Written by Bill Geiger, MA

At 24, Jessica Paxson-Putnam has already made her mark in pro figure. Here's the delt routine that has helped elevate her head and shoulders above the rest

March 7, 1983
Dayton, Ohio
Knoxville, Tennessee
HEIGHT 5'4 1/2" WEIGHT 120 pounds contest;
130 pounds off-season
Married to Peter
2006: New York Pro Figure,
1st; Figure Olympia, 11th. 2005:
Junior Nationals C Class, 1st.
2004: NPC Collegiate Nationals
Figure, 1st overall
TO CONTACT jessfit.com
244 MUSCLE&FITNESS March 2008

Following a strict precontest regimen means months of deprivation, bland foods, sugar cravings, early morning cardio sessions and double-time weight workouts on a fuel tank already on empty. No wonder many bodybuilders and figure competitors describe it simply as a miserable experience. Yet as the old saying goes, misery loves company. How else can you explain then-20-year-old Jessica Paxson's response in late 2002 to the breakup with her boyfriend?

"I was going through a hard time, and my friend Misty Peth, who was getting ready for a figure competition at the time, told me I should try to diet and train as if I were getting ready for a show. She thought it would help keep my mind off of things. I was always very active, so I gave it a try. I woke up and did cardio before my 8 a.m. class, and dieted and trained as if I were preparing for a competition. Not only did I feel great, but I made some amazing changes and quickly found myself in the best shape of my life."

Without even knowing the difference between a quarter-turn and a Quarter Pounder, the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) sophomore enrolled in a boot-camp class taught by trainer-to-the-fitness-and-figure-stars Mike Davies. "I wanted to know more, see who Mike was and what he could do for me," Jessica says. "I went with Misty to the boot camp, and that was a whole new world. All those girls were in great shape. I walked into the locker room and this girl's eating hard-boiled eggs and asparagus out of a plastic container, and I'm thinking, These girls are really hardcore.But it was so motivating to work out with people with similar interests. It was intense and I was sore, but I really like pushing myself.

Mike thought I had pretty good genetics for figure, so that's how I got started." A mere five months later, Jessica stepped onstage in her first amateur effort, placing 10th. That might seem low for someone who's now winning contests on the IFBB level (she earned her first victory at the 2006 New York Pro), but considering Jessica decided to join a Christian sorority group on a mission to Costa Rica – in the midst of her precontest diet – it actually represents some serious multitasking.

"We were building a soccer field for kids, and it was such a beautiful country," she recalls. "But I was so focused on making it work: getting up early to work out and then training again dead tired after working hard all day. I was just so determined to be in shape for my first show, and in the end, I've never felt closer to God for such a fantastic experience."

Jessica's foray into figure has earned her more than just trophies. Take the 2004 Collegiate Nationals, where she captured not only the overall title but also the attention of the men's bodybuilding overall champ Peter Putnam. The two spoke briefly, and six weeks later began exchanging e-mails and calls; they got engaged in May 2006. Jessica and Peter were to be married on Oct. 1, 2006. But first there was the small matter of her first Figure Olympia appearance – the day before the ceremony. "It was so crazy that weekend," she says. "Not stressful, really, but certainly overwhelming. Stepping onstage at the Olympia in my first year as a pro at 23 years old [she finished 11th], and then getting married to the man of my dreams the day after, with my whole family here, it was just such a blessing."

Jessica continues to work as a personal trainer and does promotional work at The RUSH Fitness Complex in Knoxville. She also has procured sponsorships from American Body Building and Optimum Nutrition, and makes guest appearances with Peter. "It's kind of unique, but I think the crowds like it. I have a dance and gymnastics background, and since there's really no performance in figure, the guest-posing has allowed me to get onstage and actually perform. "We don't have a road map to follow," she adds. "Peter and I want to use this to reach out – to be good role models, demonstrate strong Christian values and take it as far as we can as a couple in the industry." So far, at least, it has been a case of no map, no problem – after all, who needs directions when you can blaze a trail as impressively as Jessica and Peter have? M&F