How Jay Cutler’s “Quad Stomp” Pose Became the Most Iconic Photo in Mr. Olympia History

A single moment turned Jay Cutler from a success into a superstar.

Poses define bodybuilding lore. Sergio Oliva had the victory pose, Arnold Schwarzenegger the three-quarter turn, Frank Zane the vacuum, and so on. Few poses come, however, with the emotional gravitas of Jay Cutler’s quad stomp pose at the 2009 Mr. Olympia.

At the time, Cutler was a two-time Mr. Olympia winner who was coming off a devastating loss the year prior. Though he cemented his place at the top of the sport in the mid-2000s by besting perennial Mr. O Ronnie Coleman, Cutler was considered a competitor on a downward trajectory, a former champ with his back against the ropes.


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After a resounding loss in 2008 to Dexter Jackson, Cutler returned in 2009 with a vengeance and became the subject of one of the sport’s most iconic and emblematic photos ever. 

To understand the gravitas of the quad stomp, though, you have to understand how he got there in the first place.  

Becoming Jay Cutler

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1973, Cutler came from a strong family. His parents were farmers and his older brother was a construction worker who later encouraged his younger sibling to work alongside him for some physical activity. (2

As a teenager, Cutler briefly flirted with football both as a hobby and as a potential career. He began training in the gym as a senior in high school but soon dropped football in favor of strict weight lifting. 

While studying criminal justice in college, Cutler met personal trainer Marcos Rodriguez who, sensing potential, encouraged him to compete in bodybuilding. Cutler’s first contest was a second-place finish in a Worcester Bodybuilding Championship held at a local Gold’s Gym. (2)

Working as a corrections officer after college, Cutler next competed in his second bodybuilding show, the NPC Iron Bodies Invitational show where he won both the teen division and the men’s heavyweight division. (3) Even at that time, it was clear that the young man oozed potential. Rumblings began about a potential pro card.


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Reflecting on his early career in bodybuilding, Cutler says:

“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 did a lot of sets. Being younger, I could recover much quicker. There was a lot of variation and angles. I worked for the pump versus pushing heavy weight all the time.” (3)

As Cutler’s expertise developed, so did his physique. He came in leaner and bigger with every show. In 1996, Cutler got his pro card when the won the Heavyweight Division at the National Physique Committee (NPC) Nationals. (3)

The promising amateur had become a professional bodybuilder at just 23 years old.

Climbing the Ranks

Cutler came to professional bodybuilding at a time when the sport was dominated by Dorian Yates. From 1992 to 1997, Yates won six consecutive Mr. Olympia titles. When he retired after 1997, an opportunity opened up for a new star to emerge. At the time, many believed Flex Wheeler would take up the mantle. Instead, Ronnie Coleman took the sport by storm.

The same year that Cutler finished 12th in his professional debut at the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness (IFBB) Night of Champions, Coleman placed first. (4) The gap between the two men was large but, in time, Cutler would posture himself as a credible challenger. 

In 1999, Cutler finished fourth at the Arnold Classic and third at the Ironman Pro. Crucially, he also competed at the Olympia, where he finished 15th out of 16 competitors.

Undeterred, the next year Cutler finished eighth at the Olympia and even got his first pro title with a victory in the 2000 IFBB Night of Champions. (2)


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In 2001, just three years after his professional debut, Cutler finished second at the Olympia behind Coleman — with many believing Cutler should’ve won the contest outright. (5

Furthering Cutler’s disappointment that night was the news that he had been disqualified due to a failed drug test for diuretics. He disputed this claim, even threatening to sue. The test was ultimately rescinded. (6) Regardless, his defeat at Coleman’s hands coupled with a subsequent drug scandal left a bad taste in his mouth.

Cutler sat out the 2002 Mr. Olympia, preferring instead to solely focus on that year’s Arnold Classic (which he won). In retrospect, it may have been an error, as 2002 was arguably Coleman’s worst Olympia showing. 


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However, Coleman and Cutler alike took to the Olympia stage in 2003 much improved from the year(s) prior. Coleman, weighing nearly 300 pounds and boasting striated glutes, dwarfed Cutler and everyone else who stood next to him under the lights. (7)

The following two years spun a similar tale — Cutler had strong showings, but couldn’t eke out Coleman. Although he was only in his early 30s, it was plain to Cutler that his time was running out. He needed to win it all, and soon. 

Triumphs (and Tragedies)

In 2006, Cutler boldly declared that he would defeat Ronnie Coleman that year. In fact, he claimed that if he didn’t win the Olympia, he would shave his head. (8) Against all odds, Cutler willed a victory into existence and defeated Coleman by a 16-point margin in the cards. (8) Although Coleman did remark that the competition may have been fixed against him, a new king had been crowned. (9)

A year later in 2007, though, Cutler’s longevity was in question. He was neck-and-neck with challenger Victor Martínez, but did bag himself another Olympia win. 

