Archive for the Champions Category

MEET – Sachin Yadav

Posted in Champions on November 23, 2012 by takeupsculpting

There are some competitors who shock the audience by their freakish look. And then there are some who look like a piece of art, chiseled and polished by the best of sculptors. When handsome facial looks accompanies such a physique, the final product is a sight to behold. My good friend Sachin Yadav from Uttar Pradesh is among such champions who have a great physique and handsome looks. As I interacted more with him, I felt like I should do a story on him for my blog. Read along and see what this young man has to say about his journey as a competitor.

Triumphant at Mr. Uttar Pradesh championship.

Lakshmi Kumar: You have a very nice physique Sachin. I’m really curious to hear your story. Let’s begin with the usual questions. Tell me about your parents, family back ground and all those things.

Sachin Yadav: Thanks for the interview ‘bhai,’ I was born on December 6, 1987, in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. My father’s name is Kiranpal Yadav. He is a property dealer. My mother’s name is Urmila Yadav and she is a housewife. I have four sisters – two elder sisters and two younger. My elder sisters are married.

LK: Oh, that’s a pretty big family. If I guessed it right, you have done your graduation.

SY: Yes, you are right. I have completed B.Sc. (statistics).

LK: How did you choose body building?

SY: I like this sport very much because this is where a competitor is identified by his sheer appearance. With due respect to all sports, every sportsman has to be introduced to the common man as to what sport he plays, unless he is a celebrated world-class player. But, you don’t need to introduce a bodybuilder to anybody – the champion’s physique says it all and does that talking. I looked at it like this, and started to train hard to build a great, muscular physique.

LK: Who was your inspiration, hero?

SY: Who else? Arnold Schwarzenegger of course.

LK: When did you first start working out and in which gym, and in which town?

SY: I remember the exact date I started to train – it was April 20, 2002, that I first stepped into a gym. It was the Prime Health Club in Meerut.

An early shot showing great potential

LK: Who was your first guru?

SY: Honestly speaking, the bodybuilding magazines I read were my guides.

LK: Oh, we share a common point there ‘bhai.’ I too started learning only by reading Muscle and Fitness, Muscular Development, Musclemag International, Ironman and Flex. Ok, do you have a guru now?

SY: Yes, right now I’m under the tutelage of Aniruddha ‘bhaiya.’

LK: Did your family support you when you started on the bodybuilding journey?

SY: My answer is an emphatic ‘no.’ They didn’t approve of it at all and tried to prevent me from going to the gym by not helping me pay membership fees. But, I didn’t give up. I somehow managed to workout and my body responded pretty fast. Within the first three months of training, my physique looked completely different. For all that, I couldn’t afford to buy any food supplement; it was just hard training and some good food.

LK: When did you get good guidance?

SY: After one month’s training, I switched to another gym – Raj Health Club. That was because they had enough equipment. However, I didn’t get any great coach. I just kept reading magazines and trying out new things myself. It was purely trial and error, but it worked big time. I trained for four years, but could not take any of the supplements I read about. My family wouldn’t support me to spend on food supplements and I had to remain contented with just solid food. In 2006, I started training clients in Physique Gym and that earning helped me to buy supplements. My body responded amazingly well and my offseason weight went from 64 kg to 88 kg! I entered my first contest, Mr. Uttar Pradesh in 2007 and placed second. That was unforgettable because I trained and dieted without any guidance. But, whatever I had learnt helped me. Then I met Sageer Ahmad, who taught me a lot of basic things about training and dieting. After that, I sought help from Sunil ‘bhaiya’ from Delhi to prepare for the nationals. And now, Aniruddha ‘bhaiya’ is guiding me. He is like my friend, brother and ‘guru.’

LK: Which weight class do you usually enter?

SY: I generally compete in 75 kg category. My offseason weight has been between 85 and 90 kg and I’m 171 cm tall.

Nice physique and smart looks make him attractive to the common man.

LK: What all titles have you won until now?

SY: My first competition was, as I said earlier, Mr. Uttar Pradesh in 2007, in which I placed second in 75 kg class. I then won the State title and overall championship in August 2008 and qualified for the nationals. But, I did the mistake of coming down to 70 kg class. I lost muscle in that process and could place only in Top 10. It was very disappointing that I couldn’t place in Top 5. I continued my journey and won overall in State championship in 2011. I entered Mr. India Federation Cup, but, placed fourth, unfortunately. I was determined to get to my absolute best and kept training hard. I once again won State championship in 2012 and am ready to go next level.

LK: Does your family support or encourage you now?

SY: Yeah, a little bit, I should say.

LK: Where do you workout now? Do you have your own gym?

SY: No ‘bhai,’ I don’t have my own gym. I train at Inches & Pounds Gym.

LK: How did you feel after winning silver in your very first contest?

SY: Oh, I was on cloud nine! I have seen so many people training and dieting hard but not getting any placing. But, here I am with just 4-5 years of training all by myself and placing second in a prestigious State championship. Honestly, I was a little afraid about the results, but once it was announced, I was ecstatic.

LK: Who are your friends among Indian body builders?

SY: I don’t have very close friends among National champions. North Indian championship winner Pramod ‘bhai’ is my close friend. He is a great champion, a true friend and a very nice human being.

Sachin Yadav always wanted to be the most muscular man

LK: Who is favourite international bodybuilder?

SY: Phil Heath, Ronnie Coleman and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

LK: And, among Indian bodybuilders?

SY: Suhas Khamkar is my favourite.

LK: How do you workout these days?

SY: I train each muscle twice a week. I do five different exercises for each muscle and 3 sets on all of them. I don’t do any cardio in offseason. When I start my contest prep, my diet helps me to burn off all the fat. If I really need it, I might do cardio for the last 15 days before a show to lose stubborn fat.

LK: Oh, does that mean there will be a lot of change in the way you workout in the offseason and contest season?

SY: There will be some changes. I use supersets while getting ready for a show. And, at times, I might increase the sets or reps for a particular muscle, if needed. I might do 6 exercises instead of the usual 5 for a muscle.

LK: Tell me about your offseason and contest diets.

SY: I eat six times a day. I get my protein from egg whites, chicken and whey protein powders. As regards carbohydrates, I get them from rice and chappati. I also take supplements such as glutamine and pre-workout shakes.
During contest prep, I eat once in 2 ½ to 3 hours, which comes to 7 or 8 meals per day. My diet consists of chicken breast, egg whites, brown bread and salad.
I continue to use whey protein, glutamine, BCAA, pre-workout shakes.

LK: I don’t think you are married. Do you have a serious girlfriend?

SY: (laughs) No ‘bhai,’ I don’t have a girl friend like what you mean.

LK: Then tell me what type of girl do you want as a comrade, and then, as partner?

SY: Of course, I would prefer a girl who would respect my family and take good care of them. As an individual, I would want her to be good looking, which is stating the obvious, and a bit mischievous and naughty.

LK: (Laughs) That’s nice and very honest too! Will you teach her how to workout, or rather, would you want her to train?

SY: ‘Bhai,’ when I was very young, I used to tell my mother that I would marry a woman bodybuilder (laughs). But, jokes apart, I will definitely teach her how to eat right and train so that she stays healthy and fit.

LK: That’s nice. OK, now tell me what are your favorite sports.

SY: Bodybuilding, of course.

LK: Hey, that’s very similar to what your favourite champion Suhas Khamkar said. And, do you watch movies?

SY: Yeah, I love watching films, especially movies made in the South. I love action films and Hrithik Roshan is my favourite actor. And among south stars, it’s Gopichand.

LK: Hrithik is my favourite too! Fine, tell me about your other interests as well.

SY: I love reading books, watching movies, travelling and riding my motorbike.

LK: What do you fell the present-day competitors need the most?

SY: ‘Bhai,’ it would be inappropriate on my part to answer this question. Only a veteran can answer this.

LK: You are very unassuming ‘bhai,’ that makes me feel so good. Before we sign-off, do you have any message for our readers?

Fine work of art, isn’t it?

SY: To all my friends who are reading this story, I will say – love bodybuilding. It’s not just a sport but lifestyle. Sign up at a gym and train with weights to improve your lives. Eat the right kind of food to stay healthy. Always think about your health and well-being and not just your taste buds. Though this advice on eating applies to both men and women, I target men here and add a tagline – “be a real man.”

Even as I finished this interview, I received information that Sachin has once again won overall at a State championship. Let’s wish him the very best of luck in his future contests which include the prestigious Mr. India and Mr. Asia.

- C. Lakshmi Kumar



MEET – Junior Mr. India Y. Annamalai

Posted in Champions on September 8, 2012 by takeupsculpting

Even as I sat watching the recently-held Mr. Chennai at ICF, the thought struck me again – I was yet to do an interview of ‘Junior Mr. India’ Y. Annamalai. That I had spoken to the man himself several times but couldn’t make it to his gym owing to some genuine reason no longer appeared acceptable. With a firm decision of meeting him at any cost, I spoke to Annamalai once again for an appointment and he was, as usual, too glad to oblige. Within a couple of weeks, I found myself talking to him at his newly-opened Sri Fitness Studio in Royapuram.

