Shannon Sharpe strikes a pose at 54. / Instagram
Shannon Sharpe is the GOAT. No, we’re not referring to his Hall of Fame football career, his 14 NFL seasons as a tight end that included eight Pro Bowls and three Super Bowl wins. And we’re not talking about his second career as a popular and very-opinionated TV sports commentator. Instead, the 6’2″ and 245-pound Shannon Sharpe is the GOAT of ex-athletes who remained jacked way past their playing days. The soon to be 55-year-old Sharpe always looks ready for a bodybuilding stage, and halfway into his fifth decade he seems to only get better. How does he do it? Let’s look at Shannon Sharpe’s workout, diet, and fitness philosophy.
SHANNON SHARPE: BODYBUILDER
In 2006, three years after Shannon Sharpe’s final play in the NFL and five years before he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I traveled to Atlanta with a photographer to interview the gridiron legend for an article in FLEX magazine. Not only was Sharpe then being trained by pro bodybuilder Roc Shabazz (now Shaq’s trainer), but he was and is a bodybuilder and longtime bodybuilding fan (regularly attending the Arnold Classic).
Here are a few Shannon Sharpe quotes from that interview:
“In college I started lifting weights and changing my body, and I was hooked. I was like an addict. When my teammates were going to parties at 10:00 at night, I’d be in the weight room. Eventually, football was like a byproduct, because I would’ve rather lifted than play football. Football allowed me to do what I really, really loved to do: lift weights. For me, benching was the thing. In college, you benched three days a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; Tuesday and Thursday were for legs. I’m tall with long arms, so you wouldn’t think I’d be a good bencher, but I taught myself to be good, and I was just naturally strong.”
“[NFL teammates] used to ask me, ‘Does looking like [a bodybuilder] help you?’ It probably didn’t help me [in football], but in my mind, I had to look a certain way and be a certain weight, and I knew that in order for me to look that way, I had to train and eat a certain way. I had to do the due diligence to be in the best possible shape to go out there and compete at the highest level and help my team.”
“I can’t imagine not [working out]. I say sometimes I’m going to go a week without lifting, but I can’t. Or I’m going to go a week without some form of cardio, but I can’t. I’ve always got to workout because that’s what I love doing. I don’t have any other hobbies. Sometimes I’ll come to the gym two or three times a day, and people ask me if I wouldn’t rather relax. The enjoyment people get out of going to the mall or on vacation, that’s the kind of joy I get out of going to the gym and working out.”
SHANNON SHARPE WORKOUT PHILOSOPHY
True to his word, Shannon Sharpe has kept training and eating like a bodybuilder since the FLEX interview 17 years ago. In fact, today, in the month he turns 55, he’s more yoked than ever.
In a recent interview with Muscle & Fitness, Sharpe said:
“My mindset has changed because I don’t feel I need to move maximum weight. When you’re a professional athlete, especially a football player, you have to move bigger men than you are. So, it was always how much can I bench? How much can I leg press? And everything was always about max effort. Now, I don’t want to put my body through those rigors. I’ve had both of my hips replaced and it’s now about maintaining. I’ll go into the gym and I’m not trying to bench 500 anymore. I’m not trying to leg press 20 plates or deadlift 600 pounds. Now, I’ll bench 275, maybe 315 for six to eight reps. With dumbbells, I’ll probably go up to 105. I don’t need to be the strongest 54-year-old in America.”
In a previous interview with Men’s Health, Sharpe said:
“I focus a little more on cardio [now] whereas before it was always lift, lift, lift. Once I left football, I went straight to TV, and you know TV adds weight. My suits are custom and when you get custom suits, you can take up, but you can’t let out. You start spending the kind of money for custom garments, you make sure your eating is on point. They say that insanity is doing something over and over again, but [expecting] different results. I do the same thing over and over for the same result—to be healthy and happy at the end of the day.”
SHANNON SHARPE WORKOUT ROUTINE
What follow is the outline of a sample routine, but Shannon Sharpe often switches it up and frequently trains CrossFit-style in his own garage gym.
MONDAY: CHEST (AM), CROSSFIT (PM)
Sharpe calls his CHEST session his “old-school workout,” which includes barbell bench presses pyramided from 15 reps to 10 reps to 8 reps to 6 reps. This is followed by incline dumbbell presses pyramided from 15 reps to 12 reps to 10 reps. “I’m only in there for maybe 30, 40 minutes tops,” Sharpe told Men’s Health.
