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Jay Cutler's Strength - His Best Lifts

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  • Ashop
    Jay was one of the smart ones. The guy lifted smart and still looks incredible.

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  • Bouncer
    started a topic Jay Cutler's Strength - His Best Lifts

    Jay Cutler's Strength - His Best Lifts

    By Jay Cutler

    I get my fair share of questions about how much weight I lift on this or that exercise. As bodybuilders, the weights we use are nothing more than tools we employ to sculpt our physiques. We are judged on our physiques, and up onstage it doesn't matter who can bench press or curl more weight. The judges are looking at the size, shape and definition of our muscles, as well as overall structure, symmetry and proportion. But for better or worse, a lot of bodybuilders and bodybuilding fans are concerned not just with the end-product of training, but also with the amount of weight used in that training. And of course, as all of you know from personal experience, by far the most popular question asked of anybody who trains with weights is, “How much ya bench?” So this month, and at last in one place, you can find out what my best lifts are.

    Bench Press:

    See, I didn't keep you in suspense waiting for this one! When I was 19 or 20 and training back at the Gold's Gym in Worcester, MA, the bench press was a very big deal. We had a few guys who put up 500 pounds or more on a regular basis. One of them was Frank McCullen, who only weighed 165 pounds! So I saw that and figured I had better be able to do at least that much, since I had a good 70 pounds on him. The best I ever did on the flat bench was 550 for 2 reps. These days, due to the fact that the risks far outweigh any possible benefits to my chest, you won't even catch me under a flat barbell bench press (only a Smith machine for that movement), and you certainly won't see me doing 2 reps of anything. Back then bodybuilding was not my career yet, so worrying about injuries rarely if ever even crossed my mind. Now, it's always at least in the back of my mind at every workout.

    Incline Barbell Presses:

    My best incline was 405 for 6-8 reps. Nothing spectacular, but it wasn't bad. This is an exercise I will still do, unlike the flat bench.

    Dumbbell Presses:

    I once pressed a pair of 200s for 2 reps during a photo shoot three days after I turned pro at the 1996 Nationals, at Club MET-Rx in Costa Mesa, CA. I probably wouldn't have even tried them except that Chris told me Greg Kovacs had just done them at his recent shoot. I pressed 160s to 180s all the time back in the late ‘90s.


    My legs were really strong when I was in my late teens, even though I hadn't been training very long. At 19 I remember squatting with close to 700 pounds for a couple reps, and the reps were always ass-to-the-floor. Back then my legs totally overpowered everything else. I used to squat 500 for 10 reps like it was nothing. Heavy squats have always made my lower back tighter than any other exercise

    Front Squats:

    The most I ever did on front squats was 455 for 6-8 reps. That's one exercise I never maxed-out on, because I never saw the point. How often does anyone ever ask you how much you can front squat, anyway?

    Leg Presses:

    This is tough to answer, because I never really kept track of it. When I was younger, I know I used to load up as many plates as a machine would hold, and do sets of at least 8-10 deep reps. If I had to guess, it was probably something like 1,200 or 1,300 pounds. Since different leg press machines have their own unique angles and leverages, some of them are a lot easier than others. Now I stick with about 1,000 pounds and knock out good sets of 20-30 reps.

    Hack Squats:

    Just like with the leg press, different makes and models of hack squats are easier or tougher. Flex equipment, which you see more on the west coast, is one of the 'easier' ones. One of the 'heaviest' hack machines is made by Precor, and I did eight plates on each side for 10 reps at the Gold's Gym on Flamingo Road in Vegas, right after I won my second Arnold Classic title in 2003. I hadn't trained legs in about a month, so I was extra motivated that day.


    I've done six plates a side, or 585, off the floor for 3 reps. I did it back in 2005 at the Gold's Gym on Sahara and Decatur in Las Vegas. I still do deads. Nothing pumps my back up the way they do. I've also done my share of rack deadlifts, and the most I ever used was seven plates a side, 675 pounds, for a few reps— somewhere between 3-6. Forgive me if I don't always remember the exact number of reps I did.

    Barbell Rows:

    If I pulled the reps in a more ballistic style and didn't control the negative, I could probably do five plates. But I can't bring myself to be sloppy on this exercise with a super-heavy weight— just not worth the risk! I've done 405 for 8-10, and I can do 365 for 10 at any back workout.

    Dumbbell Rows:

    I've rowed a 200-pounder for 10 reps at Gold's Gym in Venice, and I use a 180 all the time at my gym. The problem with going that heavy on this movement is that the dumbbell is so long and awkward that it almost becomes like trying to row a barbell with one hand.

