Chad isn't just a name. It's an identity. Urban Dictionary defines the name as "a stereotypical ... jock/frat boy with an ego the size of the planet ... They think they're the best at everything, love to talk shit, and are a general nuisance in every way possible."
Chad Johnson, one of the participants of recent seasons of the reality TV shows "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor in Paradise," built a surprising amount of notoriety by gleefully living up to his Chadness. Along the way, he stole the spotlight on both shows through a steady stream of taunts, threats, and posturing against those who opposed him on the show and online.
His attitude was only part of the equation, though. Chad's physique and fitness-obsessed habits polarized many and helped him cement his status as the shows' villain. Chad wasn't afraid to be the center of attention, showing off his shredded bod at every opportunity, eating raw yams like corn on the cob, and performing unusual exercise variations to keep his workouts on track.
I recently spoke with this longtime Bodybuilding.com forum regular to learn more about his journey from the Misc. to primetime TV.
What's your fitness origin story. When did you start lifting, and when did you get serious about it?
I've been lifting off and on for about 12 years. I've worked out since my sophomore year of high school, because not only was it a trend at my school to be jacked, but I needed the extra strength for basketball.
But I never really got serious about it or knew what I was doing up until about a year ago. Despite how hard I worked out, my body fat was always too high to really look jacked. When I got the call about being on "The Bachelorette," that's when I really started weighing every meal, counting every calorie, and getting into it hard.
How did you alter your training and nutrition before going in front of the cameras?
Before going on "The Bachelorette," I was in a caloric deficit for three months, counted every calorie, weighed every meal, did cardio, and lifted extremely heavy in low rep ranges to maintain size. Then we had about a two-month layover between "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor in Paradise," so I did a one-month bulk and then a one-month cut.
Ultimately, I was about 10 pounds heavier and had even less body fat on "Bachelor in Paradise." Unfortunately, most of the juicy scenes that aired were at night, so you really couldn't tell how insane my body actually looked at that time!
They say the camera adds 10-20 pounds. What was your method for staying shredded on TV?
I watched everything I ate and counted calories. I remained in a caloric deficit at all times while on both shows. With all the food and drinks they put out, it would be easy to quickly make a noticeably negative difference in my appearance by gaining body fat.
Did you exaggerate your personality for the show, or was this a fair reflection of how you are?
When I come on these shows, I try to be myself as much as possible. One thing people don't understand, though, is that all of these people are putting on an act because they want to be famous, liked, and want everyone to think they're a "good person." So when I say something slightly offensive—even just joking—they attack me and make me out to be "the bad guy," because they feel that by attacking the things I say, they will look like the better person and be more likeable to the viewers.
Additionally, when someone makes you mad in real life, it's simple to walk away, but when you know you're being filmed, and someone is trash-talking you in front of millions of people, it is very, very hard to remain calm and not want to shut them up by brute force. But to answer your question, yes, some things are exaggerated at times, but my general attitude is as real as it gets.
If blindfolded, could you taste the difference between a yam and a sweet potato?
If I was blindfolded, I would have no clue, because honestly I didn't even know there was a difference. I thought that was just different names people called the same thing. I don't know a whole lot about different foods, as my diet is extremely simple and only consists of a few different types of foods spaced consistently throughout the day.
You got seriously drunk a few times on the show. Do you worry about alcohol messing with your gains?
Alcohol definitely hinders gains and is the quickest way to lose size and strength. Before each show, I hadn't drunk for at least a month, because I wanted to show up in the best shape possible. If I go out and have a bunch of drinks on the weekend, personally, I feel it takes me at least 5-7 days to get back to where I was before I started my party time.
Your rivals loved to point out how much meat you eat. Name your top three favorite protein sources.
My top three protein foods are chicken, top sirloin steak, and eggs.
Your lone wolf workout routine garnered lots of attention on the show. Do you typically work out by yourself?
I was honestly extremely surprised at how much of a big deal my "lone wolf" workout routines became. People assume the producers told me to do pull-ups with my suitcase strapped to me, but the truth is, I worked hard for my body, and I didn't want to lose it while filming.
So, the day I showed up, it was back day. Typically, I strap 90 pounds to myself for the first set and move down to 50 pounds in the final sets. At the bachelor mansion, we had no weights—nothing at all. All I knew is it was back day, I had a weight belt, and the only thing that came to mind to be used as weight was my 60-pound luggage with a handle that would easily attach to my belt.
I always work out alone because it is so much easier to just down my pre-workout meal and supplements, go to the gym, and get it over with than it is to coordinate a time that works for both you and your friends as well as having to wait for them to finish their set. It is just a much easier life to work out alone. I've always found that it's easier to rely on only yourself than having to deal with other people.
Suitcase-weighted pull-ups: Genius! Any other fitness hacks to share?
I don't really have any hacks. My routine is a simple, old-school-style bodybuilding routine that I've perfected for myself. It's simple, easy, and sometimes I don't even break a sweat. But I definitely advocate that you should always be moving up in weights.
What's your favorite muscle group to work, and your favorite movement?
My favorite muscle to workout is triceps, and my favorite exercise is weighted dips. I may not be the strongest in some exercises, but leading up to both shows, I could crank out 4 sets of 10 dips with my body weight strapped to me, which personally felt like a pretty good accomplishment.
You have quite the following on the Bodybuilding.com forums. When did you first encounter the forums, and what prompted you to post in the Misc?
I've been reading and learning on the Bodybuilding.com forums since 2006. I come to the forums when I need any type of information related to building muscle, diet changes, and occasionally, dealing with injury. The Bodybuilding.com forums have been incredibly helpful in getting me to where I'm at.
I posted in the Misc. when one of the guys reached out to me on Instagram regarding the hilarious thread created regarding myself as Chad "The GOAT." Since then I've been posting consistently to update the guys about current things I'm working on.
Do you have some tips for people just starting out with fitness?
My biggest tip for anyone just starting is to make your routine sustainable. Don't make working out such a big deal. Don't start going to the gym at 5 a.m. and planning every meal perfectly right out of the gate if, in reality, you typically get up at noon and eat with no regard. You will burn yourself out and end up right where you started.
Fitness isn't about making yourself miserable just to get results. It's about implementing the correct changes to your daily routine that you can stick to consistently, which, in the end, will improve your body and your mind.
What are your future fitness plans? Would you describe for us your workout routine and diet approach?
I don't have any specific future fitness plans other than continuing to sculpt and build my own physique and possibly help others who need advice. I will be coming out with a fitness and diet plan soon that I think will help a lot of guys out.
I'm no genius or anything, but I've simplified the bodybuilding and diet process to what works and what gets results. So many guys get scared away from "proper diet" because they see that some bodybuilders are eating 150 different things every day at certain intervals, which, according to my results, is not necessary. Only a few groceries are necessary, and once you're in shape, it's pretty easy to maintain it.