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Highlight

The sport sees people follow a rigorous training regime to prime their physique for the arc lights. We talk to experts to find out the reason for the appeal and what it takes to take the stage

It happens to the best of us: We see a fitness influencer or someone you know on Instagram, posing or working out intensely – every muscle defined perfectly and abs like rocks. You watch in awe and a few minutes later, you’ve scrolled months to years back on their page, engrossed in their world of meal-preps, and gym workouts.

In the past few years, you will have noticed a huge rise in people — both men as well as women — looking for an aesthetic physique, six-pack abs, and a chiselled overall body. This has led to more and more people getting on stage as physique competitors. Chances are, you even have that one friend who is super fit and aspires to compete.

A physique or bodybuilding competition is more than getting a spray tan and posing on stage; it’s a lifestyle. You’ve got to be all in, ready to dedicate months at a time to a few minutes on stage. Bodybuilding and physique competitions have also seen a lot of appeal in the UAE both among men as well as women, with huge participation at the various contests held in the country.

The Dubai Muscle Show, starting today and running until October 31, has got tremendous response from eager contestants as well as exhibitors of world leading sports nutrition, fitness and bodybuilding brands from 25 countries, as well as over 600 inspirational athletes and health and fitness influencers from around the globe.

“I think a lot of these gym goers have seen impressive changes in their physiques over the years, and they want to see if they can test themselves against the best in the region in a competition format.

- Nick Blair, Co-Founder, Dubai Muscle Show

“Over the last 10 years in the UAE, going to the gym has become more a part of people’s everyday lives,” says Nick Blair, Co-Founder, Dubai Muscle Show. “I think a lot of these gym goers have seen impressive changes in their physiques over the years, and they want to see if they can test themselves against the best in the region in a competition format. Competitions also give people a chance to work hard for something, and gain interest from sponsors. A lot of competitors are now making bodybuilding their full-time careers.”

Platforms such as the Dubai Muscle Show offer motivation for aspiring contestants and push their fitness limits. “The majority of us who train in the gym don’t aspire to compete on stage,” says Blair. “I think the best workout motivation is seeing the weekly, monthly and yearly changes when we commit to having a healthier lifestyle. The motivation to workout is much bigger than a one off competition – it’s having a longer life, feeling better and improving our mental health that’s important.”

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How gyms can help

As competitive fitness becomes a big thing, do gyms have what it takes takes to get ready for stage? Possibly. Whether you are prepping for a physique competition, training for a 10k race, or just wish to get fitter and healthier, the amount of equipment, class variety, expertise and environment you desire can be found within most gyms, says Loren Holland, Founder and CEO, Gymnation.

It is great to see the continual increase in demand for health and fitness across the UAE, brought about by the ongoing improved recognition of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, along with impactful government initiatives such as the upcoming annual Dubai Fitness Challenge.

- Loren Holland, Founder and CEO, Gymnation

“GymNation, in particular helps people to stay motivated and stick to their goals all year round,” says Holland. “It is great to see the continual increase in demand for health and fitness across the UAE, brought about by the ongoing improved recognition of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, along with impactful government initiatives such as the upcoming annual Dubai Fitness Challenge. Gyms further facilitate this increased uptake, by providing a one-stop solution to cover the majority of people’s fitness requirements.”

Transforming your physique, health and lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight — especially if you’re doing it healthily and sustainably. But if you’re patient, you can achieve a lot with the help of gyms such as Embody Fitness. Originating in London, it is now widely regarded as the most luxurious, state-of-the-art and best personal training gym for results in Dubai, David Crocker, its COO tells GN Focus.

We are the only gym in Dubai boasting a team of Olympic athletes and world-class sports professionals, who work alongside our nutritionists and sports therapists, to deliver the most advanced transformation programmes for our clients.

- David Crocker, COO, Embody Fitness

“We are the only gym in Dubai boasting a team of Olympic athletes and world-class sports professionals, who work alongside our nutritionists and sports therapists, to deliver the most advanced transformation programmes for our clients,” says Crocker.

The 8- and 12-week transformation programmes at Embody Fitness help people achieve the results they never thought were possible. “Our clients’ journey includes an initial assessment, personal training sessions, a tailored meal plan and regular re-assessments from a team of world class sports professionals looking after them every step of the way,” says Crocker. “Whether it’s fat loss, muscle building or strength and conditioning, our award-winning and all-inclusive fitness programmes have you covered.”

Why bodybuilding?

Competitive bodybuilding is a combination of weight training, dieting and cardio, in accordance with posing and presentation skills, where you need to stand in front of the judges and impress them with your body. Even if you are a trainer, getting ready for a fitness competition will be harder and more involved than you can truly realise until you actually do it. So then, what is it that holds appeal for those braving the rigours of an intense preparation?

Several factors can contribute to your motivation, explains Bijo Joy, a Dubai-based personal trainer, prep coach and regular competitor on stage. “It can be a dream, or it can also be a person, for instance your coach. For me it was Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Being on stage is an exhilarating feeling for bodybuilders, it’s a one-of-a-kind feeling. Winning is secondary, the prime thing is to give your best like in any other sport, and participate.

- Bijo Joy, a Dubai-based personal trainer and prep coach

Competing in a bodybuilding show can be an extremely exciting time as competitors are passionate and push their bodies to the limit for months, all for the satisfaction of getting on stage and showing off their hard work for a few thrilling minutes. “Being on stage is an exhilarating feeling for bodybuilders, it’s a one-of-a-kind feeling,” says Joy. “Winning is secondary, the prime thing is to give your best like in any other sport, and participate.”

Physique contests also help increase your fitness levels because it is like a target, and within the stipulated time you need to make the best version of yourself. “It is difficult to maintain the same levels, besides, after a contest your body needs some rest and you have to give it some time to heal,” advises Joy.

Bodybuilding, in and of itself, is actually a psychological game. The key to mastering the game is deeply rooted in being able to mentally handle the pressure, while you are physically getting there. “When I’m training people for a competition, I make sure they have made up their mind for the preparation because he or she has to suffer through a lot of pain,” says Joy. “Then I plan the diet according to his body type and prepare the workout chart. They also need practice in posing, while I monitor the progress every week and change the diet and workout plans until they achieve their best form.”