Hans January 2003
photography by James Cook
bodybuilders, male and female alike, spend endless hours in the gym struggling
to add size to their legs. Not Heather Policky. In fact, the biggest challenge
for Heather, whose quads measure 26-and-a half inches in the off-season,
is stopping her legs growing out of proportion with the rest of her physique.
In the off-season, Heather never trains her legs more than twice a month,
and never lifts heavy (she never squats over 150 pounds, and if she does
lunges, she doesnt use any weight). Unbelievably, in the run-up
to the NPC Nationals earlier this year, she trained her quads just once.
25 years-old, Heather Policky (pronounced Po-lis-kee), a Denver-based
personal trainer, is one of the most exciting female bodybuilders competing
in the NPC today. At 5-foot-7, she weighs in at 173 pounds in contest
shape and gets up to anywhere between 185 and 190 in the off-season. Her
whole physique cantaloupe-sized delts, 16-and-a-half inch arms,
and a huge, thick back is awesome, but what really blows away fans
and competitors alike is her incredible leg development, which is among
the best ever seen on a female bodybuilder.
on the Junior Nationals in Chicago in June 2002, this is how Gene X Hwang
described what happened when Heather flexed her quads: "There was
an audible gasp from those in attendance when [she] went from relaxed
to flexed and tensed up her world-class quads. In all the events this
reporter has been to, it was the first time that an entire audience gasped
like that in unison."
was a lot of fun!" Heather remembers.
having 26-and-a-half-inch quads creates some unusual problems. Finding
pants that fit, for example, is a major challenge. "I shop for very
long periods of time," Heather says. "I'll look at 20 pairs
of pants and I might find one that fits." In the off-season, when
Heather's legs are a full inch bigger than in contest shape, just walking
more than ten feet can be difficult. "They start rubbing so much,
it can actually get painful," she laughs.
part of Heather's phenomenal leg development is down to her outstanding
central European genetics (her father is of Czech origin and her mother
German). "I was genetically blessed," she says. But she's also
worked extremely hard to get her legs where they are today. In Heather's
first year and a half as a competitive bodybuilder, legs were almost an
obsession for her. She would do between 22 and 26 sets during her punishing,
once-a-week leg sessions and would come out of the gym barely able to
walk and, as she puts it, "miserable". "I hated doing it,
but I did it," she says. "I just wanted the craziest legs out
Heather Policky grew up in Cozad, Neb., a tiny town with a population
of 4,000 four hours from Omaha. But even as a kid she always felt different.
"I knew since I was little I wasn't small town material," she
says. At the age of 12 she met the owner of the town's only gym, Kayleen
Canas, who happened to be a competitive bodybuilder, and her muscular
physique instantly appealed to the sixth-grader. "It was different
than any other female I'd ever seen. This woman had shape. Her body looked
so firm and so pretty." She was also inspired by a poster of Tonya
Knight on the gym wall. "I used to just stare at it, and think, 'I
so want to have a picture of myself looking like that some day,'"
began hanging out at the gym after school every day and Kay quickly became
"like a big sister" to Heather. Under her guidance, Heather
began training including squats once a week, of course. "She
kinda took me in and showed me the ropes," Heather says. "I
ate up any info she would give me. I just took to it, it made sense to
me." Within a short space of time, Heather had what she describes
as "little sweeps" on her quads and "little biceps,"
and Kayleen was telling everyone Heather was going to be the next Cory
trained sporadically during her teenage years, and after graduating from
high school, she moved to Denver, and then to Dallas, where she started
dating a bodybuilder. Finally, shortly after her 21st birthday, she decided
to "really do it." She started training regularly and eating
consistently, but still had no wish to compete. "I'm not a competitive
person," she says. "And I love eating and I hate dieting!"
(She is a self-confessed Krispy Kreme donut addict.) In fact, it was only
in 2000 that she did her first NPC show, after Brian Crull, an ex-NPC
judge in Texas, offered to prep her for free.
then on, Heather's rise was meteoric. She won two local shows in Texas
in 2000 and, after moving back to Denver, the heavyweight and overall
at the Colorado State the following year. In 2002, in an incredible first
year at national level, she placed second in the heavyweights at the Junior
Nationals, fourth at the USA, and then fifth in an exceptional heavyweight
class at the Nationals in Dallas. At the tender age of 25 (she turned
25 a week before the USA) and after only two years competing, she was
one of the top heavyweight bodybuilders in the US. According to the photographer
Bill Dobbins, Heather "already looks a lot like a pro competing against
Now settled in Littleton, Colo. (the suburb of Denver where Columbine
High School is located) with her partner Trey Coney, Heather is pretty
much used to the weirder aspects of being a female bodybuilder
like the constant stares and whispers. Sometimes, she admits, she wishes
she could make her muscles disappear for a day or so, but mostly she has
fun with it. The day after the USA, for example, she was shopping at Steve
Madden (her favorite shoe store) in the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas, wearing
a tube top and shorts, when a female security guard came over to her.
