Written by Jay Cutler
15 July 2015


Jay Cutler Q&A

The 4-Time Mr. Olympia Answers Your Questions



I read in MD that you used to do close-grip bench press but now don’t. What’s the story there.

Heavy close-grip bench presses used to be a regular part of my triceps routine. That all changed one day in February 2010, when I was doing close-grip presses with 405. Coming up on the second rep, I heard a tearing sound. It didn’t turn black and blue like a full tear would, but I knew I had torn some fibers in my chest. That was actually the worst injury to my chest that I’ve ever had. I couldn’t train chest for three full months after that, the longest I had gone since I was 18. I eventually did start doing them again in late summer 2010. But I went much lighter on that movement that I did before. I never used 405 again. The risk isn’t worth it. The bench press and the close-grip bench press can be very dangerous exercises to go super heavy on, especially for someone who has as much dense muscle mass as me. The pressure they put on the joints and tendons is tremendous, so when I do them now it’s definitely not as heavy as the old days. For triceps, I focus more now on dips, overhead dumbbell extensions, and pushdowns.

I would like your advice on my routine. I’m trying to gain more mass. My current routine is:
Monday          Chest (incline only)
Tuesday          Back
Wednesday    OFF
Thursday        Chest (flat only)
Friday             Legs
Saturday        Arms
Sunday           OFF
Please let me know how I can change it up, if at all.

 I don’t see shoulders in there at all. Did you forget to write them down, or do you not train them? If so, I suggest you drop one of those two chest days and do shoulders then. For best results in gaining overall mass, I don’t think you should be training anything twice a week. Stick to a basic routine that emphasizes compound movements like bench presses, squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, weighted dips, chins, and military presses. Keep your reps in the 6-8 range most of the time, and limit your total sets to 12 for larger body parts like legs, chest and arms, and no more than 9 each for shoulders, biceps and triceps. Work each body part every five to seven days. And be sure that you are feeding your muscles outside the gym by eating a good meal with quality proteins and complex carbs every two to three hours. Get eight hours of sleep a night as a minimum, and take naps when you can. That all sounds simple, but it’s exactly what you need at your stage of training.

 I am 17 years old, and was wondering what age did you start training? Also, what was your diet and workout routine at that age?

 I didn’t start training until my 18th birthday, when I was 185 pounds and had a good base from years of hard manual labor in my brother’s concrete business. In my first year of training, I put on 50 pounds. My workouts weren’t too different from what I do now. I usually trained five days a week, with a lot of basic free-weight exercises and fairly high volume. I ate six times a day. Breakfast was eggs and oatmeal. The next three meals were chicken and pasta. My fifth meal was steak and a big baked potato, and my last meal was egg whites. It sounds very simple, and it was— but it worked perfectly.

 To get my lats to flare out as much as possible underneath my armpits, do you think wide-grip chin-ups are the best exercise? I’m also doing barbell rows— would that be a good choice to bring out the lower portion of my lats ?

Wide-grip chin-ups are definitely the best exercise to flare out your upper lats. They’re better than lat pulldowns, because you’re hanging in the air from a bar and not locked under a pad. That makes it much tougher to cheat, so your lats— and to an extent, also your biceps— have to do the work. Barbell rows are an excellent choice for lat thickness. I prefer to do mine with an underhand grip like Dorian made famous. I find I can pull the bar closer into the body with a reverse grip, and I feel it targeting the lower lats more, which is where I need it most. Always keep your back slightly arched and your head up when you do barbell rows, and focus on getting a deep contraction in your lats.

 Another exercise I like to do all the time for back is the pullover, either with a dumbbell or a machine. Speaking of Dorian again, you might know from his videos or his articles that the Nautilus pullover machine was a staple in his back routine, and he had one of the best-developed backs our sport has ever seen. The pullover gives you a great stretch at the start of every rep, and it’s also a way to work the back hard without having to worry about your biceps being “weak links” and failing before the bigger, more powerful lats do. The back can be a tough area to develop, because it’s not so easy to feel it working as it is some other muscle groups. You also need to work it from a few different angle to stimulate all the different areas. So in addition to your chins, barbell rows, and pullovers, you also need your low cable rows, dumbbell rows, and T-bar rows. Keep your reps in the 8-12 range and most importantly, make a conscious effort to feel your lats contracting on every rep.

 Do you use any intensity techniques in your training? I’ve seen you do drop sets before in your DVDs, but do you use rest-pause, pre-exhaust, supersets or giant sets?

 I don’t do drop sets very often, and I can’t remember the last time I ever did supersets or giant sets. Pre-exhaust is one technique I use all the time. I’ll start chest off with flye movements, or quads with leg extensions very often. I find that helps me get a lot of blood into the area, and opens up the muscle so the compound movements I do afterward will be more effective at reaching as many deep muscle fibers as possible.

Rest-pause is another technique I do quite a bit. For example, on the leg press I might do 10-12 reps, rack the weight and rest for 10 seconds then get another 10-12 reps. I’ll do it on incline dumbbell presses too, but I never let go of the weight. It’s a killer for boosting intensity, hitting the deep fibers, and going to total failure, but don’t overdo it. I don’t usually do more than one or two sets like that in any given workout. You would burn out pretty fast, and get overtrained doing it all the time.