Bodybuilding journalist Peter McGough later explained that while Martínez was tied with Cutler after the first day, Cutler undoubtedly won the second day of the Olympia by returning to the stage with a volumized, completely filled-out frame. (1)

But in his push for more and more muscle mass, Cutler had begun to lose control of his midline. Cutler would earn the unfortunate moniker of “the Refrigerator” as his waist ballooned. (10)

A bulbous waist contributed to Cutler’s loss to The Blade, Dexter Jackson, in 2008, who was riding momentum from an Arnold Classic victory earlier that year. Nevertheless, it was a surprise to see Jackson overthrow Cutler seemingly out of nowhere. 

Cutler’s defeat at the hands of The Blade raised questions about his place in the sport. While he had won two Olympia titles — defeating Coleman in the process — he hadn’t been bringing his best to the stage, and was even on a perceived decline as a competitor. 

The Quad Stomp

No winner of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest had ever regained the title after losing it. That trend, coupled with open criticism of his midsection and presentation, made for a stacked deck against Cutler in 2009.

In a moment of sporting triumph, Cutler rose to the challenge at that year’s Mr. Olympia. It was one of those rare moments in professional sports where everything just seems to come together.

Unlike in years past, when Cutler may have taken the stage a bit soft, or lacking in conditioning, or bloated, Cutler presented a near-impeccable physique. He was lean, muscular, and focused


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Cutler’s quadriceps had always been an asset to his physique — but in 2009, they were his rallying call. Crucially, Cutler was placed adjacent to Jackson, who had snatched his title the year before. 

Rattling his thigh, Cutler planted his foot and tensed himself from head to toe. It wasn’t a new pose necessarily, but Cutler displayed mastery and ownership over his physique that no one — not the fans in attendance nor the judges themselves — could ignore. In a single moment, he highlighted his muscularity, leanness, and desire to win.

Reporting on the event for Flex magazine, journalist Dave Lee wrote:  

“Big, hard, and dry with the sickest front quads in the show, Cutler brought his best physique since winning the Olympia in 2006 (maybe even surpassing his 2001 Olympia form, where he finished runner-up to Ronnie Coleman) with superior size and crisp detail from every angle…” (11)

Cutler’s quad stomp helped him etch his name into bodybuilding history. No other athlete had been able to finish in first place at the Olympia after sliding down the ranks. Though Jackson and fellow competitor Branch Warren gave him a run for his money, Cutler won with that stomp. 

Bodybuilding History

The following year, Cutler won the Mr. Olympia show one final time before giving way to Phil Heath — who would begin his own seven-win dynasty in 2011. However, Cutler’s achievements in bodybuilding are made all the more impressive when you consider the context.

Despite having one of the best physiques in the modern history of bodybuilding, Cutler was considered something of an underdog as he had to contend with legends like Ronnie Coleman. Even when he did defeat Coleman onstage, his commitment and longevity were questioned. A loss in 2008 only added to those concerns. 

Cutler used his quad stomp pose to put to rest all doubt of his place in bodybuilding. There are plenty of iconic poses in bodybuilding that highlight an athlete’s proportions or silhouette, but Cutler’s quad stomp sent a message like no other. A declaration to the world that he be noticed and remembered.


  1. Peter McGough, ‘The 2007 Mr. Olympia – Did Victor Martinez Beat Cutler?’, Muscular Development, 15 August 2014.
  2. Greg Merritt, ‘Olympia Legend: Jay Cutler,’ Muscle and Fitness. Accessed 14 August 2022. 
  3. Tony Monchinsku, ‘The Evolution of Jay Cutler’s Training,’ Muscle and Fitness, Accessed 12 August, 2022. 
  4. ‘Ronnie Coleman: Professional Bodybuilder, Entrepreneur,’ Greatest Physiques, Accessed 7 August, 2022. 
  5. Flex Staff, ‘Epic Olympia Showdown: Coleman vs. Cutler,’ 2001,’ Muscle and Fitness, Accessed 4 August 2022. 
  6. Lonie Teper, ‘Jay Cutler Opens Up,’ Iron Man Magazine, 1 November 2002. 
  7. ‘Mr Olympia – Exclusive Report & Photos,’ LA Muscle, 18 January 2009. 
  8. ‘Jay Cutler is Mr. Olympia 2006 – Ronnie Coleman is Defeated,’ Gymrat’s Weblog, Accessed 11 August 2022. 
  9. Derek Hall, ‘Ronnie Coleman Says He Was Set Up to Lose 2006 Olympia,’ Fitness Volt, 9 January 2020. 
  10. John Hansen, ‘John Hansen’s 2008 Mr. Olympia Review,’, 23 January 2019. 
  11. ‘2009 Mr Olympia Finals,’ Muscle and Fitness, Accessed 5 August 2022. 

Featured Image: @jaycutler on Instagram