Shaun Clarida has entered the prep for 2023 Olympia. He shared the news in a recent pull day workout posted on his YouTube channel and also shed light on the challenges of being on top of the division.
Shaun Clarida is an American professional builder that has competed in the Men’s Open and the 212 divisions of the IFBB Pro League. Although he has done the best of his work in the 212 division, the 40-year-old bodybuilder has maintained a strong presence in the Men’s Open division as well.
Winning the 212 Olympia title at the 2020 Olympia was the highlight of Shaun Clarida’s career. However, he was dethroned by Derek Lunsford at the 2021 Olympia, bringing the goal of a long title reign to an abrupt end. But Clarida turned up the heat and made the bold decision to move up to the Men’s Open division.
At 5ft-2in tall, Clarida is one of the shorter competitors. His decision to compete against the big boys was criticized as a result. But Clarida took the bodybuilding world by surprise when he emerged victoriously in his Men’s Open debut at the 2021 Legion Sports Fest Pro. The win earned him a direct qualification to compete in the division at the 2022 Olympia as well.
While he intended to create history by competing in both Men’s Open and 212 division at the show, Clarida eventually stayed in the 212 division, winning the second 212 Olympia title in 2022. He made a quick turnaround and attempted to score a win at the 2023 Arnold Classic in the Open division but managed to secure a fifth-place finish.
Shaun Clarida talks about the pressure of being an Olympia champion
Clarida will attempt the first defense of his 212 Olympia title in 2023 and started the competition prep 16 weeks out of the show. He made rapid progress in the off-season and feels comfortable at the current stage. Winning the third title is obviously the primary objective of the competition prep. While winning a title is probably the easier bit, defending it is the part where most people fail. Clarida has been in that situation before and highlighted the challenges of being on top of the division. He said:
“Much harder to stay on top, much harder! You’ve got a big a** target on your back. Everybody is coming to take you out. On the flip side everybody wants to see what kind of improvements you’re gonna make, how much better you can be. But if you follow my career for the past umpteen years, that’s what I’m known for… Improving year after year, bringing something new to the stage.”
The prospects of a competitive legacy are not the biggest motivating factor in his life. Clarida was blessed with a baby girl in 2022. He feels that being a father gives him the energy he needs to push through difficulties.
“Having that title is definitely motivating. But for me, what’s more motivating than that, aside from being Mr. Olympia, is being a dad, a father. Having this little human being in my hand to provide for, be an educator, be a leader…” He added.
The 40-year-old further stated that all the efforts are for his daughter and that’s one of the reasons he moved back to Texas. But he admits that being Mr. Olympia is a great feeling nevertheless. With that, Clarida jumped into the pull day workout and got a good day’s work in to get ready for the 2023 Olympia.
Shaun Clarida pushes through a high-volume back and biceps workout
Clarida kicked off the workout with assisted pull-ups. The regular bodyweight pull-up is one of the most effective compound exercises to build the upper body pulling muscles. Therefore it can be surprising to see an elite bodybuilder perform the assisted version, taking some resistance off. But Shaun Clarida has always preferred assisted pull-ups as they take the momentum out of play and help focus directly on the back muscles.
“I’m a big believer in pull-ups. I believe they are absolutely the bread and butter of growing that back.. For that back thickness and width…” Clarida exclaimed.
Clarida performed four to five sets of assisted pull-ups applying the progressive overload principle and setting the wheels in motion for an intense training session. He then jumped into the first official back exercise of the day.
‘The Giant Killer’ incorporated this exercise in his training routine around a year back when he started the training program to emphasize and improve the upper and outer areas of the latissimus dorsi muscles. But Clarida was introduced to the exercise back in the day by the late John Meadows himself ‘to really thicken up the lats’.
Clarida followed the training method taught to him by John Meadows to do this exercise. After doing a couple of warm-up sets without loading any weight on the bar, ‘The Giant Killer’ did two feeder sets to figure out a good weight that he could improve from. He uses 25lbs plates to do Meadows row as it enables him to get a better range of motion. There is a practical reason behind this as Shaun Clarida explained:
“I’m short. So if I’m short and I use the 45lbs plate, it’ll just be banging the whole time and I won’t be able to get the full (range of motion) which I want…”
The feeder sets were followed by working sets with incrementally heavier weights. Following this, the 212 Olympia champion took to the T-bar rows next.
