Muscle & Strength Talks To Cut And Jacked Chad Shaw

Chad Shaw
Quick Stats
  • Chad Shaw
  • Wisconsin
  • May 27th, 1974
  • 5’9”
  • Formerly Bodybuilding
  • 26
  • 185-190 lbs
  • 195-200 lbs
Inspirational natural athlete Chad Shaw talks overcame numerous major health issues and asthma. He shares his insight on training and nutrition.

What is your athletic background and how did you get involved with bodybuilding?

Beginning from the time I was a young child, I badly desired to participate in various sports. However, I wasn't able to have much of an athletic background due to numerous health problems I was plagued by. My battle for my life began even before I was born. I had a severe heart arrhythmia that doctors said would cause my heart to fail, and make me a miscarriage. I ended being born an emergency C-section. I wasn't a healthy baby. I had various heart complications, as well as an enlargement of all my limbs and organs on one side of my body. Doctors said I was sure to die within days.

Something extraordinary happened! Within one day, by some miracle, everything changed! My heart transformed to a normal rhythm, and my body equalized so that both halves of my body were equal in size. Doctors were blown away! They said there no explanation for this other than the fact that it was a miracle! Glory was short lived, as by age 2, I was diagnosed with severe asthma. That was the beginning of a long journey through hell.

Chad Shaw's chest and torso.

The asthma was devastating. All through grade school, I spent more time in the hospital, and in doctors' offices than I did at home and in school combined. On so many occasions, I remember lying there, hooked up to all these machines, unable to breath, fighting for my life as I could feel it being squeezed from me. Time and time again, by the grace of God, and the skin of my teeth, I managed to cheat death. It was over a decade of pure hell! By the time the worst of my asthma was over, more darkness loomed.

Medical specialists discovered that I had a whole host of additional health problems including: a 4 inch leg length difference between my right, and left leg; spinal scoliosis; 4 torn spinal disks; 2 bulged disks; a missing anterior cruciate ligament in the right knee; missing medial meniscus in the right knee; osteoarthritis in the right knee; torn ulnar nerve in the right arm; detached proximal bicep tendon in right arm; hormonal imbalances due to parathyroid disease (tumors on the parathyroid glands.)

I don't ever recall having perfect health at any one point in my life. I was always being plagued by something. Beginning bodybuilding was the best thing I ever did for myself! Although doctors told me I could never physically be able to lift weights, I ignored their prognosis and did it anyway. I was fascinated how by body responded! My ill, broken body was little by little becoming bigger, healthier, and more powerful. I could see myself changing month after month. This became my passion, and there was no way I was going stop! Health problems or not, nobody was going to take this away from me!

Chad Shaw perfomring curls.

You ask what I love most about bodybuilding? It became my suit of armor, my hope, and my livelihood! I can't say there is anything I dislike about bodybuilding in and of itself, however, I do have a major problem with how drugs have taken over the sport of bodybuilding. Not only have bodybuilding drugs been responsible for numerous deaths, and destroyed many lives, but they have also taken credit away from natural bodybuilders who have worked so hard, and have put so much time, effort, and extraordinary discipline into developing  lean and muscular physiques.

Back in the 1950's bodybuilding was about being strong and healthy to improve quality of life. That is what bodybuilding should be about! Now a days, bodybuilding seems to be more of a contest of who can pump themselves full of the most drugs before their hearts explode, or kidneys shut down. It has come to represent something very morbid.

What keeps you motivated?

I would say the thing that motivates me the most is the whole mystery of what could possibly be. In other words, not knowing exactly what my physical potential really is. Of course, the only way I can find that out is by putting forth my best effort each and every day. As the old saying goes "you never know until you try!"

The Natural One

What does your current training and split look like, and what do you like most about it?

Before I tell my workout routine I want everyone to understand that over the years as I’ve gotten progressively stronger, and as I've aged,  I’ve had to add additional recovery time between my workouts, little by little in order to be able to keep making progress and avoid overtraining. I haven’t always needed as much recovery time between workouts as what I do now, but in order to continue making progress as a natural bodybuilder, you must progressively add more recovery time into your regimen as you age, and as you get stronger. Your body doesn't recover as quickly at age 30 as it did at age 20, and the difference will be even more extreme as you go from your 30's to your 40's, and so on, and so forth.

