Retro Athlete: Charles Clairmonte

The ab routine that helped this Englishman shock the bodybuilding world 20 years ago.
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Twenty years ago when Charles Clairmonte took pro bodybuilding by storm, he was virtually unknown. With his aesthetic yet densely developed physique, he’d had great success in an inferior European organization. But, after sitting out 1991, he made a horrible first impression in the IFBB Pro League in 1992. How horrible? The Englishman was 17th in the English Grand Prix— out of 17! Stick a fork in him. He’s done, right? 

But in 1993, not only did Clairmonte qualify for the Olympia, but he finished an eyeopening seventh. Then he completed one of the greatest 12-month turnarounds ever by winning four out of five European Grand Prix contests, including—get this—the English Grand Prix! That’s right, one year after finishing last, behind nobodies, he was first, ahead of legends, including Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone (who were second and fifth, respectively, at the 1993 Olympia). He joined his countryman, Dorian Yates, in bodybuilding’s upper echelon.

He stayed there for two more years. Although he never won another pro show, Clairmonte landed in the top three seven times in 1994 and 1995, including the 1995 Arnold Classic. His placings faded over the next two years as mass monsters dominated, and he competed for the final time in 1997 at age 34. Having quickly traveled full circle, his final hurrah was, appropriately, the English Grand Prix, where he was next to last, leaving observers to wonder if they had imagined how great he had been four years prior. But he was great.

He had one of the most proportional physiques of the era, including a chiseled slab of abs, and yet at six feet and a lean 245, he had enough mass to hang with goliaths in the early ’90s. As that decade progressed and size standards grew, he bowed out rather than try to pack on many more pounds. Clairmonte’s pro career lasted a mere six years, but, with his four wins in the Fall of 1993, those years included one of the most stunning months of all time.

CLAIRMONTE ON ABS

  • “Form is paramount to success. Avoid the common blunder of out-of-control jerking.”
  • “Forget about turning your ab workouts into a marathon. Quality, not quantity, is the key.”
  • “I like to do some of my crunches and leg raises twisting to work the obliques with the front abs.”
  • “Change the order of the exercises from workout to workout, and do the exercises without rest to increase intensity.”

FLEX FACTOID

Clairmonte was a paratrooper in the British army.

 

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