"You Have to Respect the Weight": 212 Olympia Champ Derek Lunsford Explains When to Scale Back Your Workouts

Defending 212 Olympia champion Derek Lunsford is driven to hold on to his title in Las Vegas in December. Still, despite his desire to be the very best and crank out PR after PR, the driven bodybuilder knows that when it comes to making progress, one must "respect the weight," as he explains in a recent YouTube video.

As a high school wrestler, Lunsford pursues his bodybuilding goals with the same passion and gusto to win that he’d learned on the mat from an early age. But to play the long game, the current 212 Mr. Olympia also appreciates that sometimes you have to pace yourself.

During a recent workout, programmed to be a full leg day, Lunsford began to feel ill and decided to end the session before completing his glute-focused exercises.

"I’m glad that I stopped the workout when I did," he explains in the video. "But now, we have to make up for it. We’re gonna start with glutes…and that way when we go on to do back today, we’re really ready to go, and we’re gonna have a really good back day."

Lunsford starts his back day with back extensions, a movement he likes because it hits the entire posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and the erector spinae). Amid the warm-up, the champ soon notices that his hamstrings and glutes are still sore from the previous leg day.

"You know, it’s just like a mental thing, man. I don’t know if it’s the wrestler in me, the competitor in me, or just the bodybuilder in me, I just always want to do more," Lunsford says of his personality, which his coach, the famed Hany Rambod, is acutely aware of and remind him to scale things back as necessary.

"It really goes back to my college wrestling days," Lunsford continues. "I like to leave the gym just absolutely destroyed. You know, if I’m not absolutely destroyed when I leave the gym, I almost feel like it wasn’t a successful day, which isn’t always true. Like, it’s always a productive day…and if you do too much, sometimes it’s counterproductive so I need to find a better balance of pushing myself and then reigning it back in."

  1. Training Sore Muscles
  2. References

Training Sore Muscles

But, while Lunsford is learning to appreciate that scaling back can be a great tool for overall progress, he doesn’t shy away from working those muscles that may be injured or sore.

"Like I said, I’m feeling a bit sore, so coming in and actually working the muscles that are sore, a little bit, is actually gonna help with the recovery process. So, yeah, I know it sucks to do some extra cardio, or train a muscle that is sore but when you do that, and you’re pumping some blood back into the muscle, you’re gonna recover a lot faster and get back to training"

A study published in The International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that increased blood flow — this time, induced on by electrical stimulation — was shown to have a positive impact on recovery between bouts of high-intensity exercise (in this case, it was cycling). The study further concluded that this finding could be applied to short-term recovery. (1)


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Lunsford completes the glute portion of his workout on the hip thrust machine, again making sure to respect the weight and acknowledge that he’s feeling taxed. He concentrates on strong, productive contractions rather than working towards failure.

Then, Lunsford follows up with rack pulls, increasing the weight with each set and only puts on lifting straps when he feels that he needs them. In the video, we see the bodybuilder add weight plates totaling 180, 360, and finally 450 pounds (204 kilograms) for 15 reps. Next up is underhand racked barbell rows, seated rows, and pulldowns.

On completion of the session, Lunsford feels a sense of achievement. It’s always reassuring to know that even the very best in the field have off days, but the key to progression is having a strategy that keeps things moving.

"You always have to respect the weight," says Lunsford. "I don’t care how tough and how strong you think you are; you must respect the weight." 


  1. Borne R, Hausswirth C, Bieuzen F. Relationship Between Blood Flow and Performance Recovery: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017 Feb;12(2):152-160. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2015-0779. Epub 2016 Aug 24. PMID: 27139812.

Featured Image: Derek Lunsford on YouTube

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