As a fitness fanatic and personal trainer, I enjoy spicing up my workout routine and setting new goals to achieve. I constantly strive to find new ways to challenge myself and push my body to new limits. But this week I decided to step it up a notch and train like a professional bodybuilder for five days straight.
Bodybuilding competitions judge contestants on muscle hypertrophy, symmetry and definition. The ideal bodybuilder is toned, defined and displays maximum muscular strength. To achieve this aesthetic form, bodybuilders must adhere to an intense strength and resistance workout plan and strict diet.
For one week I trained with men’s physique bodybuilder Chad Williams, who is prepping for an upcoming competition this May. For the full experience, I also agreed to try out Chad’s bodybuilder meal plan in addition to the workouts we’d be doing together.
Here is a look into my week training with Chad:
Day 1 – Leg Day
I had prepped for our first day of training by eating a healthful breakfast of egg whites and oats as recommended by Chad’s meal plan. Going into the first day of training, I was not exactly sure what to expect for a bodybuilder’s workout, but I knew it was going to be intense. Chad’s workouts are very structured, specific and strength-oriented. Day 1 was an intense 90-minute lower body workout consisting of weighted lunges and squats, along with the leg press and curl. (Just a little brag moment: I used the same weight as Chad on the leg press! Editor’s note: she’s basically the most hardcore person we know.) After the workout my legs were definitely sore and I think my quads were bursting out of my tights. You can just call me Quadzilla from now on!
Day 2 – Arms and chest
Thankfully Chad follows a split training routine where no two muscle groups are trained two days in a row because my lower body was extremely sore the next day. Today we completed a 90-minute upper body workout, specifically targeting the arms and chest. Chad’s mantra is “consistency is key,” and he religiously abides by a pyramid training technique (increasing weight while decreasing reps) and super-setting (completing exercises continuously after one another with little rest).
Even though we began our workout with a warm-up and stretch series, I was totally fatigued by the first rep of the third exercise and had to complete a couple of sets without weights. However, I recovered fairly quickly and finished out the rest of my workout like a boss.
Day 3 – Arms and Back
By Day 3, I had realized that the hardest part of working out this week is that Chad’s workout plan consisted of limited cardio. As a cardio queen who thrives on running and jogging, stairclimbing and jump rope, a cardio-less workout week nearly broke my heart. Bodybuilders do not incorporate a lot of cardio into their workouts because of the fear that a lot of cardio will make them lose weight and slim down. However, Chad told me that he will be increasing his cardio to three times a week closer to the competition, mainly with high-intensity sprints. Thankfully for this week, I got to sneak a little cardio in on the treadmill as a short warm-up.
However, Day 3 consisted of an intense 2-hour workout targeting the arms and back. We did a lot of resistance training with exercises that were variations of the cable-cross, along with low rows. This strength training workout was probably the most intense of the entire week.
Today was a rest day from the workout plan. However, I still had to adhere to Chad’s strict meal plan. He informed me that bodybuilding is “20% workout and 80% diet.” Because we had been working out at such high intensity for extended periods of time, I was instructed to have 5 meals each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks in between) or to eat at least every 2-3 hours to keep my body sufficiently fueled and energy levels up. Chad’s diet consisted of lots of carbohydrates and protein, meaning I was limited to chicken, turkey or fish as meat sources. Here’s a layout of my meal schedule from the day:
Breakfast: fresh mixed melon, low fat yogurt and grits
Snack: vanilla Boost protein shake (my personal favorite)
Lunch: grilled chicken breast sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce and tomato
Snack: fresh strawberries and kiwi
Dinner: grilled salmon on herb rice with mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes with gravy
Today was my final workout day with Chad. After having an entire day to recover my sore muscles, I was ready to get back into the gym for another vigorous workout. This 2-hour workout consisted of more upper body exercises targeting the chest, shoulders and triceps. We focused on a lot of strength and resistance exercises to build muscular strength and tone. Some of today’s exercises included the chest fly, military press and lateral raises. Though I was relieved to rest my aching body after such an intense week of physical activity, I was a little bummed that today was going to be our last day in bodybuilder training boot camp.
Not only did I get to experience the workouts and meal plan, Chad let me in on a few secrets of the bodybuilder business, included how each contestant must be shaved, spray tanned and pedicured (and I hate that we didn’t do that last one this week). I never would have imagined that bodybuilding would be the perfect training circuit for me to try. It allowed me to combine my favorite thing—exercise—with a little personal vanity. (I get to be a beast and a bombshell? JACKPOT!)
Training as a bodybuilder this week was probably one of my most enjoyable and satisfying experiences. However, with the pleasure came a lot of hard work. I gained a lot of respect for the muscle maniacs, and I came to admire bodybuilders for much more than their bodies. My week of training showed me that the life of a bodybuilder is a physical and mental commitment that requires a lot of motivation, dedication and discipline, but it is something that I would definitely do again.
Photos by: Kelsey Shoemaker