‘Posing King’ Annamalai always looked like a winner - onstage or backstage.

‘Posing King’ Annamalai always looked like a winner – onstage or backstage.

Lakshmi Kumar: Finally I am here sir, thanks for giving me time on a working day. Let me begin with the formal questions…
Annamalai: Yes, I’ll tell you all that myself. I was born on December 14, in Chennai. My father’s name was Yoganathan and my mother’s, Pushpa. My father was employed in a private company and my mother was a housewife.
L: Do you have brothers or sisters?
A: (With a broad smile) My parents had eight children, and I was the youngest. I have four elder brothers and three elder sisters.
L: Pretty big family…OK, when did you start training and who was your inspiration?

Style was abundant in his posing

Style was abundant in his posing

A: My brothers were my inspiration. They used to exercise and look good. I was thin and wanted to look like them. I used to lift the grinding stone at home and try to get big and strong like them (laughs). However, there was a very funny belief in our household. My body remained cool generally and never used to get warm very fast. In Tamil, they call it ‘seethala udambu.’ Our relatives scared my mother saying that if I grab iron, the cold feeling would affect me, get me down with fever and ultimately lead to death! It’s an irony that the same cold iron earned me recognition, a government job and helped me run a successful gym.
L: Nice. But, when did you start working out? Were you a fast gainer?
A: I joined Raghuveer Gym, the oldest running gym in Chennai, on December 14, 1986. I was not a fast gainer and had to struggle a lot to gain muscle.
L: What was your weight then? And who was your first guru?
A: I started competing in 60 and 65 kg classes. I was in 65 kg class in many of my earlier contests. I eventually competed in the 70 kg and 75 kg categories. My first guru was R.L. Thiruvengadam, who is now vice-president of Indian Body Builders’ Federation. He encouraged me a lot. There was a senior body builder by the name Venugopal, who also helped me. I am indebted to them and Raghuveer Gym.

What an honour to win the first contest and get the medal from a legend like Premchand Degra

What an honour to win the first contest and get the medal from a legend like Premchand Degra

L: When was your first contest?
A: It was a few weeks after I started training in 1986. Raghuveer Gym used to conduct a contest among its members and I entered that. However, I didn’t get any placing. (With moist eyes, Annamalai continues)…… when I came home that night, my father asked me what exactly I did at the contest and what prize I got. I told him that I didn’t get any prize. Being a very shy person, I also hesitated to drop down my clothes and pose in front of him. Seeing me hesitate, my father asked, ‘You weren’t shy posing before strangers but in front of me, your father.’ That was it… I slipped into my trunks and showed him my posing routine. My father got off his chair and said ‘How could those people deny you a prize? You perform so well! Come with me, I will ask the authorities at the gym. They can’t do injustice to you.’ I tried very hard and convinced him saying that I would win that contest the next year. (With tears rolling down his cheeks, Annamalai continues in an emotion-choked voice) As promised, I won my class in that contest next year and the overall too and my father was so happy. Legends such as Premchand Degra and Bhattacharjee were guests that evening and it was Premchandji who put the medal around my neck! My father died some years ago, but he saw me enter government service and make a name for myself in bodybuilding. He should have been a content man (sobs).
L: Who would you thank for all your victories?
A: I joined MFC, a fitness centre owned by the then Secretary of Tamil Nadu Amateur Body Building Association Thanigaivelu. He was my guru and I would have been nothing if he weren’t there to train me. His son T. Manivannan also helped me a lot. My victories started after that.

‘Ripped and ready’ was the name of the game for Annamalai

‘Ripped and ready’ was the name of the game for Annamalai

L: What all titles have you won?
A: (With a calm smile) I have won first place in Mr. Chennai 23 times; first place in Mr. Tamil Nadu 13 times; first place in Mr. South India 7 times; first place in Junior Mr. India in 1992 at Kanpur; and fourth place in Senior Mr. India in 1996.
L: Oh my God! That makes it an awesome 44 first place finishes!!!OK, which was your first State contest and what did you win?
A: It was the 1987 Mr. Tamil Nadu in Katpadi and I won bronze. It so happened that some people said I might get a job if I won the first prize in that event. So, I went and spoke to Thanigaivelu and asked him if he could help me win…the words he uttered that day came as an eye-opener and helped me all through my career. He said, ‘If I help you now, you will use me like a crutch. You will never learn to stand on your legs. No, I will not help because it’s unethical. Go and fight it out and get whatever you are really worth.’ These words made me work harder and harder the following years and helped me win more titles. I first stepped on the ‘Mr. India’ stage in 60 kg class in 1989, but didn’t get anything.
L: How would you train those days? You were always ripped. Were you doing a lot of cardio?
A: (Laughs) I never did any cardio. I had tremendous energy and worked out on a triple-split system (three times a day). At times, I would have just one cup of tea after a workout and by body would be ready for another session. My training partners couldn’t keep pace with me and I burned them out. My workouts themselves burned a lot of calories and got me ripped. I trained each muscle group thrice a week and grew.

This man never did cardio to get ripped!!!!

This man never did cardio to get ripped!!!!

L: Amazing! I remember ‘Mr. Olympia’ Dexter Jackson saying that until 2006 or 2007, he never did any cardio. But, he was already bronze winner at the Olympia. He had such fantastic metabolism and I guess yours would have been very good too. That you trained so much and still grew shows that you had excellent muscular and systemic recovery, which a lot of trainees might not have. Please tell me about your diet. How would you eat those days and did you use any food supplement?
A: My best competitive season was from 2004 to 2007. I would eat and train like this while getting ready for a show:
Meal 1 – 4 slices wheat bread, 4 egg whites, tea without sugar
Workout 1
Meal 2 – 1 serving whey protein, 4 egg whites, 1 apple, a few chappatis
Meal 3 – 250 gm chicken, 1 cup rice, vegetables
Meal 4 – 5 egg whites, 2 slices wheat bread, 1 cup sweetlime juice
Workout 2
Meal 5 – 1 serving whey protein, Marie Gold biscuits
Workout 3
Meal 6 – 250 gm chicken, a few chappatis, 3 or 4 egg whites
I would also take some papaya or pineapple after sometime to help digestion.
Meal 7 – channa and some raisins
I first used supplements in 1999. I tried Twinlab’s Gainers Fuel. After that, I was using Taras products for some time. Ever since 2002, I have been using Millennium Nutraceuticals’ products.
I used to eat like this for only 30 days and could get ripped. In retrospect, had I dieted like what all our competitors do now, I might have got freakier in conditioning.

L: When did you open your Winners Gym? And when was this new gym inaugurated?
A: When MFC gym closed, Thanigaivelu wanted some of his students to open their own gyms. He and the then IBBF president, M. Kesavan, encouraged me to open a gym – I opened Winners Gym at Royapuram on March 2, 1998. Sri Fitness Studio was inaugurated in June this year (2012). There were no air-conditioned, high-end studios in this area and so we summoned all our courage, worked very hard and opened it.
L: I can see that your wife A. Kavitha is the proprietor of this studio. Tell me when did you both meet? I am sure it was a love marriage.
A: No, it was an arranged marriage. Kavitha is my sister’s daughter. The moment she was born, elders at our household decided that she would be married to me. We got married on November 12, 1999.
L: Oh, so you two must have spent very nice moments during all your school days.
A: (Laughs again) I am sorry to say ‘no’ again. I used to casually talk to her like ‘hai, how are you’ and the kind of stuff. We never went out anywhere…you are not going to believe this – we spoke to each other for several minutes only on the nuptial night.
L: That’s great and nice to see your wife supporting you so much and being so understanding. How many children do you have?
A: Two – my son Vignesh is 11 years old and is in Standard VI, my daughter Kaviya Sri is 5 and is in UKG.
L: When did you join ICF and what are you employed as?
A: I got the job in January 1993. Now, I work as fitter-general. A promotion is awaited.
L: I totally forgot to ask you this – how did you learn to pose so well. That your students like ‘Mr. India’ Mohammed Abdullah and Federation Cup (Mr. India) Gopinath are fantastic at posing speaks volumes of your training and influence. Who was your guru in posing?
A: I always loved posing. A former champion by the name of Jayaprakash from Coimbatore taught me how to pose. I worked on it further as I liked to be called a good performer. I enjoyed posing and wanted the crowd to enjoy it too.
L: I am sure you would have received great applause for your posing routines. I remember reading about a particular expo at Kamarajar Arangam in 1999…
A: Of course, I can never forget that. Your guru ‘Olympia’ Jai (K.P. Jayakumar) was the person who organised that demo. It had the full ICF team, including Arasu, Kumarananthan, Gerald, Vasanth, Jegannathan and myself. It was a two-day expo and I posed on both days. My routine which was choreographed for A.R. Rehman’s ‘Vandemaataram’ received tremendous applause. I take this opportunity to thank Jai once again for giving me that chance. Another event where I received great applause was the Mr. South India held at Palakkad in 1993 or 1994. It was an open stage and there should have been at least 7,000 or 8,000 people among the audience. I have never seen such a mammoth crowd. I am still amazed that people sat in endless rows from where competitors on the stage would look like ants!!!
L: Will you encourage your son to become a bodybuilder?
A: I will…and at the same time, I will ensure that he doesn’t get carried away by persons who give him wrong advice. I will see to it that he doesn’t abuse his body. I actually competed and won titles for a while like a madman just because I wanted him to see those victories.
L: I don’t understand.
A: I didn’t like my son to see his father flex all those muscles in photographs alone. I didn’t want him to feel that his father was a has-been. I seriously trained after my son turned 3 or 4 years old and won more titles, becoming bigger and better – it was all for my son. He came and saw me win several contests.

