APRIL ’03 It may be a stretch to say Heath and Cutler were pals soon afer meeting. It was the 2003 NPC Northern Colorado— the debut contest of 23-year-old Phil Heath, and as a 192-pound light-heavyweight, he won the novice and open overall titles. The guest poser, 29-year-old Jay Cutler, had won his second straight Arnold Classic the month prior, and many considered him the favorite for that year’s Olympia (he’d been second in 2001 and sat out 2002). On that April day, he was 100 pounds heavier than Heath, although both are 5'9". And yet the unknown neophyte told the world-famous veteran pro he would compete against him one day on the Olympia stage. Yeah, right. It’s just one of those things starry-eyed wannabes tell celebrities, and Cutler politely played along like he always does—and like Heath does now. Nobody to legend: “I’ll see you on the Olympia stage one day.” Legend to nobody: “Keep training and you’ll get there, kid.” But this time would be different maybe for the only time in history. This time the nobody became a legend, too—and then things got really interesting.
APRIL ’05 When Cutler returned to pose at the same contest in 2005, the other guest poser was that wannabe from two years prior. And yet 30 pounds heavier, Heath had morphed into something nearly unrecognizable. The two went out to eat afterward, sparking a bond. That day, Cutler recognized the gifs of the Gif, and he e-mailed photos to us at FLEX.. Before the 25-year-old Heath won the USA Championships in July 2005, and earned pro status on his first try (like Cutler did, at 23, at the 1996 NPC Nationals), he was signed to Weider/AMI, and, against all odds, his Olympia prophesy had gone from “yeah, right” to “OK, maybe”— though it was still more than three years from fruition.
JULY ’06 FLEX was there the first time the two future Mr. O’s trained together. It was in a Las Vegas gym, three days before Cutler’s 33rd birthday, and two months before he won his first of four Olympia titles. At 285, he was leaner than Heath, who weighed 50 pounds less. The Gift was 26, a Pro League rookie who had won his first two professional contests that spring. If he thought he could skate by on his stellar genetics, this back- thickness workout with the man he called his “big brother” was his wake-up call. The nine-year pro schooled the rookie with a fast-paced, high-volume barrage of basics, forcing “little brother” to use much lighter weights and suck for air between sets. It was just what Heath needed. Cutler had also got by on his DNA in previous years, relying too much on machines, winning Arnolds but losing the Olympia annually to Ronnie Coleman. Then, he returned to compound basics and split his weekly back training into width and thickness sessions. That September, for the first time, he beat Coleman. Heath got the same lesson. “I learned what it means to be a professional bodybuilder,” he later said of that lats-kicking. “Before that, I thought of workouts as sort of a run-through, like in basketball. Afterward, I went all out.” He too adopted more free weights, and, by 2008, his previously weak back was a strength.