Retro Athlete: Chris Cook

Whatever happened to the “Next Big Thing”— and how did he build those shoulders?


It was one of the greatest disappearing acts in the history of bodybuilding. In 2004 and 2005, Chris Cook was seemingly everywhere, including on two FLEX covers. He was one of the most celebrated bodybuilders in the world. And then he vanished from that world.

When Cook won the 2004 NPC Nationals at 28, most experts thought his 5'11" X-frame and full muscle bellies would eventually carry him to Olympia posedowns. But by the spring of 2006, when he was still only 29, he’d competed for the final time. The “Next Big Thing” was gone.

Cook turned to bodybuilding when he was 18 and serving in the Air Force. In 1996, at 19, he entered and won his first contest, the Mr. Anchorage. He was still an unknown in 2003 - till he rocked the NPC by winning the super-heavy class at the USA Championships. (We at FLEX already knew about him—I’d been tracking his pre-contest progress in Venice for an article, and he was soon a Weider Athlete.) 

Cook won that same class again the following year; but he didn’t secure a pro card until, weighing 248, he took the overall at the Nationals. “My goal is to be Mr. Olympia by the time I’m 31, and I think I’m in a great position to do that,” he said. 

But there was backlash.

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