 I am proud to say that a great champion like Annamalai shows lot of interest in my welfare and success.

I am proud to say that a great champion like Annamalai shows lot of interest in my welfare and success.

L: Wow, this is like Bollywood Baadshah Shah Rukh Khan getting into shape for his son and flexing his muscles in Om Shanti Om. But, your story is older.
A: Oh, is that so? I admired Shah Rukh’s physique in those photographs but never knew this story. That is a nice one.
L: Who are your favourite body builders?
A: Among yesteryear champions, it is Frank Zane. I love him for his beautiful shape, muscularity and posing skill. Among current pro bodybuilders, it’s Dexter Jackson. As regards Indian champions, I like Prasad Kumar, T.V. Paulie and Nageshwaran.
L: Would you tell me names of your best students?
A: Mohammed Abdullah, Gopinath, ‘Royapuram’ Raja (Physically challenged Mr. India winner), Sarath Priyan (Junior national medalist), Karthik, Chinna Durai, Durairaj, Ramesh, Vinoth, Nehru, Ilango, Guru, Balasubramanyam, Radhakrishnan – all State and South India champions. One of my champions by name Jeetu has also won the nationals.
L: Now, moving a little away from bodybuilding, do you follow other sports?
A: I watch cricket, like everybody else does. I was a kabaddi player in school.
L: Do you watch movies? Who are your favourite actors?
A: (With a broad smile) I do. I actually did a main role in a film titled ‘Adhisaya Ulagam.’ Unfortunately, that movie is yet to be released. I couldn’t pursue a career in acting because I won’t be in a position to give dates whenever producers ask for because of my job. So….I kind of let it go. My favourite actors are Kamal Haasan and Surya.

L: Thanks for giving me so many details. Before wrapping it up, what message would you like to tell our readers?
A: Don’t abuse your bodies. If you take wise decisions, you will be happy and successful. Thanks for the interview, Lakshmi.
– C. Lakshmi Kumar

MEET – Mr. India runner-up K. Balamurugan

Posted in Champions on December 28, 2011 by takeupsculpting

Balamurugan at Senior Mr. India held in Meerut

In the sport of body building, we have competitors who scale great heights, and, accomplished competitors who keep helping up-and-coming champions. Then there are a select few who keep winning titles themselves yet squeeze out time to whip-up others into top shape simultaneously. And, if such persons do it without clamouring for publicity, they deserve all the respect in the world.
Nobody else but K. Balamurugan of ICF fits into that category. He is among the younger crop of Tamil Nadu bodybuilders, but a person who has helped so many competitors without telling others that he was actually the “guy behind their success.”
Personally, I have observed Bala as a competitor and heard a lot of champions say how “Bala anna” helped them to win titles.  I take pride in writing about him and telling all my readers that Bala is one of my best friends.

Cut, ripped and full - an awesome combination!

Team Masters: I am personally very eager to learn more about you Bala…the more I hear about how you help competitors get ready, the more curious I get. It’s just unbelievable that a person like you is so down to earth!
Bala: (Blushes) Oh sir please, I just am doing whatever little I can and that’s it.
Team Masters: Your words speak about your nature Bala, you are a great guy… Well, so here we go again…please tell me how your incredible journey as a competitor began.
Bala: I was born on April 18, 1985 in Vadalur. My father is called V. Kandan and my mother, Jayakodi. I have two elder sisters and a younger brother.  I started training in 2001.
Team Masters: Who is your first guru? I know you are very strong in legs and squat with an awesome heavy weight. Were you strong in all muscles right from the beginning? And were you an easy gainer?
Bala: My first guru was a gentleman called Jothiramalingam. I played a lot of cricket and used to be wicket-keeper. I started weight training to gain strength. I was strong in the legs right from the beginning.
Team Masters: Which was your first contest and what did you place?
Bala: My first contest was a local show called Mr. Guru Classic in 2001. I entered it just two months after I started training. I was in 55 kg category. Looking back, I now feel I knew nothing about diet or contest preparation at that point of time. Needless to say, I got eliminated in Round 1 (laughs).
Team Masters: Oh, so when was your next contest?
Bala: It was in 2002. I entered the same contest in 60 kg class and won.
Team Masters: When did you come to Chennai?
Bala: Shortly after my first victory. Sivakumar of Western Railways, who was living on the next street from ours, was the one who brought me to Chennai. I met Mr. India M. Arasu, who gave me a job at Gold Gym, Alandur. I stayed there and learnt a lot from Arasu.
Team Masters: I am curious to learn how you learnt so much that you are able to help so many competitors.
Bala: (Blushes) A lot of competitors used to come to Arasu ‘anna’ for guidance. Whenever he guided some member at the gym for fat loss or a champion for contest preparation, he told me to remain by his side. I learnt a lot observing him. Arasu ‘anna’ also used to give me a lot of books and magazines on body building and fitness. I have completed Standard X in school and could read all those well. So, help came in all these ways.

Rocking the Federation Cup Nationals to finish second

Team Masters: And you met your best buddy V. Jayaprakash (3-time Mr. India) at Gold Gym, right?
Bala: Yes sir. We hit it off right from day one. My next contest was Mr. Kanchi 2004. It was a very unscheduled show for me. I was told to compete in it all of a sudden and had no time to diet…It was just one day after a festival. I entered it and placed fourth.
Team Masters: Wow, that means you should have been reasonably lean. Please continue…
Bala: My next contest was Mr. Tamil Nadu 2004, which was held at Ambedkar Arangam, ICF, Ayanavaram. I was second and Velmurugan of Tiruvallur was first.
Team Masters: Oh yeah. Murtuza and I were there that day to watch that show. We can never forget that contest.
Bala: The fight was close…I improved dramatically by the next week and beat Velu at Junior State meet held in Hosur. This was my first State title. But, I beat him after a lot of comparisons. The judges kept comparing us a lot of times. The thing went on for about 15 to 20 minutes!
Team Masters: Awesome man… that you two had the endurance to keep posing that many times is unbelievable. Ok, when was your next contest?
Bala: I won Junior Mr. South India in 2005. However, I did not get selection for Junior Mr. India 2005 and was forced to travel in an unreserved compartment for the event. But, I finished fourth and made our State and my friends proud. I also did an inter-district meet in 65 kg class and won.
Team Masters: And then you also did the Senior Mr. India 2005 held at Nehru indoor stadium in Chennai, right? I clearly remember you looking really good and finishing fourth in 60 kg class.
Bala: Oh, that was a great experience getting ready for that show sir. Arasu ‘anna,’ Jayaprakash and I used to go out together for walking. We did it together for three days to reduce body weight and enter our categories. After the Nationals came a Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu, which I won. Unfortunately, I fell ill after that and took a break from training. I came back in top form for 2006 Junior Mr. India in Bangalore and won silver.
Team Masters: Then you got a job in ICF?
Bala: No sir, I applied for a job in Western Railways, went for a selection, but couldn’t get a placement! I have no idea whatsoever as to what happened to the results of the selection!!! I didn’t let anything affect my spirit. I did another Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Madurantakam and won again. I also entered 2006 Federation Cup Mr. India held at Kolkata. Daljit Singh of Punjab was first and I was second. However, the judges called for a lot of comparisons and it told me that I pushed him hard. I participated in a State meet held at Coimbatore in 2007 and won again. I then applied for job in ICF and got it. I joined service as a technician on February 15, 2007. Three days after that, I entered the inter-railways competition and finished second. S. Kumarananthan was first. I then participated in another Mr. Tamil Nadu contest and finished second once again behind Kumarananthan.  But the biggest disappointment came when I didn’t get selection for Senior Nationals from Railways!

