Following their Q&A on Nov. 18, 2021, four-time World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Brian Shaw and four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler traded the interview couches for barbells and went to the Fit Club in Las Vegas, NV, for an arm-training session. The agenda for the session positioned Cutler as coach and Shaw as the trainee. Cutler walked Shaw through a session reminiscent of how Cutler trained arms during his time atop the bodybuilding world.
The goal is to get in the gym and get as much blood in [the arms] as possible.
Check out the full video of Shaw and Cutler’s training session below, courtesy of Shaw’s YouTube channel. During their time in the gym, the strongman and bodybuilding champs performed triceps pushdowns, skull crushers, preacher curls, biceps curls, and front double biceps curls.
The first move on the docket was rope pushdowns to target the triceps. Cutler prefers getting blood to the triceps and warming up the elbows as a pump first in triceps translates well to a better pump when hitting biceps. Cutler’s first set is done for “feel” — he doesn’t call them warm-ups as he is already warm entering the gym due to Las Vegas weather. He grabs a pad and kneels on the floor. Moving from a standing position to a kneeling position removes the tendency to use momentum. The increase in stability allows for more targeted reps and, therefore, a better pump.
Shaw inquired about the rep speed for their sets of 12 to 15 reps. Cutler prefers explosiveness. Even though this might make it appear that he doesn’t have full control of the weight, he assures Shaw that looks can be deceiving. Although each set has a minimum goal of 12 reps, Cutler employs pyramids training — meaning weights increase with each set.
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The second movement in the session is skull crushers. Cutler still swears by skull crushers his training as “the best mass exercise to build density in the triceps.”
Cutler’s technique when laying down is keeping his head off the bench to allow his arms to position farther back to create a longer stretch in the triceps. Cutler emphasizes that this particular technique is what he prefers but recommends that others do what is comfortable.
Both men went for 45-pound plates on each side of the EZ bar to start. Shaw tacked on additional 25-pound plates to each side for his second set as he widened his grip. The goal for each set was 10 to 12 reps.
More Pushdowns and Biceps Curls
Following skull crushers, Cutler brings Shaw back to the cable rack for additional press downs. Using a staggered stance for balance, Cutler brings the cable right up against his shoulder and presses the attachment straight down towards the floor.
Cutler rallies Shaw over to the dumbbells for standing biceps curls. Cutler is not too strict about body movement while curling each dumbbell and does not count reps — he lifts to failure. The goal is tight contractions in the biceps on each rep.
Without much rest, Cutler and Shaw hop right into preacher curls to accentuate their biceps pumps. Cutler highlights that his range of motion doesn’t look very long by design. He doesn’t curl the implement past where the tension would come off the biceps. Cutler maintains tension on the biceps for the entire movement while feeling the peek contraction. He trusts how it feels, not how it looks.
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Front Double Biceps Curls
Back at the cable machine, Cutler guides Shaw through a bodybuilding staple — front double biceps curls. Standing in the center of the machine with a cable in each hand (cables positioned at their highest notches), Cutler curls the weight with his elbows slightly higher than his shoulders. He performs the exercise as though hitting a front double biceps pose.
Shaw’s 6’8″ frame requires him to stand a bit forward in the machine. Cutler then takes it a step further, moving Shaw down to his knees like the earlier pushdowns. This offers Shaw a bit more space to extend his arms for a fuller range of motion.
Blood First, Lift Second
When it comes to aesthetics, Cutler bucks a common notion in training. Rather than perform more significant compound movements or hit larger muscle groups first, Cutler pre-exhausts whatever muscle group he’s training to get more blood to that area.
I didn’t give a sh*t about the weight. The weight never mattered to me.
For example, on shoulder days, Cutler performs lateral raises before overhead presses rather than the other way around. Although pre-exhausting himself means he might not lift as heavy and therefore concede some potential strength gains, his goal is hypertrophy, not maximal lifts.
Cutler does not plan to compete again any time soon, and Shaw is likely to wait until the 2022 WSM contest as his next competition. We’ll see if Shaw continues with Cutler’s bodybuilding style of training and enters that contest as not only one of the strongest athletes but potentially the most aesthetic in the field.
Featured image: @jaycutler and @shawstrength on Instagram