Likewise, if you deadlift 200 lbs, you won't need nearly as much time to recover as you would if you were to deadlift 500 lbs. Heavier weights, and higher intensity workouts are more taxing on our natural recovery systems. Not just muscular, but also the skeletal, neurological, and endocrine systems. That's just the nature of the beast. With that being said, here is my current split: Week 1, I will train chest and back on Wednesday, then quadriceps and calves on Saturday. Week 2, I will train biceps and triceps on Wednesday and then hamstrings and calves on Saturday.

Chad ShawWeek 3, I will train shoulders on Wednesday and then quadriceps and calves again on Saturday. After that I will begin that 3-week rotation all over again but only I will train hamstrings on the Saturday workout. So I train quadriceps and hamstrings every other week and back, chest, arms, and shoulders get trained just once every 3 weeks. It is very important to understand that a natural bodybuilder who is not using steroids, absolutely cannot endure the same volume, and frequency of training as a bodybuilder using chemical enhancements.

How often do you perform cardio?

On alternate days from my lifting I will do either HIIT style cardio, alternating high and low intensity intervals, one minute each, for about 20 minutes, or if I'm having a rough day with knee pain I will do some low intensity stair climbing for about 45 minutes. I prefer the HIIT cardio training because it saves me much more time! Some bodybuilders I know can get away with not doing cardio because they are naturally lean, but I am not one of them. I don't have a naturally lean physique, which mean I can't take any shortcuts. If I slack on my cardio, or my diet, I will get fat!

How often do you change your training routine, and do you periodize your training?

For the most part I don't change my routine. The only time I switch up exercises in my routine is if I'm training around an injury. My personal opinion is that if you're being proactive in incorporating enough additional recovery time as you progressively age, and become progressively stronger, then there should be no need to change your exercises, or to periodize your workouts. The only time I would change an exercises is if I found another exercise that was superior to the one that I was using. I know guys who change their workouts, and exercises every single week who are still stuck in a rut and not making any progress. I will explain why.

Let's say you have an individual who trains chest twice per week. Let's say that he does 4 sets of bench press, 4 sets of inclined bench press, and 4 sets of dumbbell flyes in his chest routine. Maybe at first he was making gains, but now his progress has come to a standstill, or maybe even regressed a bit. He decides to switch up his exercises. He replaces bench press, with flat-bench dumbbell presses, then replace inclined bench press with inclined dumbbell flyes, and replaces dumbbell flyes with cable crossovers. He still does 4 sets of each exercise just as he did before.

In his mind, he may feel like he's making ground. He enthusiastically begins his new chest routine, and the first couple weeks he notices he is getting a bit stronger on all his new chest exercises so he is encouraged. Strangely though, he doesn't seem to notice any visible difference in his chest development. Weeks go by, and then all of a sudden he hits another plateau where his progress stops. OK, now let's go back for a minute. Initially when this guy switched up his exercises he was making gains right? No, not necessarily!

Chad Shaw

You see, when he began doing his new routine, the first few weeks, his weights and reps may have increased a little bit, but only because his neuromuscular coordination improved on those exercises as his body adapted to the new movements. This doesn't mean that he gained any more muscle in his chest.

The point that I'm making here is that an overtrained chest is an overtrained chest, and you won't make any meaningful progress regardless of what chest exercises you do. The only way to begin making meaningful progress in this example is to reduce the frequency of chest training so that chest muscles have the opportunity to recover, and grow. This rule applies to all muscle groups!

What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?

I'm really not a fan of fasted cardio. I've done it before, and from my personal experience, I feel as though fasted cardio is too catabolic to a natural athlete. Although I wouldn't advice loading up on carbohydrates before cardio because your body would much rather burn those carbohydrates for energy instead of body-fat. I think a high protein meal, or shake consumed a couple hours prior to cardio would be reasonable. Doing so would allow amino acids to begin to reach peak levels in the blood stream by the time you exercise, so that your body remains in an anabolic state so you don't lose muscle.

Chad ShawI have even found that taking pure branched chain amino acids prior to my cardio sessions have been a valuable asset, because they can absorb directly into the blood stream without having to first be broken down by the digestive system like protein does. Branched chain amino acids with help keep blood sugar levels stable during exercise, suppress the release of stress hormones that eat up muscle, provide immediate energy, and stimulates protein synthesis in the body to speed recovery, and growth.

Do you have any gym, muscle building or fitness pet peeves?