Bala and Senthilkumaran

Team Masters: Ouch, that hurts Bala, especially after having proved your worth so many times! OK, please continue…
Bala: I did 2008 Inter-Railways and took second once again behind Kumarananthan. I entered Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Ambur in 70 kg category and won. I participated in Senior Mr. India held at Meerut and placed fourth. I could have finished…well…even third or second, that’s what a lot of persons said. But that’s fine. I moved ahead. I competed in Mr. Tamil Nadu in 2009 at Tiruvallur and won my class and the overall.
Team Masters: Ah, I loved that show Bala. What a line-up!!! And while doing contest coverage, I wrote in my blog that you were worth the overall and it was a great decision. And after that, you went to Senior Mr. India held at Kolkata and won silver, I can’t forget that.
Bala: Yes sir. After having done a lot of shows, I knew my body badly needed a break from dieting and brutal training. So I took a long layoff. I got married on September 14, 2009. My wife is called Sudha. She was a teacher and now housewife.
Team Masters:  Was it arranged marriage Bala?
Bala: Very much sir. She is from Vridhdhachalam in Villupuram district.
Team Masters: Alright Bala, you told me earlier that you are interested in cricket. Who is your favourite player?
Bala: Sachin Tendulkar, of course. I still love cricket and watch Test matches too, which a lot of people don’t prefer watching today.
Team Masters: You have helped an awesome lot of competitors. I remember so many champs telling me that Bala ‘anna’ told them to do this, do that, eat this or not eat that. That’s really great work Bala. I am even more impressed by the fact that you don’t seem interested in taking credit for the victory of so many champions whom you helped. Ok, tell me a few names whom you cannot forget and persons whom you owe a lot.
Bala: Arasu ‘anna,’ and Jothiramalingam top that list. Then comes my good friend Jayaprakash, who taught me things like carb loading. I also owe a lot to ‘Gold’ Prakash, Arasu’s brother, and my friend Senthilkumaran of ICF. I have a special place in my heart for Arasu’s mother, who took great care of me while I was preparing for my first Senior Nationals in 2005.  The affection she showed touched my heart. I was moved.
Team Masters: Nice to hear this Bala. Let’s talk a little about training. Tell me something about your offseason and pre-contest training.
Bala: In the offseason, I workout four days a week, hitting each muscle once. I do cardio 2 or 3 times a week. Pre-contest, I train each muscle twice a week and do cardio every day for an hour.
Team Masters: Who are your favourite champions in our sport?
Bala: I am a fan of Jay Cutler. As regards Indian champions, I like Premchand Degra and Li John. I love Mohammed Abdullah for his posing and Jayaprakash for his hard-working nature.
Team Masters: Tell me about your ambitions Bala.
Bala:  I still feel that I have to achieve a lot. My wife is very supportive. Let’s see.
Team Masters: Great to hear that. I am waiting to see you back onstage and move to the next level. I wish you the very best of luck to win the Senior Nationals soon and then the Asia. Good luck.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar

MEET: Subramanyam ‘Ayya’

Posted in Champions on December 6, 2011 by takeupsculpting

His simplicity has earned him the respect he commands today. Yoga exponents, bodybuilders and athletes spring up from their seats on seeing him.
His knowledge and undying thirst for learning have made him one of the living legends of Madurai.  S. Subramanyam, more familiar as Ayya,  shares his wisdom and experience.

Lakshmi Kumar with Ayya at a function

“Ours is a family of priests.  We are in charge of an ancient temple.  My father’s passion for soccer made me take up sports seriously.  I was district champion in soccer and cricket.  After breaking every single bone in my body, I bumped into the science of weight training.  All my injuries healed and my body started to take shape amazingly.  I studied yoga while doing economics at Madura College.  On completing my studies, I took up the job of an executive officer at a temple.”
On whether the spiritual side nurtured by yoga and worldly things co-exist, Ayya says : “Of course, yes, as long as you don’t dwell deep into things such as kundalini yoga. Books written by people like Jose Silva are based on sciences of the East.
“They help you to develop the art of visualization.  Your creativity will grow and the body will obey whatever the mind orders.  Use it to conquer the world.”
Ayya has always remained a source of motivation to many.  During his days as an EO, he made his juniors train with weights.  Even today, this 84-year-old man pumps iron three non-consecutive days every week.
Share your knowledge
“Society is changing.  Try to be useful to as many people as possible.  Share your knowledge with everyone.  Don’t let frustration get the better of you.  Believe in the voice of your sub-conscious mind that says you are born only to get better,” he says.
Ayya is now planning to write a book, ‘Success Made Easy,’ to help bodybuilders, sportspersons and the general public.

World belongs to youth
“The world belongs to the youth.  I want young journalists to practice certain techniques I am going to explain, experience the power of the mind and present it in a powerful way.  Together we can teach the experts of the West a thing or two.  Help me to help yourself.”
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar

MEET – Mr. Asia Suhas Khamkar

Posted in Champions on September 27, 2011 by takeupsculpting

A proud moment - triumphant at Mr. Asia

It’s not every day you come across a person with the kind of confidence you read about only in biographies. You either see people who are overconfident and arrogant even after the smallest of achievements or people who talk big and never work hard. However, there are indeed some terrific athletes, who speak with unshakeable confidence and work all-out to make their words come true.
I was stunned to realise that Mr. Asia Suhas Khamkar is a man who says with confidence that he would achieve something big and then move mountains to ensure that he was not boasting. My regular interactions with him through emails and telephone were not enough to make me appreciate what kind of a person was my dear friend.  And when he spoke to me in person, I was speechless.
Read on to see if you can get the feel of it.
Team Masters: Advance wishes bhai, I ‘m sure you are going to participate in the world amateur championship (Mr. Universe) scheduled for November 2011.
Khamkar: Thanks bhai, I’ll bring home the title and earn a pro card soon.
TM: Wow, I can see you are extremely confident.
K: Of course, yes. I know what I can accomplish. I’ve been waiting for this event. Man, I’m going to show everybody what kind of potential champions like me, Indians, have got. I’ll make my country proud.

Never tired of flexing

TM: We are still in September, but, you seem to have already lost all fat and …pretty ready right away…what do you weigh now?
K: (Showing his etched abs) I’m 84 kg now and will have to enter the 75-kg class.
TM: What??!!!How are you going to come down???? And what have you got to lose from this incredible body man?
K: A little water and a little bit of lean muscle, what else?
TM: But, but…
K: Yeah, yeah, I know sacrificing lean muscle is not good…So I have to be extremely careful. I have done that successfully before and know how to do it again. Nevertheless, it’s going to be very hard on me. But, coming from a background full of struggles, I know I’m strong enough, physically and mentally, to pull it through.
TM: Great to hear that bhai, do tell me about your background.
K: (Eating apples, Khamkar begins recollecting his incredible journey) I am from Kolhapur. I was born on August 9, 1981. My father, Madhukar Khamkar, worked in Shahun Sugar Mill. My elder brother Sunil Khamkar was seven years elder to me. My mother was a housewife. Life was a struggle even when both of us brothers were going to school. I was too good in sports right from the earliest. I used to create a ‘hungama’ during sports day and that entire season at school. I excelled in athletics, long jump, high jump and all kind of sports at school. I have to thank my father and mother for that gene. My father was a wrestler and so were my paternal and maternal grandfathers. I was pretty strong from the beginning. However, when I was in Standard X, I realised that I was looking thin. All the other boys started calling me ‘skinny.’ My brother was training with weights at that time and had a good physique. He eventually won ‘Mr. Kolhapur’ title. I hit the weights inspired by him to build a decent body. But, my body responded better than his. Within months, I started looking much better than some guys who were training for years! I entered a gym contest at that time and placed third. That was it bhai, I knew there is a lot more in store for me in this game and I never stopped after that.
TM: When was this?
K: I don’t remember… not sure…
TM: Who was your guru?
K: I wish I had one. Had that happened, I would have gone some more places ahead by now. I learnt by observing others. Then, I started saving money and buying magazines. All those helped me.
TM: Yeah, please continue, let me not interrupt…
K: No, no, nothing of that sort. I then kept training hard and won a district contest. I finished school and joined B.Com. At that time I won a contest held among all college students, ‘Kolhapur College Shri.’ However, life had started to get tough a little before that. In 2000, my father lost his job as the mill he was working was closed and it was a lot of struggle. We opened a small shop to repair cycle tyre and tube. My brother and I helped our father after school and it went on for some time.  After a lot of agony, my father received a compensation of Rs. one lakh. He gave Rs. 30,000 each to my brother and I and told to keep it as savings for our life.  My brother bought a taxi and started earning. Eventually, he started a travels business. I, on the other hand, spent all the money on food and supplements and went broke soon. At that time, I was offered a job in a factory and told to join on a particular day. As I had planned to do one final contest before bidding adieu and taking up a job, I asked those people if I could join the day after the show. They agreed and I entered the contest and won. That came as a turning point.

