I’ve always been interested in athletics and competition. That’s probably just a part of growing up in Kentucky. It’s one of the unwritten rules.
We tend to be very proud of our sports teams and will go down swinging in support of them. I played basketball and baseball growing up. I always tried to train my body to become better at sports. Running drills over and over until muscle memory could do them without any thought. It wasn’t really until college that I started learning about biomechanics and nutrition though. This was eye opening and I absorbed every piece of information like a sponge. I started to realize that not only could you become faster, and stronger, but you could actually take command of the way your body looks. This was all I needed to decide that exercise science was the path for me. I got my foot in the fitness industry managing and training at a gym in Campbellsville. This was the perfect place for me to start and develop my skills. My clientele has increased geometrically and I now train everyone from executives to competitive athletes.
Bodybuilding has always been a big interest for me. I always followed the big shows and went to the local contests. Until the addition of the Men’s Physique category though, I didn’t feel like I was cut out for the stage. The Men’s Physique category is all about aesthetics and stage presence. This was the perfect fit for me. At 6′1″ I can compete at 195-200 lbs
My Take on Men’s Physique
Obviously to be a top physique guy, it’s necessary to be lean and have nice abs. Abs are crucial to the physique competitor. If you don’t have a clear six pack, chances are you probably won’t get much of a look from the judges. With that said, the most important part of the equation is the elusive stage presence.
What exactly is stage presence?
How can this be more important than your physique?
Well to break it down in simple terms, stage presence is bringing a bit of electricity to the stage from the moment you walk on, until you hit the stage exit. It has a lot to do with being prepared with every detail of your performance. After that, I would say confidence is on top of the list. For me, that means practicing my walk, as well as going through my poses for weeks in preparation. Pay attention to every angle as you are preparing yourself. Believe me, when you leave something to chance, it can go very wrong. It’s very important that your posing routine becomes muscle memory, while at the same time looking calm and confident. Another thing to consider, is the amount of time you are going to have in the spotlight, and total time being onstage. I just finished competing at the Arnold Men’s Physique, and I was the first guy onstage with 42 other guys to follow. The bad part about that, is that I had 4 seconds in the spotlight but an extremely long time standing onstage trying to look relaxed while holding my abs tight and smiling. This was a difficult task. I really didn’t consider this when getting prepared for hitting the stage. So once again, leave nothing to chance, consider every detail and prepare accordingly. This includes your stage attire, tan, as well as everything you will need to get you through the day from check in to finals.
My Training Philosophy
Training to be a physique competitor is similar to bodybuilding training, with a few exceptions. Obviously, overall mass is not the objective. It’s about having great symmetry and looking athletic. I prefer to keep my workouts to less than an hour and focus on higher intensity.
Most of my focus is on compound movements and working through different rep ranges. I prefer to train antagonist muscle groups as well, for instance, chest and back, triceps and biceps. Research has shown this to be effective, and I like the way it feels. I train abs every workout as well.
An example of my training split would be:
Day 1 Chest, Back, and Abs
Day 2 Legs and Abs
Day 3 Shoulders, Traps, and Abs
Day 4 Triceps, Biceps, and Abs
Day 5 High Intensity Day or Rest, depending on how I feel
Day 7 Rest
I do three exercises for each muscle group as a tri-set and then rest and repeat 3-4 sets.I sip Glutamine Select constantly throughout my workouts. It helps with recovery and feeds my muscles a consistent stream of aminos.
Exercise Examples look like this:
Chest / Back Day
Incline Dumbbell Press for 6
Barbell Incline Press for 12
Incline Fly for 20-25
Parallel Bar Dips to fail after all other sets are done as a finisher
Weighted Pullups for 6
Dumbbell Rows for 12
Seated Cable Row with Rope for 20-25
Straight Arm Pulldown to fail after all other sets are done as a finisher
Barbell Squat for 6
Walking Lunges for 12 per side
Leg Extensions for 20-25
Single leg Hamstring Curl for 8
Romanian Deadlift for 20-25
Standing Calf Raises for 75 total reps stop as necessary then begin as fast as possible. Seated Calf Raises for 75 total reps same idea
Weighted Dips for 6
Decline EZ Bar Extensions for 12
Rope pressdown for 20-25
Barbell Curl for 6
Incline Dumbbell Curl for 12
High Cable curl for 20-25
Seated Barbell or Dumbbell Press for 6
Seated Lateral Raises for 12
Incline lateral Raises for 25
Dumbbell Shrugs for 6
Barbell Shrugs for 20-25
Weighted Hanging Leg Raises for 12 or non weighted for 20 (alternate days)
Weighted Decline Russian Twist for 20 or non weighted for 40
Decline Crunch extending arms overhead
High Intensity Day
Always changes but a recent one is 5 sets of stair sprints (28 stairs per set)
50 kettlebell swings
50 russian twists with kettlebell
50 v ups with kettlebell
Take 1 minute rest
Then 4 sets stairs
40 everything else
1 minute rest
3 sets of stair, etc down to 1 set and 10 reps on all
30 minutes of cardio
If your nutrition is put together properly and you follow the plan, you won’t need to do a significant amount of cardio. I do cardio five times per week for 30 minutes leading up to the last 3-4 weeks of my contest prep. Up to this point I only do cardio for general conditioning and to keep my heart strong. Once the final weeks approach, 30 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is a staple. This is great for fat burning because your body turns straight to bodyfat for its energy source. I always use Glutamine Select before fasted cardio as a safeguard to keep from breaking down muscle tissue. I will add in a session at night before bed if I miss my morning session or when I need to burn that last little bit of bodyfat. I prefer to keep my heart rate around 120 for cardio. That level is perfect for me to burn fat without tapping into hard earned muscle. Other than that, my high intensity day workouts get the job done.
