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Heather Vess: Squatting Deep and Asking Questions

Heather is a small town girl who found the squat rack and set up camp. Now setting her eyes on the 2016 season, Heather has put herself in a position to dominate the stage. Just looking at Heather you can tell that she has spent her time in the gym. She doesn’t let her ego get the best of her and control the way she lifts. Making sure that the squats are deep and the weight is heavy, Heather is one hard working lady.

How old are you, where are you from, and do you squat ass to grass?
I am 26 years old, born and raised in the small town of Gaffney, South Carolina, and as always, ass to grass is key when squatting.

What areas of weight training do you train and what is your best squat?
I have been competing in the NPC for the past three years. My first competition was in 2014 where I competed in the Bikini Division. I ultimately did 5 shows that year and nationally qualified. I took 2015 off from competing and used that time to increase my overall size so that I could transition into the Figure Division. This year is looking very promising as I hope to step on stage with an entirely new look.
My best squat or personal best would be 205. I’m a firm believer in form. You’ll see a lot of guys, some girls, throw weight on a bar and squat just to ego lift. When their form is all to shit, they’re doing nothing but hindering their own progress. So my personal best may not look astronomical in numbers, but with correct form, I bet I’m engaging my glutes more 👌🏼

Where do you train? Do you have a lifting team or partner?
Engaging the glutes is something I’ve been working towards. By nature, I am a quad dominant lifter. So I have to really focus and fine tune my form so that I can actually benefit from the lift. But as mentioned, most people don’t really know how to engage them. I suggest to people to either ask someone who knows what they are doing or videoing yourself. A lot of people think videoing yourself is self-absorbed. When in all actuality it’s something that can only assist in your progress. Minor adjustments can make major changes in your body’s composition.

I mostly train at Your Best Body in Gaffney where I reside however I also own a membership and train usually at least once or twice in Golds in Greenville, SC. Most of my close knit friends compete so I will always travel to them to train, especially on leg day for two reasons. One, I like a legitimate spotter for when I want to lift heavy. I’ve been in the process of trying to grow a better set of glutes and hamstrings so heavier and volume. But that also comes with the risk of injury. It’s always nice to have an extra set of eyes to tell you if your form is off or if they see you struggling to help. And two, I’m competitive by nature. I love training legs with other people because I always want to do more. If we do 25 the first time, I want to go to 30 the next time. I like my partners to be worn out and dead by the end of our workout.

I have a phenomenal coach, Dr. Trey Hodge who is based out of Greenville, SC. The man is a saint and also someone I consider a dear friend. He always listens to my concerns and my needs when it comes to my contest prep. He also is a chiropractor so anytime I feel off in my body alignment or adjustment, he’s perfect for recommendations on how to accommodate an issue. Plus he’s a guru at this. Current teammates include Charles Dixon who just most recently placed 6th at the ASF. I’m blessed and happy to be part of such an incredible team.

How did you into bodybuilding?
That’s a funny question you ask. I had originally just wanted to lose weight. I was a third shift night nurse who sat around and ate a lot of junk food. I had thought about really just wanting to lose weight and live healthier. When I realized the weight came off pretty quick, I immediately looked to a few competitors I knew locally and asked about their opinion of me competing in a bikini. Yep, bikini. My first competition I stepped on stage at a whopping 116lbs! I was tiny. But I have pointed out my weaknesses and grew from there. My last show in October I was on stage around a healthy and happy 127.

What does a normal leg day workout look like for you?
Most leg days consist of a lot of super sets! I love tiring out my legs and I respond well to volume and a higher paced workout. I’m pretty much-dripping sweat on leg days. Lunges & squats in all variations. Extensions, lying leg curls. I even use the cables to work on abductors and adductors and some glute work. It’s all about variation and keeping your body guessing. Plus I don’t want to feel like I’m just going through the motion. Each rep for every exercise is to my benefit! Don’t want it to go to waste!

So what’s next for you? Any goals you have to hit? (short and long term)?
The plan currently is to compete for at least one state-level show, (maybe two pending how I fair at the first) as a first time NPC Figure competitor! I’m super excited and nervous to see how much my body has changed in the past two years compared to the last time I was on stage. Then work on building my weak points and maybe grace a national stage! We’ll see.

When you lift heavy, when was the first time you out lifted a guy? And what do your non-lifter friends think about what you do?
My legs surprisingly are very weak! It’s probably one of my weakest lifts throughout the week. Which is totally odd being a female. But I’ve always enjoyed lifting heavy and, at least, keeping weight with some of the guys I train with. They’re like, add 90 more. I might be complaining in my head, but mama didn’t raise any quitter!

It’s always funny being around non-lifters actually. You’ll get random compliments from ladies, or children saying “oh you’re a buff for a girl, or look at your muscles.” And then sometimes you get those ego-driven males who have to prove they’re better than you. I could care less. I do this for me and only me. I’m the one reaping my own reward.

The best I have experienced however was when I was in my best friends wedding (she lifts as well, however, was bikini at the time so smaller framed) and I was mid-season, slightly ripped, slightly swole you could say lol. All of the groomsmen wanted to arm-wrestle me. I just laugh and take it as a compliment. And of course, I gave in and did. We called it a tie (I didn’t want to embarrass the poor guy) 😁


What do you tell women who think lifting heavy makes you look “manly”
I definitely don’t consider myself “manly” or that lifting makes me look that way. I’m complimented so often by women who tell me my dress looks amazing on my shape or that my jeans fit me so perfect (the ones I can find to fit). Society has created such a negative stigma towards women and lifting. But I feel like there’s been a huge shift that it’s become more socially acceptable. Plus, I feel the best I have in clothes since I’ve gained size. It’s about my confidence, not how others perceive me.

Anything you would like to tell the younger lifters? and/or anything else you would like to add?
The biggest piece of advice I tell anyone and everyone is consistency. I preach that over and over to everyone. Consistency with diet. Consistency with training. It’s not a marathon, although you’ll learn most physique competitors want it to happen over night. You have to keep doing what you know you’re supposed to do and the results will come. We all have our off days. I know there’re days I think; wow I’m unstoppable, and there’s days I think, yep I’ll never get there. But in the end, I continue to do what I know to do and so far it’s paying off greatly!

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Founder of Fight Against Chicken Legs, part-time workout stuff, sometimes making websites look pretty, and saving the world #OneRepAtATime