“Don’t train with ego,” is Bollywood’s body-builder bhai Salman’s advice to the young generation as he and his fitness trainer make evident in this interview
As little as 20 years ago, apart from establishing his foothold in Bollywood, a young Salman Khan also enjoyed dominance in another sphere — being the man with the best body in the industry. Over the years, as chiselled figures became more the norm than an advantage in Bollywood, so did an array of ‘fitness trends’, some of which did more harm than good. The most common one gave weightage to weight-lifting, and seemingly frowned upon cardiovascular exercises. This, among many others, is a notion Khan never ascribed to.
“Salman will do cardio every day, without fail. He developed the habit at a young age, when he was also a national-level swimmer. He starts his day with an hour-long session before moving on to weight training. We walk long distances in his farms, and also take to hiking sessions that last for two hours,” says Rakesh Udiyar, who came under Khan’s fold in 2010 after he enabled him to reduce his bulky frame acquired for Veer, and got him fighting fit for Bodyguard.
It was around this time that Khan had revealed his battle with the nerve disorder, trigeminal neuralgia. Udiyar is certain that Khan would have been a heavy weight-lifter until then, when the doctors said it was imperative that his training format didn’t cause a spike in his blood pressure. “Salman is a conscious lifter. He moved from lifting heavy weights to moderate ones. We focus on volume sets, which implies that we perform 10-12 variations of exercises, executing five sets of each, and performing 20 reps. I remember how painful that phase was for him. As we focused on cardio, during Dabangg, he, Sonakshi [Sinha] and others would walk from Wai to Panchgani.”
Udiyar employed techniques like time under tension, and eccentric and concentric lengthening variations during lifting sessions. “Salman’s structure is such that even if he does partial reps, his muscles get pumped. When he trains [consistently] he develops muscle mass easily. Also, we want him to look fresh on screen. Exercise isn’t only suited for weight-loss. It makes you look good, and your skin look young. If you follow a good diet for several years, that’s the best thing that you can do for yourself.”
Thirty-five years since he commenced exercising, Khan continues to attain knowledge about adopting healthier practices. Udiyar says apart from a team of doctors and experts, Khan also has access to friends in the USA, who keep him abreast with best practices. In an email interview, Khan shares, “When I started out, I was enthusiastic and impatient, and got many things wrong. I had no knowledge or guidance, but I practiced, trained and kept updating myself. I was, am, and I will remain a student. The older that one grows, the tougher it gets [to maintain] the metabolic rate. You lose speed, strength, and enthusiasm. So, I exercise every day, listen to my body, and also appreciate anyone with a good body. I want to compete with that person, in a healthy manner. That helps me grow and stay fit.”
While Khan constantly seeks knowledge in the health and fitness space, he isn’t one to ascribe to the current fads. “I’m not a believer of such workouts or extreme dieting trends that I see common with the current [lot]. My workouts are simple and result-oriented. I am disciplined and consistent, which are crucial to attaining a healthy body. I know my body and what works for it. This has become possible only after years of training under the guidance of experts. Be attentive to yourself and focus. Usually, people work on their strengths. But you should work on your weakness too. Visualise what you want to achieve, and work towards it consistently,” he says, adding that he trains mindfully to avoid injuries.
Udiyar credits Khan for being watchful about his diet. “When he needs to do a body-shot, he becomes more particular. He sticks to eggs, fish, and vegetables, and adopts a four-meal plan, comprising foods like lettuce, chicken and roti. If he’s travelling and can’t access home-cooked meals, he is more watchful. More often than not, he likes to eat food prepared by his mom, and has lunch with his father. On his cheat day, he eats his mom’s biryani.”
Approximate no. of repetitions Khan executes in an exercise session
The Cheats: Vidya Balan
What’s your cheat meal:
Pasta with lots of mushroom. I don’t call it a cheat [meal], I call it indulgence.
Do you tweak it to make it healthier:
I don’t add too much cheese because my body doesn’t accept it. I need gluten-free pasta, so I have versions including those of beetroot. I get it made at home because the ones from [restaurants] are too heavy.
How often do you indulge:
At least once in a week.
Inside Mithila Palkar’s Fridge
Fitness Tip That Works For
Being vegetarian has helped [me maintain my weight]. Four to five times a week, I have a green juice that’s made at home.