How Larry Wheels’ Lifting Technique Has Changed To Compete as Classic Physique Bodybuilder

American powerlifter turned bodybuilder Larry Wheels is adjusting his lifting technique to transform his physique and earn an IFBB Pro card to compete in Classic Physique — the division striving to emulate the Golden Era of aesthetics, stretching from the 1950s through the 1970s.

In a Feb. 17, 2024 video published on Renaissance Periodization’s YouTube channel, Wheels teamed up with exercise scientist Dr. Mike Israetel, IFBB Pro bodybuilder Jared Feather, and coach Ryan Benson to refine Wheels chest and arm training techniques. Check it out below:

Wheels chased maximal loads to build strength as a competitive powerlifter. After transitioning to bodybuilding, Wheels is exploring the intricacies of lifting to prioritize hypertrophy

In powerlifting, the focus is the three big lifts — squat, deadlift, and bench press. Powerlifters prioritize training their one-rep maxes (1RMs) by staying in the 1-5 rep range. However, bodybuilders typically lift in the 8-12 rep range to mechanical failure to promote hypertrophy. (1)

While the three big lifts foster overall strength, they are not intended to shore up muscle imbalances or sculpt the aesthetics crucial for displaying to judges on stage.

After transitioning to competitive bodybuilding, Wheels prioritizes slow eccentrics to his fully stretched positions to increase the time under tension (TUT). 

A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that a longer TUT during resistance exercise led to greater increases in myofibrillar protein synthesis, a key component of muscle growth. (2)

Wheels has transitioned to high-volume training, typically performing five sets of 15 reps per exercise. A study published in Physiological Reports found that higher-volume resistance training led to greater increases in muscle size compared to lower-volume training. (3)

Smith Machine Bench Press & Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Wheels opened with the Smith machine bench press. When powerlifting, Wheels sunk the barbell into his chest to generate more force and speed on concentrics. However, his approach has changed, as Feather cued:

When bringing the bar down, try to meet the bar with your chest.

Wheels “soft touched” the bar to his chest at the bottom, emphasizing the stretch. He then swapped to incline dumbbell bench presses.

Wheels maintained a proud chest, pushing the dumbbells to the outside on eccentrics and pausing in the deep stretch at the bottom. He avoided rounding the shoulders on concentrics and kept his scapula retracted. 

Cable Tricep Extensions & EZ Barbell Curls

Wheels drop set his final triceps exercises to maximize a muscle pump. Research has shown a positive correlation between the amount of muscle swelling after a single resistance training session and muscle growth. So, bodybuilders are incentivized to prioritize the pump. (4)

While performing barbell curls, Wheels positioned his elbows in front of his midline, magnifying the biceps’ stretch at the bottom. He trained to failure on the first set.

The 29-year-old then performed the same number of reps on the remaining two sets using the rest-pause training principle, which involves resting for 5-10 seconds before performing the remaining repetitions.

Wheels was one rank off securing his IFBB Pro card at the 2023 Amateur Olympia. He is expected to make additional attempts in 2024 to score his spot amongst bodybuilding’s pro ranks.


  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Van Every DW, Plotkin DL. Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports (Basel). 2021;9(2):32. Published 2021 Feb 22. doi:10.3390/sports9020032
  2. Burd NA, Andrews RJ, West DW, et al. Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. J Physiol. 2012;590(2):351-362. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200
  3. Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Gonzalez AM, et al. The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiol Rep. 2015;3(8):e12472. doi:10.14814/phy2.12472
  4. Hirono, T., Ikezoe, T., Taniguchi, M., Tanaka, H., Saeki, J., Yagi, M., Umehara, J., & Ichihashi, N. (2022). Relationship Between Muscle Swelling and Hypertrophy Induced by Resistance Training. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 36(2), 359–364.

Featured image: @larrywheels on Instagram

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