Interview by Ron Harris
Just as the Mr. Olympia contest featured several men who dominated the event for a series of years, the Ms. Olympia has also had a few women that kept an iron grip on the title and created dynasties. In the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Cory Everson earned six Ms. Olympia titles. Her successor Lenda Murray would garner eight, and the winningest Ms. Olympia thus far has been Iris Kyle with a staggering 10 Ms. Olympia wins. The contest was discontinued in 2014 over concerns the women were becoming excessively muscular. When it was resurrected by Jake Wood and slotted to return in 2020, we all wondered who would emerge as the new champion, and would she be able to hold on to the title for multiple years? That woman turned out to be Michigan’s Andrea Shaw, and to date she has won the Ms. Olympia all three years since its return. Now she is preparing for what she hopes will be her fourth win in November in Orlando. I recently caught up with Andrea to discuss her game plan to establish her own dynasty in which her ultimate goal is to beat the all-time record and win the Ms. Olympia 11 times.
Looking back at your contest history, you started off in Figure, turned pro in Women’s Physique, did only one contest in that division, and placed second at the 2019 Chicago Pro in your first appearance in Women’s Bodybuilding a week later, then got seventh at the Wings of Strength. The Ms. Olympia wouldn’t return until the following year, but do you think you were ready to win? Could you maybe have one more Olympia title if the show had been held that year?
No, I definitely wasn’t ready yet. Bodybuilding was still new to me. I got thrown into it, so to speak. I went from Women’s Physique to bodybuilding in one week, so I had to shift gears really quick. Yes, I did get second place, but I was still learning how to be a female bodybuilder. I knew I needed time, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to jump into bodybuilding while I was already in shape and several top champions from that division including Lenda Murray had encouraged me to do it. The Rising Phoenix was the equivalent of the Ms. Olympia at that time, and I knew that having placed second at the Chicago Pro put me in a good spot to throw my hat in the ring and see how I could do.
You got beat by six women at that 2019 Rising Phoenix, but not one of them has beaten you since then, correct?
The current record of Ms. Olympia titles is held by Iris Kyle at 10, and Lenda Murray has eight wins. You never got the chance to compete against either one. Who do you wish you had, and at your best, do you think you would beat either or both of them at their best?
That would be a call for the judges to make, because all three of us have such different looks. Lenda was more streamlined, while Iris brought intense, crazy conditioning. I feel like I have a little more mass than either of them. I can guarantee you I would make top three!
If you could have competed in any era of women’s bodybuilding other than the current one, is there a group of women you would have loved to have competed with?
Yes, I loved that era in the last couple of years before they did away with the Ms. Olympia, 2012 to 2014. Iris and Alina Popa were amazing back then. I competed against Yaxeni Oriquen in 2020, but it wasn’t the same Yaxeni from years past. I’ve watched videos from those years many times. The women had a lot of fun up there and you could sense the camaraderie. I also would have liked to have competed with them at the Ms. International, which was the other big show in women’s bodybuilding for many years. Iris and Yaxeni both won that show many times. (Note: Iris Kyle won the Ms. International seven times, while Yaxeni Oriquen earned five titles.)
You are the first Ms. Olympia champion since the show returned in 2020 after being gone for five years. As the ambassador of the title, does it bother you that the event wasn’t held for half a decade?
A little bit, only because I felt a lot of pressure going into my first Ms. Olympia in 2020. At that point, a lot of people were wondering who would take the lead in terms of the standard for women’s bodybuilding after all those years away? I got so worked up about that toward the end I was doing excessive amounts of cardio to make sure my conditioning was the best it could possibly be. The day before I flew out to Phoenix for that year’s Rising Phoenix, I was up until 2:00 a.m. doing cardio. I was so exhausted that I almost got into a car accident driving to my coach’s house. I probably should have chilled out, but I felt so much pressure because the Olympia was back and there was no defending champion. The title was wide open, and the best woman would win. I really wanted to be that woman! You might recall that Iris Kyle was there in 2020 and was supposed to compete but got very sick at the last minute and had to go to the hospital. I really wanted her to compete because obviously she’s a legend, but health has to come first.
You’ve won two titles in Orlando and one in Las Vegas. If the Olympia was going to be in one of those cities for the rest of your career, which one would you pick?
