Three-time Classic Physique Olympian Chris Bumstead has done what no Mr. Olympia has done since seven-time Mr. O. Arnold Schwarzenegger: break into the mainstream. In terms of social media reach and popularity, Bumstead - or C-Bum as he's affectionately known throughout the bodybuilding industry - and his 10.4 million followers are more popular on Instagram alone than the last three Mr. Olympias combined. The 27-year-old Canadian is 6ft 1in tall and weighs anywhere from 215 to 225 pounds. Although Bumstead has historically credited Tom Platz - aka the king of the quads - as an influence, the aesthetic and symmetry C-Bum displays on stage is often associated with legends such as three-time Mr. O. Frank Zane (1977 -1979).
We caught up with C-bum as he geared up for his fourth straight Olympia Classic Physique title.
You are the most popular bodybuilder in the world by every measurable metric. What is driving this popularity?[laughs] I get asked this question in every job interview. But it's good because I don't really know. Ask my mother and you'll probably get an answer.
What do you think?
I think that's because I've been authentic throughout my career. My parents raised me that way. I've never tried to be someone I'm not. I've never tried to be the big, hard, intense, angry bodybuilder that no one can describe... I've always been genuine and honest when I've been anxious, nervous, or excited, and I share a lot of that through my preparation for my YouTube and social media channels.
on top of that, [when I started competing] Social media was starting to become the norm and many bodybuilders were very anti-social media. Then there were the real competitors. The real competitors didn't do YouTube, vlogs, or take selfies. There was a stigma that bodybuilders - real bodybuilders - were too hard for it. And that wasn't my point. What if I could bridge these two worlds by attending an Olympics prep and recording every single workout, everything I eat, when I have good days, when I have bad days? What if I could just share the whole process. Maybe people would relate to that.
So why classic and not open?
I started outdoors because there was no classic. I turned pro [in 2016] as an open bodybuilder. This year classic came out. So I thought this was great, I didn't have to put on 40 pounds of muscle and build this physique that I don't even know if I really want.
Do you appeal to modern Mr. Olympia bodies?
I wanted to look like Lee Labrada - but a little taller - Lee Haney, Berry de Mey was definitely one of my favorite bodies for a while. Those were the bodies I wanted to emulate more than Phil Heath.
You're the most popular bodybuilder, but you don't get the same money as the Mr. Olympia winner. is that OK for you?
I would be lying if I said I didn't wish the prize money was higher. I think some of my competitors might have concerns, but I really don't care. To be honest, I've never fought for money. Do I want to take home a bigger check at the end of the day? Sure, but will that change how hard I try to win? no
Put it another way, if you're more popular than Big Ramy and get more people into the sport, shouldn't you be more important than him?
I think it depends on how you define "important". [Many people] would tell you that Big Ramy is more important because he gets a bigger check at the end of the year. So it depends on how you assess the importance. At the moment I'm happy with where I am. I think I've earned a lot of respect from people in the industry and in the world and I think classical physique is a very young field. I think the prize money is going up a good amount this year - not until the opening - but we've only been around for a couple of years. I think the popularity and the crowd it draws speak for themselves. As is the love, not only from me, but also the love my competitors have for the division.
Does it also attract the next generation of competitors?
Younger competitors across the US and Canada are choosing Classic over Open. It explodes. I think as the years go by the prize money will continue to grow and maybe one day it will match the Open. If it happens, it happens, I have no control over it. What I can control is how much money I can make outside of competition and I work my ass off for that, but I can't run and whine to whoever controls that and say I want more money.
How hard is the work outside of competition?
It's a lot of work, but at the end of the day it's not a particularly difficult job. Maybe I'm just grateful for what I get to do because I really love what I do every day. How can you feel like you are working very hard when you enjoy it all the time? I've built a great team around me to help me with my brand. I have a videographer, a photographer and a friend who is also my business partner who helps me with my workout app and the merchandise we sell. We try to stay active in the community. It's a lot of work, but totally worth it. I'd much rather do this than sit behind a desk, so I'd never complain.
What would be the first signal that would make you think it's time to reconsider competing?
That's a good question. The first would be my health. Because as much as I love bodybuilding and derive as much joy and fulfillment from it, my health comes first. If I retire without that, what was the point? After that, it keeps the same fire burning. When I start to lose that fire and I'm not even happy to do so and I just kind of force it
just going for it for my ego's sake, to win another one, or a fifth, or a sixth, then I don't try to live that way.
When it comes to health, where would you draw the line?
I follow my blood work and urinalysis closely with doctors, especially medical specialists. I just moved to the US, so I'm getting a new nephrologist (a doctor who specializes in conditions that affect the kidneys) and I have a board-certified doctor who monitors my stuff and I have a record of that for them last four years and nothing has really deteriorated that much. I had a health problem: I have an autoimmune disease [not bodybuilding-related] this may happen to affect my kidneys. I managed that quite well. So if I can compare it to the years before that it's going down at a rate I'm not happy with - which my doctors aren't happy with (they know about bodybuilding and everything related to it) - that would be it's just a comparison of the change over the years and if it's declining at a rate I'm not happy with then I retire.
In 2021, 31 male and female competitors will die worldwide. Is that something that bothers you?
I think you are an idiot in this sport if you think you are ready and not to worry. I hope each and every one of us is concerned and getting the right checks and balances - make sure you're seeing the right specialists and doctors who know you're doing what you're doing as healthy as possible. There could have been many factors at play in all of these deaths, especially considering the year it was - I won't go into that - but of course I'm thinking about it. I hope it's the same for everyone else.
Point blank: Is this your last Olympia?
People always ask me how many Olympias I have left and I say, "One more." And then I pause and say, "And maybe one more after that." I really don't know. That's the honest truth.
How confident are you that you will win Classic O again in 2022?
Pretty damn sure