    Lat Pulldowns:

    The stack on most lat pulldown stations goes to 300 pounds, and I can do sets with that for good reps any time— either with an overhand or an underhand grip.

    Cable Rows:

    You don't see stacks heavier than 300 too often, but at the Gold's on Flamingo in Las Vegas we have one for the seated cable row that's 400 pounds. I can do that for a decent set of 8-10 with a little heave behind it.


    With a barbell, I can go up to 600 pounds. On dumbbells, I can do a few reps with 200s or use the 180s all day. I actually squeeze up and work my traps with a real range of motion. I can't tell you how many guys I see going so heavy on shrugs that you can't even tell if they are doing reps, or just holding the dumbbells or bar and twitching a little bit.

    Overhead Barbell Presses:

    Back at the Gold's in Worcester in the early-to mid-1990s, behind-neck barbell presses were a very popular lift, and somehow everybody went up to 405 on it. Obviously that meant that the spotters were often doing a pretty heavy upright row! I recall being able to do a few good reps without much help at all. In 2006 and 2007, my main pressing movement for shoulders was the standing barbell press. I can say for sure that I did those reps on my own! I went up to 315 on standing presses. That's one exercise that involves a lot of technique. If you get away from it for a while and come back to it, you find you can't handle anywhere near as much weight.

    Seated Dumbbell Presses:

    I have done the 160s for 8-10 reps, but I don't feel the need to go quite that heavy anymore. I still go up to the 140s. And I should note that I will have someone put them on my legs, but I like to kick them up into the start position by myself. I just feel like I have better balance with them that way, as opposed to having them handed to me at shoulder level.

    Barbell Curls:

    As big as my biceps are, they have never been very strong, relatively speaking. I tried 225 once and I think I got 2 reps. After that I said, Why am I even attempting this? What's the point?

    Dumbbell Curls:

    I've curled a pair of 80s, but that was a little too sloppy even for my tastes. Most of the time I would rather stick with 60s, or maybe 70s if I'm feeling extra strong one day.


    I'm not sure how much the EZ-bar weighs, but I have done that with two 45-pound plates on each side. That's 180 pounds in plates plus the bar, which I guess could range from 15-25 pounds. Some are definitely heavier than others.

    Overhead Dumbbell Extension:

    With both hands, I have used a 160, while I doubt I've ever gone heavier than a 65 for one-arm overhead extensions. One time, me and Ronnie Coleman were doing these for a photo shoot and we were both handling a big 130. We thought that was fairly respectable, until we glanced over at amateur Super Heavyweight Robert Burneika a few feet away. Burneika was using the same weight as us— but with one hand!

    Weighted Dips:

    I've done dips with a 100-pound dumbbell, but that's it. I leave doing them with a couple hundred pounds in chains around my shoulders to Branch Warren.

    Close Grip Bench Press:

    I have done 405 for sets of 8-10 in the past, but this is an exercise I kicked to the curb after finally realizing it was not a safe movement for me. So however much you use on your close-grips, it's more than a four-time Mr. Olympia.

    I'm a pretty strong guy, but I am well aware that there are plenty of guys out there who are stronger than me. Strength is a funny thing, and we have all seen people who are just crazy strong and can lift weights you would never think they are capable of by looking at them. Some of you can't use as much weight as I can, and I bet some of you can use just as much or more. 'Strong' is a very relative term. At the end of the day, I don't worry how much weight anyone else can lift, and neither should you. We all use the weights we can to get the job done, whether it means squatting with 200 pounds or 600. But if it makes you feel better to know that you're as strong or stronger than a Mr. Olympia, wonderful. I'm glad I could help boost your self-esteem.

    It will take a certain amount of weight to build your body, but there is a point of course if you go too heavy where you're working more on strength, not doing much to stimulate actual muscle growth, and probably putting yourself at a higher risk for injury. Most of my very heavy lifting was done before I had a career to think about. I'm not trying to break any records in the gym, just doing my best to stay in shape. Before I add more weight to the bar than I normally use, I stop and think, Will this really do anything to improve my physique, or am I just giving in to my own ego to see if I can do it? In other words, does the risk outweigh the potential benefits of going heavier, or not?

    All of you out there who consider yourselves bodybuilders, and especially if you want to have some longevity in this sport, really need to put some thought into the weights you use. You want to push yourself and work the muscles as hard as you can, but at the same time you don't want to start working more of your joints and nervous system and risk getting hurt. Find that balance where you are going just as heavy as you need to, and no more. That's what I do, and if you want to fulfill your ultimate bodybuilding potential and not be one of those dime-a-dozen guys who tells everyone how big he 'used to be' before he hurt his shoulder, back, knee, etc., I suggest you do the same.