I get asked that a lot, and I’m torn on this one! I really like Orlando. I’m not a gambler, so there’s not much I can do in Vegas aside from competing. Tim Gardner is a good friend of mine, and he runs the Olympia Expo. I know we can get a lot more bodies into the expo in the Las Vegas location. I also loved that stage at the Planet Hollywood at the Zappos Theater. It was a true theater stage that I felt fit the huge scope of the Olympia perfectly.
The Rising Phoenix show is five weeks out from the Ms. Olympia this year. Is it usually closer to the Olympia or farther apart?
The first year I won it, it was only 11 or 12 days away, but since then it’s been five or six weeks before the Olympia. No pressure! I was on a high from winning, but I was still nervous because it was my first Ms. Olympia and the first one that had been held in six years. I like having it five weeks before. I get a little break. For three days after the show I will still train, but I will eat more liberally before I jump back on the diet. But I never stop the training or the cardio. I will also take a mini vacation to reset, which has worked out well these last three years. I went to Tampa last year, and upstate Michigan the year before. I like that. It lets me decompress, refocus, and get my head back into it. It also lets me refine a few things before I get on the Olympia stage.
Do you peak 100 percent for the Rising Phoenix, or save something for the O?
The goal is always to peak for both. Five weeks is a perfect amount of time to be able to do a really good depletion and load again.
In that aspect it’s better that the Rising Phoenix isn’t a week or two before, because a lot of competitors find it hard to peak again so soon since there is usually a rebound after peaking.
Exactly. It’s golden!
Do you know what type of car the Rising Phoenix show is giving the winner this year?
I don’t. But if I could make a request, I would love a Mustang. I’m a Chevy girl, but I’m curious to see the bells and whistles on the Mustang.
Which cars have you won so far?
Last year I won a Chevy Silverado High Country, which I didn’t think I would like. Now I love that truck and I’m not getting rid of it, I won a C8 Corvette in 2021, and a Camaro ZL1 in 2020. I sold the Camaro. I need a bigger house with a three- or four-car garage!
Right now, the two most dominant Olympia champs are Cydney Gillon in Figure with six wins and Chris Bumstead with four Classic Physique Olympia titles. You told me in our last interview that your ultimate goal is 11 Ms. Olympia titles for the all-time record. I imagine it could be intimidating thinking about having to beat every other top female bodybuilder in the world eight more times. Do you try to think of it in terms of taking it one year and one win at a time?
I have to stay in a good mental space with it. I also need to remain injury-free. Those are the two keys to longevity in this sport. As long as I still have that fire and passion to go after it, I know I can do it. Contest preps take a lot. They’re very time-consuming with the amount of hours you spend training, doing cardio, preparing your food, practicing your posing, and all while traveling. For the last two years, I’ve traveled most weekends up until four weeks out from the Olympia. That’s not ideal, but I’ve been able to navigate my way through it. This year I’m going to dial it back and not travel so close to the show. But yeah, I really do want 11 Ms. Olympia titles. I mean, why not? Right now, I am taking it one year at a time, and let’s pray that I get there.
You mentioned staying injury-free. Guys are often tearing pecs, biceps, and quads. What do you attribute your status as being injury-free to? You’ve never had a major injury, yet you have three Olympia titles, correct?
Correct. I make sure that at a certain point in the prep, around eight weeks out, I will only lift moderately heavy. No more heavy weights. Reps are where it’s at. I might do 30 reps per set for upper body. For lower body, it could be 50, 60, 70 reps. It sounds like a lot, but it really helps dial me in. Done properly and using supersets at times as well, it also adds in a little more of the cardio element to your training. I try to keep a good pace and be out of the gym in 45 minutes. I’m not in there for hours just hammering away. It’s a matter of making sure you’re efficient with your time, and that your recovery matches your intensity when it comes to training. I get body work done very often, and it’s not just massage. The person that I use goes into Graston Technique, cupping, myofascial release, and various other techniques to aid recovery. That’s a key component for me because I need that fascia to be loose. I will do this three times a week for three to four hours at a time. At times I fall asleep during the session, but never when they’re using those Graston tools to get in there. These aren’t relaxing massages. There is a purpose to them. Sometimes it’s just on one body part, like legs for instance. With three leg days a week, that’s a must. I try to get those done on the days I train legs. Recently I also hired a company that will do passive stretching for me three times a week for 30 minutes each. Attention to recovery is just as important, or maybe even more important than what you do in the gym.
