From winning his first bodybuilding competition, only after a year of training in the gym, to becoming the first Indian to bag the Mr. World title on his first attempt, Pavan Shetty, is living proof that Indian men are as blessed as anyone on the planet with genetics to compete at the highest level.
Backup your dreams
Building a physique like Salman Khan was an inspiration for both my brother and me as kids. Unfortunately, I didn't even have the money to enroll in a gym during my school days, let alone afford a diet to support my training. My father was in a severe financial crisis when I was ready to enroll in a gym during my high school years, and it was only after my brother got a job that I finally managed to afford a gym membership. I was in college by that point. A few years later, a short stint as a bank official made me realise that I just wasn't cut out for regular jobs. My brother played a crucial part in raising a loan big enough to set up a gym for me-which is currently the source of my income. I wouldn't be able to pursue bodybuilding professionally if it wasn't for his support, as you almost always need some backup in this profession.
Choose form over matter
Since going to a gym was improbable during my school days, I improvised by using household items as equipment. I used the mortar & pestle that come with those idli/dosa batter grinders as dumbbells. Additionally, I filled buckets with water and used them as weights. The idea was to be able to lift the bucket without spilling any water, after filling it to the brim. This helped me build the correct form as well. Pull-ups and pushups helped me build my shoulders, biceps, forearms, triceps and chest. The only drawback of working out of home is the lack of sufficient weight to load your legs with. Other than that, basic workouts done at home are enough to build a basic foundation-even if you aim to go pro later.
Food for thought
Measuring what we eat is still not common in India. I was lucky enough to be in touch with the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro Fakhri Mubarak, who was one of the top fitness trainers in the world, before I went pro. He taught me how to measure and split my meals. Whether it was brown rice, meat or vegetables, everything in my diet got quantified and justified with respect to my training goals. I've hardly known or heard about a bodybuilder in India who is aware of scientific dieting. A typical Indian bodybuilder's diet would consist of an arbitrary amount of protein (one and a half kilo of chicken, almost 20-30 eggs!), and a complete lack of carbohydrates. On the contrary, international level competitors usually eat a fair amount of complex carbs along with their protein requirements. This is what sets them apart from their Indian counterparts; while they look big and ripped, we more often than not look ripped but remain skinny.
Know more, grow more
Being an ectomorph was a boon while I was competing domestically, but a bane when I was trying to size up to compete at the international level. At 80 kilos I should have been no match for a guy who is equally ripped at 115-120 kilos. But luckily on stage, I was more defined. My belly muscles were more rounded and the separation between my muscle groups could be seen more clearly from the panel of judges sitting 15 feet away. Apart from favourable genetics, in actuality superior training techniques and a know-how is the key to winning championships.
Platforms like Bodypower and Sheru Classic in India have changed the face of bodybuilding in the country. There is going to be very little reason for Indian bodybuilders to not being able to transform their dreams into reality in the future.