Derek Lunsford Attacks a Heavy Leg Day During His 2023 Mr. Olympia Prep

The 2022 Mr. Olympia runner-up was rattling some plates as he eyes his first Sandow.

A bodybuilder’s workout programming changes throughout the year depending on whether they are in the bulking, cutting, or maintenance phase. While elite bodybuilders usually share snippets of their workouts, they keep the programming under wraps to maintain their edge.

Explaining the importance of the correct programming, the 2021 212 Olympia champ Derek Lunsford said, “You do what’s necessary each day. You don’t do extra things that can be counterproductive, and you don’t do less than you need to do or less than you should. You need to do exactly what is going to elicit the best result each and every day.”

On Sept. 11, 2023, Lunsford took to YouTube to share the exact quad-focused leg programming he is using for the 2023 Olympia, scheduled for Nov. 2-5 in Orlando, FL. Check it out below:

[Related: The 20 Best Leg Exercises for Muscle and Strength]

Derek Lunsford’s 2023 Olympia Leg Workout

Here is a summary of Lunsford’s high-volume lower-body workout: 

* The final set was followed by a drop set.

The 2023 Olympia was around nine weeks away when the video went live, and at this point in his prep, Lunsford was running a calorie deficit to shed body fat and improve his conditioning. However, he was using high-volume workouts to maintain the muscle tissue he had built in the off-season. 

Lunsford warmed up for his lower body workout with a 10-minute walk on the treadmill at a seven-percent incline to get the blood flowing into the target muscles and loosen up the joints, tendons, and ligaments. 

Leg Extension

For his first exercise, Lunsford used a plate-loaded leg extension machine to isolate the quads. He did 15 reps with two 45-pound plates on the first set and 10 reps with three plates on the second. Lunsford performed 10 reps for the subsequent two sets but added a plate on each set to maximize quad stimulation. He did a drop set on the final set to train for muscle failure and bias hypertrophy. This involved 20 reps with six plates, quickly followed by 15 reps with three.

Front Squat

Lunsford performed front squats as the second exercise to bias the quads and glutes. He opened with 135 pounds for 12 reps, followed by 10 reps with 225 pounds, six with 315, and four with 365 while wearing a weightlifting belt. He added knee wraps for the next set and crushed 405 pounds for 10 reps.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Derek Lunsford (@dereklunsford_)

[Related: Do the Romanian Deadlift for Bigger Legs and a Seriously-Strong Back]

“I was so excited to come in and do [405-pound front squats],” Lunsford said. “I didn’t know if I could or I would, but I did.” He then performed a back-off set of 15 reps with 315 pounds.

Pendulum Squat

The unique movement trajectory of the pendulum squat biases the quads and glutes while limiting lower back strain. Lunsford did 12 reps for the first three sets, using two 45-pound plates for the first set, four for the second, and five for the third. For the final set, he performed nine reps with six plates and followed it with a drop set of six reps with four plates.

Single-Leg Leg Press

Lunsford mentioned that, until a couple of years ago, one of his legs was noticeably bigger than the other, but doing a few extra reps of unilateral exercises like the single-leg leg press on the weaker side helped him bridge the gap and improve his overall physique symmetry and balance.

Lunsford placed his foot high up on the leg press platform to engage the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. He did three sets of 12 reps on each leg, using four 45-pound plates for the first set, six on the second, and eight on the final. 

Standing Leg Curl

Lunsford finished his leg workout with standing leg curls to bias the hamstrings. He placed his hips and quads against the machine’s thigh pad and used a slow and controlled rep cadence to ensure his hamstrings were moving the weight.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Derek Lunsford (@dereklunsford_)

[Related: 10 Bodybuilders With Some of the Biggest Legs in the Sport’s History]

The Way Forward

During the workout, Lunsford revealed that his conditioning is two to three weeks ahead of schedule compared to where he was last year at eight weeks out from the Olympia. 

Lunsford’s silver medal at the 2022 Olympia earned him a direct qualification for the contest and made him the biggest threat to the reigning champ Hadi Choopan’s throne.

Besides Choopan, the 2023 Arnold Classic Champ Samson Dauda, 2022 Olympia bronze medalist Nick Walker, and former champions Brandon Curry and Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay will likely be Lunsford’s most formidable competitors at the 2023 Olympia. 

Featured image: Derek Lunsford on YouTube