4-Time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler on Dirty Bulking Versus Lean Bulking

Cutler believes more people aspire to have a lean physique than the physique of a mass monster in current times.

Ever wonder how some of the all-time greatest bodybuilders who have since retired preferred to pack on mass? Ever wonder what they would do differently if they could do it again? Four-time Mr. Olympia champion Jay Cutler opened up about bulking in the off-season leading up to a pro show on his YouTube channel on July 30, 2022, for his most recent “Jaywalking” vlog.

Cutler used to be one of the top mass monsters during his glory days atop the Men’s Open division, alongside the likes of eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman. Nowadays, Cutler isn’t interested in having a physique as large as it was in his prime. Check out the full video below:

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Gone are the days of Cutler working towards packing on as much size as humanly possible. Cutler is still massive today compared to the average lifter, but he has substantially scaled down his frame. He no longer trains to have a competition-ready physique at age 49. His goals are more aligned with physique maintenance and functionality in his retirement:

The biggest question I get is overcoming weight challenges, setting goals, how to prioritize, [and] how to stay motivated.

Cutler’s efforts in the gym are for “maintenance.” He does not use the same training volume or heavy loads that he did in his competition preparations, nor does he eat like he used to; big meals before a workout and force-feeding to consume enough calories to grow.

Cutler heads to the gym when his schedule allows for it, and he’s motivated for a particular type of workout. His training is more so for enjoyment, physique maintenance, and health. He tries to avoid the super late-night sessions of his past.

The four-time Mr. Olympia believes no matter your goal, it can be helpful to have a second set of eyes on your progress.

Someone to give you some vision; to give you some guidance.

Cutler sips on a serving of his pre-workout supplement ‘Prevail’ as he prepares for his cardio.


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A post shared by Mr Olympia Jay Cutler (@jaycutler)

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How Badly Do You Want It?

Cutler believes it can be hard to find a coach for bulking as every coach will likely have a different opinion on the optimal way to put on mass, whether via dirty or clean bulk.

I think big is kind of out. Today’s society wants to be leaner, they are scared to be bigger.

Cutler remains steadfast in his opinion that Men’s Open bodybuilding is “The King.” At the same time, other big names, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, think the sport should focus more on the Classic Physique division. Many athletes may want to look in shape year round rather than accumulate the fat that often comes with a true bulk. Cutler knows the road to the highest level of Men’s Open bodybuilding is so much longer and harder than the lighter divisions that some athletes might shy away from the necessities to get there.

It’s about planning ahead, it’s about prioritizing what is important to you.

Prepping meals ahead of time, regardless of training and travel schedule, is part of those requirements for success in Men’s Open bodybuilding. One can’t leave nutrition to chance nor stumble with more accessible options like fast food. Eating every two or three hours is crucial.

Societal Shifts

Cutler reminisces about his era of bodybuilding when everyone wanted to get bigger. While that remains true to some extent, more people want to lose weight and get in shape instead — the appeal of being a mass monster isn’t what it once was.

People always were just trying to get big. Most everyone wants to lose weight now

Note: every state in the U.S. has an obesity percentage at or above 24 percent as of 2022.

Of course, Cutler knows how to diet. He cycled through various dieting approaches during his career: low carb, high carb, moderate carb, zig-zag dieting, and Keto. Cutler doesn’t think the education around dieting is as sharp as it should be for the younger generation of bodybuilders. In Cutler’s opinion, teaching nutrition should be a priority in school.

Diets our life saver, right?

Cutler thinks any training program should last a minimum of four months, then be tailored to the specific goal. Setting deadlines for goals is essential, but so is allowing enough time to realistically achieve those goals.


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A post shared by Mr Olympia Jay Cutler (@jaycutler)

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Hold Yourself Accountable

Cutler believes you have to hold yourself accountable. Having a competitive stage-worthy physique is different from being generally in shape. Balancing responsibilities at work and home can stunt training goals or make sticking to a meal plan more difficult, but putting yourself first when possible to stay on track may be required.

You have to be a little selfish to be successful in anything.

Cutler’s most memorable time on stage was his win at the 1995 NPC The Tournament of Champions. At that contest, he met Joe Weider and received broader recognition. It also landed his first Muscle & Fitness magazine cover.

What is the goal though; is it bulking or is it staying lean? Everyone’s goal is different.

Leaning down first to allow so the body can adequately utilize additional calories for lean muscle mass once programming is in full force rather than storing it as fat or “bulk” is Cutler’s preferred methodology. In his view, lean and dirty bulking can both work if an athlete wants their goal badly enough, holds themselves accountable to that goal, and has someone to help them stay the course.

Featured image: @jaycutler on Instagram