By Bob Berghaus
There was a time when Jordan Hutchinson was referred to as “Little Jordan,” a moniker he didn’t care for and one that sent him down a career path relatively few travel.
He went to the gym and started serious weight training, always looking forward to the next day.
Little Jordan added more than 20 pounds of muscle, going from 160 pounds as a 17-year-old to 183 pounds in less than 24 months. Hutchinson loved being in the gym and the way the results made him look. Working with weights suited him, and he decided he wanted to compete in bodybuilding, a sport that is not for the undisciplined.
“It’s fun and it has its ups and downs. There are times of suffering,” says the soon-to-be-23 Hutchinson, who is preparing for the North Carolina National Physique Committee Muscle Heat competition in Greensboro on Saturday, Sept. 15. “And it also has its times of great rewards. It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
Hutchinson, who was raised in Fletcher and now lives in Hendersonville, finished second last year in the heavyweight division and is looking to win a division and overall title this time around.
About 1,200 state residents are registered as competitors with the National Physique Committee, according to Mike Valentino, the NPC district chairman. Hutchinson says he’s seen about a dozen men and women from Western North Carolina compete in statewide bodybuilding shows.
Hutchinson bulked up to 245 pounds around 16 weeks before the show. Then he began a diet that will take his weight down close to 200 pounds when he steps on the stage in Greensboro. He eats six meals a day, four of which don’t include any carbs. He consumes chicken, ground turkey and shrimp, lots of veggies four times a day, and rice and egg whites when he has his carbs.
Six meals, the same every day, and no sweets, which can be excruciating while sitting across the lunch table from someone who’s munching a sweet roll.
The goal of bodybuilding is to achieve an aesthetic ideal, which is different from a fitness-oriented exercise program.
“It’s very strict. It’s a very, very extreme diet, extreme training, extreme cardio and takes your body to such an extreme state, you feel horrible all the time,” Hutchinson says.
“The saying in bodybuilding goes, ‘The worse you feel, the better you look.’ If you’re not hating prep, then you’re doing it wrong, because it’s not some fun thing to do. It’s a passion, but to be the best, you have to sacrifice and take it to an extreme that others aren’t willing to go to, take it to a dark place that people aren’t willing to go to, and I’m having to take it there in order to win.”
Other sacrifices he makes while preparing for an event include staying away from functions with family and friends because there are too many temptations.
“They think it’s odd, but they support me,” Hutchinson says of his family and close friends. “Our country revolves around food at every gathering. It’s just about food all the time; it’s rarely ever healthy when you get together. I don’t want to be around that because it’s torture.
“When I’m prepping for a show, I don’t have time for anything except eat, sleep, train and work and cook my food for the next day and go to bed.” While Hutchinson says he takes supplements as allowed by the NPC, the results he achieves come mostly from training and nutrition.
When he takes the stage in Greensboro, Hutchinson’s goal is to be totally shredded, which, as he says, means “all skin and muscle.”
Day of judgment
Bodybuilding judges look at two major categories during a competition: Symmetry encompasses overall balance and conditioning, while muscularity and conditioning assess mass, definition and proportion.
During the first round of a competition, seven judges review the contestants as they perform a series of poses, according to Valentino. The highest and lowest scores get thrown out, leaving each bodybuilder with scores from five judges. The top five finishers move on to the next part of the contest.
“Competitors all do individual posing routines that they have designed for 60 seconds to music at the finals,” Valentino explains. Once the scores have been tallied, the top competitors in each of the six weight divisions return for one more round of posing to determine the overall event champion.
Hutchinson hopes his relentless work ethic will help him become a professional someday, giving him a chance to compete against the best in his sport and the opportunity to land endorsement deals.
‘I want this that bad’
His day begins at 4:30 a.m., when he wakes, drives to the gym and does 45 minutes on a stairclimber. Then he returns home for a shower and shave before driving more than half an hour to his full-time job as a bellman at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.
Between trips to hotel rooms, he sneaks in a meal while standing in the back of the Bell/Valet Office, out of sight of hotel guests. Lunchtime is more relaxing because Hutchinson can sit in the employee dining room, although he always faces temptation.
