Chris Bumstead is a bodybuilder for the people. His status as reigning Classic Physique Olympia champion — which he secured with a repeat victory in 2020 — is just one of the reasons fans love Cbum. They love his now-signature mustache, his boyish charm, and his social media tact. The people love Chris Bumstead so much that a video of him eating eggs and oatmeal has garnered over 800,000 views on YouTube.
And Bumstead — who has a combined 2.5 million followers between his Instagram and growing YouTube channel — takes it all in stride. Scroll through his Instagram posts, and you’ll routinely see @cbum replying to fans. He sometimes takes it a bit further, too. In January 2021, a fan commented on one of Bumstead’s posts, asking how many likes he would need for Cbum to fly him out for a one-on-one workout. “Ten thousand,” Bumstead replied. Fans gathered around their fellow fan, and before Bumstead knew it, the comment accrued over 12,000 likes. (And yes, Bumstead plans to meet up with the savvy poster.) He also recently sat down for a phone-a-thon, where people dialed in to ask the champ questions, and he talked with his supporters for over two hours.
As a competitor, Bumstead is fierce. Compared to his Classic Physique debut, Bumstead is nearly unrecognizable from every angle, and that’s a testament to the mass he’s packed on during multiple off-seasons. He’s so competitive that he bought an inversion table — which suspends a person upside down to elongate their spine — to gain a fraction of an inch. Why? Because coming in over 6’1″ in Classic Physique — a division that has weight limits for different heights — would afford him 10 more pounds of muscle.
Even with all of his success onstage and off, Bumstead’s personal mission is to remain grounded. This could be yet another reason why the people connect with him so well. Bumstead also reinforces that mission with the people that are in his everyday life. The Canadian superstar took a few minutes to speak with BarBend about his fan encounters, his experience at the 2020 Mr. Olympia, and the division that he is so proud to be a part of.
Editor’s Note: The following interview has been lightly edited for readability.
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BarBend: Your attention to detail leading up to the 2020 Mr. Olympia show was incredible. You even got an inversion table as a way to make the most out of your height. Where do you think that focus on all details comes from?
CB: I think it came from trial and error. I’ve always believed in the concept of the compound effect. You might think that doing one small thing would only have a negligible effect on your end goal, but if you stack on 10, 20, 30, whatever it is of them together, a lot of those small effects become a big effect. That’s exactly what gives me the edge over the people that aren’t going to do those little things. So I think throughout my life, I’ve wanted to figure out every little thing I can do to be my best.
Then, when I started winning and figuring everything out, I was like, “Holy S***, I did one big thing last year, and it didn’t change.” I added 10 things that were smaller this year, and it did change. So I need to focus on the little details, everything that everyone else isn’t focusing on, and that will put me ahead of the other person.
BarBend: The hype going into that contest was about you and Breon Ansley [the 2016-2018 Classic Physique champion]. Then Terrence Ruffin disrupted all of that by bumping Breon down to third place. What are your thoughts about how he looked, and will you have your eye on him as a threat in the future?
CB: In the past year, I’ve had the mindset not to keep an eye on anyone except myself and keep that focus. Terrence definitely came out of nowhere in my eyes. I didn’t keep my eye on anyone, but I definitely couldn’t be happier for him to jump from eighth place to second. I’ve talked to him quite a bit at other shows and competed with him, and he’s such a great, humble guy. On top of that, he’s such a great poser and a great representative for Classic Physique. He’s encouraging to focus more on the art side with the posing. Plus, I’m taller, he’s shorter, so it can encourage everyone to compete in this division. I think him being [in second place] is really good for the sport. All I can do is focus on being the best version of myself and hope no one can touch that.
BarBend: As with every sport, analysts and people share their opinions about what you did or what you can improve. How would you analyze your package at the 2020 Olympia?
CB: I was shocked at the results when the photographer sent me the shots from the year before. I was very hesitant to believe that it was real until it was real. I was shocked when I saw that I made a lot of progress, and then it slowly trickled into “my back came up a lot, but it’s still not the best back on stage.” My arms came up like my back, but there is still a lot to go.
There was something about my overall look that I didn’t think I was as tight as I was or as dry as I was at the 2017 Olympia. I was a lot bigger and more muscular, but I didn’t think I was as dry. So I think that next year I have to work harder, diet harder, and bring that look that I brought that year (2017), whether it’s going to be water manipulation or dieting a little more. I’m not sure.
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BarBend: When it comes to contest prep, you’re in a unique position because your brother-in-law, IFFB Pro Iain Valliere, is also your coach, and your girlfriend is former Olympia Bikini Champion Courtney King. Having those two in your corner has to be a big advantage, right?
