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Get Jacked and Sharper Than Ever With NFL Hall-of-Famer and CBS Analyst Shannon Sharpe

Archive   ·   September 2, 2014

980351_10153072680520331_971666474_o  Sharpe feature

There are times when it takes more than just willpower to say no to that cheat meal. We have all been there when the craving becomes almost overwhelming and you have to reach down deep for the strength it takes to walk away from what you know is a bad choice and stick to what is better for you.

Shannon Sharpe has been there, but not too often, done that.

“It’s hard to justify (the cheat meal) because I work so hard in the gym,” the retired 14-year NFL veteran says. “If I want to go eat some ribs and french fries, I just think back to the six to eight cardio sessions I did that week. Or the three cardio circuits. Maybe it’s because I paid someone to cook my meals for me, paid this guy to train me and paid for this gym membership. It just doesn’t add up to me. So why bother?”

This is a man who has no reason to not enjoy some fattening and unhealthy food except for the fact that he is in the best shape of his life at 45 years of age and nearly a decade removed from the gridiron.

“I trained for 14 years for the (Denver) Broncos and (Baltimore) Ravens,” Sharpe explains during a break of his photo shoot at the House of Payne Personal Training Facility in Lilburn, Georgia. “Now I train for me.”



Because Sharpe is no longer an active football player, he has the luxury of going at a pace he chooses, rather than the team’s strength and conditioning staff’s pace. But that doesn’t mean the training is any easier. Quite the contrary— the perennial All-Pro tight end very rarely takes a day off from the gym unless it’s due to his employment with CBS Sports as an analyst on “The NFL Today,” a position he has held since he hung up the helmet and shoulder pads after the 2003 season.

“If I want to do three cardio sessions in a day, that’s what I’ll do,” he says. “If I’m tired, then I’ll take a day off. I go by feel, whereas when I played, I pushed (it) no matter how I felt. They were paying me; teammates were counting on me. So everything I did was like— OK, I’m in the best football shape that I can possibly be in.”

As humble as he may try to sound, there is no mistaking that Sharpe rarely feels the need to sit out a scheduled workout. During the “off-season,” he hits the gym each and every day, even though he tries to downplay it by saying, “Sunday I might go to the gym and just do abs, but it’s really my day off.” According to his former trainer Rashid “Roc” Shabazz, Sharpe has a regimented schedule to ensure that he gets all of his workouts in.

“During the NFL season, he leaves Atlanta on a Saturday, does the show on Sunday and flies back the same day,” the IFBB pro bodybuilder says. “That’s his one day off during football season. He usually trains seven days a week.”



During his playing days, Sharpe stuck with the basic compound movements such as bench press, shoulder press and squats and also did a lot of track work. He spent a good three hours a day doing both weightlifting and running, and in the event that it was raining, Sharpe would use a treadmill to duplicate the same type of routine he would have performed on the outside track. “There were no days off for me,” he says. “Off means that someone was gaining on you. Someone was working out while you weren’t, so I always had that in the back of my head and never let my guard down.”

When he first retired, the three-time Super Bowl champion stuck with what he knew and even turned it up a notch. “Shannon wanted to see how he could look if he trained like a bodybuilder,” says Shabazz, who also said that Sharpe is a big fan of the sport of bodybuilding. “He put on about 30 pounds of muscle after one year of doing that type of workout.”

Shabazz, who has known Sharpe since 1996, realized just how good his genetics were and they had to change things up for a very specific reason. “(Shannon) was wearing $8,000 custom suits and he couldn’t keep going up and down with his weight,” he says. “So then we began incorporating functional training.”

Trying to get away from staying too bulky, Sharpe began experimenting with kettlebells and circuit training and took even more spin classes than he had before. “I wanted to take my body into a different direction,” Sharpe describes. “Mainly my workouts are cardio and cardio strength. I may do five or six Flywheel Sports (an indoor cycling studio) classes a week, and then I’ll do some circuit training where I am trying to get my heart rate up. When you bench or squat, you’re really not trying to elevate your heart rate. You’re just trying to move maximum weight as opposed to moving as fast as you can for a period of time.”

Here’s an example of one of Sharpe’s circuits:


Row Machine – 500 meters

Kettlebell Squat Presses – 15 reps

Ball Slams – 25 reps

Kettlebell Swings – 25 reps


Sharpe performs anywhere between three and five rounds of the above, and increments his way up to 1,250 meters on the row machine by the time he is finished. After a two-minute rest period, he moves on to five to eight rounds of:


Kettlebell Snatches – 15 reps

Battle Ropes – one minute

Sledgehammer Swings on Tire – 20 reps each arm


It is a full-body workout performed every day that varies. Depending on how Sharpe feels, he will mix things up with different movements, different order of movements and so forth. He never does the same workout two days in a row as to cause muscle confusion. But the usual regimen consists of seven to eight movements done five times each in a rotation.

Instead of one of the above exercises, Sharpe may switch it up for either burpees or TRX-type rings. And even though he has a clearly defined six-pack, the only isolated movement for his abs is weighted rope crunches. “I always keep my abs tight during the other exercises,” says Sharpe, who also regularly includes a 43-minute spin class into his day.

When asked if he feels that he is getting a lot more out of this type of cardio-based workout, he didn’t hesitate with a response. “Yes. I look at it like this— why do I need to squat 500 pounds at this age? For me, it’s more about fitting into my clothes. However you’re fitted, that’s the way they’re going to come back.” That seems to have paid off for Sharpe, who was named to Vanity Fair’s2013 Top 10 Best-Dressed Sportscasters list.



