Flex Lewis is the GOAT of 212 bodybuilding. In the pro division for male bodybuilders 212 pounds and less, he went an incredible 17-0, including seven straight 212 Olympia titles. Today, the popular 5’5″ Welsh Dragon announced his retirement from competitive bodybuilding at age 38.

A lot has changed for Lewis in recent years. With nothing left to prove in the 212 after winning the O again in 2018, he planned to take 2019 off to grow and move up to the open division to compete in the 2020 Mr. Olympia. (Early in his pro career, he competed in four open contests, including a third place finish.) But it wasn’t to be. Injuries kept him off stage in 2020 and other priorities were the stated reason in 2021. Last year, he moved from Florida to Las Vegas and opened his gym, The Dragon’s Lair. Only a week ago, he and his wife, Ali, added a second child, baby boy Macsen, to their family, joining daughter Adiena. Meanwhile, there have been several high-profile deaths in pro bodybuilding, including Lewis’ close friends Dallas McCarver in 2017 and Shawn Rhoden last November. Family, business, possible injuries, and the potential health risks of packing on size to compete with the likes of Big Ramy and Nick Walker for bodybuilding’s ultimate prize was enough to make Lewis decide now was the right time to call it quits.

Flex Lewis 212 Olympia
2016 212 Olympia, the pose that helped Flex go undefeated in the 212 / YouTube

Flex Lewis announced his retirement on the first episode of his podcast, “Straight Outta The Lair,” the video of which is on Flex’s YouTube channel. Here’s what he said:

I’ve kind of thought about many ways on how I want to deliver this because [competitive bodybuilding] is something I’ve done since I was 19. There’s no real easy way to say this, but it’s time. Bodybuilding has served me very well. It has opened some amazing doors for me, but it’s time for me to hang up my posing trunks. It’s been an amazing road. I’m very blessed to say that I’ve accomplished more things than I ever imagined. Without getting emotional, you kind of know [when it’s time]. I know. This is a decision that I made myself. It was my decision, and everybody has supported it. There are multiple reasons why I’m at this place.

Lewis highlighted one reason:

My son is on the way. [The podcast was recorded before Macsen’s birth.] I really want to be present. My daughter is six years old right now. I’ve lost a lot of years of her life being on the road, traveling, putting bodybuilding first. There’s no way around it. Bodybuilding was first on many, many occasions. I just want to be there for the birth, and I just don’t want to have to look at the clock and eat meals and run off to the gym.

We at The Barbell wish Flex Lewis, the 212 GOAT, all the best in the next chapter of his life.

See also: Flex Lewis on Laptop Becomes Viral Meme