Do you know the Moscow Monster? Now considered to be the best bodybuilder to ever represent Russia on the worldwide sports arena, Sergey Shelestov has never won a professional bodybuilding tournament but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned every ounce of fame in the spotlight. Launching his impressive weightlifting record in 2000 when he did a jaw-dropping 551-pound bench press and 805-pound squats, he isn’t the most famous or most successful bodybuilder in the industry but he’s best known for his incredible motivation and determination that led to victory at the 2000 Moscow Russian Powerlifting Championship.
Born in the village of Talovaya in the Russian town of Voronezh Oblast on May 25, 1971, Shelestov learned the value of hard work early on with his mother working as a schoolteacher and his father working as a railroad engineer. Channeling his work ethic into athletics, Shelestov showed an early interest in sports in grade school when his favorite two pastimes were wrestling and playing soccer with his friends. By the time he reached high school, he knew sports would be his primary focus so he worked tirelessly at the gym to build muscle. His interest in athletic training grew so much during this period that he spent his free time researching methodical literature on how to effectively train his muscles to reach their greatest potential. This led the 5’11” tall Russian straight into the highly competitive world of powerlifting.
Months before signing up with the Soviet Army, he received his first sports achievement when he was awarded the 1989 Candidate to Master of Sports in powerlifting. Realizing that his true calling and passion was in bodybuilding, he joined the Soviet Army and was active in military service but continued to pursue weightlifting in his free time. He made his amateur debut in local bodybuilding competitions and after several victories devoted all his time to the sport. By 1992, the Soviet Union was dissolved and the Soviet Army transitioned into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Continuing to serve his country while competing in amateur bodybuilding contests, it was only a matter of time before Shelestov was a big name in the sport especially after his third-place finish in the 1993 NABBA Russian Championship. Retiring from the military as a captain in 1994, he was thrilled that he could finally focus on bodybuilding full time.
Not wasting any time, Shelestov moved to Moscow with his wife, Irina, in 1995. It was in the Russian capital where he met the famous weightlifting coach, Mikhail Golovnev, whom he later hired as his coach, manager and promoter. His decision paid off as Golovnev trained Shelestov so intensely as a weightlifter that he quickly built the physique of a professional bodybuilder. Meanwhile, Shelestov still had to provide for his family and worked several odd jobs throughout Moscow as a personal trainer, security guard and assistant at the prestigious Rhein health club in the Kuntsevsky District just to put food on the table and afford to pay Golovnev.
With Golovnev’s urging, Shelestov competed in the 1995 IFBB Moscow Championships and secured a first-place finish with additional wins to follow in 1996 and 1997. Finishing in 10th place in the 1997 IFBB Grand Prix Russia, it wasn’t until 1998 when Shelestov became a household name in the sport after winning the World Amateur Bodybuilding Championship and the Cup of Russia. Shelestov was considered Russia’s absolute champion at this point, which boosted his morale as he set his sights on becoming an official professional bodybuilder.
Earning his professional ranking in 2001, Shelestov entered his first two competitions on the circuit and secured an 11th place finish at the 2001 IFBB Grand Prix England and a fifth-place finish at the 2001 IFBB Grand Prix New Zealand. Unfortunately, personal problems at home took him out of competition from 2001 to 2005, which caused him to lose his professional ranking. Luckily, he continued to train during this period and eventually made a huge comeback in bodybuilding in 2006 when he re-earned his professional card with a top-10 finish at the 2006 IFBB Santa Susanna Grand Prix before finishing in third at the IFBB Romania Grand Prix, which marked the greatest professional ranking of his entire career.
Building his physique even bigger with a 19-inch neck, 22-inch biceps, a 57-inch chest and a 38-inch waist, Shelestov spent the next three years competing and enjoyed minor success with top-10 finishes at the 2008 IFBB Australia Pro Grand Prix VIII, the 2008 IFBB New Zealand Grand Elite Pro, the 2008 IFBB Romanian Pro Grand Prix, the 2009 Arnold Classic and the 2009 IFBB Europa Show of Champions. Finishing in ninth place at the 2009 IFBB New York Pro, Shelestov announced his retirement with the hopes of focusing on life beyond the stage as a new father and skilled personal trainer.
Today, the 45-year-old continues to lay low outside of the bodybuilding circuit and spends most of his time with his wife, who is also a famous Russian fitness celebrity, and their daughter, Olga, who is now seven years old.