“Follow your dreams, keep the sport fun, and don’t get too down on yourself if you don’t win every show.” Growing up in Palm Springs, California in the late 1960s, Chris Cormier was taught many valuable life lessons during his childhood including the importance of family and following his dreams, both of which certainly helped when he took the stage as an IFBB professional bodybuilder. But, long before he ever imagined building muscle and perfecting his physique, he channeled his competitive streak straight to the wrestling mat at Palm Springs High School where he competed in the 1984 California Interscholastic Federation State High School Wrestling Championships.
With determination and a healthy competitive edge, Cormier excelled as a wrestler but knew that he could always improve and turned to his high school teacher, Kathy Lauria, for advice. Lauria encouraged him to build strength and introduced him to weight training, which evolved into something far bigger for Cormier than wrestling as he spent countless hours reading muscle magazines and traveling to Gold’s Gym in Venice, California where he followed every move of bodybuilding greats like Robby Robinson, John Brown, Gary Straydom and Charles Glass as they pumped iron.
Cormier spent three years getting in competitive shape with an intense weight training routine before entering his first bodybuilding contest in 1987 as a light heavyweight at the NPC Teen Nationals. Although he won the title, he waited another four years before returning to the stage at the 1991 NPC USA Championships where he took fourth place in the heavyweight division. Two years later, he returned to the event where his determination and hard work finally paid off when he won first in heavyweight and overall.
Itching to compete in big-name events like the Arnold Classic and the Ironman Pro Invitational, Cormier made his professional debut at the 1994 Arnold Classic where he followed up his fourth-place finish with top 10 finishes at the Grand Prix France and the Grand Prix Germany. Rounding out the year with a second-place win at the Ironman Pro Invitational and sixth place at the Mr. Olympia, the California bodybuilder spent the next four years competing around the world with Grand Prix contests in Russia, Spain, England, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Hungary and more.
Always ranking in the top 10, it wasn’t until 1997 that Cormier finally enjoyed the sweet taste of victory when he won his first professional competition at the Night of Champions. Using that momentum and seeing a third-place finish at the 1997 Toronto Pro Invitational, Cormier’s performance continued to improve as he snagged some of the best performances of his career in 1999 with third place at the Arnold Classic, first at the Ironman Pro Invitational and third at Mr. Olympia. His competitiveness continued to soar as he landed in second place at the 2000 and 2001 Arnold Classics and first place once again at the 2000 Ironman Pro Invitational.
Over the next few years, Cormier’s reputation skyrocketed as bodybuilding and fitness magazines like Muscular Development praised his incredible conditioning, symmetry and aesthetics with covers and feature stories. Dubbing himself as the “Real Deal” Cormier, he was at the height of his career after winning the 2005 San Francisco Pro Invitational when tragedy struck in 2006 and he was rushed to the hospital for a spinal infection, which was related to a prior bodybuilding injury. Spending over two months in the hospital, his injury couldn’t have come at a worse time as he was slotted to train with world-renowned English bodybuilder and former Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates. Never getting to see that dream come true, his bodybuilding career was over as he was left with no other choice but to focus on his extensive recovery.
“I have been pushing my body for so long,” Cormier told Bodybuilding.com during his hospital stay. “I never felt like I took care of my body. I think for the most part I just have to not push myself too much for my own good. To be aware of my back injury and watch it a little bit closer. I’m still coming back to compete. I still got some s*** to win, s*** to talk and I’m still here… So, look for me.”
Falling from the ranks of a top contender on the bodybuilding circuit with over 72 IFBB contests, a dozen wins and six second-place finishes at the Arnold Classic, Cormier’s unfortunate turn of events gave him a new purpose in life as he directed his energy toward his recovery and embraced what his parents taught him as a child—to never give up. And, just as he was relearning to walk and mastering small feats like standing and sitting, he discovered his love for helping others and started directing his energy into training other athletes around the globe by sharing his own experience with nutrition and weight training. To his surprise, athletes around the world were more than eager to take his advice.
Instead of dwelling over such an abrupt end to his bodybuilding career, Cormier embraces every step of his journey from his first competition at 15 years old where he chickened out because he was shy to his last at the 2007 IFBB Montreal Pro Classic where he made a huge comeback and finished in fourth place. And, while his days of bench pressing 550 pounds or squatting 675 pounds have come and gone, he couldn’t be happier with where life has taken him especially now that he’s sharing his own experience and giving back through his fitness company, TheGrind.Guru. From training aspiring athletes rep for rep to teaching them how to stand and pose, Cormier is quick to share his passion but says the most important advice he can give any client is simple—“Have a good time and you’ll be in the sport a lot longer than someone who is really let down when they don’t win.”