Jennifer Reichek - Figure Competitor

Jennifer: I began my fitness journey about 4 years ago with CrossFit. Prior to this introduction into weightlifting, I had never picked up a weight in my life, I was what some would call a binge worker-outer. I would run a few miles every day for 3 months, start to get a little toned and then not do anything for the remainder of the year until I felt fluffy again and start the process over again. Enter CrossFit, I loved it; I had always been a competitive person so this was right up my alley. I pursued this for 2 years before switching over to bodybuilding. My transition into bodybuilding actually came by accident. After becoming “fit” from CrossFit, I began to develop the typical “CrossFit” body and lost many of my feminine curves. I elected for cosmetic surgery to combat this effect and was informed that I would not be able to do chest exercises again. This left me devastated, I knew I would not be able to legitimately compete and make it to the CrossFit games if I couldn’t snatch, or do any chest related exercises.

Enters bodybuilding… at that time I was a cocktail waitress at Red Door Midtown, a popular Houston club; I had a table of people that competed in bodybuilding and they approached me about it. The rest is history. From there, I began working on pursing this sport. It has taken me places I never thought I would go and I have learned so much from my coach, Joe Cantu and the IronGenetix Team. I learned what bodybuilding REALLY was, and had to learn to make the switch from CrossFit to intentional sculpting of the muscles to achieve a certain physique. Talk about a mind whirl, everything was different, I had never focused on nutrition before and never even heard about mind-muscle connection. This bodybuilding introduction was 2 years ago. Since then, I have only competed twice, and the first time was in the bikini division (I did not belong there, lol). I made the switch to Figure last year and competed in my first show, the Formulation One Classic in Houston, TX. From there, I became nationally qualified and am now a little under 10 weeks out from my first National Show. It is an exciting journey and I cannot wait to see what Joe and I can accomplish when we get there.


My diet has changed drastically, along with my life while pursuing and dedicating myself to bodybuilding. All of my nutrition and “diet” is created by Joe Cantu. He is an absolute wizard when it comes to the human body and watching how foods effect each person differently. Certainly no cookie cutting diets with our team. Anyhow, for me, my off season diet consisted of a “clean bulk”, meaning a lot of clean protein (steak, beef, chicken and turkey), carbs (rice, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes) and veggies (mostly green beans, broccoli and Brussel sprouts). This diet has been incredibly effective for me; I went from 105lbs after walking off stage from my first figure competition to 144 (where I am sitting now, 10 weeks out from my next). My on-season diet will vary from this in regards to the portions, Joe will have me begin to phase out the beef and steaks and switch to more chicken and fish (white or salmon). As I said earlier, Joe does not do cookie cutter diets so my diet will change as my body reacts differently to foods. For example, during this off season we learned that my body reacts very well with fats (almonds, avocados, etc.); it’s all a learning process and watching what happens after trying something new or making changes. What I find most effective for building muscles is to stick to clean nutrition, no dirty bulk, no intermit fasting, and no “if it fits your macros” stuff. Put good clean nutrients in your body and you will get results.

Failed diets: I have had several coaches, and thus “diets” prior to finding Joe and none were anywhere near as effective as what I have now. What did NOT work for me, and unfortunately what many competitors still go through, is starvation. Depleting caloric intake so much to the point of “feeling like death”. I had a coach tell me once that “if you don’t feel like you are dying, you aren’t doing it right”, wow, I mean wow, let that sink in….. how FALSE!!! I have eaten more now and had better gains than I ever have had in the past, I grew muscle like crazy during this off season. We have now begun cutting, I still weigh about the same (varies from 138-142 lbs.) but my oblique’s, abs, quads, shoulders, everything is pretty defined. Eating works, starvation does not; simple as that.

