Eddie Pritchett ’05 understands the benefits of using Pam Cooking Spray.
“I have one superstition about the type of oil I use,” Prichett said. “I always use Pam Cooking Spray. Some people use baby oil or Vaseline but I’ve always found that Pam isn’t too greasy but gives you a nice shine.”
Pritchett is a competitive body builder, one of a handful at Yale. Though there are varying degrees of body building — from casual to competitive — the dedication necessary to make it a successful endeavor is immense. But for the Yalies who practice it in its various forms, and for anyone else who attempts it, body building can be vastly rewarding.
Pritchett boasts an impressive body building resume. He has competed in four competitions, placing second twice in the collegiate division of the Connecticut State Competition and third in the Northeastern Competition, which encompasses the region spanning Connecticut to Maine.
“I think it’s the ability to take your body and mold it into something that is physically pleasing to the eye that attracts me to it,” Pritchett said. “I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s an art form but it’s a discipline … It makes you feel strong to know you can master your own body.”
Pritchett, who wrestled in high school, first delved into body building after getting encouragement from a teammate’s father. Preparing for a body building competition begins six months ahead of time and involves a major diet change, Pritchett said.
“I would switch from a normal distribution of carbs and proteins and fats to an Atkins diet type food configuration where I’m getting ninety percent of my calories from protein, five from fat and five from carbs,” Pritchett said.
The extreme dieting involved with this activity — much like the dieting associated with sports like wrestling and lightweight crew — can often have injurious effects on the builders, said Chicago-area doctor Jami Walloch.
“When you have to cut percent body fat and water intake it can have deleterious effects, such as renal failure,” Walloch said. “Heavy weight training can occasionally lead to cardiac problems, tears of the cardiac muscle or malfunctioning of the valve. What happened to Arnold Schwarzenegger is an example. He had to have a valve replaced.”
Walloch noted that for men, dropping lower than seven percent body fat can be dangerous. Pritchett said he has dropped to as low as 1.7 percent in the three days before a competition. Within two to three weeks afterwards, however, he was back up to four percent.
The week of the competition takes the heaviest toll on body builders.
“For competitors, it’s extremely difficult,” Walloch said. “They’re dehydrated, they have low body fat, and they can be in a significant amount of pain. But that’s what they’re after.”
Jeff Mueller ’04 LAW ’07, a personal trainer who lifts regularly at Payne Whitney, has seen his fellow trainers go through the stresses of performing.
“The week before, they reduce water weight so they can look as lean as possible,” Mueller said. “You don’t want to lose mass but they’re more careful about the types of calories they eat. In the week before they can only drink a gallon of water, so some people pass out at the competitions because they’re so dehydrated.”
Pritchett insists that it is all worth it, and not just for the prize money involved — which can reach totals as high as $50,000, depending on how far one makes it in the competition.
“My dad did weight lifting in college and he’s always talking about how he wants to get back into it,” Pritchett said. “I feel like body building will always be like that with me. When I’m 45 years old I’ll be telling my kids that I was a body builder and that I want to start up again. I can’t see anything changing.”
Pritchett does admit, however, that aspects of the competition are “cheesy.”
A basic competition involves two parts: modeling in front of judges without an audience and performing a series of different moves — meant to showcase the contenders’ best features — set to music. Popular songs, Pritchett said, includes Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and “Rocky-like” music. Each competitor follows the performance showcase with a set of 15 to 16 poses that he tries to hold for two to three seconds each in front of an audience. Finally, just before the trophies are presented, the competitors vie for position at the front of the stage to give the audience one last look at their physiques.
“I wear a Speedo, because you have to wear as little as possible,” Pritchett said. “Green is my color.”
Few people who seriously lift weights reach, or even attempt to reach, the level at which Pritchett competes. Payne Whitney is packed each day with regulars who pump iron for self-betterment or de-stressing.
“It’s like our sanctuary here,” Warren Min ’06 said. “We can get school work off our minds. We’re not thinking about girls or school or anything. It’s not so much about getting buff.”
Min’s lifting partner, Byron Sun ’05, agrees that he works out for the sake of working out, not to compete.
“I exercise when I feel stressed,” Sun said. “I like to work it out, sweat it out. It’s a good escape.”
Both Min and Sun said they admire the work and dedication that goes into professional body building, but that they would not necessarily want to look like body builders.
Jerrell Whitehead ’05, on the other hand, who not only lifts but also uses the elliptical machines heavily, holds body builders in the highest esteem.
“The [body building] shows are great to see,” Whitehead said. “It’s great looking at all the guys, but they’re like genetic freaks. To get down to that size is unnatural. But it’s the epitome of what a body is supposed to look like. It’s what we’re all looking towards — to be 200, 230 pounds, 4 percent body fat.”
Whitehead, who is currently working to have a body fat percentage in the single digits and achieve the elusive “v-taper” — broad shoulders and a small waist — bodybuilds for a combination of reasons.
“It’s a lot of fun to work out,” Whitehead said. “It’s also a lot of fun looking in the mirror and realizing that all of the time I spend in the gym is paying off and I’ve earned the right to wear a tank top to the gym.”
Still, Whitehead said he would have to bulk up by three or four times his current size in order to compete.
Pritchett would also have undergo intense training if he chooses to compete again, especially if he opts to sign up for the Connecticut state competition in late October. However, he would enter this competition knowing finer tricks of the trade.
“The first time I competed, in my freshman year, I didn’t know about guys using bronzers to make their skin darker for competitions,” Pritchett said. “Since I’m black, I don’t have that problem. After the competition, everybody goes and takes a shower, and standing in the shower I see all of this brown stuff going into the water, and I thought someone had an accident. It was very humorous when everyone was trying to explain what bronzers are.”