In the world of bodybuilding, few names resonate as powerfully as Chris Bumstead. A 4x Mr. Olympia Classic Physique title holder, Chris's journey is not just about physical prowess but also about mental resilience, constant evolution, and self-compassion.
Here are 3 major lessons we took away from Chris’ recent podcast on Modern Wisdom with Chris Williamson.
Mindset Shift: From Fear to Surrender
Chris's battle with an autoimmune disease in 2018 was a turning point in his life. This diagnosis, coming just four weeks out from his Olympia prep, threw him into a whirlwind of emotions and uncertainties. The looming fear of falling sick again and the potential end of his bodybuilding career consumed his every thought.
Chris's initial reaction mirrored what Chris Williamson, the podcast host, describes as the trend of ‘cynicism as a safety blanket.’ This is a guarded response, a defense mechanism that sets individuals up against potential disappointments. It acts as a shield, protecting one preemptively from perceived threats. For instance, adopting beliefs like "all relationships end in heartbreak" can deter one from seeking meaningful connections, thereby avoiding potential heartbreak. Or, thinking "everything is terrible, and nothing will get better" provides an excuse for not striving harder. This mindset offers a deceptive comfort: if you never truly try, you never truly fail.
For Chris, this cynicism manifested in a debilitating fear. He was trapped in a mindset that constantly reminded him of his vulnerability to sickness, making him believe he had no control over his health and that everything he had worked for could be taken away in an instant. This fear then morphed into denial, a state where he constantly reassured himself with thoughts like "I'm not going to get sick." But this denial, rooted in a sense of lack and avoidance, kept him in a reactive state, always on edge, always anticipating the worst.
However, a mere affirmation of "I am healthy" wasn't the solution either. It didn't provide the solace he sought because deep down, he was still uncertain about the future. It was only when Chris embraced a mindset of surrender, accepting the unpredictability of life, that he found peace. He realized that while he couldn't control everything, he could control his response. He could take proactive steps for his well-being, but without the burden of unrealistic expectations.
In this state of surrender, Chris learned to focus on the present, cherishing each moment and prioritizing what truly mattered. He understood that life's uncertainties are inevitable, but living in constant fear or denial isn't the answer. Instead, embracing the present, accepting the uncontrollable, and focusing on the controllable is the way forward.
Mental Health: Doing the Reps
Mental Health is not a one-and-done thing to achieve. It's an ongoing practice, akin to doing reps in the gym. Just as physical strength requires consistent effort and dedication, mental well-being demands continuous self-love, understanding, and introspection.
In his earlier days, Chris's inner voice was dominated by anxiety, constantly projecting unhealed wounds from the past onto the future. This voice was always on the lookout, fearing that past traumas would resurface and repeat themselves. It was a voice that, while not overtly self-deprecating, set impossibly high standards. Phrases like "You should be able to do this" might seem innocuous, but they carried an underlying tone of shame, subtly suggesting that he wasn't living up to his potential.
However, with time and conscious effort, Chris's inner narrative began to shift. Thanks to the continuous work he put into his mental well-being, his inner voice transformed from one of anxiety to one filled with empathy and compassion for himself. He began to recognize and challenge the unrealistic standards he had set. These standards weren't even truly his; they were based on an idolized perception others had of him. The calm, cool, collected "CBUM" that many admired was a facade. He felt the need to maintain this image and be this mythical character - a product of societal expectations and personal pressures stemming from his childhood, where he perceived his father as the epitome of stoicism and perfection.
But beneath this facade, Chris is, at his core, an emotional being. For years, he denied this emotional side, feeling the need to fit into the mold of the untouchable "CBUM." However, as he dove deeper into his mental health journey, he realized the importance of integrating all facets of his personality. He began to embrace and showcase his vulnerabilities, allowing them to surface in conversations and challenging the preconceived notions people had of him. By doing so, he shattered the illusion of perfection, making it clear that he wasn't the unerring figure many believed him to be. Instead, he was, and is, human, with anxieties, imperfections, and emotions.