A crowd pleaser onstage at Supremo Shri contest

TM: How come?
K: A gentleman by name Vikram Singh Dhadge, who owns a sugar factory in Kolhapur, came to watch the show. He spotted my potential and told me to come and meet him at his office the next day. I once again took permission from the guys who offered me a job and went and met Mr. Ghadge. He heard my story and offered me a job – all I had to do is train hard and represent his business concern and he would offer me a salary of Rs. 2,000 a month. That was god-send for me. I grabbed the offer, pushed myself harder and grew and grew. Sometime later, I felt that I had to come to Mumbai to make it big. In 2001, I arrived here carrying just one bag and all alone. My family was back at my hometown and in tears when I said I wanted to leave. But, I insisted and got what I wanted. However, I had no place to stay. For some days I slept in parks and on platforms.  Once again, Mr. Dhadge came to my rescue. He started paying me Rs. 8,000 a month and arranged for my stay at a camp where wrestlers stayed. I had to cook all my meals. I would go to gym in Matunga from Kurla walking, I hope you realise the distance.
TM: Oh, life has not been smooth at all bhai.
K: I just didn’t bother. I pushed harder and eventually entered and won All India University Championship (national-level). In 2003, I won another national-level contest, ‘Shiv Shankar Shri.’ The biggest upset at that show was I beat multi-Mr. India E.G. Byju. Everyone from Mr. India Prasad Kumar to Mohanan was curious to see this young guy who beat a veteran like Byju. That was it. I knew that I could accomplish a lot with more hard work and perseverance.
TM: Amazing bhai. You also won the Federation Cup Mr. India, right.
K: Yeah, it was held in Chhattisgargh. I then got a job in Central Railways as ticket collector. I was given an accommodation in Railway Quarters and I moved in there.  I have won Mr. Maharashtra three times, Mr. India five times and Satish Sugars Classic nationals.
TM: I remember seeing you at the 2005 senior Mr. India held at Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai. You placed fifth.
K: (Smiles) Things could have been…you know what…but, fine… I kept improving.
TM: I wasn’t personally very happy with your placing in last year’s world championship either. What’s your take on that?
K:  Well…I know it should have been better … a lot of people told me that too. That’s why I’m waiting for this year’s show. I’ll bring home the title and make the world realise Indians’ potential.
TM: Jai ho! I’m thrilled to hear this.  Ok, is your family now with you?
K: I got married in 2007 and have a daughter. My wife is a software engineer and a very understanding person. Her support is so vital to me and she never fails me. My parents have recently moved in and are staying with us.

Suhas can be an incredible film star

TM: Ok, moving to the lighter side, tell me who is your favourite actor?
K: (Laughs) I don’t watch movies that much…I might have watched one or two films in bits and pieces in two or three years. I watched a movie after my wedding and that was for my wife. I may watch a movie while travelling on a bus. But, that is as long as I stay awake and that’s it.
TM: You look like a film star. Why not try your luck in movies? 
K: A lot of people have told me that. But, I have great ambitions in my sport. I am not that much interested in pursuing a career in acting.
TM:  I’ve also heard that you are likely to enter politics once retired. That you are close to some leaders fuels speculation. What do you have to say for that?
K: Arrey bhai, I have a lot more, an awesome lot to achieve in my game. It’s going to be a long, long time before I retired. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But, there are several leaders who like me and they are all not from the same political party, trust me. So, you cannot say I belong to one particular party.  Nevertheless, I’ll stay involved in bodybuilding even after my retirement and that I know for sure. I’ll be a bodybuilder as long as I ‘m alive.
TM: Ok, what are your other interests, like in other sports?
K: Bodybuilding, bodybuilding and bodybuilding alone man!
TM: Amazing, I’m seeing a great champion speak like me, a crazy guy and enthusiast.
K: Of course bhai, this is my identity. Whatever I am, credit goes to bodybuilding. People respect me for that and love me when I win something for the country. I won’t let them down. I’ll get a pro card, train with the pros and beat many of them. Indians will soon rock the pro shows.
TM: You can do it bhai, good luck. And tell me a little about your training and diet.
K: I train each muscle twice a week. I do cardio while getting closer to the show. The duration and frequency depends on which weight category I have to enter. As regards my diet, I eat 40 egg whites a day, 1,500 gm chicken and 500 gm fish. I also eat unlimited number of fruits, as you could see it right now. For carbs, I eat some chappatis and oats. I use a lot of food supplements.
TM: Your favourite bodybuilder?
K: Who else but Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has achieved so much in so many different fields. His philanthropic activities are mind blowing.  Every sportsman should be like him.

All in the family

TM: Before signing off, what would you like to tell as a message to our readers?
K: I know a lot of people, not just bodybuilders and officials, read your blog. I want such people to appreciate that there are a lot of sportsmen like me who are working relentlessly to win laurels for our country. I want the elite section to realise that apart from mainstream sportspersons, there are players like us who work as hard as mainstream athletes, if not more, and end up killing ourselves expecting no big money.  Please see to it that such fighters get enough support, not just financial but also psychological, so that they can train harder and change Indian sports scenario.  And bhai, thanks for your wishes. I’ll see you soon as world champion.
Tailpiece: My dear friends, I have been maintaining this blog for a few years now, but never asked my readers to do anything. However, after talking to Suhas, I felt like I should send out a personal message to all those who read this story – there have been a lot of competitors in bodybuilding who have left the sport just because they didn’t have financial support to go abroad and train with expert trainers and pros or train to get a pro card. Please don’t let all that happen to a wonderful athlete like Khamkar and a lot more up and coming champions of our country. This need not necessarily mean you have to shower money on them. If you happen to be in media, write stories about them, make them familiar among corporate houses or sport-lovers, who may be helpful in some way. Give such champions a royal welcome when they arrive in the country after an international event and write stories on their achievements and life.
Every one of us can, in some way, help these champions, who will, in turn, make us feel proud to call ourselves Indians.
                                                      _ C. Lakshmi Kumar

Varinder Ghuman at 2011 IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix XI

Posted in Champions on March 30, 2011 by takeupsculpting

It has been a long wait for us, Indians, to see one of our musclemen flex along with professional bodybuilders of the West. What was often dismissed by naysayers as a mere dream finally came true on March 12, 2011.

India’s largest bodybuilder and ‘Punjab ka puttar,’ Varinder Singh Ghuman, competed with pro bodybuilders at the 2011 IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix XI, held at Melbourne. Though Ghuman placed eighth in the contest, his physique shows that he is just a lion cub entering a pride of adults, who have their territory clearly marked. We are sure that this cub will grow up and someday take over the pride and earn a place of its own in the jungle of beasts.
We are eagerly waiting to see our champions finish in the top five of professional competitions, which may not be a dream either.

Here is the score card and some pictures of Ghuman. (Source:
1. Dennis Wolf
2. Johnnie Jackson
3. Michael Kefalianos
4. Ben Pakulski
5. Grigori Atoyan
6. Adorthus Cherry
7. Luke Timms
8. Varinder Singh
9. Darryn Onekawa
10. Daniel Hill

 _ C. Lakshmi Kumar

MEET – ‘Mr. India’ (Federation Cup champion) M. Kodandaraman

Posted in Champions on March 5, 2011 by takeupsculpting

Some champions are applauded for their freakish mass. Some are admired for their beautiful frame and “nice lines.” And then there are some, who display a perfect blend of factors that makes them a great champion – “mass with class.”
The most popular champion on the international arena, who won such an admiration, was the legendary Lee Labrada of the United States. 

M. Kodandaraman is a package of mass and class

As regards India, there have been several great champions, who have won titles with their blend of mass and class. The up-and-coming young star from Tamil Nadu, M. Kodandaraman [known as Vinod among friends and relatives], is now on that right track to entering the league of such classic champions.
I have had the privilege of interacting with this smiling young man for a few years now and been left speechless by the manner in which he has sculpted that amazing physique of his. 
Wow, what a change – not only in his physique but also the way he talks. He is now fun to interact with and not that shy kid of 2007.
I also remember how cooperative he was during a photo shoot done exclusively for our ace photographer P. Sowmya. Though he was just starting his contest prep and not at his best, Kodandaraman was so accommodative and patient even when the session stretched to more than three hours. 
I take pride in interacting with this young man, who, I’m sure, is soon going to win several medals at the national and Asian levels.
Team Masters: Welcome Kodandaraman, I am too happy that you agreed to come to my place for this interaction.  I could have as well come to your house. However, I am glad that you came here.
Kodandaraman: Oh sir, please don’t make me feel embarrassed. Coming to your place is no big deal. All of us [champions] know your interest in the sport.
Team Masters: I know about your father and your background. For the sake of this interaction, I request you to tell me about that and how your journey as a champion began.
Kodandaraman:  I was born on September 25. My father Manivendan is a former body building and national power lifting champion. He works in Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai.  I have an elder brother, Manimaran; an elder sister who is married; and a younger sister, who is studying in Class IX.
Team Masters: When did you start training and who was your first hero?
Kodandaraman: I started training in 2006. My father was my hero.  I joined Youngsters Gym in Villivakkam, Chennai, run by T.K. Gurunathan.

