Rise of the Machine

Shawn Rhoden's journey (and off-season workout) to success!


In bodybuilding, there’s no such thing as an overnight sensation.

No matter how lightning fast a phenom can seem to capture the sport’s zeitgeist, that speed belies the long, often arduous journey that came before. No one walks onto a pro stage as a complete, polished package.

Instead, anonymous toil is always in order. Years spent in the trenches, skipping nights out with friends to hit the gym, bypassing desserts, boiling eggs by the dozens, choking down chicken breast and broccoli for the fourth time in one day because, well, that’s what needs to be done to get to where you want to go.

I was born in Jamaica and moved to the U.S. in 1990, when I was 15. I was a really good soccer player, so I made the team. I was a great swimmer, too. You have to know, while I lived in Jamaica, I never even knew what a weight looked like. I was a soccer player, a striker... I wanted to be the next Pele or Maradona. Bodybuilding was the last thing on my mind. But then it found me. I was around 17 when my cousin John [Lancaster] took me to the gym for the first time in ’92. The idea was to get me stronger over the summer to help my sports performance. The first day he took me, I remember that next morning saying every curse word you could think of. It was a different kind of pain than I had ever felt before. Well, I went off on my cousin. I told him, “Dude, there is no way I’m ever going back to the gym. I’m going to go home, get in bed for a couple of days, and never do it again.”  But he kept saying, “Come on, it gets much easier. You have to stick with it.” Finally I gave in and went again. I kept going, and before long, that same summer, I entered a local teenage bodybuilding show. I was only 5'9.5", 153 pounds, and the only thing going for me was a six-pack... But I won. All of a sudden, I was like, “Wow, this is great.”

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