Chest-Supported T-Bar Rows
T-bar rows are arguably the greatest exercise to impart thickness to the back. If you had to choose just one rowing movement for back, we would advise to go with T-bar rows. Clarida did the exercise on a chest-supported t-bar rows machine. Clarida prefers to have a grip that is in between the neutral grip and the overhand pronated grip. However, the machine did not have the option and Clarida improvised by attaching a D-handle.
Clarida did the warm-up set using a quarter plate and then proceeded to crank out the feeder sets. After working his way up to the top set of two full sets, ‘The Giant Killer’ took to another rowing movement.
Shan Clarida next performed machine rows on the Prime Extreme Row machine. The machine has eight different adjustments for the bench. Clarida intended the exercise to simulate the bent-over dumbbell rows. He adjusted the seat accordingly and performed the rows unilaterally.
“By hovering over the bench and keeping one hand against the pad, I’m able to get a really good stretch in the lat,” Clarida said about the positioning.
He pushed through some solid sets of the exercise using a similar training method as the previous exercises – warm-up sets, feeder sets followed by working sets – and jumped into the next exercise.
Most of the previous exercises primarily targeted the lats. Clarida shifted his focus on working the upper back and performed seated rows on a Prime selectorized machine next.
“(The machine) hits the upper back just right with the positioning of the chair. You’ll feel traps, rhomboids, a little bit of the rear delts but not too much,” Clarida explained.
The American bodybuilder annihilated some heavy sets of seated rows to work the upper back muscles before taking up a vertical pulling movement.
Close-Grip V-Bar Pulldowns
Vertical pulling movements help build a wide back. Clarida took to the v-bar lat pulldown next to build upper and middle back width. This variation of lat pulldowns heavily stimulates the rhomboids due to the close neutral grip. Also, biceps and forearms get a good workout as well. Clarida cranked out some solid sets of close grip v-bar pulldowns before taking up an isolation exercise next.
Standing Cable Pullovers
We can’t think of many isolation exercises when it comes to stimulating the back muscles. However, cable pullover is one isolation exercise that stands out for its benefits in back-building. It primarily works the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and posterior deltoid muscles.
“A lot of rowing, a lot of blood flow in those lats. Now we’re going to stretch them out the front lat spread, double bicep to make sure that width is there,” Clarida stated.
The 40-year-old pushed through four working sets of this exercise and jumped into the finisher of the day.
Clarida capped the back workout with a variation of weighted hyperextensions that he learned from the late John Meadows. This lower back movement targets the lower back muscles, more specifically, the spinal erectors.
“We’re still 16 weeks out and I’m trying to maintain as much mass as I possibly can. I’m still taking a lot of food in so I’m able to push a good amount of weight. But at the same time, I’ve got to push that conditioning,” Clarida said.
However, he has two herniations in the lower back and needs to be extra careful with the weight.
“When you turn around and ride those elbows back, spread double biceps for that lat spread, you see that whole lower back… We call it the Christmas tree, right? We want to see all those lines, all the details. This movement is going to help with that,” Shaun Clarida explained.
He performed a few sets of hyperextensions using a barbell with 25lbs plates for weight and wrapped up back training.
Single-Arm Preacher Curls
Shaun Clarida shifted the focus to the next part of his pull day – the biceps. Preacher curls are by far the most effective isolation exercise for biceps and help massively with muscle hypertrophy by eliminating all the other muscles from the action. Clarida performed a few sets of the exercise unilaterally on a selectorized machine and jumped into the last exercise of the training session.
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
Hammer curls target the brachioradialis and the brachialis muscles in the arms along with biceps brachii. Most of the arm muscles get sufficient work during most of the pulling movements. Therefore it is completely unnecessary to train them with excessively heavy weights. All they need is stimulation with a few sets done with proper form. Shaun Clarida did exactly that with dumbbell hammer curls next and wrapped up the training session.
Overall, the workout included:
- Meadows Rows
- Chest-Supported T-Bar Rows
- Machine Rows
- Seated Rows
- Close-Grip V-Bar Pulldowns
- Standing Cable Pullovers
- Weighted Hyperextensions
- Single-Arm Preacher Curls
- Dumbbell Hammer Curls
2023 Olympia takes place from No.2-5 in Orlando, Florida. Shaun Clarida will be the obvious favorite heading into the show. However, he has to manage the resources well and bring a complete package to the stage. If he maintains the focus and unparalleled work ethic that he is known for, ‘The Giant Killer’ will certainly walk away with the third 212 Olympia title.
You can watch the full workout video here, courtesy of Shaun Clarida’s personal YouTube channel: