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Photos by Ian Spanier
ARIEL KHADR MADE HER FITNESS OLYMPIA DEBUT IN 2016—AND SHE’S READY TO APPLY THE LESSONS SHE LEARNED TO 2017
IFBB fitness pro Ariel Khadr had an early start in competition. At age 11, she was already a full-time gymnast competing in and winning junior fitness contests. Before she was old enough to compete in a bikini in the U.S., she trained for and competed in amateur European competitions. She competed successfully in NPC figure at 16 so she could get an idea of what that level of competition entailed, and then, less than two weeks after turning 17, Khadr won the Class A fitness division at the 2009 Team Universe Championships, becoming the youngest woman ever to qualify for pro competition in the fitness division.
An injury stalled her forward drive, and Khadr took that time to heal and to earn her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She returned to the stage in 2015, taking third in her pro debut at the Phoenix Europa Games. A year later, Khadr won the 2016 Toronto Pro Supershow fitness division—her second pro contest—securing a berth at the Olympia, where she placed seventh. At age 24, she remains a young upstart sharing a stage with more seasoned pros, eager to learn what she needs to one day earn the top spot.
FLEX: How was your first Olympia experience?
ARIEL KHADR: Definitely overwhelming. It was amazing to be on that stage—a dream come true! It’s what every competitor is fighting for. It was an honor, and it was a wonderful learning experience. The most memorable part was being onstage with the girls I have looked up to for so long.
What did you learn that you can apply to your training going forward?
The stage at the Olympia is different from any other stage I’ve been on. The floor is different. The material is a rug, where it’s usually wood flooring, and the space is really big. My routine needs to match and work with those elements. The other divisions don’t need a gymnastics floor the way fitness does.
Do the other fitness competitors give you advice?
What I’ve learned from them is that you have to be yourself. I’ve learned you can’t always expect a placement. Competing is a passion of mine, and performing is a passion. You can’t keep doing it if you don’t love doing it.
Do you have a fitness idol?
Adela Garcia. First of all, because she’s an eight-time Fitness Olympia champ. Second, because she would be one of the closest to me in size and shape.
Khadr performs hanging leg raises slowly to avoid swinging.
You were the youngest one on the stage at the O.
Yes. I’ve been the youngest on the scene before. Back in 2009, it was such a big deal! This time, I couldn’t help thinking that without my injury I might have been making my debut on that stage even younger, getting an even earlier start on learning what I need to know to compete and win.
For glutes, Khadr will superset kettlebell squats with cable pull-throughs.
You competed in figure before. How do fitness and figure compare?
The look for both divisions is very similar. Fitness is a little more muscular because we’re more athletic. Our bodies are harder. That’s not to say all of us would be competing in figure if not for fitness. Women’s physique holds a lot of appeal for a lot of us. Doing routines makes it seem like it might be great.
What is your favorite body part and how do you train it?
I love my back. A typical back workout routine would include pulldowns, single-arm lat pulldowns, seated rows, and bentover rows. I would normally superset them all after doing one warmup set of each, then three sets of 10 to 12. I would do that routine twice: once at heavier weights and then again using lighter weights.
When will we see you onstage in 2017?
I would really love to get into the Arnold Classic, for starters. Then I’m going to defend my title at the Toronto Supershow. If I could have my way, I would also do one of the overseas Arnolds—Asia or Europe. – FLEX