Redefining Champion Mentality
Chris's understanding of a "Champion Mentality" has undergone a profound evolution over the years. In the beginning, his definition was straightforward — it was all about winning. Victory, in its most traditional sense, was the ultimate goal. However, as he delved deeper into his craft and faced the myriad challenges that came with it, his perspective began to shift. Winning was no longer just about standing atop a podium; it was about the resilience to keep going, no matter the odds.
This transitioned into what Chris describes as a "no quit mentality." It's about confronting and accepting the fears, doubts, and thoughts that constantly swirl in one's mind, yet choosing to persevere. External events, no matter how daunting, don't dictate the actions of a true champion. Instead, champions are steered by their inner strength, by who they are at their core. They don't waver in the face of adversity; they rise, driven by an indomitable spirit.
But Chris's understanding didn't stop evolving there. He realized that being a champion isn't just about personal elevation. True champions uplift those around them. They recognize that if they're in a position to inspire and motivate others to reach greater heights, that in itself is a testament to their championship status. It's not about the selfish pursuit of personal glory; it's about fostering a community where everyone strives for excellence, supporting and elevating each other.
In essence, for Chris, being a champion is a holistic journey. It's about personal growth, resilience, and the collective upliftment of those around him. It's a mindset, a way of life, and a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and community.
Train like Chris Bumstead
If Chris could only do 10 exercises for the rest of his life, here’s what he would do.
Barbell Back Squats: Using the Better Body Weight Barbell, this compound movement targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Ensure a straight back and proper depth to maximize muscle engagement.
Deadlifts: A full-body exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Maintain a neutral spine and engage the core throughout the lift to prevent injury.
Pullups (Neutral Grip): Using the Better Body Power Rack, pullups with a neutral grip emphasize the lats, rhomboids, and biceps. Ensure a full range of motion, extending the arms fully and pulling up until the chin is above the bar.
Incline Dumbbell Press: Performed on the Heavy Duty Bench, this exercise targets the upper pectorals and front deltoids. Keep the elbows at a 45-degree angle to the body and press upwards in a controlled motion.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: A movement that works the deltoids and triceps. Ensure a straight back and press the dumbbells vertically without arching the spine.
Close Grip Flat Bench Press: This variation of the bench press emphasizes the triceps while still engaging the chest. Keep the hands closer than shoulder-width apart and maintain a controlled motion throughout.
Dumbbell Curl: Using Better Body Rubber Hex Dumbbells, this isolation exercise targets the biceps. Ensure a full range of motion, keeping the elbows stationary.
Barbell Bent Over Row: A compound movement that targets the lats, rhomboids, and traps. Maintain a slight bend in the knees and a straight back, pulling the barbell towards the lower ribcage.
Hanging Leg Raise: Performed on the Power Rack, this exercise strengthens the rectus abdominis and obliques. Ensure a controlled motion, raising the legs without using momentum.
Lateral Raises: An isolation exercise for the deltoids, especially the lateral or "side" delt. Using dumbbells, keep the arms slightly bent and raise them to shoulder height in a controlled motion.
Become the Champion
Chris Bumstead's story is not just about bodybuilding. It's a universal tale of resilience, self-discovery, and the relentless pursuit of one's passion. It's a reminder that each of us has untapped potential, waiting to be discovered.
So, whether you're a budding bodybuilder, someone on a fitness journey, or just someone seeking inspiration, remember Chris's words: "Pressure is privilege." Embrace challenges, lean into your vulnerabilities, and always strive for growth.
And if you're looking to elevate your fitness game, explore our range of top-tier equipment. Dive deeper into Chris's insights by watching the full podcast here. And remember, every champion's journey starts with a single step. Take yours today.
For a deeper dive into Chris's insights, watch the full podcast here. And if you're inspired to start or upgrade your home gym, check out our best sellers today.