Name: Nadal Shaabneh
Height: 6 feet
Competition weight: 191 lbs
Current weight: 197 – 200 lbs
Current city: Washington D.C. (Northen Virginia), U.S.A
Occupation: Athlete at heart
How did you get started? And How long have you been training consistently for?
When I was kid I always wanted to be that action hero we all saw in the movies, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude, etc. I know all the Rocky movies by heart, but the one that stands out to me most is Rocky IV. When I saw the second training montage in that movie my mind was set, and I knew what I wanted to look like! The image of him lifting the wheel wagon with his biceps popping and major vascularity is forever instilled in my mind.
Shortly then after, my neighborhood had a community yard sale during one fall weekend in 1991. I ventured off from house to house with $1.00 to my name, to check out the items our neighbors had for purchase. As I checked out the items for sale I soon realized my dollar wasn’t going to get me much of anything. That was until I stumbled across a gold plastic sand filled 8lb dumbbell, and what do you know? It only cost a dollar. It was meant to be. Every day after school I would run home turn on the radio and curl away.
I was introduced to weight training my sophomore year of high school. Our instructor at the time taught us the most basic movements and exercises such as the squat and bench press. At that time I was playing football, basketball, and running track.
So my workout program was tailored around whatever sport was in season for me. It wasn’t anything too advanced, mostly a rotation of benching and squatting.
It wasn’t until after high school that I got more serious about weight training and bodybuilding. I weighed approximately 158lbs during this time and wanted to add more lean mass to my frame. I wasn’t attending college at the time. I was mostly hanging out with friends and working odd jobs. So I had a lot of time to spend in the gym.
I joined a local nearby gym and started to go every day, knowing only what I learned during high school (bench and squat). So at that time I would get to the gym and do a lot of people watching.
Not knowing much, I would look around the gym and find a physique I admired, and copy what that individual was doing. My learning experience was beginning. My diet at the time was just to eat whatever was available.
As I got to the gym more and more a friend of mine decided he wanted to add on some muscle, so he joined the gym I was attending. We soon started going to the gym together and started to read fitness and bodybuilding magazines and other publications.
We put together a routine that consisted primarily of training one muscle group a day. Since we were both trying to gain lean muscle, our diets were again to just eat whatever.
As the month’s went by and turned to years our schedules differed, but we both continued to keep training. I vividly remember one stretch where money was tough to come by for me as I had to use the majority of my income to pay for community college. I wasn’t able to keep my gym membership during this time and found myself without a gym to go to. I found a way get free one week passes from all the local gyms in the area. When I used those up (lasted about 3 months) I would drive to a 24 hour gym 20 miles away at 1 am. I figured out that this gym had a staffing issue and the front desk was frequently vacated during the midnight rotation shift.
My motto was whatever it takes. A friend of mines very successful uncle once told me that no one could do what he did to bring him where he is today. Ever since hearing those words I knew that I wanted to have a similar story to tell one day. This training regimen lasted for the next 8 years or so.
At the age of 27 weighing approximately 184 lbs., I started to be a little stricter with my diet. I cut out the fast food/fried food, cut back on soda consumption, and made more of a healthier choice when dinning out, nothing too dramatic. I followed this approach Monday through Friday and let loose a bit on the weekends with foods I really enjoy.
My routine in the gym at this time followed a similar approach as well. I got stricter within my form and tweaked a few different exercises to get better results. Examples were keeping my wrists locked and as straight as possible when doing any type of push or pull movement. I also added a mini exercise program at the beginning of all my workouts. This consisted of 40 pull-ups, 35 push-ups, and 30 crunches. I would do this as a cycle type of workout, moving from one exercise to the next until I completed the cycle three times. This would warm me up and prepare my body for the workout to follow.
At the age of 37 I find myself in the best shape of my life. As most people start to regress and wish they had their body form their twenties, I in contrast keep progressing forward and bettering myself.
I for the most part have kept my routine the same by training one muscle group a day and changing the order of the exercises every two weeks. New techniques I have instilled into my workout are between sets I will very very lightly work the opposite muscle group.
In regards to my diet I have gone with a more organic approach. If I can buy it organic than organic it is, well at least for the most part. Also, I for the past year and a half eliminated gluten as much as I can from my diet. I contribute this in most part to my latest gains with bodybuilding. The elimination of gluten has actually helped me put on more lean mass by eating more protein, veggies, and fruit. For anyone who has a hard time keeping weight on or wanting to gain lean mass, you should give it a try. I have gone from eating on average 2-3 times a day, to 5-6 times a day.
My cardio comes from the competitive sports I stay engaged in ever since the end of high school. I play in a competitive men’s flag football league and compete against ex pro and college level athletes.
Till this very day I’m learning something new all the time in the gym. I strive to better my physique every minute I spend in the gym. I want to be fit all the time!
What do you love about it and how do you stay motivated?
For me it’s like a competition within myself. I want to push my body to its limits. I love feeling my muscles grow and become more defined. I love feeling the pump my muscles get when they stretch out my gym shirt.
I love the endorphin high I get while hitting the weights that puts me in the zone with my favorite tunes blasting through my ears. It’s most definitely a mood enhancing rush that can’t be matched.
It’s like watching the stages of my life flash through my mind as the songs I blast hype me into an unadulterated euphoric state. Really there is nothing like it.
Staying motivated always leads back to my childhood and initial inspiration of knowing what I wanted to look like or be from a kid growing up in the 80’s. It’s always going to be in me.
Still to this day I think about it all the time, even when I’m lifting. I always want to be fit and get better.
Seeing the gains over the years or even the short term ones like a simple pump, being featured in a fitness publication, all have me yearning to get back in the gym for my next workout.
