Written by Ron Harris
17 February 2016


Pro Sensation Josh Lenartowicz

Australia's Best Prepares for Columbus Action


Josh Who?

I do a pretty good job of keeping up with the pro bodybuilding scene, as I bet many of you do too. It’s a rarity that someone I’ve never heard of wins a pro show, but that’s exactly what happened when I saw that someone named Josh Lenartowicz had won the San Marino Pro in Italy, nearly two months after the 2015 Mr. Olympia, then followed up with a win at the Ferrigno Legacy contest in November. At first I assumed he was Polish, given his surname. It turns out he’s from Australia. It’s been a while since we had any good pros hailing from Down Under. There was the late Sonny Schmidt, who was a consistent top-five man throughout the ‘90s. He competed in nearly 50 IFBB contests, with his only win being the 1995 Masters Mr. Olympia. And of course, there’s Lee Priest, who many feel is the greatest short bodybuilder of all time, as well as MD’s pick last year as having the best arms our sport has ever known. Now we have 32-year-old Joshua Lenartowicz, who weighs a hulking 315 at 5’10” and shreds down to 260 pounds for the stage, with monstrously full deltoids and truly enormous, sweeping quads. Steve Blechman charged me with the task of finding out more about this new sensation, as he prepares to compete at the Arnold Classic in Columbus on March 5th.


Humble Beginnings

Joshua grew up in Sale, Victoria, a country town of just 12,000 people. The youngest of three boys, his first athletic pursuits were basketball and swimming. The men of the house also loved to arm-wrestle each other, and perhaps as a portent to the future, young Joshua was able to beat them all by the time he hit puberty. His older brother Adam was the first of the family to show an interest in bodybuilding, taking a job working the front desk at a local gym. When Josh was only 12, it was a poster of the 1995 Mr. Olympia posedown on his brother’s wall that sparked what would become his passion in life. “I had never realized human beings could look like those guys: Dorian, Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, Nasser and Flex,” he recalls. “It was a photo of Dorian Yates in his front lat spread that impressed me the most and absolutely made me want to become a bodybuilder,” he says.

He got a VHS copy of “Pumping Iron” and watched it dozens of times, and provided himself a proper basic education by means of three books he read over and over: Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier and Power Eating by Susan Kleiner. Unfortunately, his father felt 12 was too young to be lifting weights, and didn’t lift that ban until Josh was 14. “That’s when I was old enough to work, and he said if I got a job I could start training too,” he explains. In his unbound enthusiasm, Josh would wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning and ride his bike to the gym to train before school. “It was a little gym and we were out in the country,” he says. “One day, I was doing a set on the bench press and a ram wandered inside.” Humble beginnings to be sure, but Lenartowicz was well on his way.


The Journey to IFBB Pro

Throughout his early to mid-20s, Josh was one of the best bodybuilders in an international natural federation called the INBA, working his way up from the city, regional and national level, all the way to their biggest event, which so happens to bear the Mr. Olympia title (don’t ask me; that’s one for the lawyers to argue). Josh had every intention of remaining with this federation until he finally reached that pinnacle. “I was pretty disheartened, because I’d given everything to do it; a lot of sacrifices and a lot of suffering,” he recalls. “But the auditorium was half empty, and there was hardly any publicity at all for us.”

Realizing he had taken the route in the INBA as far as he could, Lenartowicz decided it was time to set his sights on a loftier goal, to be an IFBB pro. Knowing he was nowhere near big enough yet for that level, he took a full seven years off from competing to gain the needed mass. In 2013, he set a goal of becoming Australia’s best bodybuilder in two to five years, and to be on the Mr. Olympia stage within five to 10 years. In 2014, he entered the FitX Amateur Grand Prix/Pro Qualifier, held in conjunction with that expo and the pro show in Melbourne, promoted by Tony Doherty. Josh won that, which qualified him to compete in the IFBB Australia Pro just hours later.


“I hadn’t even counted on winning the qualifier, but once I did, it seemed crazy to pass up doing the pro show that day, too.” He finished a very respectable eighth place out of 13. Shawn Rhoden won, with William Bonac in second, Evan Centopani in third, Branch Warren fourth and Ed Nunn wrapping up the top five. “I was tremendously motivated from that experience, as you might imagine,” says Josh.

In 2015, he started his season off at that same event, which had now become the Arnold Classic Australia. In a much tougher lineup that featured most of the Arnold Classic competitors from the weekend before in Ohio, he placed ninth. But his two final contests of the year were back-to-back wins at the San Marino Pro and the Ferrigno Legacy. “Now I’m qualified for the 2016 Mr. Olympia, something I gave myself up to 10 years to accomplish,” he laughs. “I’m very happy to be so far ahead of schedule.”


