The New Year baby crawled into the gym. 2020 is about to get jacked. Here’s six big topics we’re looking forward to covering in the year ahead.

1. FLEX OPENS UP

It might be an understatement to call Flex Lewis the best 212 bodybuilder of all time. He won the first seven 212 Olympias 🏆x7 and is undefeated in the class. With nothing left to prove there and the weight limit constricting his growth, it’s time for the 36-year-old Welsh Dragon 🐉 to move on up to the open class. Actually, he’s been there before, having competed in four open pro shows (twice in his rookie year of 2008 and twice again in 2011, when he earned a third-place finish), but back then, at around 200 lbs., he was still a work in (early) progress. This year, after spending 2019 off stages and expanding, he looks to impact the open Mr. Olympia. And when you consider that last year’s Olympia runner-up🥈William Bonac and third-place finisher🥉Hadi Choopan both moved up from the 212 (and Choopan did it from 2018 to 2019), it makes you wonder how high Flex can climb this year as he “opens up” for the long haul.

2. RECORD BREAKING

The lifting world’s most cherished records have been falling. Yury Belkin is poised to continue raising his raw 🌎 squat and 🌎 total world records in the 220 and/or 242 classes. At the pace he’s progressing, Julius Maddox will likely break his raw 🌎 bench record (744.1 lbs.) again, pushing it ever closer to a mind-boggling 800. In contrast, the deadlift record has stood at 1015 lbs. for nine long years. But last year, all the way down in the 220 class, Krzysztof Wierzbicki pulled an incredible 🌎 953.5, and his own Instagram page (@mrdeadlift) declares “ROAD TO 500KG DEADLIFT” (that’s 1102 lbs.!). Super-heavyweight weightlifter Lasha Talakhadze will attempt to rewrite his own world records in 🌎🌎both lifts and the 🌎 total. L.T. is approaching three century marks: the 500-pound snatch, the 600-pound clean and jerk, and the 500 kg. total, and it’s difficult to imagine a mere mortal ever tacking another 100 on to any of those.

Wierzbicki, aka Mr. Deadlift, pulls 953.5 (4.33 times his bodyweight) / YouTube

3. THE RETURN OF…?

Female bodybuilding, after an unwarranted six-year absence, is returning to the Olympia this year. Iris Kyle’s Ms. Olympia double-digit title count 🏆x10 was halted. At 46, will she too return? Oksana Grishina, Ms. Fitness Olympia 🏆x4, is coming back to the O to try to retake her crown after two years off stages. As for the Mr. Olympia, the lineup last year was lacking in some of its usual star power. After a year away, will 🏆x7 Phil Heath return at 40 to go after record-tying Sandow No. 8? It seems very likely. Will a legal cloud still hang over 2017 Mr. O 🏆 Shawn Rhoden, or will he be able to challenge reigning champ 🏆 Brandon Curry for the title? We haven’t seen Big Ramy, second in the 🥈2017 Olympia, since his disappointing sixth in the 2018 O, but he’ll be on the Arnold stage in March and, if qualified, the O stage in September. And what of the mercurial Kai Greene, who’s maintained his size and grown his popularity but hasn’t flexed in the🥈Olympia in six years nor any contest in four? Now in his mid-40s, will the Predator ever compete again?

The next Mr. O? / Instagram

4. OLYMPICS

Like us, you probably forget about most of the sports in the Summer Olympics until they show up on your TV screen every four years. But when they do, and when you’re enthralled once again by a 🏃🏽‍♀️ 4 x 400 relay or a 🤼‍♂️wrestling match or that final stretch of a 🏊🏾‍♀️ swimming race, you’ll remember why the Olympics is the ultimate fitness event. From July 24 to August 9, the Olympics will be held in Tokyo. Talakhadze, representing sparsely populated Georgia, will try to repeat as the super-heavyweight 🏋️‍♀️ weightlifting 🥇 gold medalist (and break his records).

Talakhadze was golden at the ’16 Olympics / Wikimedia

5. ATHLETICON

The Rock is launching a…wait, you had us at The Rock. We don’t yet know many specifics about the new fitness/entertainment extravaganza Athleticon, other than that it’ll be held on October 9-11 (one month after the Olympia) in Atlanta, but we certainly trust in the people behind it: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, his business partner Dany Garcia, and long-time Olympia promoter Robin Chang. Chang effuses: “We’ll be witnessing something unlike anything we’ve ever seen, starting with our 💪🏼 IFBB Pro League mega competition and the first-ever 💪🏼 NPC Worldwide International Championship. There will also be 🎬 movie screenings, 🎸 concerts, 👫 partnerships with the likes of UFC, CrossFit, WWE/NXT, Titan Games, and many others.” The Barbell will keep you posted as Athleticon comes into greater focus throughout 2020.

Garcia and Johnson promise to meld entertainment & fitness.

6. FUTURE TECH

Science fiction is becoming science fact as technology is impacting nutrition, exercise, and body enhancements. We’ll return to this theme frequently in 2020 and beyond, but let’s preview just three of the stories we’ll publish in the months ahead. Body monitors and 3-D food printing 📱🥨 allow the making of drinks, bars, and other foods on the fly to serve precise, individually tailored nutrient cocktails to athletes exactly when they need them. Workout monitors 📹 💻 (video cameras + computers) can analyze every rep of every workout to improve form, better target muscles, determine what works best and what doesn’t, and much more. And gene therapy 🧪💉 now being employed by biohackers, may be on the verge of allowing people to, in effect, rewire their own DNA to better gain muscle and strength and resist fat. It’s a brave new fitness world, and we’ll report first on the cutting edge.

3-D food printing / Natural Machines

Opening image: Flexlewis.net