Retro athlete Chris Cook 3
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.

Retro athlete Chris Cook 1
Some contended that his Weider deal and blond cover-model looks were more responsible for his success than physique excellence. He was sixth in his big-league debut, but soft conditioning prevented him from placing higher than 10th in his other four pro shows.

That’s when Cook traded in his posing trunks for a suit and tie. His training partner, investment guru Scott Minerd, took him on as a protégé in a major financial firm. Today, Chris Cook is a successful investment officer living in Southern California with his wife, Denise, who’s expecting their fourth child.

He built two of the best delts ever. Since retiring from stages, he’s proven he has a head on those broad shoulders as well. 


Retro athlete Chris Cook 2
"I start my workout with dumbbell laterals for nine sets. I do three pyramids: 15 reps, 12 reps, and then 10 reps with progrssively heavier weights.  Then I do that again two more times."

"With shoulder presses, I use dumbbells one week, then barbell front presses the next week."

"I do some of my rear laterals with my elbows bent at 90 degrees, and focus on bringing my elbows as high as possible. That allows me to go heavier. "

"When I do shrugs, I lean slightly forward at the waist, so I pull not just up but also slightly back."


DUMBBELL LATERAL RAISE: 9 sets; 15-10 reps


SHOULDER PRESS: 3 sets; 15-10 reps

DUMBBELL SHRUG: 4-5 sets; 15-8 reps