The winning form at Senior Mr. TamilNadu 2009, at Thiruvallur

Team Masters: How did your body respond to training? Were you a good gainer?
Kodandaraman: The response was pretty good. After 6 or 7 months of initial training, I won my first competition as a student, conducted by the University of Madras.
Team Masters: Oops, sorry, I forgot to ask about your academic qualification.
Kodandaraman: [With a smile] I have completed B. Sc. microbiology in Vel’s college.
Team Masters: Hey, that’s great. I am happy that educated youth are entering our sport of bodybuilding. OK, did anyone from bodybuilding association see you win your first show?
Kodandaraman: TABBA general secretary M. Arasu and Gurunathan sir were there. Their encouraging words made me train seriously. My next competition was an inter-district championship held in 2007. I entered the 60 kg class and won.
Team Masters: Which was your first big competition?
Kodandaraman: The Federation Cup held in Kolkata, where I did not place. However, it was a great experience seeing K. Balamurugan of ICF and other seniors compete in their top shape. After this meet, I took a long gap as I had to improve a lot before competing again. Gurunathan sir sent me to Gold Gym, Alandur, to train under the guidance of Arasu.

M.Kodandaraman's awesome back double biceps pose

Team Masters: Yes, I know that. I believe Balamurugan is a very helpful person and has helped so many up-and-coming champions. Did he help you as well?
Kodandaraman: Of course, Bala ‘anna’ has been so helpful. I worked very hard, harder than even before, and won my next competition.
Team Masters: When was it?
Kodandaraman: It was Junior Mr. Tamil Nadu conducted in January 2008 at Gobi. I won the 60 kg class. My next show was the All-India University Championship held the same year at Punjab. However, I couldn’t win a medal. A little after that I entered the Junior Mr. India 2008 held at Orissa. I won silver.
Team Masters: Impressive.
Kodandaraman: I qualified for Senior Mr. India being held at Meerut and competed in that prestigious show as well. I was thrilled to finish fourth.
Team Masters: Who were the top three finishers and what is your opinion about the outcome of the contest?
Kodandaraman: I don’t exactly remember sir, there were very seniors like S. Kumarananthan (first) and others. The judging was very fair.
Team Masters: That is the mark of a true champion. I am happy that you are fair and respectful to seniors. Yes, please continue…
Kodandaraman: Then I competed in 2008 Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Coimbatore that year…
Team Masters: Ah, I remember that very well. Sorry to tell you brother, though you won your class and the overall in a very close contest against K. Gopinath, I still felt you were not at your best that day.

M.Kodandaraman with N.Senguttuvan at Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu 2008, Coimbatore

Kodandaraman: I could not have been better sir, I was sick. I had diarrhoea and was losing muscle and condition. It was hell competing that day and I somehow pulled it through. However, it earned me a qualification for the Senior Mr. India, which was being conducted at Aurangabad in June.
Team Masters: Was your health better by that time?
Kodandaraman: Slightly better. But, I competed in 55 kg class that time and won silver.
Team Masters: Yes, but you lost gold only to a class champion like Suryanarayanan of ICF. A very fair decision, I would say. I also remember that nationals for another reason. It was Murtuza Rasheed’s (of Team Masters) first Senior Mr. India contest as well, where he placed 8th against seniors and freaks in the 65 kg class. He told me how tired you were on the train and how much your father helped you in carb loading and stuff like that.
Kodandaraman: Oh sir, I would be nowhere without my father’s help. I owe him everything.
Team Masters: You also won Federation Cup in 2009, right?
Kodandaraman: Yes, I was at my best shape in that contest held at Thrissur. I won my class while K. Venkatesh and Gopi won in their categories.
Team Masters: Ah, and you then entered a Mr. Chennai in March 2009 conducted by Arul of A.R. Fitness, at ICF, right? Those shows are for ‘smaller guys’ like us brother, you literally ate up your competitors and won the overall.

M.Kodandaraman won the overall at Mr.Chennai 2009, ICF

Kodandaraman: (Laughs) Sir, it was just the ‘josh’ of competing and getting better. I then won the Senior Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Tiruvallur later that month.
Team Masters: God, how can I forget that show! It had champions like you, Haribabu, Ponmudy, Senguttuvan, Murthy, Udayakumar, Harikrishnan, Bala, Arumugam, Jayaprakash, Lakshmipathy, Gopi, Ranjith Kumar, Sathish Kumar and Jayakumar fighting for the title. It was a jam-packed muscle extravaganza!
Kodandaraman: Due to unavoidable circumstances, I could not participate in Senior Mr. India held that year in Kolkata. My next contest was JKR Classic Mr. Tamil Nadu held in October, which I did in for fun. I was not fully ready and placed third in the 75 kg class. I came to top form and entered the Amateur Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Tiruchi in January 2010. I won my class and Manikandan of Chennai won the overall title.
Team Masters: You really were at your all-time best for the inter-district championship conducted by my good friend Mohan Kumar of Yuva Fitness at Nehru indoor stadium in February 2010. You were really pushing Manikandan very hard for the overall title that night. And, you then got a job in ICF, right?
Kodandaraman: After a lot of hard work, I would like to add. Life is full of struggles. And, then I participated in my first Inter-Railway Bodybuilding Championship that year.
Team Masters: I was told that you could not enter your usual 60 kg class and had to settle for a bronze medal in 65 kg, isn’t it?
Kodandaraman: Yes, unfortunately…
Team Masters: Oh, don’t let it bother you Kodandaraman, you have a lot more big shows to win.
Kodandaraman: I won’t let it affect my spirit, sir. I just focus on getting better. I will participate in this year’s (2011) Inter-Railway Bodybuilding Championship, the Senior State and Senior Nationals scheduled to be held at Bangalore.
Team Masters: Murali Vijayakumar of Team Masters recently told me that you are looking freaky. It seems you are all set to vanquish every single competitor, huh?
Kodandaraman: (Blushes) Sir, nothing of that sort. I just think about improving and making my father, Arasu ‘anna’ and Gurunathan sir proud.
Team Masters: That you will, now tell me about your training split.
Kodandaraman: I generally train every muscle group twice a week. I keep making changes now and then. 
Team Masters: Are you a big believer in consuming more solid food than supplements?
Kodandaraman: Sort of…but, I drink whey protein isolate immediately after workout. I also use creatine monohydrate and glutamine from reputable companies. Pre-contest season will also see the entry of amino acid supplements. My protein sources for off-season are chicken breast, lean beef and egg whites. While getting ready for a show, I consume only chicken breast and not beef.
Team Masters: How long do you take to get ready for a contest?
Kodandaraman: I never get fat in the off-season. So, I can step on stage in 45 days. I need 12 weeks to get to my absolute best.
Team Masters: Tell me who is your favourite international body builder?
Kodandaraman: Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler.
Team Masters: And among Indian champions?
Kodandaraman: Vitendar Singh Pawar and Bobby Singh. As regards champions from south, I admire Bala ‘anna’ and Jayaprakash.
Team Masters: Which is the ultimate goal of your competitive career?
Kodandaraman: I will feel content the day I win gold at Mr. Asia.

You will go places, C.LakshmiKumar wishes M. Kodandaraman

Team Masters: You have that potential Kodandaraman, it’s just some more years you need to get that dense and mature muscle. I remember Mohan Kumar speaking on stage that you are like Sachin Tendulkar, a champion with class. He could not have said it better. I wish you all success in your carrier and my regards to your father.

                           _ C. Lakshmi Kumar

MEET – Mr. South India S. Murthy

Posted in Champions on December 20, 2010 by takeupsculpting

Freak – this was the word that came to my mind when I first saw S. Murthy of Tiruvallur onstage.
I still remember the competition as if it were held only yesterday. It was 2008 January and my friends and I had gone to Chengalpet to watch an inter-districts bodybuilding championship.
The moment I saw this young champion flex his muscles in the bantamweight class, I was blown away. I had never seen him before and was at a loss of words to describe his muscle hardness, separation and conditioning.  He looked too full to compete in 65-kg class, yet awesome, and easily won the overall title that day! I was later told that Murthy was a South India champion and making a comeback after a break.
Ever since that competition, I have stayed in touch with this little freak and carefully followed his progress. I interacted with him a while ago with the intention of introducing him in the print media, which somehow didn’t work out. So, I thought I could at least introduce him to readers of my blog, which is a forum for common persons like any one of us.

A classic shot from Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Tiruvallur in March 2009

Team Masters: Thanks for coming all the way to my place for giving an interview Murthy, it should have been a really long ride on your two-wheeler. 

Murthy: Oh, that’s nothing sir. I know the interest you and your people have in the sport of bodybuilding. We [competitors]can see your involvement in the game. So, this is the least we could do for you.

 Team Masters: I feel honoured Murthy….and now, let me fire right away. I was told that you have been competing since 2003. Despite your accomplishments, which include titles at the State and South Indian levels, why is it that people say you are not a serious competitor? 
Murthy: Every year, at least two State-level competitions and two city-level shows are being conducted. You will certainly be aware of the amount of money we have to spend on quality food and supplements. It would cost me at least Rs. 10,000 to get ready for a show, if I have to train and diet for two months. As I financially cannot afford to spend that much money twice a year, I choose my shows and get ready only one season. Besides, doing too many shows may also not be good for my health. It’s just too much stress. That is another reason. However, if someone cites my choosy attitude as a reason and says that I am not a ‘serious’ competitor, I really don’t know what to say.

