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In preparation for the 2004 Arnold Classic (which he won), Jay Cutler altered his routine drastically. “I’m not doing anything the way I did it before. I’ve changed everything,” said Cutler. The sport’s greatest advocate of volume training had dramatically reduced his workload and developed a pre-contest schedule that kept him up most of the night and napping thrice during the day.

Before the year was over, he reverted back to something closer to his usual regime, but his ’04 adventure illustrated his willingness to experiment. He’s never adopted a rule he’s not willing to break. Here, five of Cutler’s stay-sharp swaps that you can adopt, too:

Go organic

In the middle of the last decade, Cutler began buying organic chicken breasts, eggs, and beef. He feels that consuming foods free of chemicals has made a subtle difference in his physique on stage and may significantly benefit his health in the long term.

Move fast

One component of Cutler’s training he rarely diverged from is speed. Throughout his career, he rarely paused more than a minute between sets, and usually his pre-contest rest periods clocked in at around 40 seconds. Again, this is a rule he can break, and in recent years he’s extended his rest.

Build with basics

After his stunning second to Coleman at the 2001 Mr. Olympia, it seemed inevitable Cutler would soon have a Sandow on his mantel. He sat out the 2002 Mr. O when an undersized Coleman looked especially vulnerable. Then came 2003, when a nearly 300-pound Ronnie Coleman shocked the bodybuilding world. Cutler was second again, but the gap between him and first had widened. In the aftermath, Cutler, who had been relying increasingly on machines and cables to refine what he assumed was enough size, went back to the basics. He knew he had to pack on pounds to hang with Ronnie, so he trained Ronnie-style: deadlifts, barbell rows, T-bar rows, barbell bench presses. Free-weight basics formed the core of his routines in 2004 and have remained there ever since.

Learn from your peers

After he lost to Coleman at the 2003 Mr. Olympia, he began to adopt some of what made his rival’s workouts so successful—especially free-weight basics. Similarly, when Phil Heath was closing in on him and after he lost the Olympia title to Dexter Jackson in 2008, he employed Heath’s trainer/nutritionist, Hany Rambod, and Rambod’s FST-7 system. Sometimes to be the best you have to beat the best at their own game.

Keep it fun

He doesn’t do any elaborate psych-ups before sets. He doesn’t scowl or stomp around the gym. Instead, he’s frequently smiling and joking with partners between sets. Jay Cutler takes bodybuilding very seriously—as a competitive pursuit, a lifestyle, and a business—but he also has fun. He never forgets how lucky he is to make an excellent living from something he loves so much.