To be the best, you have to beat the best.
Considering how close he came to taking home the title in his Men’s Open debut, 2022 Mr. Olympia runner-up Derek Lunsford certainly seems capable of toppling Hadi Choopan from his throne in just a few weeks. Yet even though the former 212 Olympia winner represents a major threat to Choopan’s chances of claiming the crown in consecutive years, that doesn’t mean the two titans can’t benefit from some friendly collaboration.
With the 2023 Mr. Olympia show set to take place the weekend of Nov. 3-5, Lunsford recently teamed up with the reigning champion for an intense chest workout led by legendary trainer Hany Rambod. In a poignant example of iron sharpening iron, the two bodybuilders showcased their incredible physiques and work ethics in a pec-focused training vlog posted on the Evogen Nutrition YouTube channel on Oct. 19, 2023.
Prior to hitting the weights, Rambod put everything in perspective by pointing out that all the athletes in the Men’s Open division have leveled up, which should make this year’s Olympia “an absolute dogfight.” With two of the top contenders joining forces for a muscle-building session at Evogen Nutrition HQ in Irvine, Texas, the workout kicked off near the 1:20 mark.
Incline Machine Chest Press
After consuming a serving of Evogen Nutrition EVP AQ Liquid Glycerol, a specialized pre-workout supplement that enhances blood and muscle volume, Lunsford started out on the incline chest press machine. Working with three 45-pound (20.4-kilogram) plates per side on his first set, he made sure to completely lockout his triceps at the top of the movement.
Choopan followed with a set of his own before Rambod ramped up the intensity by adding another 45-pound (20.4-kilogram) plate per side. During the initial part of the workout, Lunsford credited the 22-time Olympia-winning trainer with helping him make improvements in 2023.
“That connection is so much better this year, it’s crazy,” Lunsford told Rambod. “Once you told me in the offseason to slow it down, back off the weight a little bit, control it, then I actually started connecting with the muscle. Then I started adding more weight, and now I feel really strong and connected with the muscle.”
Incline Machine Power Press
Before diving into the next exercise, Rambod noted the significant differences in training styles between two of his top athletes.
“Derek’s used to doing much less volume, in general,” he said. “Hadi’s used to doing a ton of volume. So he goes in and does four or five sets. He’ll do like eight exercises. It’s like we’ve got to force him sometimes to cut back.”
Lunsford and Choopan proceeded to blast their pecs and triceps on the incline machine “power press,” using a neutral-grip to adjust muscle recruitment. The training team started out with three 45-pound (20.4-kilogram) plates per side. As the load increased and fatigue set in, Rambod encouraged Lunsford to finish with partial reps.
Incline Machine Flye
Next, the duo made their way to the incline flye machine for four sets of this staple chest exercise. Emphasizing both the stretch and the squeeze portions of the movement, Choopan worked with a slightly heavier load than his peer.
Between sets, Lunsford shared some insight into what it’s like to train alongside someone who he will aim to defeat in Orlando, FL.
“As far as the competition’s concerned we’ll leave it to the day of the show,” Lunsford explained. “But all in all we’re brothers in iron, we’re brothers and teammates here at Evogen, and I’m happy to be training with him, and you got to respect the champion.”
Incline Dumbbell Press
Following three machine-based movements, Rambod switched things up by having his athletes work with dumbbells on an incline bench press. Choopan started with 119 pounds (54 kilograms) in each hand, carefully lowering the dumbbells to his chest before driving them back up.
Meanwhile, Lunsford worked with a weight that appeared to be a little lighter than his counterpart. Still, he made sure to squeeze out every rep of an exercise designed to target the upper pec and front delts.
Flat Machine Chest Press
Next, Ramod went with another bench press variation, this time calling upon Panatta’s unique “Super Horizontal Multi Press” machine for a flat version of the push-oriented movement. He helped Lunsford get familiar with the mechanics of this specially designed chest press machine, which allows the user to get a similar experience as using a barbell with the added benefit of being able to change the bar position, range of motion, and type of bar grip for a significantly more targeted approach.
“It works great for not only chest but you can also use it for triceps because you can go ahead and invert the bar, and it’ll take you into a cambered position so you can do a close-grip bench,” Rambod explained.
Lunsford and Choopan’s trainer also took some time to point out common mistakes he sees athletes make when training chest, including trying to push with their shoulders instead of their chest, having weak triceps, and not bringing the bar or dumbbells directly across their chest. Those technical errors can prevent lifters from maximizing their ability to build bigger, stronger pecs.
Decline Machine Flye
To target the lower pec, Rambod had Lunsford and Choopan utilize the decline machine flye. The eccentric portion produced significant tension on the lower portion of their chest muscles, forcing both bodybuilders to dig deep to squeeze their hands as close together as possible on the concentric portion.
The second-to-last exercise Lunsford and Choopan performed hit their chest from a different angle. They executed high-volume sets of dips on a plate-loaded machine, focusing on slow and controlled movements.
Rambod emphasized the importance of body positioning and maintaining a strong core throughout the exercise. Although dips are typically viewed as a triceps builder, he noted that leaning forward “will activate much more chest” than staying upright, which recruits more of the triceps.
Finally, the group made their way to the cable machine for several sets of flye variations. Lunsford and Choopan hit their pecs from multiple angles — something Rambod expounded upon near the end of the workout.
“Change up the position of the pulley,” he explained. “Go high, go mid-point, go low. What you want to do is you want to be able to create variation so that your chest does not get used to the same exercises week to week. When you give variation, you’ll get muscle growth.”
Championship-Caliber Chest Day Workout
- Incline Machine Chest Press — 4 x 8-15
- Incline Machine Power Press — 4 x 8-15
- Incline Machine Flye — 4 x 8-15
- Incline Dumbbell Press — 4 x 8-15
- Flat Chest Press Machine — 4 x 8-15
- Machine Decline Flye — 4 x 8-15
- Machine Dip — 4 x 12-15
- Cable Flye — 4 x 12-15
As two of the favorites to win the 2023 Mr. Olympia, Hadi Choopan and Derek Lunsford bring elite physiques and unparalleled dedication to the mix. Joining forces for a chest workout showed they’re both humble enough to put any egos aside in order to bring out the best in each other. However, only one man can leave Orlando with the Mr. Olympia title, and only time will tell whether Choopan, Lunsford, or another competitor will earn that coveted crown.
Featured Image: Evogen Nutrition / YouTube