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Heather Policky

by Hans January 2003
photography by James Cook

Most 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 doesn’t use any weight). Unbelievably, in the run-up to the NPC Nationals earlier this year, she trained her quads just once.

Just 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.

Reporting 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."

"That was a lot of fun!" Heather remembers.

Offstage, 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.

A large 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 there."

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,'" Heather remembers.

Heather 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 Everson.

Heather 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.

>From 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 amateurs."

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."

Then 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."

Heather's 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."

As for 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 fit.

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Quad training, Policky-style

According to Heather, there are three keys to huge legs: "squats, intensity and food."

The 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.

Heather 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."

If 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."

Heather 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.

Heather 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.

Finally, 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

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