Bodybuilding and football worlds collide.
Written by Robert Zeglinski
Shannon Sharpe’s career in the National Football League (NFL) saw him accomplish just about everything a football player dreams of. On an individual level, the Pro Football Hall of Famer garnered four First-Team All-Pro (1993, 1996-1998) selections — an indicator that the former prolific tight end was the best at his position in each of those respective years. When Sharpe retired, he held most of the relevant tight end receiving records, including touchdowns (62), receiving yards (10,060), and receptions (815). On a team level, he won three Super Bowls (1997-1998, 2000) between stints with the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens.
All of these illustrious achievements aside, the NFL legend still has a lot to learn when it comes to training in the gym. That’s where seven-time Mr. Olympia (2011-2017) Phil Heath recently came in.
On Dec. 13, 2022, Club Shay Shay posted a video to their YouTube channel that features Heath walking Sharpe through a back and triceps workout while also giving him short posing lessons. Being someone who tries to maintain a high level of fitness in retirement, Sharpe seemed to hold his own. Even still, it was apparent that Heath’s pointers were effective and left a mark on a fellow sports legend.
Here’s an overview of the strength-training routine Heath and Sharpe worked through together.
Lat Pulldown (Overhand/Underhand)
The icons’ session began with some overhand grip lat pulldowns. Heath’s main note of advice for Sharpe here was to hold the weight for a little longer on each rep so as to contract his muscles more.
“… We want to focus on the technique,” Heath told Sharpe. “We want to focus on the tempo. So we’re not going super fast because this has got momentum. We want to keep muscles under tension for a longer duration.”
After they finished the overhand lat pulldowns, Heath and Sharpe transitioned to an underhand grip variation. According to Heath, performing underhand pulldowns is necessary for bodybuilders because it helps round out the back muscles.
“A lot of people say, ‘Why would I do underhand lat pulldowns?’ Heath asked rhetorically. “Because we want to work on the sweeping of the lats. The lats can actually insert very, very low. You see a lot of guys that have it very up top, very high, and in bodybuilding, we want it to start so low, it looks like the Cobra.”
After finishing off these back exercises, Sharpe clarified how his preparation as an elite football player was very different from Heath’s physique focus as an elite bodybuilder.
“As a football player, you’re not really focusing on that [body aesthetic],” Sharpe said. “You’re focusing on functional strength. We did one-arm rows and dumbbell rows. That was the only thing we did for the back […] I don’t do curls because my thing was to push people off me.”
One-Arm Triceps Extension
After the heavy back portion of their workout, the pair implemented some one-arm triceps extensions, a cable pushdown variation. Heath had Sharpe focus on keeping his shoulder stable while he used his free handle to keep himself level during his reps. The purpose of this emphasized stability was to better isolate the triceps muscle.
Seated Cable Row
To top off their back work, Heath and Sharpe leaned on some seated cable rows as the last back movement in their routine. The duo had minimal corrections or new emphases on this exercise as they powered through a few quality sets.
Dumbbell Incline Triceps Extension
To close the overall workout, Heath and Sharpe performed sets of dumbbell incline triceps extensions. In a slight change-up, Heath suggested moving the dumbbells and elbows at the time. Per Heath, not keeping the elbows stationary helps lessen any potential elbow pain during this movement. Along those same lines, Heath noted the wrists can also be rotated during reps to ease tension on them.
Their meeting of the minds in the gym behind them, Heath and Sharpe will return to their usual spheres. Heath will be a color commentator on the lead 2022 Mr. Olympia broadcast team. Meanwhile, when not working out, Sharpe is a media personality on Skip and Shannon: Undisputed — a daily sports talk show on Fox Sports 1.
If this duo ever gets together to train again, they’ll likely have even more wise words of gym wisdom for each other.
Featured image: Club Shay Shay on YouTube