Outdoor Channel host and renowned duck hunter Chad Belding has never wanted to just be good at something; he's spent his entire life trying to squeeze every ounce of ability out of himself to be the very best he could possibly be. Belding doesn't simply want to learn how to do a certain skill, he wants to crack it open, examine all the parts, see how everything fits together, become an expert in every facet, and then master it.
"Obsessive" is a word that comes to mind. It started when he was kid, with hobbies like baseball card collecting, and extended into his ballplaying career. Belding says his constant desire to improve enabled him to go further in baseball than he should have based on talent alone. He learned everything he could about how to be the best player he could be.
"I started to get a fascination with writing things down and trying to dissect the people that were important and successful," Belding says. "I was always trying to be really inquisitive and ask questions. I wore people out, but I think a lot of them respected it and wanted to help teach."
He played college ball at UNLV, where he says he was an average player, but he valued the experiences he had. Major Leaguers like Matt Williams and Deion Sanders would come to the facility to work out before they headed to spring training. Ever the competitor, Belding says he raced Sanders once. The outcome?
"He smoked me," Belding admits with a laugh.
Belding grew up in an outdoorsy family in Reno, Nevada, and did a lot of camping and hunting in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area, where the focus is on mountain animals like mule deer. It wasn't until he hit his 20s that he found the hobby that would change his life.
"I love everything that goes into waterfowl hunting," Belding says. "There are so many different things that happen, all these different applications that you have to keep in mind."
In the same way that he broke down every part of baseball, Belding began obsessing over everything about duck hunting and duck calling. He became a successful duck-calling competitor, which opened doors for him as a hunting personality. In 2008, he founded a video production company called Banded. His first television series, "The Fowl Life" premiered in 2009. Now he hosts multiple shows and video series, as well as two podcasts.
One thing that sets Belding apart from a typical hunter is his focus on physical fitness. As with everything else, he takes a scientific and detail-oriented approach to looking and feeling good. Though he admits that vanity plays a role, he also cites the ability to participate in every part of a hunt without feeling any pain or tiredness as a key reason for staying in good shape.
"I blow a duck call for a living. I'm running back and forth into the decoys, changing things, working dogs, handling dogs," Belding says. "I'm in chest-deep water, and I don't want to fall. I want to have good balance."
Being on the road constantly is a killer for a fitness routine, so Belding and his trainer, Matt Pendola, developed a system they call Tailgate Training. To make sure that he can maintain the body he's worked so hard for, Belding and some buddies will get behind the tailgate of a truck and fit in a tough workout no matter where they are.
When Pendola started working with him, Belding was carrying more than 20 extra pounds and was experiencing serious pains in his lower back, shoulders, and joints.
"He was doing lots of meathead movements like heavy shrugs. So his upper traps were really well developed, but his lower traps were almost nonexistent on the strength end of things," Pendola says. "So, I'll have him hold his gun above his head and rotate, where he's really working more mid-to-lower traps. He was having a lot of issues with his back, and a lot of that was because he was really overdeveloped in his primary movers. As he got away from the gym to go on these longer hunts, he was starting to get rid of these aches and pains, and that's why he bought in. "
Hunters carry many items that can be used as weights, like boxes of ammo, unloaded guns, and decoys. Pendola has Belding use them in yielding isometric movements. Of course, a huge portion of Tailgate Training also consists of bodyweight movements like squats.
Belding says he wants to inspire other hunters to get into shape so they can be the best hunters possible. The hunting lifestyle can lend itself to early mornings with heavy breakfasts followed by long periods sitting in a duck blind, so it's important to counteract that by staying fit.
Striking a Balance
He tries to eat healthily for the most part, but one of the reasons Belding works out so hard and tries to be fairly strict when it comes to his food intake is so he can cut loose a little bit on his travels.
"I party," he says. "I have a Jack Daniels now and then, or I'll have a cold Bud Light. I'll eat biscuits and gravy when I'm in Arkansas during duck season, but my mindset is, 'How can I do that and not diminish this?' and the only way to do that is through working out."
Belding also has an important personal reason for staying healthy. His father passed away from a heart attack in 2006.
At age 45, Belding is in the best shape of his life and wants to continue to maintain it so he will be there for his 9-year-old daughter.
"Life is short," he says. "I get that mentality, but you can get so much out of it through fitness and nutrition."
To hear Chad Belding detail his approach to training, eating, and even breathing for success, check out "Chad Belding: The Voice of Fitness in the World of Duck Hunting" on the Bodybuilding.com Podcast. To build fitness that carries over across your life, check out Ready For Anything: Beginner Kettlebell Workouts in BodyFit.