“There are cinnamon rolls in the café every single day,” he says. “There’s cake day, Danish, good food everywhere that I can’t touch. It comes down to discipline and how bad you want [success], and I want this that bad.”
When his work shift is finished, Hutchinson travels to the gym for weight work. Before going to bed, he’s in the kitchen for a couple of hours preparing six meals for the next day, carefully measuring out the rice, meats, veggies and egg whites.
“Yes, I choose to do it,” says Hutchinson, who was home-schooled and played football and basketball in high school. “The only thing that’s keeping me in this is a passion to do it. If I didn’t have a passion for this, I would have quit a long time ago.
“It’s very hard, You don’t live like a normal person. It’s not like a (conventional) sport where you go to practice and then go home and eat what you want and hang out. It’s not like that.
“You train hard, eat the same meals every day and when you go home, you’re in the kitchen preparing every meal for the next day and go to bed and get up, and it’s Groundhog Day again.”
No train, no gain
Hutchinson’s goal is also to become a full-time trainer. He works with about a half-dozen clients, most of whom he communicates with on social media. His website is hutchinson-fit.com.
“I communicate through text, email and phone calls,” Hutchinson explains. “I make full document files for all [client] workouts and nutrition planning and I will adjust by email their updated plan as things progress and change. They have full access to me for questions and concerns they may have with the program I’ve made them. I have weekly mandatory check-ins to keep them accountable, and they can reach out to me anytime for whatever else they need through the week.”
Most who work with Hutchinson at Biltmore Estate are in awe of him, but some have trouble understanding why he pushes himself so hard.
“I think on a personal level it’s an amazing thing to accomplish; it’s something most people can’t accomplish,” says Robby Rodgers, a co-worker. “Looking at it from the outside, one person could say he’s a glutton for punishment. Another person could say it shows his true character to be able to drive himself to be the very best.”
Hutchinson’s coach is Taylor Lambdin, a 27-year-old bodybuilder based in Raleigh. He’s optimistic that his student can achieve his goals at the Muscle Heat Show.
“Yes, he’s definitely on track. The biggest thing that hurt him last year was his [lack of] conditioning,” says Lambdin. “I’ve pushed him much harder and further than he went the previous year, and I believe it will pay off big time for him.”
Hutchinson agrees with his coach. “I’m light-years ahead of where I was last year. I wasn’t lean enough last year,” he says. “My body fat is lower this year. I’ve taken it to extreme measures.”
When asked when he knew Hutchinson could be a top bodybuilder, Lambdin says: “I realized it early on before we started working together. We had been friends and talked here and there, and I knew the passion he had for the sport and seen the progress he had been making. I knew he was capable of doing very well in the sport, and he has a good structure to his physique as well.”
One of the gyms where Hutchinson works out is Biltmore Fitness, a family-owned business not far from Biltmore Estate. Jake Sharpe, who runs the fitness center with brother Zach, says there are at least half a dozen bodybuilders who train at his facility, with Hutchinson arguably being the best.
“It’s a seven-days-a-week type of thing for them,” says Jake Sharpe, who believes Hutchinson has the physique and work ethic to be successful. “The bad thing is you have to be an addict to do bodybuilding, have to have an addictive personality to do this.
“Jordan’s never going to be happy with the way he looks. He’s going to continue to push and push and push. … It’s never going to be enough. He’s always going to keep working until he pushes himself to where he says, ‘This is the best I can look.'”
Should he finish first or second, Hutchinson will qualify for nationals, which he did last year but passed on competing in because he and Lambdin didn’t think he was ready.
Whatever happens this year, Hutchinson will have a couple of “cheat meals” the day after the show, one of them being pancakes. He’ll also turn 23 that day, so he plans to celebrate with family and friends.
And the day after his birthday?
“I’ll be back in the gym,” Hutchinson says. “There’s no true off-season. I don’t let off the gas. I just go, go, go because if I don’t, some other guy is working 365 days a year and will get his pro card before I do.”