Team Masters: I can’t find fault with your approach Murthy. Just ensure that you compete at least one season every year. Or else, you may fade out of the memory of fans and judges. Anyway, I can see that you are competing on a regular basis and that too, in good form. I congratulate you for that and move on to the next question.  Tell me about your parents and family.

Murthy: I was born on February 12 in Chennai. I have two elder brothers, an elder sister, a younger brother and sister.

Team Masters: Hmm…pretty big a family, I should say. What is your father?
Murthy: My father died some years ago. My mother is a housewife.

Team Masters: Oh, sorry Murthy, I didn’t know that. Whom does your mother stay with?
Murthy: She stays with me sir. I am right now settled in Tiruvallur. I have a gym called Linda Gym. I have had the experience of training some VIPs and celebrities. That helped me earn a little money. With all my experience, I am successfully running my gym and making the ends meet. I have conducted competitions at districts-level and earned the appreciation of association members.  But, it is not a very comfortable life sir. That’s why I am unable to enter more competitions.

Team Masters: Didn’t you try for a job in railways or services?

Murthy: I did try for a job in railways. Unfortunately, there was an error in my application form and that ended up in my request for a job getting rejected. Ever since that, I have been trying for some government job. I hope luck smiles at me pretty soon.

Team Masters: You will get a good job Murthy. I wish you all luck in advance. Tell me about how you got interested in bodybuilding and about your first hero.

Murthy hits a most-muscular at junior Mr.India

Murthy: I was a kabaddi player in my younger days. I started training when I was 15. My first inspiration was Mr. South Asia S. Kumarananthan.  I saw a picture of his in a magazine and felt like ‘wow! Can an Indian truly look like this!’

Team Masters: What a coincidence. Kumarananthan happens to be my first hero as well. I remember seeing him on a television programme called ‘Deha balam,’ which was telecast on the erstwhile Golden Eagle Communications (now Star Vijay TV). I was just out of school and freaked out looking at the young champ, who was then Mr. South India.  Please continue…

Murthy: I started training at SVS Gym at Aminjikarai. My first instructor was a former Mr. South India Venkatesh. I also received posing tips from another champion V.K. Velu. It was then I met South Indian champion M.P. Manoj Kumar of ICF. It was his guidance that helped me change my body dramatically. I was also helped by Kumarananthan.

Ripped to shreds - at Sathish Sugars Classic held at Gokak in 2009

Team Masters: This is news to me Murthy. I always thought that Multi-Mr. India J. Muniappan was your guru!

Murthy: Muniappan was the one who rescued me from the trenches and made a good human being out of me. I’ll tell you what happened sir. I first competed in Mr. Chennai contest in 2003, but did not place. I trained hard and placed fifth in 60 kg class in another city meet, which was held some months later.  In 2004, I won bronze medals in Mr. Chennai and VMR Classic Mr. Tamil Nadu.  It was then I won South India. At this very crucial stage, my father passed away. It had a very bad impact on me. I started behaving like a crazy guy. I stopped training and started indulging in kind of what I would call ‘goondaism.’ Muniappan entered my life at this stage. He was the one who made me feel the necessity to rediscover myself and concentrate on bodybuilding. I started training under his supervision and my body improved more than ever before. I was back in good form and started my second innings. I qualified for 2007 Mr. India Federation Cup held in Salem. I won the inter-districts meet in January 2008, a city meet and Mr. Tamil Nadu contest held at Coimbatore in2008. I qualified for Senior Mr. India held at Meerut . However, the competition was too tough and I could place only in top 10. In 2009, I entered Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Tiruvallur and placed third. I entered Junior Mr. India held at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, and placed fifth.  I started training harder than ever before and won JKR Classic Mr. Tamil Nadu in 60 kg class in October 2009.

Team Masters: You also competed in Satish Sugars Classic Nationals held at Gokak in 2009 and won bronze, right?  A lot of people told me that you could have won silver.

Murthy: Yes…but that’s fine sir.  I won silver in Mr. South India held at Secunderabad in December 2009.




Going for the big one - flexing backstage at 2010 senior Mr.India at Goa

Team Masters:


And then you competed in Senior Mr. India held at Goa in 2010, right?

Murthy: Yes, I will do my best to win more titles in the future. I am trying to win the big ones so that I may get a government job.

Team Masters: You can do it, Murthy. I am sure of it. Now tell me, who are the Indian champions you like besides Kumarananthan?

Murthy: Mr. India M. Arasu is a very talented person and great champion. Mr. India runner-up Ranjith Kumar is an embodiment of patience and hard work. Mr. India champions M. Kamaraj and Illayaraja have a brilliant smile to go along with their incredible physiques. Mr. India Mohammed Abdullah is easily the most knowledgeable bodybuilder and trainer I have ever come across. Three-time Mr. India Jayaprakash has a great body and incredible legs. Last but not least, seven-time Mr. India G. Ekambaram is an all-time favourite. I was thrilled to receive my trophy from him at JKR Classic State meet. His simplicity is something which amazed me.
Team Masters: You have something good to say about so many great champions. That’s nice Murthy, it should tell all competitors that they have to respect all senior champions.

"I was thrilled to receive my trophy from seven-time Mr.India G.Ekambaram at JKR Classic State meet."

Team Masters: How do you train in the off-season? What do you do to gain weight?

Murthy: I begin my workout with 15 to 20 minutes of brisk walking every day. Then I choose a movement for either upper abs or lower abs or obliques and perform 4 sets. I then train one muscle in the morning and another muscle in the evening. I perform 4 sets on each exercise using Pyramid technique and train each muscle twice a week. I eat several small meals throughout the day. I consume lean meat, fish and vegetables. If I don’t gain enough weight, I start eating small meals even once in every one-and-half hours. I drink whey protein after my workouts. When I start my contest diet, I bump up my cardio to 35 minutes. I also start cutting down carbohydrates.

Team Masters: Alright, tell me about your other interests.

Murthy: I also like sports such as tennis and football. I like movies and my favourite actors are Kamal Haasan and Surya.

Team Masters:  Ok, tell me who are the persons you would like to thank?

Murthy: Muniappan would of course be on the top of that list. I would not be here if he hadn’t entered my life. I would also thank Manoj and his family, who treated me like I were their own family member. I am also indebted to Kumarananthan. My well-wishers and supporters include Maduravoyal’s Devadoss sir and Ramadas sir.  My friends Padmanabhan and Sathyamurthy also need special mention. And, another person I cannot forget is you, sir.

Team Masters: Me?!! You are kidding.

Murthy: Certainly not sir. I respect you for the interest you show in our sport and competitors. I have never seen a person’s entire family involved so much in bodybuilding. That’s very rare. You people are very special to us.

"I respect you for the interest you show in our sport " Murthy tells Lakshmi Kumar

Team Masters: Thanks a lot Murthy. I am glad that competitors like you consider my team members and me genuine friends. I wish you all the best for your future competitions. Good luck.

_ C. Lakshmi Kumar

Meet – Mr. South India R. Munusamy

Posted in Champions on September 30, 2010 by takeupsculpting

Meteoric rise’ may sound an over-rated compliment while assessing the competitive career of any up-and-coming champion. However, even as a person who avoids heaping praise on anybody, I couldn’t find words other than these to describe what R. Munusamy has achieved in the last three years.

Munusamy now presents an awesome package on stage. Look at those legs!

This former resident of Nilgiris is now a city boy, winning titles such as Mr. Chennai, Mr. Tamil Nadu and Mr. South India. Going by the transformation of his physique, I am sure the day he wins the nationals is not far away.

Team Masters: Congratulations Muni, you have truly started to rock the competitive scene. I am very glad that you have now become a serious contender for any title – at the State and national levels. Tell me about your background and family.

Munusamy: I was born on July 17. My father, M. Rajan, used to carry vegetables on a cart and sell them for a living. Now, he is a cook. My mother, Pazhaniammal, is a housewife. I have an elder sister who is likely to get married shortly.

Team Masters: I knew pretty well that you come from a family that has not been doing financially well. Now tell me how your passion for weight training began and when was it?
Munusamy: I was in my early teens when I saw a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and decided to build my body. I started training in 2003. The gym was located in Anna Stadium in my hometown. However, the persons who were present at the gym did not allow me to train using weights. I used to do push ups, chinning, free squats and abdominal work. However, I managed to train with weights whenever I could and my body started to respond well. But, that was in 2004.

Winning Mr. Tamil Nadu in Tiruchi in January 2010

Team Masters: Which was the first competition you entered?
Munusamy: The contest was Mr. Nilgiris in 2004. I entered the 55 kg class and took third.
Team Masters: Oh, you were so light then? I just can’t believe how much dense muscle you have packed on from then!
Munusamy: It has taken a lot of brutal training to get here sir. Continuing with my contests, I entered Mr. Kongunadu in 2005, which is an inter-district meet involving three districts. The line-up was tough and I was out of the top 10.
Team Masters: Ouch, didn’t that hurt Muni?
Munusamy: It did sir, but, I now know why that happened. At that point of time I knew little about proper training, dieting or contest preparation. So, I started learning things from others and slowly started to improve. I entered Mr. Nilgiris in 55 kg class once again in 2006 and placed fifth. However, I was out of top five in the same contest held in 2007. That was owing to poor dieting. I corrected my mistakes and placed first in another Mr. Nilgiris meet held the same year.

