Derek Lunsford’s debut in the Men’s Open division at the 2022 Mr. Olympia was a classic underdog story. A decorated former 212 Olympia champion moving up a division to compete with the biggest athletes in the sport, including then Mr. Olympia champion Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay and 2022 Mr. Olympia bronze medalist Nick Walker.
However, in true David versus Goliath fashion, Lunsford overcame all but one competitor to clinch the silver medal. Reigning Mr. Olympia Hadi Choopan was the only athlete to score better than Lunsford on the judges’ scorecards and extended Lunsford’s underdog journey for at least an additional season.
To ascend the kingdom to dethrone Choopan, Lunsford is adding even more mass to the eight pounds of lean tissue he packed on in 2022. In a video published on his YouTube channel on Sept. 4, 2023, Lunsford shared the high-volume calf and arm workout designed to earn him the coveted Sandow trophy. Check it out below:
Derek Lunsford’s 2023 Olympia Calf Workout
Lunsford did the following three exercises in his calf workout:
- Seated Calf Raise
- Tibialis Raise
- Machine Calf Raise
Calves comprise two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Gastrocnemius is close to the skin’s surface and forms the inverted heart-shaped outline on the back of the lower leg. The soleus sits under the gastrocnemius, inserted just below the knee, running down to the Achilles tendon above the heel.
The soleus muscle contracts for foot flexion while the knees are bent. So calf exercises like the seated calf raise are effective for training it. Conversely, performing exercises with the knee extended, such as standing calf raises, biases the gastrocnemius.
Seated Calf Raise
Lunsford opened with the seated calf raise to bias the soleus muscle. He used a slow rep tempo throughout his range of motion to ensure his calves were moving the weight. Lunsford paused at the top for more time under tension, maximizing his calf stimulation. Per a Journal of Physiology study, “greater muscle time under tension increased protein synthesis, improving hypertrophy.” (1)
The tibialis anterior is present at the front of your lower leg, is the primary dorsiflexor of the ankle, and is responsible for foot inversion. However, it is often overlooked in lower leg training. Developed tibialis anterior can add to calves’ overall size and thickness — a valuable addition to an on-stage physique.
Lunsford trained this muscle using a tibialis raise machine. Following the cues from the previous exercise, Lunsford used a slow rep cadence and squeezed the tibialis anterior in the fully shortened position for optimal muscle fiber stimulation.
Machine Calf Raise
Lunsford concluded his calf workout with machine calf raises to bias the gastrocnemius muscle. He maintained a slight bend in his knees for an extended range of motion. Lunsford performed partial reps to failure on the final set. A Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that “partial range of motion exercise is effective for facilitating muscle hypertrophy and function.” (3)
Derek Lunsford’s Arm Workout
Lunsford transitioned to training his arms after completing his calves workout. Here is a snapshot of his biceps and triceps training routine:
- Single-Arm Machine Preacher Curl
- Dumbbell Curl
- Concentration Curl
- Cable Triceps Pushdown
- Cross-Cable Triceps Pushdown
- Cable Single-Arm Pushdown
- Cable Overhead Triceps Extension
While recording, Lunsford mentioned that he was three weeks ahead of his 2022 Olympia prep. He will enter the 2023 Olympia scheduled for Nov. 2-5 in Orlando, FL, as a favorite to dethrone Hadi Choopan. However, Choopan certainly won’t make it easy.
- Burd NA, Andrews RJ, West DW, Little JP, Cochran AJ, Hector AJ, Cashaback JG, Gibala MJ, Potvin JR, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. J Physiol. 2012 Jan 15;590(2):351-62. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200. Epub 2011 Nov 21. PMID: 22106173; PMCID: PMC3285070.
- Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. PMID: 20847704.
- Goto M, Maeda C, Hirayama T, Terada S, Nirengi S, Kurosawa Y, Nagano A, Hamaoka T. Partial Range of Motion Exercise Is Effective for Facilitating Muscle Hypertrophy and Function Through Sustained Intramuscular Hypoxia in Young Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 May;33(5):1286-1294. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002051. PMID: 31034463.
Featured image: @dereklunsford_ on Instagram | photo via Jon Trevor (@jontrevormedia on Instagram)