Muscle-builders and trainers weigh in on the bodybuilding scene in Kerala's capital

Sharath Kumar S G

Sharath Kumar S G   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Fitness fads apart, there are many who pump iron to master the art of bodybuilding in Thiruvananthapuram

Sharath Kumar SG first hit the gym to “get back to fitness” following an accident when he sustained a broken arm during his school days. Today, pumping iron is a “passion” for the 34-year-old, so much so that the bodybuilder is a three-time Mr South Asia winner under the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness. “I have been into bodybuilding for 15 years,” says Sharath as he diligently preps for an upcoming national-level cup.

It’s not just about “the six-pack” or the big biceps or the broad “boulders”, the art of bodybuilding is more than “a mere show-off”, say musclemen and trainers. While many are into fitness regimes to stay in good shape, trainers say only a small percentage of gym-hitters actively venture into the Herculean routine of bodybuilding.

Septuagenarian Ramachandran Nair, a member of the committee that runs the 90-plus Veera Keralam Gymkhana at Vanchiyoor, one of the oldest in the city, says that less than one/fifth of the 100-odd members are into bodybuilding today, mostly college students. “We still use some of the traditional gym equipment like the karla kattai (wooden club bell) that is useful in developing forearms apart from modern equipment.”

Vinod K, trainer and owner of Powerhouse Gym at Maruthankuzhi, says: “As a competition, bodybuilding is a costly affair. It delivers a different outcome from the more popular and less intensive fitness routines. It needs promotion and investment to get the desired result, which is to win cups in shows and contests,” Many are, nevertheless, hitting the gym to bulk up out of passion than for competitive reasons, he adds.

However, its appeal and the type of practitioners have changed over the years, says Venugopal Unnikrishnan, trainer at Belaire Health Club, Kowdiar, who has been into the business of bodybuilding for over 40 years now.

“I started my gym 36 years ago. Back then, bodybuilding was deemed more a poor man’s sport. Now, only those who can afford to bear the expenses, mainly a protein-rich diet and supplements, are coming forward. The flip side is that there’s not much in terms of prize money. However, sportsmen are appreciating bodybuilding today as a supplementary exercise,” says 60-year-old Venugopal. He adds that the past 10 years or so has also seen greater acceptance for weight training among women.

Power woman
  • For hijab-wearing bodybuilder and power-lifter Majiziya Bhanu from Vadakara, Kozhikode, there’s “no weight that person can’t lift” given the right training and mindset. She broke many a stereotype while power-lifting her way to competing in the female segment of Mr Kerala Competition in Kochi last year and winning the Asian Powerlifting Championship in 2017. “I had to battle many challenges – social, physical and mental – especially since I hail from an orthodox family. The irony is that we need the support of others to reach somewhere in life, but we start receiving it only when we reach there. I think for this reason, so many talented girls, irrespective of which community they are from, fall behind,” says the 25-year-old, also a dental surgeon. Majiziya has been busy prepping for the World Powerlifting Championship to be held in Russia next month.

From students in their late teens to the elderly, resistance training has many takers in the city. Venugopal says age is not a criteria when it comes to beefing up in the testosterone-driven game. “Just look at Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. These guys still walk around with sculpted bodies,” he says with a laugh.

Sharan Kumar Rajendran, who represented India and won the gold medal in the 2013 Asian Kettlebell Championship, however, feels that the “sport of bodybuilding is reaching its fag-end” as the focus is shifting towards general fitness. “Another bane is the prevalent use of steroids, which is deleterious to the body in the long run,” says Sharan, who runs Mad Shark Gym at Nalanchira. He says vitamin supplements are welcome but “shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of nutrition” in one’s attempt get shredded.

But the fact is that 20 aspiring bodybuilders currently train under Akhilash Padmakumar who runs t Fit Made at Poomkulam off Thiruvallam. “You may not be able to make yourself grow taller after an age but one can certainly put on some muscle with a proper workout, diet and schedule. To develop muscle power, it takes immense willpower,” says the former Mr Trivandrum. He stresses the importance of diet in bodybuilding, attributing it to being “70% of the deal”, adding that cardio exercises should also be incorporated into the workout routine.

Akhilash says a bodybuilder’s “expensive diet” includes several egg whites – sometimes as many as 30 – a day and 1 kg of chicken apart from a range of fruits and vegetables. “Protein is imperative to build muscle, and fruits and vegetables, preferably raw, covers the requirement for essential vitamins and minerals, while keeping carbs to the minimum. Vegetarian protein sources such as cereals and pulses are also good,” he points out. Akhilash says during the “cutting” phase, when bodybuilders intensify their workout pattern to lose fat in preparation for a competition, a “sugar-free, fat-free oil-free” diet is ideal. Some of bodybuilders at his gym also moonlight as bouncers.

Over the “contestable” point of carbs in a bodybuilders diet, trainer Prem Mohan at Power Gym, Kesavadasapuram, however, says it’s essential. “It’s indirectly useful for muscle-building as carbs provide the energy for intense workouts. Sometimes, it’s good to have a small portion of rice or sweet potato before workout. However, carbs can be avoided during the cutting period,” he explains. Venugopal says supplements may be necessary in bulking up, but has to be used only according to requirements for optimal nutrition.

Being a doctor, 28-year-old bodybuilder Kishore VV has a different perceptive about his hobby. “I feel the doctor in me helps the bodybuilder and the bodybuilder in me helps the doctor,” he says with a laugh. “Since I also understand how a human body works from a medical point of view, it helps me reduce injuries that one may sustain during intense workouts as you push the envelope,” says Kishore, a Mr Kerala gold medallist and a Mr South India silver medal winner.

So, what are you ‘weighting’ for?

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:11:41 AM |

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