April 12, 2021 10 min read
The 2000s were a special time for the bodybuilding world. The sport witnessed one of the most competitive rivalries ever between Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman. It’s pretty safe to say that if Coleman hadn’t existed in the sport, Cutler would have been known as the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
A true mass monster with a stage weight of 275 pounds, he would literally crowd out other contestants on any stage with his width. And that’s not to say that his aesthetics were severely impacted—with one of the most massive upper bodies, feathered quads, and a flat midsection. Cutler was a force to be reckoned with.
Cutler spent most of his career being the runner-up to Coleman, but he finally usurped the Olympia throne in 2006. The next year he defended his title from Victor Martinez, lost the title in 2008 to Dexter Jackson, and then stepped back onto the stage in 2009 in his best conditioning yet.
At 35 years of age, there were details on his physique that had never been seen before. Below we have workout, diet, and supplements, that put the ‘monster’ into ‘mass monster.’
If you’re reading this, you probably already have some idea of who Cutler is, but his achievements really bring home the fact that he’s a good person to listen to when it comes to workout advice.
Working at his brother’s concrete business when he was young (11 years old), Cutler always had an impressive physique. But it wasn’t until he was 18 when he started to really workout. At the age of 20, he would go on to enter and win his first competition in 1993. In 1996 he would earn his pro card by winning the 1996 National Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships.
Entering his first IFBB competition in 1998, he would go on to win three Arnold Classics consecutively, from 2002 to 2004. In 2001, Cutler would place second at Olympia Weekend—the lowest position he would ever hold again in the Olympia competition.
For five years Cutler could not topple the reigning king at the time, Ronnie Coleman, but in 2006—exactly one decade after earning his pro card—Cutler would become Mr. Olympia for the first time. He would go on to win four times in all, only missing one year in 2008 and losing out to Phil heath in 2011.
This meant that Cutler has been only the third Mr. Olympia to win the Sandow in non-consecutive years, and also the only person to ever regain the title in the year right after losing it. Along with the three Arnold Classic wins, Cutler has won eight other titles in all. Without a doubt, the man is a beast.
In the workout routine below, you won’t see anything gimmicky or anything complex. Cutler sticks to the basics of moving heavy things, a lot. There are a lot of compound exercises and free weights that are guaranteed to get you results when it comes to bodybuilding.
Cutler is also a big believer in not resting between sets. There’s evidence that this leads to greater muscle growth, but he’s also into quick, brutal, gym sessions. Each set is done right after the other, with minimal rests of around a minute.
This is not only good for muscle growth, but it’s guaranteed to get your heart pumping and sweat pouring down. And if you’re looking to get shredded as well as built, then some high-intensity exercises are exactly what you need.
Picking the proper workout comes down entirely to your starting fitness level and your goals. In terms of the former, the workout routine below is fairly advanced—at least if you’re planning to do it at the level that Cutler is. If you’re only getting into the swing of things, a more basic routine will probably serve your needs better.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you’ll be training for volume rather than intensity. You don’t necessarily want massive weights on the barbell along with trying for 1 rep PRs every other week.
When training for hypertrophy, or muscle growth, it’s more important to do a lot of reps with the best form. Cultivating that mind-muscle connection over a long time is what makes you a great bodybuilder. You want your muscles to pop, and you need to put a lot of training volume on each muscle to have it pop enough.
This type of training also necessitates the use of lighter to medium weights—at least when compared to your average lifter. You’ll see this below: with the number of reps and sets expected in this routine, there’s absolutely no way you would be able to go heavy.
Keep this in mind when you’re deciding on a routine—this isn’t necessarily the type of program to increase your PRs. Even though it will definitely get you stronger, the focus will be on aesthetic and large, bulging muscles.
The organization of the routine is a classic split, with a few body parts being trained each training day.
Keep in mind that this routine is from his competition days, and Cutler is known to switch things up a bit. He also goes to the gym twice a day, with a length cardio session in the morning around 40-minutes. This is especially important if you’re going for an extremely cut look.
Another key detail is the emphasis on the core in this workout. There are three days in the week that have some type of core exercise, and it’s no surprise when we consider how shredded Cutler is.