Most physique guys fall into two categories.
First, guys who were bigger and have to cut down to have the desired physique. I fell into this category. I was around 230 lbs when I first decided to get into physique. I normally will compete around 195. At first its really hard on the ego dropping all the weight and losing some hard earned mass. Once you get in shape though, you will look back at your former self and be amazed how much better you look and feel. The key for going from a bigger guy to a physique guy is strictly following the nutrition plan and doing a little more cardio. I rarely did more than 20 minutes of cardio 3 times per week before I decided to get into physique.
The other category is guys who have great abs and classic shape but need to fill out the chest, delts, and upper arms. It takes some time and a lot of dedication to get the full rounded look with muscle density. My advice for these guys is to work hard and make sure your nutrition is on point for optimum recovery. Make sure you are getting plenty of quality protein in your diet and don’t expect everything to happen overnight.
The key component of any physique program is the nutritional plan. I do my own nutrition and have a few tips that should help almost anyone interested in eating for health or for competition.
First, high quality supplements are extremely important. This is where I fully trust Beverly International. I simply do not trust a lot of the supplements on the market. Buy the best supplements you can afford, a low quality protein, glutamine, or omega just doesn’t give the same results.
Staying lean year round is important to a physique athlete, so my nutrition plan is high protein, low to very moderate carbs, and plenty of healthy fats. Try to consume most of your protein from organic lean sources, for example chicken, fish, turkey, lean beef. Yes, I believe organic is important. The last thing you want to introduce into your body is chemicals that were injected into non organic chicken, or beef. This is probably the single most important tip I have. The next thing to consider is a high quality fish oil. They have an impact on everything from fat burning, to helping control inflammation. Fish oils in conjunction with carnitine have a profound impact on our health as well as how we look and feel. I love Quadracarn. It has four different forms of carnitine, including acetyl-l-carnitine. It is shown to not only impact body composition, but brain function and serves as an antioxidant as well.
A typical day from my nutrition plan looks something like this:
Meal 1: 6 oz organic lean ground turkey, a handful of organic almonds or brazil nuts, black coffee.
Meal 2: 2 scoops UMP, I am usually training clients and don’t have a chance for a solid meal.
Meal 3: 6 oz tilapia, or organic grilled chicken, 1 cup broccoli or 6 asparagus spears.
Meal 4: (Post workout) 2 scoops UMP, followed by 8 oz. blueberry or grape juice.
60 minutes later I will have a solid meal once again 6 oz. of lean protein, with 1 cup of green veggies
Meal 5: 6 ounces of organic chicken or fish, 2 cups of salad consisting of green lettuce, spinach, broccoli, ground almonds, and a touch of oil based dressing.
Twice per week I add a medium sweet potato to my last meal as a carb load meal. Depending on how I look and feel I may include a bowl of organic oatmeal as well.
That’s basically it. The idea of having a breakfast of meat with a healthy fat like the brazil nuts or almonds, is to stabilize your insulin levels. This keeps me feeling good all day and keeps carb cravings to a minimum. Fish oils with every meal, Quadracarn three times per day, and ZMA 2000 before bedtime.
Final tips about Men’s Physique
The shorts you choose will be of paramount importance. Consider the fit as well as how they will look when you are tanned and under the stage lighting. Try to buy them as close to the show as possible. If you get them too early, they may not fit. Also consider having them sized to fit you.
Smile and have fun. The great thing about the physique division is everyone is eager to help everyone else. It’s a new category and we are still trying to define exactly where it is headed. So if you do everything you can to prepare yourself, you are a winner, even if you don’t place. Be proud of your hard work and learn from the experience. It’s really about the journey, not the final result.
Chad Abner At A Glance
Occupation or Education: Personal Trainer, Quality Control Specialist, BS exercise science, multiple certifications
Current Residence: Lexington, KY
Years training (total): 19
Weight: Off Season: 210; Contest 195-200 Weight: 195-200
Favorite Bodybuilding Meal: Grilled tilapia with grilled brussel sprouts
In your CD player: Derek Trucks Band, or something about quantum physics
Most Inspiring Book: Heaven by Randy Alcorn
Hobby or interests: Family, quantum physics, nutrition and meal planning
Words to live by: If you tell someone you will do something, do it. Always be the best you can possibly be and be very proud of that.