A Brief Interview with Shawn Rhoden


Congratulations on being signed by Weider/AMI. This has to be a dream come true and a huge boost to your professional career. How does it feel to be with them?

Awesome! It is certainly a dream come true to be a part of their family. This is the house where legends are made. I remember when I started bodybuilding, all the top guys were with Weider. I used to run to the store to buy my magazines to see guys like Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray, Andreas Munzer, Momo Benaziza, and so many others. I would steal work-out and diet tips and catch up on who had won what show. It feels good to be one of those guys that people can look up to now.

Your story is like something out of a Hollywood movie. Taking seven years off from training and then coming back and earning your pro card so fast tops even a chapter in the Rocky saga. Why did you quit the gym and what made you return?

My father, Lloyd, became sick, and it was back and forth to the doctor with him for his chemotherapy treatments. This went on for about a year, and when 
he passed away, I had no desire to go to the gym. I wanted to 
try something else with my life. My dad was only 57. Life is too short to be concerned about how you look. I also wanted to take over my dad’s business to keep striving and make sure that all of his hard work didn’t go to waste. Going to the gym was the last thing on my mind.

It wasn’t until the end of 2008 when I went to a bodybuilding show with my cousin that I realized what I had been missing. I knew a lot of the guys up there onstage, and they didn’t look much bigger than they did seven years before that. I knew that I could beat them. I told my cousin what I was thinking, and he had a good laugh over that. We made a dollar bet. Thanks, cuz.

In your What It Takes videos at, you speak about being on the treadmill at the gym on New Year’s Eve at midnight while most people were out partying. That’s some serious dedication. Is that the kind of thing that will take you to the next level in 2012?

I am a true believer in give it your all or don’t bother. To be honest, ever since my dad passed, I treat every holiday just like any other day. When I decided to come back to competing, I told myself that it would be a full-time job. I can be 
great at this sport only if I give it everything. To succeed in life, you
 have to make huge sacrifices.

I don’t drink [alcohol], so I 
didn’t feel as if I were missing
 out on anything anyway on New
 Year’s Eve, and I wanted to start 
off the 2012 season on a good
 note. This is my time to elevate my status as one of the top competitors in our sport. I watched my dad and he never had a day off. I apply his will to never give up and always move forward. This will be me until I walk away from bodybuilding— everything or nothing.

You perform behind-the-neck presses on a Smith machine for your shoulders. Do you feel that the movement is taxing on the rotator cuff and could possibly cause an injury, especially when using heavier weight? What exercise can be done in its place that can be just as effective?

It can be very taxing on the rotator cuff and that is one of the reasons why I choose to use a Smith machine. When I was younger, I would do them with a barbell, but that was very hard on me. The year that I turned pro, I was speaking with Kevin Levrone and he told me that the best exercise for getting my shoulders to catch up with my legs was behind-the-neck presses.

I usually start with a few exercises to get my shoulders loose and then go over to the Smith, on which I can go a little heavier, get the assist, and have more control from the machine. I do alternate the Smith with a Hammer Strength machine from time to time. I tell everyone it goes by how you feel and don’t go into the gym thinking you’re Ronnie [Coleman].

What type of compound movements did you do for your chest in that work-out video? What kind of weight, sets, and reps were involved?

For that video, we started with cable flyes sitting on a bench at an angle. The focus was on the chest with little movement
 or momentum. The first set is always 50 reps with 70 pounds, working my way up to 150 pounds with dropsets to follow for a total of six or seven sets.

Next up are incline barbell presses. My chest is pretty much exhausted from the cable flyes, so it feels like 400 pounds when I’m at 275. With little if any rest, I jump into dumbbell presses. On a good day, I can get up to 130 pounds for eight reps. With these two exercises, I do seven or eight sets. I then add a few sets on a Hammer Strength machine, supersetting incline with decline or flat.

You concentrate on doing incline presses and repeat the movement with dumbbells after using a barbell, and then even do incline flyes and Hammer Strength presses. Why do you perform inclines so much in the same workout?

After the 2011 Mr. Olympia, we decided that I needed to bring up my upper chest. My coach, Dave Kalick, and I
 came up with a few different exercises that I needed to concentrate on. Pullovers, incline dumbbell and barbell, flat barbell and, of course, flyes from different angles.

On some days, my focus is more pullover and lots of incline presses to force as much blood as I can into the chest. We did that for the first month and I saw a big difference, so we continued to alternate those movements. Again, for me everything goes by how it feels.