I want to take a minute and give some recognition to Mutant, your sponsor. When I try to remember the last time I saw a female bodybuilder with a solid supplement contract and appearing in their ads, I want to say it was well over 20 years ago. They proudly and prominently feature you. Do you think that took some guts on their part, because they could have just as easily used a Bikini or Wellness pro, but they chose to have the best female bodybuilder on the planet representing their brand.
At one point, I thought the days of female bodybuilders getting good supplement contracts with top brands were long gone. I was hopeful, but I also knew that being the most muscular of the women’s divisions, it wasn’t likely. But with Mutant, I feel like they went with someone who stood out and who would represent the company well. After meeting the owner, Jim, who is an amazing guy, it solidified my decision that I didn’t just want to work for them, I wanted to work with them in the long term. Mutant is more like a family than a company. I could call any of them up right now if I needed anything. They took a risk with me, but they had been watching me for a while. They wanted to see how I handled myself in person and on social media. They recognized a high level of integrity in me, and I saw that in Mutant as well. Shawn Ray also played a role in bringing me on board.
Can you give me your top three favorite Mutant products?
Their EAAs and magnesium are go-to recovery supplements for me. GEAAR is cool because it’s also got arginine which boosts the absorption of the essential aminos. Meal consistency is also super important for bodybuilding so I’m a big fan of FLEX FOOD, which is a complete meal ready whenever I need it.
I’m curious, you haven’t been beaten since 2019 and it’s hard to find flaws in your physique. What aspects of your physique are you still trying to improve on, and what changes if any have you made to your training to make those happen?
My legs are still the area that I feel need the most improvement. I also focus on abs, as I think any good competitor would agree your midsection can never be too good. The tighter you can make your waistline, the better your overall physique will look. But I do put a lot of work into my legs; the quads, glutes, hamstrings. Normally I would only do three leg days a week while I was in prep. This last off-season, which I prefer to call “improvement season,” I did that all year round. I toggle back and forth between different variations of leg presses and lunges. I don’t squat much anymore. My coach, IFBB Pro John Simmons, feels I have enough mass in my lower body and don’t need any more. We do all kinds of leg presses: vertical, 35-degree, and horizontal. For lunges we do curtsy lunges, walking lunges, single leg, elevated, and side lunges. We vary it as much as possible to keep my body guessing.
I’m assuming you do those leg workouts every other day?
Yeah, that’s typically what I do. I train six days a week even though I prefer seven. I did that for so long that it feels weird to take a day off, but my coach tries to get me to do that. I start my day off very early with my workouts. I’m up between 3:30 and 4:30 and at the gym by 5 or 5:30 a.m. I do all my errands and other work later. I also love the fact that the gym is empty and quiet at that time with no distractions. I never have to wait for someone to take a selfie or film their set on any equipment I want to use. I get in, do the work, and get out.
That’s all I have for you today, Andrea. You’re on track to win another Rising Phoenix and another Ms. Olympia. With all due respect to your fellow competitors, I don’t see you being beaten any time soon.
Thanks so much, Ron.
@mutantnation code ANDREAS20
Web site: www.msolympiaandreashaw.com
‘Mutant is more like a family than a company. I could call any of them up right now if I needed anything. They recognized a high level of integrity in me, and I saw that in Mutant as well. Shawn Ray also played a role in bringing me on board.’ -3X Ms. Olympia Andrea Shaw
2018 NPC Nationals – Physique C Class, Second Place
2019 Toronto Pro – 11th Place, Physique
2019 Chicago Pro – Second, Bodybuilding
2019 Rising Phoenix – Seventh, Bodybuilding
2020 Omaha Pro – Bodybuilding Winner
2020 Rising Phoenix – Bodybuilding Winner
2020 Ms. Olympia – Winner
2021 Rising Phoenix – Bodybuilding Winner
2021 Ms. Olympia – Winner
2022 Rising Phoenix – Bodybuilding Winner
2022 Ms. Olympia – Winner