What made you decide to enter your first competition? Did you do it alone?
Through all my years of training I never really thought of entering a competition, nor did I want to. It wasn’t until after connecting with a few of the top supplement companies that I knew I had to get up on the stage, if I wanted to be sponsored.
My first competition was a crash and burn experience (laugh). It most definitely was a great learning experience, and I look forward to redeeming myself this coming summer.
And yes, I did it alone.
What are your future plans?
Use this passion that has been instilled inside of me to help better people’s lives, or better yet, better this world.
Do you follow a bulking period or do you manage to stay lean year round and gain size?
There’s really no bulking phase for me. I really just try and make a healthy choice when eating out or when buying groceries at the store.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I’m a health nut counting every calorie that goes in my mouth.
I most definitely enjoy myself when it comes to food. I think my lifestyle and upbringing played an important role in this aspect. I believe that the sports I play year round and throughout the years have helped develop my physique and help keep me lean year round.
Give us a brief description of your philosophy on your diet:
Honestly, I’ve never really been a strict diet kinda person. I eat! It’s always been a struggle for me to gain weight with how active I’ve been over the years.
Since the age of 36 I’ve gone gluten-free after recognising that I have a gluten intolerence. That right there had me eating healthier by incorporating more fruits and salads into my eating habits. The indirect benefits of going gluten-free also has made it easier. My energy levels have sky rocketed and my waist line looks trimmer.
The one staple that I must have in my diet is my gluten-free steel cut oats (Bob’s Red Mill). I notice a difference in my workouts if I go without them in my breakfast. Mix in some walnuts, zante currants, and a dash of raw sugar and it’s absolute bliss!
Give us a brief description of your philosophy on your training and on average how long do you workout for?
I started out with a strict regimen of mostly one body part a day. I think for gaining mass that blueprint worked pretty well for me over the years. I usually went through 4 to 5 exercises with about 4 sets each. I used anywhere from 8 to 15 reps per set.
When I first started out I would track my weights lifted and follow the 8 to 15 rep range religiously using the pyramid method, high to low reps. Each set I would increase the weight and lower the repetitions.
Nowadays, I let my body dictate how many reps I’m going to do per set. Pretty much going on how my body feels that given day. Another thing I have incorporated lately is working the opposite muscle group between sets, using very light weight. It gives me a great pump and helps with blood flow into the muscles during your training.
My workouts can last anywhere from 45 mins to 1.5 hours.
Somedays I’m bouncing all over the place from one piece of equipment to another with little rest in between. Other days I’m using a long rest period between sets.
What are your most important training tips?
I have always been very active since a young age with all the sports I played. I’m sure that helped mold my body to where it is today.
If I had to give someone advice it would be to just get to the gym and do work.
There are thousands of routines out there claiming to be the next best thing and I see people quick to ditch there current regimen for another all the time. Give it time. Nothing good is going to happen overnight.
There’s always going to be some sort of struggle or resolve before any good. Stay true to your workout schedule and don’t skip days. Save those skip days for the days that you’re ill or injured. They’re sure to arise, trust me it comes with the territory.
Learn how to make every rep count. I look back now to when I first started out, and it’s like night and day. When you first start out you’re pretty much going through the motions learning the exercises and correct form. This is perfectly fine, kinda like a right of passage. Over the years you start to learn about your body and the exercises that work best for you. During this transition, you will learn the correct range of motion to use when performing the exercises that will continually put stress on the muscles being worked.
As more time goes by you’re not just going through the motions anymore, but instead really mastering that muscle contraction on every rep.
Most of the time you’re going to learn from trial and error. No two people are the same, and what may work for one, may not work for another. Learn your body by putting in the time.
What are your three favourite exercises and why?
This usually changes for me, but right now its arm day. I love the fact that it’s also a Saturday when the gym is not too busy. It lets me zone out and really get lost in my workout and music with minimal interruptions.
A sample workout goes like this:
- *Between sets when doing biceps I do 15-20 push-ups.
- Speed Bag warm up (15 mins)
- Standing Barbell Curls or Seated Dumbbell Curls (4 Sets: Reps: 15-12-10-8)
- Preacher Curls, Curl Bar or Dumbells (4 Sets: Reps: 15-12-10-8)
- Concentration Curls (4 Sets: Reps: 15-12-10-8)
- *Between sets when doing triceps I do 8-10 pull-ups.
- Close Grip Bench Press (4 Sets: Reps: 15-12-10-8)
- Rope Cable Pull Downs (4 Sets: Reps: 15-12-10-8)
- Tricep Cable Extensions (4 Sets: Reps: 15-12-10-8)
What are your top ab training tips to developing such thick and lean abs as well as the classic V lines?
I think there are many great exercises that will develop great abs and a chiseled midsection, but I believe the most important factor is the intensity of each rep, not so much the amount of reps one does.
What is the most common question you get asked?
“How did you get like that?” or “How long did it take you to get like that?”
It’s always tough to answer these questions, I just usually give a shoulder shrug and say that it’s a combination of the sports I’ve played from a young age through today, and the hard work and dedication I put in the gym for the past 17 years.
Favorite Influential bodybuilders:
I admire the physiques of the bodybuilders from the 70’s and 80’s mostly. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Serge Nubret, and Steve Reeves from the 50’s.
They all had that classic V shape we all seek and admire. They had an awesome combination muscle and leanness.
My favorite athletes growing up were Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson. Of course Sylvester Stallone left a pretty big inspiration on me as well.
“Be the way…and break away…”
If you could give yourself at 25 one piece of advice what would it be?
The importance of recovery through stretching and massages! I really could of benefited from these tips and avoided a few injuries along the way.
Where can people get hold of you?
- Instagram: newbreedathlete