The old saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,’ can be used as the mantra of Sharpe’s diet. He basically eats the same things day after day and standing at 6’2”, is shredded at anywhere between 236 and 243 pounds. Of course, all of this is for an obvious, yet sometimes overlooked reason.

“For the most part, I eat chicken and fish,” he says. “I also eat bison now. I don’t eat a lot of turkey anymore but will throw some lamb chops in there. Broccoli, sweet potatoes and asparagus occasionally… and that’s it.”

When people asked Sharpe if he gets bored with such a limited menu, he tells them he doesn’t eat the same things looking for a different result, but rather the same result. “I hope to continuously do what I have been doing for 20-plus years and keep seeing what I have seen.”

As a matter of fact, Sharpe even takes along the Tupperware containers with his meals while on road trips three days or less to ensure that he has the right type of food regardless if he is home or not.

During his playing career, Sharpe was more cognizant of the macronutritional breakdown in his diet. These days, he just weighs his food for portion sizes, such as 10 ounces of chicken, eight ounces of fish or bison and as much broccoli or sweet potatoes as he wants.

“I eat healthy,” he says, and also added that he has never drunk coffee and has only tasted alcohol a few times, the last time being after his first Super Bowl win in 1998. “Restaurants prepare their food for 5,000 people. The people that prepare my food for me do it for just one so I don’t really have to worry about anything.”

Even when he does take that rare day off from the gym, Sharpe’s menu stays the same. He did experiment with trying to eat less on his day off, but found himself actually eating more. “So now I just stick with what works best for me.” And he feels that the biggest issue that people experience is not necessarily the type of food that they eat, but rather the amount.

“It’s hard to overeat good food,” the eight-time Pro Bowler says with a laugh. “I don’t see people sitting down eating 20 ounces of chicken breast and a bowl of broccoli. But when you start talking about cheeseburgers and pizza, that’s where you run into a problem— eating more than what you really need to.”



Implementing some unorthodox aspects into his physical training helped prepare Sharpe in perhaps an even more important aspect, one of the mental variety. “I tell people all of the time that you have to become comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said in a slow and controlled manner. “I did this throughout my playing days to make sure that I stayed in that mindset.”

To do so, Sharpe— who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011— would go two or three days without eating a single thing. He did this to test himself and see if he can get to that point of being uncomfortable and stay there while not giving in.

“You know how uncomfortable and moody you become when you miss a meal?” Sharpe asked no one in particular. “So imagine missing two, three, four or five meals. I still had the same mindset to stay in character and not get outside of (sic) who I was. Not to become moody and take the aggression out on someone else. Just to stay there.”

By training his mind and body to perform under undue stress, Sharpe was able to surpass anything that he would encounter in the gym or on the football field. He pushed himself in other ways because he knew that come the fourth quarter, he could call on his body and it would respond.

“I always trained with the thought that if it’s hurting me, then it would be killing someone else,” the Savannah State product says. “And that gave me the strength and perseverance to keep going. You have to be willing to take your body, mind and soul places that others won’t go. That’s the only way you’ll be great. There is no shortcut to that and there’s a price for being successful. And if you’re not willing to pay that price, if you’re not willing to go to that place, then you’re never going to be great or successful.”



When Sharpe walked off the field after his final game in January of 2004, he planned on taking the same two or three weeks off and get back into training again for the next season. But then he received a telephone call from CBS and was offered a job that he could not refuse.

“For the first time in 20 years, I thought about doing something other than playing football,” he recalls. “And once that happened, I realized that I really need to get this job because my mind is not totally on (the game) anymore.”

Sharpe made a few calls to his agent Marvin Demoff, his brother Sterling (a former Green Bay Packers wide receiver and current NFL Network analyst) and head coach Mike Shanahan and came away with the same answer when all of them asked him if he was sure. “I’m done,” he said.

Looking at it objectively, Sharpe used the rationale that he would rather retire one year too early than one year too late. Earlier in his career, he could have big game after big game and was the number one receiving threat on his team, but that began to change over the years.

“Could I have played another year and catch 60 passes for 800 yards?” says Sharpe. “Sure, but I started thinking that I’m not the guy that these fans remember when I was helping lead teams to the Super Bowl.”

So with no regrets, Sharpe left the playing field for the television studio. “I was able to come right out of the game and into a desk job that I really love. CBS gave me the opportunity to showcase another side of myself, and I’m really thankful for that.”

And so are we, Shannon. So are we.


Be sure to read Shannon Sharpe’s new FitnessRx For Men column each and every month in the print magazine and on our website


Shannon Sharpe At A Glance


Years Played – 1990 to 2003 (14 total)

Games Played – 203

Receptions – 815

Yards – 10,060

Yards Per Reception – 12.3

Touchdowns – 69


Teams Played For:


Denver Broncos (1990 to 1999, 2002 to 2003)

Baltimore Ravens (2000 to 2001)


*3-Time Super Bowl Champion (XXXII, XXXIII, XXXV)

*NFL 1990s All-Decade Team

*Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team

*8-Time Pro Bowl (1992 to 1998, 2001)

*4-Time First-Team All-Pro (1993, 1996 to 1998)

*Second-Team All-Pro (1995)


(FitnessRX For Men magazine, September 2013 issue)

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