BodySpace Member Of The Month: Nadal Shaabneh

BodySpace is a place of sharing, where people can support and express their appreciation for one another. Members like Nadal make sure this structure is getting stronger all the time.

Let's go back to the mid-'80s. Muscle culture was ripe with action stars bristling on big screens, firing machine guns, posing on stages, and fighting for golden belts.

These physiques and the personalities behind them inspired a generation of children to build muscles like their idols. Nadal Shaabneh was one such boy.

But life isn't like the movies. To begin with, Nadal didn't even have a weight set. He didn't have a hard-nosed coach barking instructions or a high-priced agent to make his connections.

He didn't even know how to lift. His physical education came later, a slow accumulation of mental reps and muscular development.

Over two decades of lifting—from high school football to the NPC stage—Nadal has been building his physique in preparation for the spotlight.


How did your bodybuilding journey begin?

When I was kid I always wanted to be that action hero we all saw in the movies: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude, and so on. I know all the "Rocky" movies by heart, but the one that stands out most to me is "Rocky IV." When I saw the second training montage in that movie my mind was set and I knew what I wanted to look like! The image of him lifting the wagon wheel with his biceps popping and major vascularity is forever instilled in my mind.

My neighborhood had a community yard sale during one fall weekend in 1991. I ventured from house to house with $1 to my name. As I checked out the items for sale, I realized my dollar wasn't going to get me much of anything. I stumbled across a plastic sand-filled 8-pound dumbbell, and what do you know? It only cost a dollar. It was meant to be. Every day after school I would run home, turn on the radio, and curl away.

I was introduced to weight training my sophomore year of high school. Our instructor at the time taught us the basic movements and exercises: the squat and bench press. I played football, basketball, and ran track. My workout program was tailored around the sport in season for me. It wasn't anything too advanced.

It wasn't until after high school that I got more serious about weight training and bodybuilding. I weighed approximately 158 pounds and wanted to add more lean mass to my frame. I wasn't attending college at the time. I was hanging out with friends and working odd jobs. I had a lot of time to spend in the gym.

Nadal's motto "whatever it takes" propelled him to achieve his goals.

I joined a local gym and started to go every day, knowing only what I learned during high school. I did a lot of people watching. I would look around the gym and find a physique I admired and copy that individual.

I vividly remember one stretch where money was tough to come by for me. I had to use the majority of my income to pay for community college. I wasn't able to keep my gym membership during this time and found myself without a gym to go to. I found a way get free one-week passes from all the local gyms in the area.

When I used those up, which took about three months, I began driving to a 24-hour gym 20 miles away at 1 a.m. I figured out that this gym had a staffing issue and the front desk was frequently vacated during the midnight rotation shift. My motto was "whatever it takes." A friend of mine had a very successful uncle who once told me that no one could do what he did to bring him where he is today.

Ever since hearing those words I knew that I wanted to have a similar story to tell one day. This training regimen lasted for the next eight years or so.

How has fitness changed for you as you've gotten older?

At the age of 27, weighing approximately 184 pounds, I started to be a little stricter with my diet. I cut out the fast food and fried food, cut back on soda consumption, and made more healthy choices when dining out—nothing too dramatic. I followed this approach Monday through Friday and let loose a bit on the weekends with foods I really enjoyed.

My routine in the gym at this time followed a similar approach. I got stricter within my form and tweaked a few different exercises to get better results. I'd keep my wrists locked and as straight as possible when doing any type of push or pull movement.

I also added a mini exercise program at the beginning of all my workouts which consisted of 40 pull-ups, 35 push-ups, and 30 crunches. I would do this as a circuit, moving from one exercise to the next until I completed the it three times. This would warm me up and prepare my body for the workout to follow.

"I got stricter within my form and tweaked a few different exercises to get better results."

At the age of 36 I find myself in the best shape of my life. As most people start to regress and wish they had their bodies from their 20s, I keep progressing and bettering myself. For the most part, I've kept my routine the same by training one muscle group per day and changing the order of the exercises every two weeks. Between sets I lightly work the opposite muscle group.

In regard to my diet I have gone with a more organic approach. For the past year and a half I eliminated gluten as much as I can from my diet. I attribute my latest gains to this. The elimination of gluten has actually helped me put on more lean mass by making me eat more protein, veggies, and fruit. Anyone who has a hard time keeping weight on or wanting to gain lean mass should give it a try. I have gone from eating on average 2-3 times per day to 5-6 times per day.

I've stayed engaged in competitive sports ever since the end of high school. I play in a competitive men's flag football league and compete against ex pro and college level athletes. I learn something new all the time in the gym. I strive to better my physique every minute I spend in the gym. I want to be fit all the time!

How did you discover BodySpace?

I think I discovered BodySpace one day while researching the Internet for information regarding a sports injury I had at the time. Soon afterward I found myself going back to the same source for other injuries I incurred.

It's always encouraging when you can chat with others who have gone through similar injuries and can give you valuable advice and reassurance.

What would it mean to you to win your IFBB pro card?

It would be a great honor and achievement. I would love to be noted among the best in the industry and the opportunity to compete on that prominent level.

Nadal hopes to one day earn his IFBB pro card to compete on a prominent level.

You recently took the stage for the first time. Do you have any advice for people in the same boat?