CB: Yeah, I have no doubt that gives me a huge advantage. When I win, the first thing that pops in my head is my family and people around me because they’ve attributed so much to what I achieved. I have a coach that got me into bodybuilding, taught me what it was, got me into competing, knows me so well, and whatever he tells me to do, I know 100% he is executing himself. I know he trains just as hard as me. You can’t question someone who’s doing exactly what they are telling you to do.
And like you mentioned, having a partner who understands exactly what it means to compete at that level, from a mental standpoint, not questioning what I’m feeling or why helps a tremendous amount. I’m a big believer that the mental aspect of bodybuilding is as important as the physical. And having people like her to help me keep my head on straight helps make me successful.
BarBend: Talk about Iain for a minute. He shocked many people by coming in seventh place, despite never qualifying for the O before 2020. What has helped him make that kind of progress?
CB: This has been a really big year for Iain. He always has understood the technical side of bodybuilding better than anyone I’ve known. He’s never missed a meal, never had a bad workout, he’s on point. On the mental side, he stresses a little too much. That can become more apparent in professional bodybuilding because you can lose what you began with. He was struggling a little with that, and then after winning the New York Pro [in 2020], he took an internal look and allowed himself to become excited about it.
He was just purely excited to step onstage, just doing bodybuilding, and executing like he always does. The results were pretty insane. It was just a few months between shows, and the look was drastically different. He shocked himself and a lot of people, but I think that is where he belongs.
BarBend: You just launched your own supplement series with your sensor Jacked Factory. As a part of the launch, you guys set up a hotline for fans to call you and chat. It lasted over two hours. Do you feel that you have a unique connection to your followers compared to others in your sport?
Chris Bumstead: It may be a combination of how I view myself and how grateful I am for it all. I actually see myself as someone who is very fortunate. When people come up, and they are excited to meet me or think I am some special person, I really don’t think I am that special myself. So when they do that, it’s very shocking for me, and I’m very grateful for it, but I treat them like I am a normal person too. And then I think they understand that “Chris is a normal dude like me. He likes to work out, and he just got really good at it.”
From there, I surround myself with family, close friends, and people who have known me for who I was, not who I have become. That allows me to keep a good head on my shoulders, I think.
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BarBend: A fan asked to train with you on Instagram, and you told him you would if he got over 10,000 likes on his comment? He did. Are you following through with your promise to train with him?
CB: Yeah, I’ve been talking to my manager, and when I go to the States in March, we’re going to try to fly him in and make it happen. I know how I would feel if I was on the other end of that and I got that 10,000 likes, how excited I would be. So knowing how I would feel on the other end, I really want to execute that being in the position that I am in.
BarBend: The photos after the Olympia of you and Mr. Olympia Mamdouh Elssbiay (aka Big Ramy) created a lot of buzz about you doing an Open contest someday. Is that something that has crossed your mind?
CB: I’d be lying if I said I never thought of it, but I have had health complications in the past. I know at Classic Physique that I’m not pushing my limits very hard. I can stay super healthy, and I know my body can handle it. But in actuality, I genuinely love Classic Physique. It may not be as big or popular right now, the prize money may not be as much, but it’s a neat division. To be at the top in the beginning [of the division], and to play a role in shaping what it can become…if I can be a long-reigning champ, then I can retire happily with absolutely no regrets.
BarBend: What health issues are you referring to?
CB: In 2018, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I guess it was always there, but I found out about it in 2018. Since then, I’ve been managing it. Right now, it’s been really good. 2018 was a rough prep, 2019 was better but not perfect, and 2020 was better than all my preps combined. I was healthy during and after, and my body showed it onstage. Like we spoke about before, my attention to detail extrapolated when these conditions were presented to me. I had to keep everything really close to perfect and focus on a healthy lifestyle. I’ve done such, and it’s paid off. This is the healthiest year I’ve had in a while.
BarBend: The 2021 Olympia is going to be in Orlando, FL again in October. What are your thoughts on that announcement?
CB: I’m honestly a little sad that it’s in October because that means the offseason will be shorter, but I’m glad it’s back in Orlando, and that’s for personal reasons. For me, it’s easier to fly there. In Orlando, it’s pretty chill there. We got an Airbnb last year, and it worked well because of how close it was to everything. So I am excited that it is in Orlando. I do hope that it’s enough time for everyone to qualify and prepare for the show.
Featured Image: @cbum on Instagram/photo by Big 3 Media