This article could be filled with all the things that make Kevin Levrone a unique bodybuilding icon. These are five:
1. He trained for four months in a year.
2. Before he entered his first competition, both of his parents were diagnosed with cancer.
3. He won 19 open professional shows in the 1990s, more than any other person.
4. Fulblown was founded by him and he was its lead singer.
5. He holds the record for Mr. Olympia runnerup finishes with no Mr. O win: four.
Like Jay Cutler and Kai Greene, who each did third-place three-peats in the runner-up category, Levrone’s second place finishes were not consecutive. They occurred from his rookie year (1992), to his last-to-last professional season (2002), ten years later. These six principles were the basis of Maryland Muscle Machine’s workouts. He remained at the top of bodybuilding for more that a decade.
1. LOWER REPS
The 20-time winner of a pro title, he built one of the most muscular bodies in history with low reps. His working sets remained in the six-to eight range. He would sometimes go lower in load-up the-bar strength tests like bench presses. “Those lower reps worked for me. Levrone states that while others aim for 10, he and other athletes grow faster by lifting heavy. He emphasized failure from six to eight years old, a similar approach to Dorian Yates who he chased at Olympia six times (1992-1997) and was the heir apparent to twice (1992-1995). There was a difference. HIT-man Yates pushed those sets past failure with forced reps and rest-pause. Levrone tended to do straight sets. We’ll also see that the Maryland Muscle Machine was able to complete many more sets.
2. COMPOUND BASE
Many modern routines include an isolation exercise that warms up the joints and pre-examines the area for the compound exercises. The program may also mix up the order of exercises from one workout to the next. Deadlifts might start in one workout and end in another. Levrone, on the other hand, almost always started his routines with the compound exercise that allowed him to hoist the most weight. Then he moved onto the lightest isolation exercise. The accompanying triceps workout includes close-grip bench press, lying triceps extension, rope pushdowns, one-arm dumbbell extensions and pyramiding exercises, from the heaviest weight to the lightest.
3. HIGHER SETS
FLEX published an article by Levrone in 1994 that featured his “favorite triceps workout.” Let’s get started. The workout consisted of five exercises, four of which were pushdowns, and a total 28 sets. To complete his first 24 pushdown sets, he must have spent at least an hour at a cable TV station. This was quite an exception. He was doing this one year after tormenting his pec benching. He was also trying out higher reps (between 12 and 15 per set) as well as extreme volume. Even though he does a routine for triceps that is more common, such as the one shown here, it has 16 sets. He also did an identical amount of volume for other body parts, including 16 sets for the biceps.
4. Heavy Metal
Levrone recalls that he was a heavy lifter right from the beginning. “Strength just came naturally to me.” Although he had only been lifting weights for a year, in 1990 at 220 he was able to bench press 465. He injured his right pec while bench pressing 550 in February 1993. However, that didn’t stop him from doing the job temporarily. He and heavy metal go together like pancakes and syrup. A YouTube video shows him doing four reps of 455 after he had done 495-pound bench presses 12 days prior to the 1998 Mr. Olympia. These are Ronnie Coleman-esque numbers. However, at his largest, the eight-time Mr. O weighed in at 50 pounds more than the almost-Mr. O. Levrone was a formidable machine with his impressive triceps, and capacious deltoids. He didn’t stop there. Every exercise was a strength challenge: pulldowns and hack squats were all part of the test. He passed all of his tests. Be stronger and bigger.
5. STRICT FORMAT
A common problem with chasing higher reps and progressively heavier weights is loosening your form. You can do six sets with perfect form and eight with loose form. You are now sliding down a slippery slope towards a place where every set seems to be more about stimulating muscle than moving metal. The range of motion decreases. Pecs can be described as trampolines. Bars swing. The lower back and legs get smashed in and declare themselves bosses and take over the reins. The Maryland Muscle Machine didn’t go there. Although he lifted prodigious weights, he only did it for complete, controlled reps. His form was impeccable. He paced himself to maximize the stress in his target areas. He states that strict form is required. “It is not a good idea to rely on sloppy forms to lose weight. You’re wasting time and putting yourself at risk for injury if you don’t stimulate the muscle.
