Per Bernal

Jay Cutler’s quad stomp. It’s one of the most iconic poses in bodybuilding history. Recently, I was even asked if “Quad Stomp” was Jay Cutler’s nickname. Maybe it should be at this point, because the stomp heard round the world wasn’t just a reflection of Cutler’s physique—on that day, an unbeatable combination of size and striations—it was a defiant declaration: “I’m back to retake what I lost.” This is the story of Jay Cutler’s quad stomp.

Jay Cutler quad stomp
The famous Jay Cutler quad stomp photo. / Per Bernal


For 25 pro bodybuilding contests over 12 years, from 2000 to 2011, Jay Cutler never finished lower than second, and the only three bodybuilders who beat him—Ronnie Coleman, Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath—are all, like Cutler, Mr. Olympias. He lost the Mr. Olympia to Coleman, landing in second place, a frustrating four times before finally defeating the 8-time champ in 2006. Then, Cutler repeated as Mr. Olympia in 2007, but that was a controversial one. Many felt Victor Martinez had the better physique in ’07 and Cutler was gifted the repeat because no one was prepared for an upset.

In 2008, the judges were prepared. And Jay Cutler lost to the smaller, but more polished Dexter Jackson.

For our full report of that contest, check out: The 2008 Mr. Olympia.

And so that was that. Many in the bodybuilding world began to write Cutler off. They focused more on his flaws (wide waist, lack of flow) than his strengths (wide shoulders, legs, back), typically comparing him to a refrigerator. After the close-call in 2008 and the loss in 2009 and with young Phil Heath (3rd in the 2008 Mr. Olympia) on the rise, maybe Jay Cutler had peaked and was destined for only more losses. When FLEX magazine did its ’09 Olympia preview, the cover starred, in a split-screen, reigning Mr. O Dexter Jackson with Phil Heath. It relegated Cutler to almost an afterthought below. (Cutler was not pleased, as he privately let me know. He was then under contract to FLEX, but would soon move to FLEX’s chief rival, Muscular Development.)

Cutler quad stomp
October 2009 FLEX magazine cover.

Throughout 2009, Cutler trained with a new fury. And just a month past his 35th birthday on contest day, he was far from over the hill. In fact, he was in his bodybuilding prime. He was arguably at his best on September 25-26, 2009, on stage at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. I wrote this in FLEX magazine (January 2010) about Cutler running through his eight mandatory poses at prejudging:

Nobody captures the crowd like Jay Cutler. It’s evident from the gate that he is on: 271 striated pounds. He sacrificed a bit of back mass to excavate more cuts, but his quads have never been so zippered (even his rectus femoris muscles have striped), and when he pivots for the rear shots, he reveals something new—glute striations. His lower back, previously hindered by skin folds, is also tighter. Later, he tells me, “I tried to bring things I never had before, because I realized that would definitely give me an advantage.” Advantage seized.


The 12th and final callout of prejudging on Friday evening, September 25, 2009, gave the Orleans Arena crowd of 10,000 what they wanted, the rematch: reigning champ Dexter Jackson versus two-time champ Jay Cutler. I wrote this in FLEX:

The final callout pits the winners of the previous three O’s in a two-man duel. Outweighing him by 40 pounds, Cutler simply overshadows Jackson in pose after pose. There are those who argue for The Blade’s much slimmer waistline and more pleasing lines, but it gets tough to make that argument when Cutler brings this much to the stage. It’s not only his mass advantage, he also has more cuts—which are most evident in the rear shots, when he presents a cornucopia of ham furrows.

Jay Cutler Dexter Jackson
Before the stomp: Jay Cutler and Dexter Jackson strike front lat spreads.

As they run through the eight poses side by side, Cutler’s confidence grows. He knows he has it. The crowd is on his side in pose after pose. The next to last mandatory is the abs and thigh, a strong shot for Jackson, whose midsection is perpetually on point. Cutler leans forward and pats Jackson’s right quad, as if to show the judges and the audience where to focus their eyes in the comparison to follow. Then Cutler shakes his enormous left quad and locks it in, splintering it into all the cross-striations.

But that’s not enough. No, he brings that leg up, all the way up, so his left foot is as high as his right knee, and he stomps it down on to the Orleans Arena stage—BAM!—with a violent force. And as he does, he tenses the quad again, with even more force than before, and brings up an explosion of details. Each quad muscle separates deeply and the fibers of those muscles are visible to all: vertical lines going one way, horizontal lines gong the other way. And above it all, his head is bowed forward and his shoulders look impossibly wide. He then lifts his head and begins to crunch his pecs as he points at his leg with both hands in sort of, almost, but not quite, a most muscular pose.

Jay Cutler quad stomp
The stomp: Jay Cutler points to his quad before Dexter Jackson has even begun to strike the pose. / Isaac Hinds

That’s it: THE STOMP!

The stomp says: “This is my stage. This is my contest. Mr. Olympia will be my title again. My Sandow.” It’s defiant, an F U to all the doubters, everyone who wrote him off when Cutler was only 34, though he was in the midst of the longest run of excellence in bodybuilding history: 25 contests, 12 years. He stomped out all the doubts. Game over.

Only then does Jay Cutler rewind and actually hit the hands-behind-head abs and thigh. Oh yeah, that was the pose. That seems like almost an afterthought after the quad stomp that preceded it. And so does Dexter Jackson.


Jay Cutler went on to win the 2009 Mr. Olympia with straight firsts. Dexter Jackson had straight seconds on Friday but was behind Branch Warren on Saturday and ultimately fell to third place behind Warren by a single point. Future seven-time Mr. O Phil Heath was fifth.

Per Bernal, photographing for Muscular Development, shot the now-famous photo of Jay Cutler’s quad stomp. It adorned the January 2010 cover of MD.

Jay Cutler quad stomp
January 2010 Muscular Development cover.

And with that the Jay Cutler quad stomp was on its way to becoming one of the most iconic bodybuilding moments of all time and a photo that defined a Mr. Olympia, like the socks shots of Dorian Yates or the victory pose of Sergio Oliva. And it lives on to this day. It’s the photo Jay Cutler most often uses to promote himself.

FLEX also featured an iconic shot on its January 2010 issue, with the new champ tearing his way through the October 2009 cover:

Cutler quad stomp
January 2010 FLEX magazine cover.

When Jay Cutler returned to win the 2010 Mr. Olympia, his fourth and final Olympia title, he again did the stomp, this time by himself when he first appeared onstage. It had by then become his signature pose, even though it’s technically a windup for another pose. Jay Cutler’s quad stomp. It still says much more than just the amalgamation of muscles and zippered striations. You can feel it—a man asserting himself, proving himself, laying claim, stomping out all doubts, and seizing victory.