Building muscles fast may be fatal

Aich muscles body building indiaIndia's first Mr Universe, Manohar "The Pocket Hercules" Aich, at the age of 100 years old. Photo: AP

Shortcut method for building muscles can be fatal

The macho ideal of a country often revolves around film stars and models, their six-pack abs, bulging biceps and chiselled triceps, without realizing the fact that it takes years of practice and discipline to achieve a ‘Herculean physique’. Our guest writer, Rajesh. T. V – shares his thoughts on the importance of discipline and ethics in sports. Although this article is about India, doping is a world-wide problem, including in Norway, despite a tough anti-doping regime.

Johnson Benjamin Franklin (name changed) from India has been a bodybuilder for the past seven years. He started his profession at the tender age of 16 and has participated in countless bodybuilding competitions across the world, but this time it was different. He was preparing for the competition in his hometown in front of a large crowd including his relatives and friends. The thought of flubbing up and failing at a competition in front of his near and dear was nerve-wracking. The problem was compounded by the fact that Johnson himself was in the worst body shape of his career, and there was barely four weeks until the competition. He has to do something radical to regain his Herculean physique in time.

Shortcut method

Franklin has a ‘shortcut method’, consults his foreign nutrition distributor and places an order for a powerful protein powder which secretly contains Anabolic steroids. He knows that it enhances performance within a short period of time but with serious consequences for the future, including damage to the kidneys, heart, and liver and ultimately leading to his premature death. The most disturbing fact is that he has been taking this risky shortcut throughout his entire bodybuilding career.

Anabolic steroids are banned by the major Sports Federations. The ban is enforced by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), if caught, it can lead to a lifelong exclusion from organised sports in some cases. Our “hero” Franklin was consuming banned substances, which are called doping in sports circles. Unfortunately, doping tests are costly and are performed only at major competitions most places in the world, allowing the majority of the sportspersons to indulge in steroids under the radar of the sports administration.

Franklin could have stopped abusing steroids after the competition, but it would be like deflating a balloon, leading to a drastic reduction in the size of his muscles. It would affect his credibility and status he enjoyed in the society, forcing him to become a prolonged user of ‘performance enhancing’ drugs. So in the meantime, he became addicted.

Damaged Liver

Fast forward to the present Franklin’s liver has been damaged due to prolonged steroid abuse and his health has deteriorated to such an extent that he is bedridden. His wife is the sole earning member of his family and has to spend a huge amount of money for the treatment of her husband.

The macho images of a country often revolve around film stars and models, their six-pack abs, bulging biceps and chiselled triceps, without realizing the fact that it takes years of practice and discipline to achieve a ‘Herculean physique’. The youngsters ape these role models, from dress to their brawny looks. They frequent the gym to achieve the ultimate, and in a desperate attempt to do so, embrace steroids to enhance their rippling muscles.


Mr Universe

My personal role model is Manohar Aich (webpage not available outside India), who was India’s first Mr Universe. He used to practice for hours on end further enriched by a simple diet of vegetables and fish. There were no shortcuts involved, only hard work and that he lived to see 104 full moons, comes as no surprise.

I was fortunate enough to see him during a program in Thrissur, Kerala. He was an octogenarian then but there was no hint of old age in his body. His hair was black; muscles rippled and he showcased his prowess to a hall packed with stunned youngsters. He did a couple of pushups with someone on the back and a powerful abdominal exercise proving the amazing strength in his muscles. Finally, he started posing with the young bodybuilders; his muscles were literally dancing to the tune of music, biceps, triceps and thigh muscles showing the depth and breadth of exercises, and his single-minded passion and commitment to the profession.

Aich’s muscle control was amazing; through exercises, he could understand the mechanics of the body, its functions, and limitations. Patience is the very essence of his exercise regimen, slowly but steadily, he knows that the muscles will grow given the proper attention. In addition, routine exercises will go a long way in ensuring that his mind is under control.

His muscles when explicitly showing the potential of exercises, together with his longevity, shows how bodybuilding can become a way of life just like brushing your teeth or taking a bath. He personified the principles of bodybuilding as a means of living a disciplined and simple life.

When an interviewer asked him about the secret of maintaining body and mind, he slowly massaged his head while his huge forearms and biceps kissed each other and said:

I follow my strict diet, exercise regularly, content with what I have and don’t tell lies. Also, I abstain from consuming alcohol and cigarettes and keep all the tensions away. This is my secret.

Aich completed extraordinary long sessions and showed to us that exercises can change the rhythm of life for the better. Whereas the majority of youngsters lessen their exercise and diet regimen just after a competition, Aich continued his exercises, till the very end of his life.


Read also: What Is The Best HIIT Workout?

This article is written by our regular guest writer Rajesh Trichur Venkiteswaran.
Rajesh is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at

© Rajesh Trichur Venkiteswaran / #Norway Today
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