Shawn Rhoden: A Game of Thrones

Here, Flexatron reveals his strategies to upset bodybuilding's king on this year's Olympia stage
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The War Zone

 

There is an ideal zone for reps per set that is neither too low nor too high. Science has proven that pushing sets to failure in the 8–12 range is best for growth stimulation. And this is the territory where Rhoden fi ghts virtually all of his gym battles. With the exception of leg exercises and a few blowout sets of dips, pushups, and back extensions, he strives to stay in the 8–12 span. “That’s what works best for me,” he explains. “Go lower and you risk injury and build more power than muscle. Go higher and it’s tough to push your sets as hard; it becomes more of an endurance test. Stay in that midrange, work toward failure, and try to get progressively stronger.” 

Forging With Fire

“Back in the day I squatted heavy,” Rhoden says, and his monstrous quads are certainly evidence of that toil. “But lately I’ve been focusing more on leg shape and details than size. My legs tend to grow easier than my upper body, so I’ve been trying to keep everything in balance.” In part this explains why he exits the ideal growth zone on leg day. His reps climb to 15–25 for quadriceps and 12–25 for hamstrings. But sets of 25 on the front squat or leg press still fuel lower-body growth. If you think squatting 25 reps to failure is easier than squatting fi ve with a heavier weight, you’ve never gone to 25. The pain of pushing sets to the quarter-century mark feels like setting your muscles ablaze.

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