You have no doubt seen the sturdy physiques and sometimes extreme, pumped up beefy muscles of the oil-rubbed gym-junkies known as bodybuilders. Some people see these self-made giants as shallow meat-heads, I’d honestly never give them much thought, but recently, after Haitham Sadiq Al Zadjali, a member of Oman’s national bodybuilding team, won yet another competition in Kuwait, I began to wonder about this unusual sport, so I hit the street to find out what makes pumping iron such a popular hobby for young men in Muscat. What I found out from bodybuilders around the city was that this is a sport unlike any other; a battle of willpower, self-discipline, and an unwavering belief in man’s quest to become better.
According to the History of Bodybuilding organisation, the pursuit of physical perfection in terms of strength and physique traces its roots to ancient Greece where lifting heavy animals was the training method. From those early days it was deemed a sport, and from there it evolved into a lifestyle.
This form of body modification eventually became a spectator sport in which enthusiasts worked to create a well-defined muscular structure that they then showcased in front of a cheering audience. This activity, said to be called “muscle display performance,” developed in the modern era and became known as “bodybuilding”.
In the 1800s, Eugene Sandow was working as a “strong man” performer in a circus act in Europe. He realised that his fans were more intrigued by his defined body than by his feats of strength, and he began spending more and more of his act posing to show off his form, rather than exhibiting his strength. His popularity grew, and he is now sited as the father of modern bodybuilding, as his performances were the precursors to what we now know as bodybuilding contests. In modern contests, participants hit the stage to showcase their hardcore muscles through a variety of poses in front of a panel of judges who decide the winners based on body proportion, muscular build, and performance.
The bodybuilding community at large has become quite huge and continues to grow, especially among young men, and especially here in the Arabian Gulf.
The first thing Rashid Mohammed Al Balushi, manager of the Eat Smart bodybuilding team, said to me when I met him was that Oman has the greatest and most supportive fan base in the region, with millions of dedicated fans who are devoted to emotionally contributing to this ever-growing culture, proving, in his mind, that bodybuilding is one of Oman’s favourite sports.
“The bodybuilding industry in Oman witnessed ten years full of glorious success, and there’s more to come” said Rashid. Oman boasts hard-working gold medal-winning beasts, like Haitham Sadiq Al Zadjali, a member of Oman’s bodybuilding national team who recently won Mr Olympia for Amateurs in Kuwait, the Oman Championship, Batal Al Abtal championship, and Champion of Weight-85. With a total of 16 years of experience under his belt, he is looking forward to participating in more contests over the coming months.
But bodybuilding is more than pure sport, it is rapidly emerging as a distinct subculture here in Muscat. Though it is individual in execution, this sport is all about teamwork, and this idea of forming teams is what helps keep the culture alive as builders support one another and rival each other at the same time, forming a family-like bond, which keeps them motivated. Apart from Eat Smart team, there’s Bait Al Quwa, Champion Gym, and Oman Muscle, to name a few.
“Sport is what disciplines your lifestyle and puts you in control,” said Haitham, noting that this is not a casual undertaking, but a lifestyle. One of the great advantages of which is that participants are forced to master time management skills as they must schedule time to eat, sleep, and workout every day.
Some people say that bodybuilding isn’t for everyone, that even the most motivated might not be able to bulk up due to genetics, but I wasn’t at all convinced about that.
I met Hussein Ali Al Zadjali, a bodybuilder with 10 years experience, who was suffering from obesity before he got into the sport. Hussein is now ripped and totally buffed-up, so I asked him how he managed to lose all that fat, he assertively answered me with one sentence. “A well-structured meal plan.” What you put in your system is what determines the success of your bodybuilding journey. Your personal trainer develops a special diet that caters to your needs, and helps you achieve desired goal.
I also asked Rashid his perspective on bodybuilding “body types”. He explained that genetics differ from one person to another and while they do play a significant role in developing your muscles, and by extension, how fast you build up and recover, genetics will not make or break you as a builder.
“A clever trainer knows what to do with genetic dilemma and how to get past them,” said Rashid. Both men agree that picking a professional trainer is step one for anyone serious about becoming a body builder.
To develop yourself in this field you need a few things, first of all you must be good-friends with the concept of commitment; when there’s no commitment there’ll be no results. Secondly, you must join a reputable gym, such as Horizon or Hammer Gym, and work with professional bodybuilding trainers.
Another thing of great importance is to rest. Haitham Sadiq stresses the importance of taking rest routinely to give your muscles enough time to recover and be ready for the next day’s training session. Finally, you have to feed your body right. Nowadays there are restaurants and apps that can help, for example, restaurants such as EatSmart and Sidewalk Cafe provide meals that are already weighed out and measured to meet your exact nutritional requirements and for those who want to feed themselves, there are apps like MyFitnessPal, a Facebook-like community that works like a diary of your daily meals and workouts.
Once you have mastered the discipline of getting into the gym daily, sticking to your coach’s eating plan, and resting between workouts, and you are ready to take things to the next level, your trainer can introduce you to the world of supplements. From fat burners and proteins that assist you in losing stubborn fat and building muscle, to energy drinks, zero-carb protein shakes, green tea extracts, there are all kinds of aids to help fill in your nutritional gaps. Though there is no substitute for real, healthy food.
“A proper and balanced diet is much more important than all supplements in the shop,” said Hussein Ali.
This phenomenal sport has become quite popular in Oman, and it’s growing and evolving now more than ever. There is a local Bodybuilding Committee and the Ministry of Sports Affairs holds three championships every year, while local restaurant, EatSmart sponsors bodybuilding contests and generates hype for them.
The bodybuilding lifestyle is a fascinating one, built on the premis that through sheer willpower and determination, you can transform yourself. Sounds simple enough, right? But watching the military-like regiment of diet, sleep, and gym that constitutes the lives of the dedicated builders here in Muscat, I came to appreciate the sport in a new way. I began to see the internal strength of these giants; a strength I found more awe-inspiring than their perfectly muscled facades.
WHAT TO AVOID?
Don’t take random supplements, only take supplements recommended to you by a professional trainer.
Don’t take advice from several trainers, stick to one professional master and follow his or her instructions diligently.
Don’t share your diet or meal plan with other trainees; it’s specifically designed for your body and blood type.
Don’t start lifting without making a plan. It is important to know your goals and to learn how to properly use the equipment in the gym along with good nutrition to meet them. That’s why it is always a good idea to consult a trainer for a total plan when you are first starting your programme.
There are no shortcuts to building your perfect body, so anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is.
Don’t go for get-big-quick-tricks, drugs, or unapproved supplements, instead, stick to your coach’s programme, and watch your body transform in the right way.
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