When the Ms. Olympia competition finally returned in 2020 after a six-year absence, the sport of women’s bodybuilding needed a new face to lead the division into the future. Andrea Shaw answered the bell, winning the newly reinstated contest in back-to-back years while also claiming two Rising Phoenix championships over that same time.
With two titles to defend in 2022, Shaw — who only switched from Women’s Physique to bodybuilding in 2019 — knows she’s going to have to keep improving if she wants to pull off an extraordinary double three-peat.
A post shared by Andrea Shaw (@mzprettymuscle)
“There is a lot that goes into it,” Shaw told BarBend. “My life is bodybuilding — almost exclusively for three months out of the year. I have to give it my best.”
Shaw provided us with a glimpse into what a week in her off-season looks like so fans can see how a competitor of her caliber trains between shows. Unlike many champions in strength sports, she isn’t shy about others knowing what type of training routines work for her.
“If [a competitor] tries it and it works, cool. If it doesn’t, then that’s okay, too,” she said.
While bodybuilding might come off as a pure size game on the surface, Shaw and her coach, John Simmons, aren’t as concerned with packing on more muscle during this off-season — they want to improve upon the size that’s already there.
“The judges told me that I don’t need to add any more size,” she said. “I’m focusing on more of the details at this point.” One key detail that Shaw is paying attention to is bringing up her hamstrings and glutes, which she expands upon in the workout below.
But make no mistake: Just because Shaw isn’t working to gain much size doesn’t mean she’s training any less.
“I train every single day,” she said. “The goal is to work out seven days a week and to train each body part twice a week. The average person training is hitting a body part once a week. So, after four weeks, they’ve only trained that body part four times. If I train everything twice a week, I’ve hit that body part eight times in that same four weeks.”
She developed this routine by working with her partner, Stephen Williams, a United States Marine who trained every day when he was on active duty.
“They didn’t take days off of training, so we don’t, either,” Shaw said, though she did add that she will take a day off if it’s necessary.
In between her own training, the reigning Ms. Olympia also stays committed to helping others in her home state of Michigan on a grassroots level by teaching a weekly exercise class to community members. Shaw typically teaches these classes every week up until the month before a contest.
“I have one woman [in the class] who is 72,” she said proudly. “It’s fun, and they enjoy it, too. When lockdowns happened, they came together and we just started working out every week. We figured we would just see how it goes, and it went well.”
Below you’ll find Shaw’s weekly training schedule, followed by a breakdown of her workouts:
Shaw shows up at the gym early so she can go through warm-ups before jumping into any workout with Williams. For this leg day, the pair has shaken up their routine with an experiment that calls for 25 total sets of a chosen exercise.
[Related: No Squat Rack? Here Are 5 Leg Exercises to Perform in a Smith Machine]
For example, Shaw and Williams might hop on the leg curl machine, select a weight, and perform a single rep each. After a minute’s rest, they’ll then take turns doing two reps with the same weight. They continue this pattern, adding one rep to every set until the final set totals 25 reps. We’ll save you time doing the math: That’s 325 reps in total for each of them.
“When I finish that, my legs are humming,” she joked.
Next is the first back day of the week, focusing on her lower back, lats, and traps. Her biceps are indirectly working here as well, so she doesn’t train them on their own during this session.
This day includes 10 exercises, but Shaw and Williams perform sets back and forth at a fast pace so the workout isn’t as long as you’d imagine. Shaw is an advocate for using as many angles as possible to target the muscles differently, as you’ll see with the different pull-up and row variations below.
* On an incline bench.
** Shaw uses the low pulley and performs the move on an incline bench.
Since Shaw saves her upper chest for a separate workout, she only hits two chest-specific moves on these days. One motion that she is fond of is the side-by-side chest press. To do this, she sits on a chest press machine sideways and presses the handle across the body. This helps her attain the maximum contraction possible and allows her to isolate one side at a time.
Even though her main focus is on her chest, Shaw also throws some glute bridges into the workout. She opts to perform her bridges with dumbbells because she finds they help her get a better contraction since the weight is over her body rather than out to the side as it would be with a barbell. To finish, she takes some inspiration from the Strongman world and performs a farmer’s carry for five sets.
[Related: The Best Bodybuilding Chest Workout, Customized for Your Experience Level]
Shaw’s second leg day of the week involves another 25-set challenge with a different exercise. (They don’t usually repeat the same exercise twice in a row.) One leg exercise Shaw avoids altogether, though, is squats. But it’s not because of injury or ineffectiveness — Shaw says squats “make my legs grow too big, too fast.”
After that second leg day is over, Shaw then moves on to her next upper-body day, focusing on the middle of the upper back and rear delts. Like the first back day, Shaw goes through a lot of different exercises during the workout.
The last exercise on this day is the scarecrow, which is a movement for the rotator cuffs. To do this, hold dumbbells or a weight plate in each hand and lift your upper arms so they are parallel with the floor, keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Using the shoulder joint, rotate the upper arm and lift the dumbbells until they are at head level.
Your forearm and upper arm should maintain a 90-degree position throughout. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat.
* Shaw utilizes drop sets for this exercise.
** Shaw performs this exercise with her feet up.
A post shared by Andrea Shaw (@mzprettymuscle)
[Related: The 5 Best Back Workouts for Men, Women, Strength, and More]
Shaw pairs her upper chest and shoulders together in one workout. Not only do both muscle groups prosper from his pairing, but Shaw also likes the fact that she hits her triceps in the process.
The final exercise of this session is uppercuts, which is exactly what it sounds like. Simulate uppercut motions while holding dumbbells. Focus on doing one arm at a time for all reps instead of alternating.
* Shaw performs this move with the dumbbells pressed together.
Shaw hadn’t been doing direct arm work for quite some time, but she is planning on adding some into her routine in the near future. In the meantime, she did offer suggestions for those looking for movements that will help improve arm development.
“I like lying tricep extensions […] I go beside my head, and I like to go across my body as well,” she said. “For biceps, I really like concentration curls. I pin that elbow right into the inner thigh while sitting on a bench, and I go as slow as I possibly can.”
Shaw looks to defend both of her titles toward the end of 2022: The Rising Phoenix World Championship takes place on November 5, 2022, in Chandler, AZ, and the 2022 Olympia Weekend is scheduled for December 16-18 in Las Vegas, NV. If Shaw is successful, she will be the first woman to win both titles three times in a row.
Featured Image: @mzprettymuscle/@ifbb_pro_league on Instagram
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