Sharpe’s CROSSFIT class lasts roughly an hour. It goes for as many reps as possible (AMRAP) for each exercise or sequence. There are pyramid-styled exercises as well. “So, we might have a 100 wall balls and then you might have 90 pushups and 80 squats,” he explained. Other challenging CrossFit sequences include 150-200 kettlebell squats (53-pounds kettlebell in each hand) and a rowing/pushup sequence, in which he’ll row 500 meters and then do 20 pushups, increasing the rowing meters by 250-meter increments until he hits 1,000 meters and 20 pushups to end the circuit. Sharpe says burpees are his most challenging exercise, especially at his size and age. “To get down on the ground and get yourself up for an extended period of time at 245 lbs. that takes a lot. When you see those CrossFit guys, none of them weigh 245, I can assure you of that. I hate doing them, but it’s also a necessary evil to what I want to accomplish.”
TUESDAY: SHOULDERS (AM), CROSSFIT (PM)
For SHOULDERS, Sharpe does dumbbell presses for two 20-rep sets and then dumbbell side laterals, dumbbell front raises, and upright rows. Again, he’s out of the gym in 30 to 40 minutes.
Another CROSSFIT class in the afternoon.
THURSDAY: CROSSFIT (PM)
Another CROSSFIT class in the afternoon.
FRIDAY: CHEST (AM)
Sharpe might repeat his Monday CHEST routine on Friday. (With this schedule, he does little or no direct arm, back, or leg work in the gym, feeling they get worked a lot in his CrossFit sessions. But he has, of course, trained those body parts hard with weights over the years and still does on occasion.)
SATURDAY: CROSSFIT (PM)
According to Sharpe, this is a “a really, really, really intense CROSSFIT class.” The noon session is pure cardio for 90 minutes to two hours! “I’ll do an hour spin and then another cardio class like the VersaClimber.” Sharpe adds that the weekend class usually has him surrounded by serious CrossFit athletes, adding to the level of spirited competition in the room.
SHANNON SHARPE DIET
In an interview with GQ, Shannon Sharpe outlined a typical day’s meal plan:
egg whites, oatmeal, fresh fruit
grilled chicken or bison meatballs, brown rice, steamed vegetables
turkey or pork, a salad or steamed vegetables (typically broccoli)
Sharpe told Muscle & Fitness:
“I don’t do a diet because they have a start and an end. I have a lifestyle and my lifestyle is I watch what I eat. I eat egg whites for breakfast, chicken, and turkey. Beef for lunch with carrots, rice, and broccoli. I’ll do Brussel sprouts occasionally. I’ll do mixed greens with apples on top, and balsamic vinaigrette. If I want a burger, it will be plain, maybe some ketchup.”
“On the weekends, I’ll have French toast, and pancakes but that’s not five days a week. I have cheat meals, not a cheat day. I don’t wake up and eat pancakes, French toast, and sausages and turn around and have fried chicken, hamburgers, and pizza. I’ll have a couple of cheat meals a week.”
“Eating as strict as I was, it was just really tough on the relationship. Do you want to be with someone and be happy or do you want to be miserable by yourself? You make sacrifices because everyone is not on your program and doesn’t want to look like you. It took me the longest time to understand that. Everyone doesn’t want to work out five days a week and doesn’t want to eat plain chicken and turkey. Once I realized that, life became a lot easier for me.”
SHANNON SHARPE ON WORKOUT RECOVERY
“During my playing days, I tried it all. I did some of everything because I wanted to make sure I left no stone unturned if I thought it could help me. At the tail end of my career, I started getting in a hyperbaric chamber. In the offseason, there were the ice baths. For me, it’s hard to sit still. I have a really tough time now at my age with yoga and Pilates. I still stretch on my own but it’s hard for me to stay focused for 35 to 45 minutes for the length of a class. I used to do it all, though three times a week—Pilates, and sprinkle in a yoga class. I would get a massage, hit the track four days a week, lift five days a week, and keep my nutrition on point. As long as I can get some cardio, do a few weights, that’s enough for me.”
SHANNON SHARPE ON HIS FITNESS LIFESTYLE
“People say they want to be in shape, but they really don’t. ‘Shannon, tell me how to do this but I have to have my beer, pizza, doughnuts, and wings.’ You already told me what you’re not going to give up. It’s hard-ass work to maintain a level of fitness year-round. It’s hard ass work. It has to be a lifestyle.”
“I’m willing to sacrifice because without sacrifice, dedication, and discipline, you’re nothing. I don’t care how well intended the idea is. Without those principles, it’s going to fail. I don’t post a lot of my workouts, but it’s hard. You’re also not always going to be motivated, but will you always be consistent? I tell people don’t call it a diet because those have a start and stop time. A lifestyle is how you live, how you are, and it’s embedded in you. Yeah, you might have a day where you’re off, but you hop right back on it.”