Yes. I participated in my first show this past summer at the Shawn Ray Classic in Towson, Maryland. I competed in the Men's Physique Division. I actually wrote a blog post on the experience shortly afterward. Anyone looking to compete, especially in NPC men's physique, must read it.

What is your favorite feature on BodySpace?

I love the "We Mirin" weekly feature. I love seeing my BodySpace counterparts receive the dap and love they deserve. The transformations I've seen are mind-blowing and inspiring. The store always provides me with the cheapest prices around.

I also love that I can read reviews from other members before I make purchases. My blog on BodySpace is also a favorite of mine. It allows me to share my latest pics, training tips, fitness gear, etc.

You've been on BodySpace for a few years. How do you stay motivated for the long term?

This leads back to my childhood and initial inspiration, knowing what I wanted to look like as a kid growing up in the '80s. I think about it all the time, even when I'm lifting. I always want to be fit and get better.

Seeing the gains over the years or the short term—like a simple pump or being featured in "We Mirin"—all have me yearning to get back in the gym for my next workout.

Tell us about your brand, Newbreed Athletx.

I have a few different hobbies and passions and NewBreed Athletx brings them all together. I've used the brand to design apparel, athletic gear, and train athletes.

I've also been working on a potential national fitness and health program called "Stay Fit" for students in grades 1-12. They earn incentives from participating sponsors for the sports and fitness activities they participate in, in and out of school. The mission is to promote a healthy lifestyle from a young age and combat issues such as weight control, health costs, social media and gaming, and child isolation.

Although this is all in the early stages, I hope to present the idea to potential sponsors and school boards one day soon. I have my hands on a few different projects and am always thinking of ways to inspire the young and old through fitness.

What type of music do you listen to in the gym?

I'm a huge music enthusiast, and music is a major part of my workouts, so I listen to all types. Most of the time my mood dictates the music I listen to. But if there's one genre that just does it for me it's definitely the '80s.

There's just something about the '80s that's uplifting and puts me in the best of moods. Combined with my workouts, it gets pretty euphoric. Music allows me to go into isolation mode and get lost in my workouts. I absolutely love it! Here's one of my favorite playlists for the gym:

  1. "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister
  2. "Live to Tell" by Madonna
  3. "Take Me Home" by Phil Collins
  4. "Dancing in the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen
  5. "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money
  6. "Voice of Americas Sons" by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
  7. "Warrior" by Scandal
  8. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears
  9. "Here I go Again" by Whitesnake
  10. "Hearts on Fire" by John Cafferty
  11. "Hysteria" by Def Leppard
  12. "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson
  13. "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper
  14. "Give it All to Me" by Mavado & Nicki Minaj
  15. "Live For" by The Weekend & Drake

You have a massive musculature. Any tips for building such a frame?

I've been active since a young age with all the sports I played. I'm sure that helped mold my body to where it is today. If I had to give someone advice it would be to just get to the gym and do work.

There are thousands of routines out there claiming to be the next best thing. I see people quick to ditch their current regimen for another. Give it time. Nothing good is going to happen overnight.

"Stay true to your workout schedule and don't skip days."

Stay true to your workout schedule and don't skip days. Save those skip-days for the times when you're ill or injured. They're sure to arise, trust me—it comes with the territory.

Someone will read this feature and consider joining BodySpace. Why should that person become a part of the largest fitness social network?

It's a great place for a novice to begin or even someone who has been at it for a while. BodySpace has all the areas covered—it's like a one-stop shop. Whether you're looking for supplements at a great price, training tips, routines, or even some love and dap.

How do you balance your training life with your personal and professional lives?

The people closest to me are going to say that working out and sports take precedence over everything else for me. I guess it's true to some degree. While in school, working out usually came before studying, and I know a lot of people are not going to agree with that. But it helped me stay at ease. I was at a point where working out was a lifestyle and if I missed a day or a workout it was going to eat at me and not let me rest easy at night.

Don't get me wrong, there were many nights where I had no choice but to work out in the middle of the night at a gym 30 miles away. When you have a passion and know what it is, it's easy. I loved the self-isolation and getting lost in those workouts.

Working a 9-to-5 isn't a problem. I can always plan my workouts around my work schedule. The addition of a couple 24/7 gyms in my immediate area has made this easier too. The hardest part for me is accomplishing all I want to within the fitness world since my income only comes from my accounting work.

I'm still working on this and only can hope someday I'll achieve all I want and leave my mark in a positive way that will inspire others to do the same.

Nadal's Global Focus

I recently read an article about Palestinian bodybuilders in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and it really hit home with me since both my parents are originally from the West Bank. It was such an inspiration to see these individuals use fitness and bodybuilding as a combatant to the everyday stresses they deal with in that region.

Their gym looked more like something you would see in a World War II aftermath scene, with donated pieces of equipment sitting among piles of rubble and dirt. The walls looked broken down, but they still hung their pictures of inspirations: Arnold, Serge Nubret, Frank Zane, and the popular bodybuilding labels.

Watching a related short documentary inspired me to work harder in the gym. It left me with aspirations to gain a recognizable voice in the industry and use it as an advocate of peace in the region to influence the coming generations of Palestinian and Israeli children. We need to focus more on our similarities rather than our differences.

I really see fitness and bodybuilding as the ultimate common denominator among people from different cultural, religious, and political backgrounds.