Oh my gosh, I could write an entire book on this topic alone! It never ceases to amaze me how little respect so many gym members show towards others! I like to keep moving at a fast pace during my workouts to keep my intensity level high so don't like being disrupted for something unless it's important. All too often, I will be approached by these guys that will disrupt me every 5 minutes to ask for a spot. I don't mind giving someone a spot on 1 or 2 sets, but some of these guys feel they need a spot on every single set of every exercise. If you require someone to assist you lifting 90% of your workout, there is something wrong!

I even had a guy ask me to spot him on concentration curls once! I told him to simply use his other hand to spot himself. Another thing I hate is when I see guys trying to lift weights that are way too heavy for them, and they can't control them. They end up slamming them, dropping them, and breaking them so that nobody else can use them! It pisses me off when someone will get on one piece of gym equipment, and just sit on it for hours, and won't let anyone else use it. They will do a half-ass set, and sit there 15-30 minutes between sets, either starring into outer space, or talking on their cell phone. This is so incredibly rude! It's one thing to waste your own time, but don't waste everyone else's!

Another thing I hate is when someone tries to talk to me right in the middle of a set, or when I'm doing high intensity intervals of cardio, and I have my ear buds in listening to music, and someone will come and stand in front of me and try starting a conversation during a high intensity interval when I can't breathe, and I'm about to pass out. As a rule of thumb, when someone has their ear-buds in listening to music, they don't want to be bothered. If they see you coming and they remove their ear buds, then they may want to talk to you. However, if they see you and instantly look away, and leave their ear-buds in, then they don't want to be bothered.

One last issue I have to get off my chest has to do with locker room conduct. This is something that happens all too often. I go in the locker room to either lock my stuff up, or get my stuff out so I can leave, and without failure, some naked guy will come walking up to me and want to start up a meaningless conversation. There is nothing so important that anyone has to say to me that can't wait till they at least have their underwear on!

Sitting around the locker room with a bunch of naked guys, shooting the breeze all night, just isn't my idea of a good time! My working days are long, and my free time is very limited. My goal at the gym is to get in and out as fast as I possibly can! That means that listening to some naked guy stand there with his twig and berries in my face, telling me about his golf swing, is not something I want to donate any of my free time to!

Chad Shaw

What are your best tips for getting ripped and shredded abs?

This has to be the most common question I receive from people. All too often, people in pursuit of ripped abs will go about it by doing loads of abdominal exercises on a daily basis. This will only overtrain the abdominal muscles, and cause them to smooth out even more. I only spend about 10 minutes, 3 times per week training my abdominals. I wasn't one of those guys who just naturally had wash-board abs, I had to make drastic changes in my life style in order to get them.

The road leading  to wash-board abs is paved by your diet! Getting your body to draw on its stored fat involves very deliberate, and consistent manipulation of food energy. In order to tap into layer of fat covering up the abdominal muscles, you must create an energy deficit in the body. This means you have to find ways to reduce your over-all calorie intake. My favorite approach to this is to maintain a high protein, but moderate fat diet, then replace the majority of sugars, and starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes, and rice, with fibrous, complex carbohydrate such as green leafy vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus, and spinach. Doing so helps to eliminate large surges of insulin in the body which is a major contributor to fat storage.

Feeding the body less carbohydrates also causes the body to rely more on stored body fat for energy. Regular aerobic training, about 20 minutes, 3-4 times per week is also highly recommended. Obtaining shredded abs will never happen by accident! It required alot of thought, planning, and creativity in terms of both your daily diet, and also your exercise regimen.

Chad ShawWhat advanced training techniques work well for you?

Since tension on the muscles is what stimulates them to grow, I have used a number of these techniques in order to boost the intensity of my training. I use all of the above! Using 10 second rest pauses, allows me to train my muscles to complete failure. Often times people, will end a set because of lactic acid build up, and lack of oxygen. Once you've finished a set, resting for 10 seconds will allow your body to clear ammonia, and lactic acid from the muscles you're training, and deliver more nutrients, and oxygen to them in order to give them enough fuel for a few more reps to really reach 100% muscle failure at the end of your set!