A video posted by Jen Reichek (McArver) (@jgrace05) on

Weight training:

My weight training components are simple, lift heavy and with focused intensity. Your weight training components will be directly influenced by what your goals are. I needed to gain muscle to compete on the national stage, thus eating more and lifting heavy with focused intensity (mind-muscle connection) were essential for me. I tell people all the time to learn, knowledge is key in this sport. I also train with Joe 3-4 times a week and we use a lot of different weight lifting techniques (drop sets, negatives, holds, HITT, etc.) depending again on what the goal for that day is. For example, as I stand now, my shoulders and arms developed very quickly (again learning your body), thus now we utilize a lighter weight and higher rep count when I train shoulders. The training regimen that works best for my body is a different body part per day, here’s what my current training breakdown looks like:
M: back
T: legs
W: used to be shoulder day, now its chest, arms, light shoulders, abs
TH: back
F: legs
S: rest
S: whole body

I also do about 30 minutes of cardio (elliptical, treadmill, stair master) and 20 minutes of sauna every day. I also incorporate fasted cardio now as well, although I do not do this the entire time, or cardio at all for that matter. We do not start incorporating cardio until I start cutting. As far as incorporating diet with my training, this goes hand in hand. I would say diet is one of the single most important factors of my training. If you don’t feed your muscles, they will not grow and do what you want them to do. Again this goes back to the starvation diet and why they don’t work, you can’t put nothing in and expect to get results that just doesn’t make sense.

Self Confidence:

To begin, I have always been an outgoing person to start with; certainly the social butterfly type. I developed my self-confidence initially to get up there and strut my stuff with these girls through channeling my experience when I was a cocktail waitress. I was the lead cocktail at Red Door Midtown and loved it; my job required wearing heels (huge help), escorting guests to their tables and providing stellar customer service with a smile and under a highly intense and extremely stressful environment. I never would have realized then how much those experiences would translate into my bodybuilding stage presence, but they did (and in a major way). I’m just like everyone else up there, my hands get clammy, butterflies in my stomach, knees shaking, nervous as hell. In that moment, I simply tell myself, “ok Jen, you’re just walking a really expensive table at Red Door, OWN IT” and that’s what I do, I own it.

In addition to this “Red Door mentality” to build my confidence, I can’t stress enough how important your environment is. What I mean by that is that who you surround yourself with directly affects you. When I fully decided to dedicate myself to doing well in this sport, made a lot of sacrifices. I walked away from the night life industry, I began surrounding myself with people who were pursing the same sport as me and people that genuinely supported what I was trying to accomplish. You lose a lot of “friends” when you pursue fitness, those people that don’t understand and actively downplay your efforts (“are you ever going to eat normal” or “you’re starting to look like a man, you shouldn’t do this”), those are the people that have faded out of my life. I only surround spend time with people that believe in me and support my decisions.

Another critical aspect to my confidence is my coach, Joe Cantu, and my team, IronGenetix. Joe believes in me and what I want to accomplish as much as I do; having a coach that fully embraces your goals and takes the time to help you and believe in you is the best tool for confidence as well. It really does take a team with a great leader to develop these skills, but it all starts with you. That desire and belief in yourself has to be there, even if its small, it may only be a dream but as long as that is there, you can pick an environment to develop the confidence.


My experiences have developed so much more meaning this last year than ever before. I’ll never forget after my first show, and all my friends can verify, how adimate I was that I would never compete in bodybuilding again. I just did not understand how people could actually enjoy this sport….. For me, I was in the wrong category and I had the wrong coach, this made all the difference in the world. My bikini prep was horrible, my mind set was exhausted and depleted and I was miserable. I had a coach that did not have a bodybuilder background and thus did not understand the type of workouts or the diet I needed to do well.

Once I switched from bikini to figure and switched coaches everything began to change. My love for fitness returned, the diet was better but this is when I learned what it meant to literally starve (I was so depleted by this coach that I actually fell out at work). Fast forward to working with Joe, I LOVE this sport again. I am healthy, fed, surrounding by positivity and encouraged to dream big. On show day, during check in’s I am usually excited, the buzz of the environment is very exciting and easy to get wrapped up in. Prejudging is where the jitters and anxiety kick in and where I really have to channel my thoughts and calm my nerves. It’s important for me to really focus on my training and to relax, make sure my head is in the right place. During finals, I am still excited and nervous to see my final placement. I am more relaxed and happy it’s finally over to get out of my heels. Following awards, I immediately focus on what I need to do for the next show and develop the game plan with Joe to move forward.

A photo posted by Jen Reichek (McArver) (@jgrace05) on

Future plans:

As I previously mentioned, I am a little 10 weeks out from competing at Jr. Nationals in Chicago, going for my procard. I can be found on Instagram @jgrace05, email ( or facebook (Jen Reichek).

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