How strong was Jay Cutler?  Examining the approach to training four times Mr. Olympias

After finishing second at the Mr. Olympia four times to the legendary Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler finally won the sport’s ultimate prize in 2006. He went on to rack up three more wins at the big show until his retirement in 2013, cementing himself as one of the most successful bodybuilders to ever grace the stage.

In many ways, Cutler was the perfect challenger to Coleman: he was lean, muscular, and a superb poser in his prime. The two pushed each other and the sport to new heights, resulting in one of the most memorable rivalries bodybuilding has ever seen.

But there were fundamental differences between them. Coleman was an avid believer in strength work and trained regularly with low reps and heavy weights, pushing his maximum strength to the absolute limits during training. Cutler, on the other hand, preferred to focus on high-volume, low-rest training thinking about longevity.

In fact, the two men battled for the top using completely different systems. But while Cutler has never focused solely on strength, he has accomplished many impressive feats on his way to all those Olympia victories. Here’s how it stacks up.

[Related: How Jay Cutlers Quad Stomp Pose Became the Most Iconic Photo in Mr. Olympia History]

How did Jay Cutler train?

Throughout his teenage years, Cutler divided his time between football, his parents’ farm and, in time, construction work. It wasn’t until he was in college that he started weight training consistently.

After college, Cutler began participating in bodybuilding shows and luckily for him, he was mentored by two well-known trainers, Chris Aceto and Laura Creavalle. As he later said Muscle and fitness:

I always trained each body part once a week. Chris Aceto and Laura Creavalle took me under their wing and taught me a lot about training and nutrition. I’ve done a lot of sets. Being younger, I could recover much faster. There were many variations and angles. I worked for the pump instead of pushing heavy weights all the time.

[Related: Jay Cutler vs. Nick Walker: A Fantasy Bodybuilding Showdown]

This set in motion a common theme for Cutler’s training career. Though he later admitted that he may have overtrained when he was younger, his relationship with high-volume sessions was effectively cemented.

Indeed, something that characterized Cutler’s training was his consistency, both in terms of volume and the exercises he used. As fitness coach and writer Eric Velazquez once noted, the only thing that has changed in Cutlers training videos over the span of 20 years has been his haircuts. Everything else remained basically the same.

Jay Cutlers Workouts

When asked about the “perfect” training split in 2023, Cutler’s answer was, in many ways, the bodybuilder’s quintessential training:

That’s not to say that Cutler’s training never changed, but the basic body part split was a constant. In 2008, prior to that year’s Mr. Olympia, Cutler detailed his leg training program on

From the above, you can tell that Cutlers’ workouts revolved around a high volume of sets and reps. Even though he has stated at various times that he always focused on muscle building, rather than muscle strength, he still lifted incredibly heavy weights.

How strong was Jay Cutler?

Unlike other bodybuilders, whose strength stories have to be pieced together from various sources, Cutler made it easy by literally listing his maximum weight on various lifts in a 2019 article for Muscle development.

Jay Cutlers Max Squats and Leg Presses

Starting with his legs, Cutler noticed a stark difference between how he trained as a teenager and how he trained in later life. As a teenager, he said he could allegedly squat about 700 pounds, from butt to grass. For anyone doubting his “hardcore” credentials, Cutler later said in the video below that he would regularly squat until his nose bled.

[Related: These 10 Athletes Are Among the Strongest Bodybuilders Ever]

On the leg press, Cutlers’ best weight was between 1,200 and 1,300 pounds. In 2019, Cutler said he still used £1,000 for between 20 and 30 reps.

Max Bench by Jay Cutlers

A younger Cutler took a similar approach to bench press by focusing on lower reps with heavier weights. He got up to 550 pounds for two reps before deciding that the potential risks far outweighed the benefits.

“[You] Not [catch] me under a flat barbell bench press (only a Smith machine for that movement), and you certainly won’t see me do it [two] repetitions of anything,” Cutler wrote in 2019.

[Related: How Strong Was Eugen Sandow? Examining the Fitness Pioneers Feats of Strength]

When it came to the behind-the-neck barbell press, Cutler said he could do some good reps with 405 pounds without much help from his spotters. On unassisted standing presses, he often reps with 315 pounds.

Jay Cutlers deadlift max

Like Dorian Yates, Cutler had a deep appreciation for deadlifts, saying, “Nothing pushes my back the way that [deadlifts] Do.”

From the floor, Cutler had previously lifted 585 pounds for three reps. In the pull rack, his max weight was 675 lbs for 3-6 reps.

[Related: These 10 Bodybuilders Had the Most Impressive Olympia Debuts in History]

While the weights are impressive, Cutler has always emphasized that his goal has never been to lift as much as possible, but to develop his physique and focus on overloading his muscles with volume.

How Cutler compares to other Mr. Olympia winners

Looking at the above, Cutler’s best lifts in the big three are:

  • squat: £700 x 1
  • Bench: 550 lbs x 2
  • Deadline: 585 lbs x 3

In terms of how he measures up against other Mr. Olympia winners, you have to start by looking at Coleman. The eight-time Mr. O managed 800 pounds in both the squat and deadlift for two reps each, as well as 495 pounds for five reps on the bench press. This gives the King a substantial strength victory over Cutler, which is not surprising given his prodigious power.

Phil Heath, who had his own Olympia dynasty after Cutler’s, likewise didn’t believe in lifting the heaviest weight just for the hell of it. When it came to back squats, the seven-time Mr. Olympia said he could squat 495 pounds for 8-10 reps, but typically stuck to lighter weights with higher reps.

Cutler’s strength compares favorably with other Olympia legends. His 700-pound squat and 550-pound bench press surpass Arnold Schwarzenegger, who surpassed a 550-pound squat and 485-pound bench press. He also surpasses Dexter Jackson’s maximum squat by 500 pounds.

[Related: The Story Behind the Chaotic Drug-Tested 1990 Mr. Olympia]

Cutler, however, isn’t on top of Franco Columbu, who allegedly deadlifted in the 700s, squatted in the mid-600s and benched 525 pounds. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that Columbu weighed about 80 pounds less than Cutler during the primes.

So, no, Cutler wasn’t the strongest Mr. Olympia ever, credit goes to Ronnie Coleman. He also wasn’t the strongest pound for pound, which no doubt goes to Columbu. However, he could still outrun many of his rivals, even though he never specifically focused on maximum strength.


It’s fitting that Coleman and Cutler’s careers are forever intertwined. They both pushed their bodies to the absolute limits in terms of size, but they did it in completely different ways. While Colman pushed for more strength, Cutler perfected his workouts into a science, opting for high volume that built a physique that was far beyond most of his contemporaries.

That said, downplaying Cutler’s strength is a disservice to what the four-time Olympia winner was capable of in the gym. With top lifts surpassing many of the sport’s icons, it’s clear that his strength résumé is almost as impressive as his bodybuilding résumé.

Featured Image: @jaycutler on Instagram

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