I also perform giant sets, slow negatives, and supersets in every single workout. The reason I like these high intensity techniques is because they cause the muscles to release allot of lactic acid! Lactic acid directly triggers the release of human growth hormone in the body! The muscles will burn to the point they just feel like they're going to rip right off my bones! I want to make it very clear that although these are very effective techniques to boost workout intensity, they will require you decrease the duration and frequency of your workouts, in order for your body to replenish its biochemical resources that it needs in order for your muscles to be able to recover, and grow!

What are some of your favorite supplements and why?

As many people know, I'm a huge fan of USP Labs products! My body has had a very positive response to every USP Labs product that I've tried! Super Cissus Rx has been a miracle worker for my joint pains. I feel that if it wasn't for this product my knee would hurt so bad that I wouldn't be able to even walk! My favorite lean mass building stack is Pink Magic, Prime, and Powerfull. Along with that, I  also Take Jack3d for pre-workout intensity, Modern BCAA before and after training to enhance recovery and support energy, and growth, and I also take Yok3d on my lifting days only to maximize the amount of blood and nutrients exploding throughout my muscles while I'm lifting.

If I'm trying to really get shredded, I will quit using the Jack3d, and take Oxy Elite Pro. This product really helps cut my appetite, and gives me lots of energy! My results on that stack have been phenomenal! Nothing like making the guys using steroids jealous! Since I'm always on the go, and I don't have much time to always prepare food, I do take advantage of protein powders to ensure that my muscles are receiving enough amino acids to support recovery and growth.

Optimum Nutrition's Hydro-Whey Platinum is my protein supplement of choice. It tastes like candy to me, and it's very low in carbohydrates, and digests very well! I also take Optimum Nutrition's CLA product to help stay lean, and Opti-Men multivitamins for over-all, general health.

Which athletes do you admire any why?

There are many great athletes whom I've met in the bodybuilding and fitness industry that I admire for different reasons. I've been impressed, and inspired by natural bodybuilders, Kelechi Opara, Jesse Wright, and Eric Broser. These guys are all fantastic role models this industry who lead by example, and demonstrate that is possible to develop an impressive, shredded, and muscular physique without the use of drugs. When I think of the peak condition I want to be in, I think of these guys.

They are shredded to the bone year-round, and know how to get the job done the right way! Not only do they possess amazing physiques, but they are very humble, good natured, and genuine people who will go the extra mile in order to try and help someone out. Besides them, there are also many wonderful athletes on social network whom I admire for many different reasons. It would take me all day to list them all, so I will just leave it at that!

Chad Shaw

What are some of your favorite motivational quotes?

Successful people are not always smarter, luckier, richer, more talented, stronger, or faster. Frequently, winners are simply people who believe they can.

Success is not about being the best. It is about being your best!

Discipline separates wishers from achievers.

You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?

If someone wants to contact me, they can find me on Facebook.

Do you have any tips for someone who is looking to compete in your sport?

Yes, be patient, and do it naturally! Educate yourself as much as possibly can on training, nutrition, and supplementation. Discipline yourself and do it the right way so that you can enjoy, bodybuilding, and quality of life for many decades to come! Should you consider using steroids, remember this: the compromises, and risks involved are extraordinary! Using chemicals may get you big much faster, and that may drive up your ego, and enthusiasm initially, but when you come off a chemical cycle, and your body begins to normalize, the opposite effects will occur.

Steroids cause your body to shut-down your natural anabolic hormone production, and there is a rebound effect that occurs with catabolic hormones like cortisol in the body, once you go off the drugs. This will make it impossible for you to gain any muscle no matter what you do until your hormones return to normal levels again. This will create a state of depression, and hopelessness that has driven many users to radical behavior, or even suicide. If you've never used steroids before, then DON'T! If you do, then the day will come that wish you never did!

Carla Hampshire
Posted on: Mon, 05/02/2011 - 14:39

Chad always exhibits both inner and outer strength. He is a great role model. He shows what can be achieved naturally with patience, perseverance and a lot of hard work. He's a great person and talented athlete!

Posted on: Thu, 04/14/2011 - 01:21

Hey Big bro! Awesome article it really portrays what can be if one put's in the true dedication despite all odds. You Inspire on a level far beyond most, You are the M in motivator as well as a good friend! I agree with Dave there your my Hero as well. I enjoyed reading this and hope others will do the same as the story you write is a foot print lasting. Thanks for sharing this!

Posted on: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 09:37

This man is my hero. I am only a few months younger than he is and pray I can look half as good in the near future.

Great tips and reading.