How Chris Bumstead Is Prioritizing His Hamstrings On Leg Day During 2023 Mr. Olympia Prep

Bumstead is "locking it in" as he prepares to defend his title for the fourth time.

Expert Verified By: Jake Dickson, CPT-NASM, USAW-L2

The 2023 IFBB Mr. Olympia competition is about eight weeks away, running from Nov. 2 to 5. For professional bodybuilders all over the world, including four-time Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead, this means it’s crunch time. On Sep. 17, 2023, Bumstead posted a training vlog to YouTube detailing the nature of his leg workouts as he begins his grueling contest prep.

Under the watchful eye of coach Hany Rambod, Bumstead underwent a hamstrings-focused bodybuilding leg workout aimed at attacking weak points and building an unbeatable pair of wheels. 

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Chris Bumstead | 2023 Mr. Olympia Hamstring Workout

“I’m feeling good. Slowly coming back to life a little bit,” Bumstead remarked during a pre-workout interview. In a Sep. 5 vlog, Bumstead opened up about the various hardships he’s struggled with over the past few months, including the challenge of diving into another bodybuilding prep diet, furnishing his own garage gym, and some personal anxieties about the upcoming Olympia.

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The four-time champ seems to be bouncing back in a big way, though. Bumstead took his first few steps into prep training alongside his coach at Rambod’s private gym in Texas. Here’s the rundown of their hamstring-heavy leg workout:

The Workout

Workout Details

Here are some of the main points and finer details Bumstead and Rambod touched on during their leg workout:

Lying Leg Curl

Bumstead performed several sets on the lying leg curl machine, which Rambod emphasizes is important for establishing a strong mind-muscle connection with the hamstrings early into the workout. They incorporated a few drop sets before moving on. 

Throughout the workout, Rambod took Bumstead’s temperature on different aspects of his prep cycle as well. When asked about how he’s adjusting to a new dietary protocol, Bumstead noted that he can manage his hunger better by eating fewer meals that contain more calories

Standing Single-Leg Leg Curl Machine

Bumstead hit up a second leg curl machine, performing additional isolation work for his hammies with some standing single-leg leg curls. Rambod prescribed sets of 10 to 15 repetitions and encouraged Bumstead to keep his hip extended, pressed firmly into the machine to isolate the hamstrings. 

The hamstrings are a biarticular muscle — they cross both the knee and hip joints. As such, some bodybuilders tend to cheat their form on standing leg curls by flexing their hips to reduce tension and involve other muscle groups. Actively squeezing the glute and pushing the hip forward ensures that the hamstrings are thoroughly stretched and loaded from start to finish.

Hip Abduction Machine

Bumstead and Rambod moved on to the hip abduction machine for some glute medius isolation work. They performed two sets of hip abductions before Bumstead had to walk it off to recuperate. They touched on the importance of maintaining mobility in the lower body to ensure that bodybuilding workouts remain efficient and productive. 

Seated Leg Curl Machine

After abductions, it was onto the seated leg curl machine. Bumstead performed several high-repetition sets with a few forced reps thrown in from Rambod to conclude each set.

Rambod instructed Bumstead to pause at the end of each repetition and hold the contraction for a moment. He also remarked that the seated leg curl was a good option for training close to, and beyond, muscular failure

Belt Squat

After several high-volume machine isolation movements, Bumstead’s fourth exercise was also his first compound exercise; the belt squat. Bumstead performed pyramid sets, working up to a single max-effort set before backing down with lighter weights and a wider stance.

Prior to the workout, Bumstead remarked that he was battling some lower back fatigue, which likely impacted Rambod’s exercise selection, preferring to utilize high-stability machines to limit spinal loading.

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The belt squat is a unique squat variation. It allows Bumstead to replicate the technique of a standard squat without the weight of a barbell pressing down on his spine. Instead, by attaching a dip belt to a pulley, Bumstead has to resist the force of the weight pulling him downward. 

Some research has shown that the belt squat reduces lower back pressure without altering muscular activation in the quadriceps and hamstrings. (1

Seated Calf Raise

To isolate the calf muscles, Bumstead proceeded to the seated calf raise machine. The seated calf raise primarily targets the smaller soleus muscle, and some research has indicated it lacks the same potential for hypertrophy as the larger gastrocnemius. (2)

However, Rambod had Bumstead superset his calf raises with sets of plate-loaded tibialis anterior raises. The “TA” is a very small muscle located on the front of the shin bone. From an aesthetics standpoint, Rambod mentioned that developing the TA can help enhance the appearance of Bumstead’s poses from the front:

“It creates a layer of muscle on the outside of the calf. So it’s going to add more depth to his calves,” Rambod said. He signified the importance of the muscle by referencing bodybuilder Jay Cutler’s iconic quad stomp photo.

Donkey Calf Raise

Bumstead and Rambod capped off their workout with a few sets on the donkey calf raise machine, which involves performing a hip hinge and calf raising against a pad that rests on the lower back. Straight-knee calf raises emphasize the larger gastrocnemius muscle in the calves, which is essential to target for large, three-dimensional calves

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  1. Joseph, L., Reilly, J., Sweezey, K., Waugh, R., Carlson, L. A., & Lawrence, M. A. (2020). Activity of Trunk and Lower Extremity Musculature: Comparison Between Parallel Back Squats and Belt Squats. Journal of human kinetics72, 223–228. 
  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Vigotsky, A. D., Grgic, J., Haun, C., Contreras, B., Delcastillo, K., Francis, A., Cote, G., & Alto, A. (2020). Do the anatomical and physiological properties of a muscle determine its adaptive response to different loading protocols?. Physiological reports8(9), e14427. 

Featured Image: Calvin Youttitham / @ChrisBumstead on YouTube