A Life-changing Leg Workout With Ronnie Coleman

One of Josh’s most memorable experiences as a bodybuilder happened in 2014, when eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman was in Australia to promote his supplement brand. “Nick, the owner of my gym, said that Ronnie was coming down and we might get to train with him, but we’ll see.” Excited but not wanting to get his hopes up, Josh continued on his normal workout schedule. On a day he had already trained back in the morning and then came back later in the afternoon to hit biceps, he got the word that Ronnie wanted to train legs at his gym later that night, and he was invited. Even though he’d already worked out twice that day, “there was just no way I was going to pass that up,” Lenartowicz says.

The workout was a milestone for Joshua, and not only because it was a dream come true to train with a living legend of our sport. Prior to this, his best squat had been 240 kilos, or 528 pounds. “But with someone like Ronnie Coleman yelling in your ear to lift more weight, you find you are capable of more than you ever thought.” In that workout, he did three reps with 300 kilos, or 600 pounds, which you can find on YouTube under the title “7platesJosh.”

“That empowered me for a whole year,” Josh reports. “Any time I felt tired, I thought, hey, I did back and biceps one day and still made a 60-kilo jump in my squats, training legs that same night. Just because someone says you can only train one muscle group a day, or you only have a set amount of energy to give, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. If you let other people’s opinions and beliefs influence your beliefs and decisions, you’re gonna end up living someone else’s life. Limitations are just like fears— they’re an illusion.”


“Words determine your world”

Certainly, Josh’s exceptional genetics have played a major role in his rapid rise in the sport. But an equally important component has been his attitude and outlook. “I’m a big believer that words determine your world,” he begins. “In the gym, let’s say, if you think a weight can conquer you, it will. Or you can believe that the weight will always be that weight, but you are getting stronger every day, and then you can conquer that weight.”

Bodybuilding is about much more than the exterior physique we see. Josh sees it as a way to master your own destiny by perfecting your physical body. “From an early age, I saw people working for a pension, not a passion,” he says. “I thought to myself, you can get in and out of your house, or your car, but you’re always inside your own body. Why not look after it the best you can and make that a priority?”


A Top-notch Team Behind Him

Josh is quick to give credit to those who have helped him along the way. First and foremost is his wife, Lizzie, whose love and support has kept him going even when he had his moments of doubt. Her father, Sanitesi Latu, who was Australia’s decathlon champion in 1974 and 1978, provided tremendous moral support. Not every father-in-law would encourage his daughter’s husband to pursue his dreams of being one of the world’s best bodybuilders, but he told Josh to “give it everything you have, so you can look back later on with no regrets.”

Lenartowicz was coached by Chad Nicholls for his first couple of pro shows, and is now working with IFBB great Chris Cormier. “The kid has a huge heart,” Cormier says. “I put him through hell with posing practice to improve his presentation, and he never backed down or complained once.”

Josh also thanks top Australian promoter and gym owner Tony Doherty for all his help and encouragement, as well as New Zealand’s Moe Moussawi.

Josh Lenartowicz knows he is a work in progress, but he’s proud to represent his native Australia and eager to work his way up the competitive ladder. As Josh anticipates his Arnold participation he says: “Images of past champions were the spark, my friends and family fanned the spark into a flame, competing in bodybuilding contests is what turned the flame into a fire, and being ranked Australia’s number-one bodybuilder began a roaring blaze. I’m just getting started. I will make my mark in Columbus.”

Instagram: king_ofthe_gym

Facebook: King of the gm

Website:   www.bigjosh.com.au


Contest History

2004 INBA Mr. Melbourne                    Junior and Overall Champion

2005 INBA Mr. Victoria                        Junior Champion

2005 INBA Mr. Australia                       Junior Champion

2006 INBA Mr. Victoria                         Men’s Overall Champion

2006 INBA Mr. Australia                       Second, Men’s Medium

2006 INBA Mr. Olympia                        Second, Men’s Medium-Tall

2013 IFBB Australasia                          Super Heavyweight Winner

2014 IFBB FitX Pro Qualifier                 Overall Champion

2014 IFBB Australian Grand Prix           Eighth Place

2015 IFBB Arnold Classic Australia        Ninth Place

2015 IFBB San Marino Pro                    Winner

2015 IFBB Ferrigno Legacy                  Winner


Training Split

Day 1:    Back

Day 2:    Chest

Day 3:    Hamstrings and calves

Day 4:    Shoulders and traps

Day 5:    Arms

Day 6:    Quads and calves

Day 7:    OFF