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Mihika Jindal

Sculpting the stars: Celebrity trainers tell us their fitness secrets

How celebrities sculpt their bodies into gravity defying figures and bodies of steel may be the envy of many among us. While computer graphics can only get you so far, fitness trainers are the real heroes of this story. The results visible on the silver screen may be tricks of the trade but there is a lot that goes behind getting those results. Here is a sneak peek into how celebrities constantly change their looks, a detailed process of adding and dropping a couple (or even a dozen) of kilos from time to time while maintaining a fit body composition. Guardian20 spoke to three personal star trainers who have been training Bombay film industry stars for more than a decade now.

Abbas Ali

"When everything fails for the stars, they turn to me. I am a transformation specialist and operate in this niche area," says Abbas Ali who has worked with Sonakshi Sinha, Mimoh (Mahaakshay Chakraborty, Mithun Chakraborty's son) and is currently training Shahid Kapoor. He specialises in functional training and strength conditioning, which often involves using your own body weight to achieve results. Ali started working when he was 21 years of age, and 19 years down the line, he has become known for sculpting and transforming bodies depending upon the role of a star in a particular movie. He has his own team of specialists, who are trained in specific skills such as martial arts and regular training, and all of their inputs are utilised while designing a training module for every client. The team takes stock of every little detail that makes up their target's life — from their day-to-day lifestyle to their medical histories. "In case there is someone with an injury, it is always a challenge to overcome that. In such cases, we send the person for a rehab session, fix the problem and then get started with the fitness schedule," says Ali. The time frame is an important factor and should be decided practically, "if someone comes to me with 100kgs, I cannot promise anything in a month or two. In those cases, I end up taking six to 10 months because I have to make sure no body composition is getting damaged."

Ali's training principles are very old-school and believes in things that works for him. His roots lie in body-building because back in the '90s when he started his career, there were no gyms or fitness regimens such as TRX or Pilates. "I go 20 years back, where we still had cereals for breakfast and Indian toilets, and were much more active as a nation. We would make an effort to travel, sleep and wake on time, and have real meals. So I have been a part of this scene, and 10 years ago, technology changed beyond our imagination and our lifestyles started deteriorating," explains Ali.

Ali educates his client towards a better lifestyle rather than just training them. He believes in old school ethics about discipline and good habits. "The deterioration is visible for all of us to see: Bone density has dropped on an average; boys these days don't have an ass, smaller feet, and a weaker hand grip. People are eating synthetic, processed food all the time. I tell people they shouldn't come to me looking for six-packs or slimmer bodies," says Ali.

Ali's work is predominantly about transformation. "I transformed Shahid's physique for a hardcore role in Kaminey to a mad man in Haider and now to a handsome good looking boy for his upcoming film Shaandaar. This will be followed by a 60kg coke addict looking Shahid for Udta Punjab. So it's little to do with just abs and cuts," says Ali.

These periodic body transformations actually cause a lot of damage. "After every movie, I suggest the stars take some time off and get back to a normal composition before venturing out for their next assignment," explains Ali and adds, "The challenge is to design a fitness module that minimises the damage and is time effective to give out results."

Vinod Channa

Channa, in his two decade long association with the who's who in Mumbai, has trained John Abraham, Riteish Deshmukh, Deepika Padukone, Lara Dutta, Arjun Rampal, Sohail Khan, Harman Baweja, Raj Kundra and many others. "I have worked with half of Bollywood," claims Channa. He is based out of Mumbai and trains at his eponymous VC Fitness centre. Besides regular and rigorous training modules, Channa also trains in yoga, kick boxing and martial arts and has got international degrees in nutrition, weight-loss as well as sports. He belongs to a humble background and has carved his way through only on the basis of his performance and successful sessions, "Riteish was very happy with my training, which was the reason why others followed."

"People from other countries have accepted yoga more than we can. But I wanted to make something out of this because we have the knowledge here," explains Channa, who has recently formulated new training modules around cocktail yoga and animal flow workout. Every training module is customised depending on an individual's medical history, lifestyle, eating habits and age. "I don't train people according to my knowledge; I give them training according to their lifestyle. The training has to be goal oriented, which should not be around just weight-loss. My focus is to increase stamina, agility, strength and endurance. Once, these things are achieved, weight-loss is incidental," explains Channa. Speaking about how his everyday schedule looks like, Channa says, "It is tough to work with film stars because they come with limited time. Abraham is doing three movies simultaneously. While Rocky Handsome demands a lean look, Dishoom and Welcome Back is about a huge bulky body. So we have to adjust the intensity of the workout according to their time. With me I have been lucky to deliver and show results."

Ali’s work is predominantly about transformation. “I transformed Shahid’s physique from a hardcore role in Kaminey to a mad man in Haider, and now to a handsome boy for Shaandaar. This will be followed by a 60 kg coke addict looking Shahid for Udta Punjab. So it’s little to do with just abs and cuts,” says Ali.

Praveen Tokas

Praveen Tokas has been training celebrities for 16 years and presently operates out of Taj lands End in Bandra, which also offers Taj retreats — a three-day to a 15-day training series, where the guests are given fitness schedules with pre-decided fitness meals, with an idea to inculcate and promote good habits. Certified in strength and conditioning from National Strength and Conditioning Association in USA and a certified trainer from Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, Praveen Tokas has trained Imraan Khan, Emraan Hashmi, Mohit Suri and Rannvijay Singh, besides recently training the Mumbai kabaddi team.

For celebrities, Tokas has a team of trainers that move along with the stars during their shoot. "For instance, I am currently working with Emraan for his upcoming film, Azhar. He has to look athletic with a leaner look, which is opposite to his look in Murder 2 which was all beefed up," explains Tokas. Celebrities train for personal fitness and also come with specific requirements. Tokas is also working with Rannvijay Singh for a Fat to Fit, a YouTube series, for which Singh has gained 20 kgs in last four-five months. The series will show fitness modules and intends to make a point that one can lose weight just through some dedicated effort. "He shoots for about 16-18 hours a day, which leaves limited time for his own fitness regime. So, I have given him a high intensity schedule. And because he travels so much, he doesn't always have access to gym, which is why I had to design different modules that can be done without equipment, in a hotel room or on a beach" says Tokas.

Regarding food, Tokas doesn't believe in diets, "I only give guidelines. Most of them are constantly travelling. I cannot ask them to have a specific thing because it won't always be realistic. So, I give them options in terms of carbohydrate and protein intakes instead."

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