Another key detail that Cutler has brought up in the past, is to vary your exercises a lot and always be training for different angles. This is especially important when you’re training more complex muscle groups, such as the shoulders. You want to be hitting them from different angles so they’re fully developed in every way.
And, once again, don’t take too long to rest between each exercise. Hit them fast and keep up the tempo while also paying attention to form and a full range of motion. Keep these things in mind and you’ll be on your way to bulging muscles in no time.
One of Cutler’s pieces of advice to new lifters is to eat well and not overtrain. When looking back at his own training in his early years, he’s cited his overtraining as something he would avoid if he were to do it again.
The only way he got away with it was because he was eating very, very, well. We often think that the gym is the place where gains are made, and the harder we work the muscle we’ll pack on. That’s not technically true.
The gym is where we work our muscles and destroy the fibers, which then heal back stronger and bigger than before. This healing can only take place when you’re resting. Maintaining a proper sleeping schedule is important for so many things—not just for packing on muscle. It’s important to maintain your strength and your mental wellbeing.
Rest, along with the proper diet and the proper workout routine, is the foundation for maximizing your gains. If you don’t want to leave any gains on the table and you want them to have some longevity, optimizing these three parts of your life is the best way to go.
And to finish off the week, Sundays are another rest day. If you’re looking to cut down some extra body fat, try making one of the rest days (or both) into an active recovery day.
This is when you maintain some sort of physical activity to keep your body moving, just not at a very high exertion. This could include something like swimming, going for a hike, or playing a sport. Ensuring that you’re keeping your body moving will compound your gains, and any fat loss you’re aiming for as well.
It goes without saying that Cutler ate a lot. And when we say, ‘a lot,’ we do mean, ‘a lot.’ He would eat around 5,000 calories a day when he was competing, spread over 7 meals each day. There is no doubt that eating took significantly more time than working out, and Cutler probably invested a lot more energy into consuming food than he did pumping iron.
That being said, spreading seven meals throughout a day is probably the best way to go about things. Include a couple of large whey protein smoothies to sip on throughout the day, and you’re adding plenty of calories without much effort.
It also goes without saying that Cutler ate pretty clean. While he did indulge in fast food to bulk up once in a while, he was burning that off likely more quickly than he could eat it. For a clean diet high in protein, some recommended foods are:
And don’t forget to drink a lot of water as well. Below is a sample diet that Cutler may have eaten throughout his day. He’s said in the past that the most important meals of the day are breakfast and the ones that come immediately before or after a workout session. And when it comes to building muscle, you’re going to seriously want to load up on the lean proteins.
When it comes to cheat meals, they’re always a good idea. Not only do they provide your body some respite, but they’re a terrific way to boost your mood and keep you on track to your fitness goals. The key, however, is to make sure that cheat meals don’t ruin your diet.
It’s entirely possible to have cheat meals that work with you for your goals, rather than against. Know what you’re putting in your body and how it’ll affect you, and that will be the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to fitness.
What about Cutler’s cheat meals? His vice of choice doesn’t seem to be much of a vice at all; opting for sugar-free frozen yogurt.
Aside from obviously using steroids, there were several supplements that Cutler relied on to get him into performance shape. Pre-workout is a good idea if you’re performing at an intermediate to higher level.
A high-quality pre-workout stack can help to maximize your energy, endurance, and strength. This will ensure that you’re never leaving any gains on the table. Whey protein is an obvious and necessary supplement, especially if you’re working out at the level of a professional bodybuilder.
Another good idea is glutamine, which helps you gain muscle while also burning more fat. Glutamine can also improve your overall health while boosting digestion.
While we’ve outlined the steps you have to take above, the only way to experience any of the goals is to power through this demanding workout and diet plan. Demanding may be an understatement.
If you’re not sick of going to the gym so often and working so hard, you’re going to definitely get sick of eating 7 meals a day. But with the right mindset, the right routine, and your eyes constantly on the prize, there’s no reason that you can’t follow in Cutler’s footsteps.
Cutler devoted his entire life to the pursuit of the most aesthetic and large body he could create. That may not necessarily be your goal in life, but that doesn’t mean we have to ignore everything that Cutler has to teach us. It’s all about volume, fundamentals, and eating and sleeping right. Everything else is just a cherry on top.