Muscle Barbie works up a sweat on social media

A 23-year-old female college bodybuilder has worked up a bit of a sweat on the social media platform thanks to her pumping iron obsession.
Ti Gong

Chen Shuying trained as a boxer before taking up bodybuilding.

A 23-year-old female college bodybuilder has worked up a bit of a sweat on the social media platform thanks to her pumping iron obsession.

Chen Shuying caught the eyes of netizens thanks to her sweet doll-like face and muscular physique after she posted videos of her incredible strength online, in which she can comfortably hold a man weighing around 75 kilograms on her back.

“My body fat percentage is 10-11 percent, and I can maintain the plank for at least 10 minutes,” says Chen, who is nicknamed Muscle Barbie. “An average girl’s body fat is generally between 20 and 25 percent.”

Last year the Shanghai University of Sport student won the Miss Fitness title at the National Fitness and Bodybuilding Championships for College Students and a silver medal in the Asian Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships.

Prior to bodybuilding, Chen trained as a boxer with her father, a boxing coach, and enrolled in the university’s boxing major in 2014.

“When I was learning boxing, I tried to tempt a would-be thief to steal my purse so I could get some real fight practice. But regrettably, no one did that,” Chen says.

However, her life changed in the second half of her freshman year, when the school’s bodybuilding chief coach saw her training.

“One day I was performing pull-ups in the school gym when coach Zhang Shenhai passed by. He said I had great strength but added it was hard for common girls to make it in boxing,” she recalls. “He then asked if I would like to join the bodybuilding team.” 

Chen agreed and began training besides her boxing classes. At first she went through some simple exercises before the training intensity increased. Now she undergoes at least three, two-hour-long training sessions a week, as well as extra practice. She also serves as a gym instructor in her spare time.

Chen maintains a strict diet where oil and salt are limited when she prepares for bodybuilding competitions, which has proved difficult to a girl from Chongqing who is used to spicy food. The plainly cooked vegetables, washed in boiled water, were difficult for her to digest at first, and she had to add some chili to her meals. Nevertheless, she eventually made it.

Another obstacle she and her father had to overcome was the bodybuilding competition dress code: a bikini.

Chen recalls the embarrassment when registering for her first competition, which required all competitors to wear bikinis to show their physique. 

“My father wasn’t alone. I, too, found it difficult to wear a bikini at the start. I am a traditional girl,” says Chen. But as time went by, she got used to the practice and became more confident on the stage.

As for the future, Chen plans to open a workshop dedicated to bodybuilding, boxing and weight loss and also wants to have her own brand. She believes it is all within her reach as bodybuilding and fitness become more popular among Chinese young people. 

“It’s a very nice trend, which indicates that more people are paying attention to their physique,” Chen tells Shanghai Daily. “It’s good to see that people no longer believe a skinny figure is the standard of beauty but start to appreciate the beauty of a healthy physique.”

Last month, Shanghai hosted the 2018 China (Shanghai) International Health, Wellness & Fitness Expo and launched guidelines on commercial fitness venues and fitness instructors issued by local fitness and bodybuilding association to better regulate the city’s fitness market. New technologies like virtual reality have also been introduced to fitness facilities displayed at the exhibition.

This year’s Shanghai Fitness and Bodybuilding Championship is scheduled to take place in September.

Ti Gong

Chen Shuying works out in the school gym at Shanghai University of Sport.

Ti Gong
Ti Gong
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