Training at Gold Gym helped Munusamy intercat with seniors like 3-time Mr. India Jayaprakash

Team Masters: So, you could finally win because you learned how to diet and train right, huh?
Munusamy: That was just the beginning, sir. I had only started to learn the right things.  In 2008, I entered Junior Mr. Tamil Nadu in 55 kg class and won silver. Kodandaraman, who now works in ICF, won gold in 60 kg class.
Team Masters: I know that Tamil Nadu Amateur Body Building Association secretary M. Arasu is your mentor. When did you meet him?
Munusamy: I met him at the junior State meet sir. He wished me more success and told me to train hard. It was much later that I started to train under him. It was too tough to get things done for myself when I started to compete. I had no support from any person to sponsor my food or supplements. I had nobody to pay for my tickets. It was a lot of struggle sir.
Team Masters: Yes, I have an idea as how tough it would have been on a young boy. Please continue…
Munusamy: I entered Mr. East Tamil Nadu in 2008. The competition was very tough. Though I was in the top 10, I couldn’t get into top five. This was held at Tiruppur in February. I won Mr. Nilgiris competition held in March that year. A well-wisher of mine named Kannan put a word to Arasu about my struggles. I was lucky that Arasu offered me a job at his Gold Gym in Chennai.
Team Masters: When did you come to Chennai?
Munusamy: It was May 2008. I stayed at Gold Gym and started to train under Arasu. I learnt a lot from him.  He is my guru and has done so much for me.  I also interacted with national champions Balamurugan and Jayaprakash. It was an awesome experience.

Puducherry's former Chief Minister N. Rangasamy presenting Muni bronze medal at Junior Mr. India.

Team Masters: I remember seeing you in Mr. Tamil Nadu held in November 2008 at Nehru Indoor Stadium. You competed in 65 kg class and were fourth, right?

Munusamy: Yes sir. I made significant improvements and stood first in Mr. Kongunadu contest held in January 2009. I qualified for Federation Cup nationals being held at Thrissur on January 17 and 18. I finished fifth in 55 kg class.
Team Masters: You came down to 55 kg class?
Munusamy: Yes sir, I fell for wrong advice, depleted myself, took steam bath and starved to reduce my weight. Though I was sharp, I lost muscle. Arasu looked at my body and said that I had done all the wrong things and lost a good chance of winning a medal at the nationals in my very first attempt. From then on I stopped listening to everybody. I look up to Arasu alone for guidance.
Team Masters: Good that you realised things fast.
Munusamy: My next victory came on January 25. I won Junior Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Nilgiris. I entered the 60 kg class.  On May 31, I competed in Mr. Tamil Nadu contest held at Coimbatore. I pushed Chennai’s favourite Muralikrishnan to second place and won.

Munusamy kills his competitors in back poses

Team Masters: I remember seeing you onstage that night. You were full, thick and had round muscles.

Munusamy: Thank you sir, it was after this I moved my name officially to Chennai district and started representing the city at State meets.
Team Masters: Muni, I hate to tell you that you were not that great at JKR Classic Mr. Tamil Nadu held in October 2009. What went wrong?
Munusamy: Nothing sir, I took a break and was coming back into contest shape. I competed in 70 kg class which was not right for me then.  I needed more time to dial into great shape.
Team Masters: But, now you have so much muscle and look fantastic in 70 kg class too!

Munusamy: It’s just time and hard work sir. I trained harder and placed second (65 kg class) at Satish Sugars Classic nationals held in November 2009 at Gokak. I won Mr. South India held in December at Secunderabad. I placed third at Junior Mr. India held at Puducherry. I won Amateur Mr. Tamil Nadu held at Tiruchi in January 2010. I also won an inter-district contest.
Team Masters: I can’t forget the Junior Nationals meet for a personal reason. If I remember correct, you were not feeling well that day, right?
Munusamy: I was coming out of chikungunya and my joints were killing me. I still trained for the show after I recovered. Unfortunately, my body did not respond well. That is why I was not in top form that day. However, former Chief Minister of Puducherry, N. Rangasamy,  who gave away prizes that night, said that I had great potential and urged me to work harder. I was blown away by the person’s simplicity and humility.
Team Masters: Yes, I have heard a lot about that gentleman and remember how simple he was when he attended my wedding reception. And mind you, he was Chief Minister at that time.
Munusamy: Oh, so you are a native of Puducherry sir? When did you come to Chennai?
Team Masters: That was in 1999 brother. Well, let’s put my story aside now and talk about yours.
Munusamy: Oh sure, sir. I trained and dieted harder than ever before and won Mr. Chennai in 70 kg class in June 2010. I came down to 65 kg class, got to my all-time best shape [period] and won the inter-district Rahul Gandhi Classic held in June. I won the Mr. Tamil Nadu held in July 2010 at Ambedkar Arangam, ICF.
Team Masters: I saw you in all those three competitions. Man, your shape at the inter-district show was mind-boggling. I just couldn’t believe my eyes seeing the blend of muscle fullness and conditioning you displayed on stage that day.
Munusamy: Thanks a lot sir, I will work harder and present a more amazing package soon.
Team Masters: Tell me how your family has reacted to all your accomplishments. Have they been supportive?
Munusamy: They are happy that I am happy winning titles. They have realised that I can’t be of much help in earning money for the family. I am, however, trying to earn whatever I can and intend helping my father to get my sister married.

Flexing muscle in Singapore

Team Masters: You have also done a lot of guest posing in the last one year and become quite popular among fans I hear.
Munusamy: [Blushes] I have done a total of 11 guest posing demo till now. I recently got a chance to go to Singapore for a tour and guest pose. I thank Arasu for introducing me to that gentleman from abroad who made it possible. They gave me such a royal treatment that I was thrilled. I am learning every day and thank God for all that He has given me.

Team Masters: Who are your favourite bodybuilders in Tamil Nadu? And who are the favourites from other States?
Munusamy: I admire the physiques of J. Muniappan and Arasu. Among current champions, Rajendran of Services team is a person whom I like a lot. He is such a nice gentleman and you should interact with him to realise what I’m saying. On the national level, I admire multi-Mr. India Vitender Singh Pawar.
Team Masters: How do you train in the off-season Muni?
Munusamy: I have started training each muscle group once a week. I perform five different exercises for each muscle, three sets each. I use the Pyramid Principle. I start with a light weight for 12 reps. I then increase the weight and perform 10 reps. For the last and final set, I train with the heaviest possible weight and get 8 reps. So I perform 15 total sets for each body part. I train calves three times a week.  I usually get ready for a show in 45 days. I never get fat in the off-season.
Team Masters: What is your maximum on bench press, squat and leg press?
Munusamy: On benches, I perform 8 reps with around 130 kg. On squats, I squeeze out 8 reps with 145 kg, which includes the weight of the barbell. As regards leg press, I train with around 400 kg for 8 reps.
Team Masters: Fine Muni, put bodybuilding things away for a moment and tell me about your taste. What are your favourite activities?
Munusamy: I like good music. My favourite music composer is A.R. Rehman. My favourite actors are Kamal Haasan and Surya.

Munusamy is sure to win the nationals pretty soon

Team Masters: Ok brother, before we call it a day, tell me who are the persons whom you would like to thank for all your victories?
Munusamy: My parents and the almighty are among the most important. Then, the most important person whom I would like to thank is Arasu. He takes care of me like I were his brother. His wife and their entire family have taken so much care of me that I am indebted to them for my life.
Team Masters: Remaining grateful to them shows your good nature Muni. Tell me about your ambition.
Munusamy: What else, sir? I want to win Senior Mr. India and move ahead if I get support.
Team Masters: I am sure you will succeed in all your endeavours Muni. I wish you the very best of luck for a great competitive career.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar

Mr. Tamil Nadu Climmons

Posted in Champions on September 9, 2010 by takeupsculpting

Every time we, members of Team Masters, go out of town to attend a competition, we happen to meet a champion who rocked the bodybuilding scene not too long ago. During our recent visit to Salem, we ran into not one but two champions of Salem district, who have a special place in the history of the sport in Tamil Nadu. One of them is Climmons, four-time State champion.

Climmons was as muscular as any of the modern day champions

Climmons was as muscular as any of the modern day champions

Based at Mettur, the gentleman is in his fifties and still hitting the gym early every morning. His current looks say that he is fit enough to go onstage and take a shot at the masters’ title.
A picture of the champion taken in his competitive heyday shows that the man was as muscular as any of the modern day champions.
Team Masters takes pride in writing about a man whose love for the iron game has not diminished in the last two decades.
Tailpiece: We were informed by a friend of Climmons that during his youth, the man used to eat a kind of snake!!!!
We have heard weird stories about former Mr. Universe Steve Michalik of the United States eating monkey’s brains. But, a champion eating snakes was something new to us.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar


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