6. PUSH/PULL SPLIT
Levrone started serious muscle-building in 1989, the year his mother died. He also entered and won his first contest. The push/pull method was then the most popular way to organize workouts. He was a follower. He tried many other workouts but he preferred the one he used throughout his career. Day 1 was chest and shoulders with push. Day 2 was triceps and triceps. Day 2 was back, biceps, and pull. Day 3 was all about legs. Day 4 was off. He then started the push-pull leg rotation.
Push/pull works by training all smaller muscles involved in pulling or pushing compound lifts on the same day. If you do chest presses (pecs front delts and triceps one day, shoulder presses another day and triceps the third day, your front delt stress will be spread over two days, while your triceps work will be spread over three. You can cycle through your workouts faster if you do all the above in one workout. The 1991 NPC Nationals champion, Coleman, was able to hit every body part twice every seven-days. Coleman finished second in Olympias, and Coleman came in second.
Let’s go back to No. 3. This is the third item on our initial list that makes Kevin Levrone special. The 1990s were the most successful decade for pro-bodybuilding talent. Pumping Iron was the inspiration for a generation who adore Arnold and enjoyed the benefits of a fitness revolution. This created a jam of IFBB Pro League talent that is worthy of winning. One man overcame the legend congestion, which included Ronnie Coleman and Flex Wheeler, to win more pro contests than any other. Kevin Levrone won 19 of his 20 professional titles during that decade.
It wasn’t all about the wins. It wasn’t just the wins. He missed the posedown once in 62 contests (’97 Arnold Classic). In his pro debut, he finished third (then won an even bigger show a week later), and third against a loaded line-up in his final contest in 2003. That’s consistency. That same consistency was what he brought to his training: simple exercises, heavy weights and low reps, high volume, frequent work, strict form, and higher than-average volume. It paid off week after week and year after year. He sculpted one of the most dense physiques ever seen and still maintained his beautiful lines. If not for Yates or Coleman, Levrone could have won four Sandows. Despite these four losses, we should be proud. They all attest to the consistency of one of the most respected bodybuilders ever.
LEVRONE’S QARTET OF MRS. OLYMPIA RUNNERS FINISHES SPANS HIS ROOKIE FORAY NEXT TO LAST PROSEASON l Dorian Yates. Levrone was 27 years old when he shocked the bodybuilding community with his stunning debut O. He would never be less than 228, even though he was 228. Yates’ superior back prevented Levrone from scoring a run in his first swing. Levrone looked certain to ascend to the throne, with his edge in quads and arms. Dorian Yates l Although the champ was in decline, many still consider this edition to be his best year of mass and cuts. Levrone, 240, gave up a decisive 15 pound to Yates, and was once again eclipsed from behind, even though he maintained his lead from the front. He was still No. He was ranked 2 in an all-star lineup that included more than a dozen legends. Ronnie Coleman l The 264-pound champion’s third consecutive Sandow was not in doubt despite some blurriness. Levrone, a 243-pounder, had a back that rivaled Coleman’s and was able to take the best side shots. Although his wheels weren’t as deep-worn or as inflated, his silver medal finish was a rebound from his fourths in the three Olympias. Ronnie Coleman l Jay Cutler, his heir apparent, was in the audience. Coleman was shockingly small and pale. The crown was yours to take. Levrone, who was 245 pounds heavier than the champ, wasn’t at his best. Levrone’s legs, which were strong a decade ago, are now a liability. They are smaller and more smooth. It was close. Levrone won both final rounds, but he failed to make up the difference from the prejudging rounds.
LEVRONE’S TRICEPS ROUTE
* Close-grip Bench Press| SETS: 4 | REPS: 6-8