his kitchen are green vegetables, lean meats, eggs, nuts, healthy butter, and avocados. For carbs, he consumes complex sources such as oats, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. These provide James with constant energy supply, needed for his intense workouts.
Daily Meal Plan
- 2 whole eggs and 10 egg whites
- 4 oz dry-weight oatmeal
- 1 slice wholegrain toast with peanut butter
- 3 oz of Greek yogurt
- 2 oz mixed berries
20 min after 1st Meal
- 1 serving of fat-burner tablets
- 2g omega-3 fish oils
- vitamin B complex
- 3 oz dry weight, whole grain brown rice
- 8–9 oz fish
- 3 oz greens
10–15 min before 3rd Meal:
- 1 serving digestive enzymes
- 9–10 oz sweet potato,
- 8 oz ground turkey
- 3 oz greens
- 2–3 oz fresh pineapple
45 min before training:
- 1–1.5 scoops of pre-workout
- 15–20 min before training:
- 1 Scoop Amino Acids
- ½ scoop fast-acting carbs supplement
- 1 serving fat burner
- ½ scoop BCAAs
- ½ scoop BCAAs
- 1-1.5 scoops fast-acting carbs supplement
- 40–45g of whey isolate
10–15 min before the 4th meal:
- 1 serving digestive enzymes
- 9–10 oz baked potato
- 8oz steak, 1 whole egg
- 3 oz greens
- 5–6 oz dry-weight, wholegrain rice
- 9 oz salmon
- 3 oz greens
- 1 slice whole-grain toast
- 100g low-fat cottage cheese
- 1tbsp natural peanut butter
- 1.5 scoops of Casein protein
Idols and Influences
While these two legends were his main inspirations in bodybuilding, James also found other influences during his bodybuilding journey.
Possibly the biggest influence was his long-time trainer Neil “Yoda” Hill, who helped him sculpt an immaculate physique. One that eventually won him the 5 Mr. Olympia 212 titles.
“For anyone who wants this to happen tomorrow you’re in the wrong sport. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Have patience young Jedi or you will ruin your Physique.”
What we can learn from James Flex Lewis
One quality has stuck with James Flex Lewis throughout his entire bodybuilding journey – desire to be the best. James never settled for 2nd place, always aiming to win the trophy. Be it an amateur local contest, or the extremely competitive Mr. Olympia, James would always have his sights set on 1st.
Because of this mindset, he got to where he is today – at the pinnacle of his bodybuilding career, recognized by many as one of the best in his category.
It might be wise to learn from James’ story and his desire to excel in bodybuilding. This doesn’t mean that you need to aim to become the next Mr. Olympia. But you can always try to set higher goals for yourself, and most importantly – enjoy the journey.