Ronnie Coleman vs. Jay Cutler

Their training methods and philosophies compared and contrasted.

Ronnie Coleman vs. Jay Cutler

Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler's epic battles established their rivalry as the greatest of the past generation. But just because these two legends share 12 Sandows between them doesn't mean they shared the same training philosophies. Here we break down the differences (and similarities) of their training methods.


Coleman is the rare pro bodybuilder who hits each major bodypart twice per week, double the frequency of most champs. To get all those workouts in, he often works two bodyparts per session. For example, he trains biceps immediately after back. He also hits shoulders that same day. Coleman does a moderate 12-14 sets per bodypart.

Cutler follows a more typical once-per-week schedule for bodyparts but he makes an exception to this rule for back. Like Coleman, Cutler divides his back training into a thickness workout (mostly rows) and a width workout (mostly pulldowns and chinups), including the latter in his shoulder routine. Cutler states, “I’m a volume trainer, and I always have been.” Indeed, Cutler typically does seven or eight exercises and 20-24 working sets in his back thickness workout alone.


One area where the two Mr. Os are simpatico is reps per set. They both almost always stick to the 10-12 range for everything but calves and abs. Despite their (justified) reputations as human forklifts, they’re not using those prodigious weights for three-rep max-outs. They’re aiming for 10. Wanting to focus fully on the targeted muscle(s), Cutler professes not to count reps, but he still uses a weight during working sets that puts him in the 10-12 range, give or take a rep or two.


Neither man is concerned with executing the precise textbook form prescribed by personal trainers. In fact, Cutler claims it would sometimes be dangerous for him to do so. Instead, he uses the best form for his physique, discovered through years of trial and error. Occasionally, this may mean a little extra motion and even what others might label bad form, but he does this to better focus on the targeted area, never to make reps easier. Likewise, Coleman has discovered the motions that best emphasize his muscles, sometimes adding a little extra jerk or sway. Both champs endeavor to get a full range of motion from stretch to lockout or near-lockout for each rep.


Coleman has always had a relatively leisurely pace, even when he was pre-contest, resting for over a minute between sets, and almost always sitting or leaning on something. Between his heaviest sets of draining compound lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, he may take more than two minutes of rest. In contrast, Cutler goes relatively fast, resting for under a minute between sets, and he increased the pace pre-contest to less than 45 seconds. 

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