"I'm thinking 'Oh my God, what did I do?'" remembers Heather.
"She was like, 'Could you come over there? Those two guys'"
- she pointed to two male security guards looking embarrassed "'are
dying to see you flex.'" Heather happily hit some poses for them.
"They were a little shy but very complimentary."
there are the fans. Heather appreciates their enthusiasm for women's bodybuilding,
but says she is sometimes frustrated by the demands they make of her
and the dumb questions she is endlessly asked. "Most of the guys
that love female bodybuilders don't really care what bodybuilding is about,"
she says. "They just want to know how much we lift, what our measurements
are, and other things that are way off the wall." Often, they seem
to have no idea of the mental and physical stress a competitive female
bodybuilder is under. For example, she has had fans e-mail her two weeks
before a show and then get annoyed if she doesn't reply. "Real bodybuilding
fans keep up on what's going on," she says. "It's so refreshing
hearing from people that actually know a little about me, other bodybuilders
and the shows. That's support."
goal now is to get her pro card within the next two years. After the USA,
she felt under pressure to lose some size, which she did, and admits to
feeling "a little disappointed" with her fifth place at the
Nationals. Next year, Heather is planning to go with her own instincts.
"I'm going to train my way and not worry about what everyone else
thinks so much," she says. "They're either going to turn me
pro or they're not. But I'm not going to lose 20 pounds of muscle."
She points out that she already weighed 150 pounds when she started training,
and simply cannot get much smaller than she currently is (most of the
other top national-level heavyweights started out at around 120 pounds).
She plans to come in at between 170 and 172 pounds at her next show, the
USA in Las Vegas next August, and promises to be "harder, tighter,
and more refined."
her legs, expect them to be as big as ever. After the Junior Nationals,
she laid off leg training altogether, but by the time of the Nationals
in November she felt she had neglected her quads so much they were actually
starting to shrink. That's the one thing Heather doesn't want even
if it does make it easier to walk in the off-season and find pants that
See Video Clips and a Photo Gallery of HEATHER POLICKY, Join the
FTV MEMBERS AREA!
to Heather, there are three keys to huge legs: "squats, intensity
first rule is never train legs more than once a week. Many bodybuilders,
even some national-level bodybuilders, make the mistake of overtraining,
says Heather. "Muscle grows from rest." Hitting quads
on their own (she recommends doing calves and hamstrings separately)
once a week also means she can hit them with more intensity.
recommends training legs on a day off from work so you can go all-out.
"Your leg day has to be a sacred day," she says. "You
do nothing else on that day, and I mean nothing else - no work,
no shopping, no going out. You go to the gym when you feel you are
ready. When you get home you eat and rest."
you want huge legs, you have to squat. "Squatting is the height
of importance in building mass and shape in your legs and making
them more competitive-looking," Heather says. You don't have
to go heavy (Heather says she rarely squats more than 150 pounds
for reps), just concentrate on doing the reps in perfect form. "It
has to be super-concentrated and perfect," she says. "Bodybuilding
is 60% mental, if not more. You have to know how to use your head."
recommends using a variety of training techniques to increase the
intensity of leg workouts. "I love negatives," she says.
"Do them super slow and controlled, it helps to count to drag
it out. These only work well with a partner, because you need someone
to get the positive up for you when it gets to heavy." Heather
also likes supersets her favorites are super heavy leg press
with squats, and heavy squats with light leg extensions. Heather
says she has trained with bodybuilders who thought they were killing
their legs until they tried training with her, and then realized
what real intensity was. "If you're doing it right, you should
be having a having a hard time walking afterwards," she says.
emphasizes changing up your routine constantly. "People get
stuck with the same routine for months," she says. "I've
never done the same leg workout two times in a row." She also
says doing cardio for 20-30 minutes 4-5 times a week is essential
to building leg size.
you have to eat. That means six to eat meals a day in effect
you should be eating constantly. Heather says a lot of women don't
make gains because they are afraid to eat. "Don't count calories,
just eat!" Heather says