Workout wizard

Transformation specialist Kris Gethin is the go-to-trainer for the country's swish set, says Aarti Dua

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 1.09.13
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  • Transformation experts Kris Gethin (right) and Neil Hill guarantee success with their challenging 12-week fitness training programme. Photograph courtesy Physique Elite

When Hrithik Roshan was getting back into his superhero outfit for his big bucks franchise Krissh 3 he found himself stuck with a bicep-curling dilemma. He had been hit by back and knee injuries, had put on weight and was out of condition. He needed a ripped superhero look — in double-quick time.

He scoured the globe and finally turned to muscle-bound Kris Gethin, the man who's regarded as the world's best transformation specialist. "Hrithik had read my book and called my agent. I didn't know the guy, but I came to find out what he wanted to accomplish. And I could see that he was definitely going to get there," says Gethin, who's originally from Wales, but who now divides his time between the US and Mumbai.

Gethin's the editor-at-large of Bodybuilding.com and his Hardcore 12-Week Video Trainer — based on his popular Dramatic Transformation Principle (DTP) — has gathered over 56 million viewers worldwide. But he has struck pay dirt in India and has a client list that reads like a Who's Who of the business and movie world. He and his partner Neil Hill, a professional bodybuilder and renowned trainer, are the go-to-guys who are training a string of celebs from Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor to PVR Cinemas's Ajay Bijli and several top-flight real estate tycoons.

  • Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu is training with Gethin (in picture) and Hill to get that athletic look for a forthcoming film. Photograph courtesy Kris Gethin

And that's not all — not by a long shot. Since June, John Abraham has been tweeting and sharing pictures of his fiendish training sessions with Gethin on Instagram. "The knowledge that I get from Kris is so deep. We need to educate ourselves and that goes for people like me who need to be holistically fit," he said in a press conference recently.

And over the last few weeks, Hill has been putting Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu through his Y3T or Yoda Three Training regime on location at Belfast, London, Dubai and Hyderabad.Mahesh, who needed an athletic look for his forthcoming film, One-Nenokkadine, first did Gethin's 12-week transformation training. Now, Hill's helping him build lean muscle mass with Y3T.

Says Hill, who trains bodybuilding champions like Flex Lewis and Branch Warren: "Mahesh is a 100 per cent committed, which makes it exciting to work with him. His lean muscle mass is growing faster than I expected."

  • Gethin put Hrithik Roshan on a punishing weight and cross-fit training regime to help him gain that superhero body for Krissh 3. Photograph courtesy Kris Gethin

So what makes the transformation trainers — who typically offer a 12-week transformation programme that works on burning fat and building muscle — so special? Says Bijli, who trained with Hill for three months in Delhi and then with another trainer from Physique Elite, Gethin and Hill's company: "They're about a lifestyle change. I learnt a lot about working out and especially about nutrition, since what you put in your mouth is really the key to how you look. That was an eye-opener."

Gethin and Hill co-founded Physique Elite last year along with Nick Orton, promoter of the big international fitness exhibition, BodyPower Expo. Physique Elite has over 1,000 elite trainers globally and they aim to provide personal training and also train trainers to become transformation experts. And that's what they're doing in India too, where they've just trained their first master trainer, Kumar Mannava in Hyderabad.

Says Orton: "Our objective in India is to improve people's overall fitness and lifestyle. We're doing this by using our skills as transformation experts with high-profile individuals who influence everyday people. At the same time, we're training Indian personal trainers to improve their transformation skills."

Adds Hill: "Indians are not only health-conscious, but they want real education from real experience. And that's where we have a real asset."

Gethin and the UK-based Hill are constantly jet-setting, training clients across the US, Europe and now India — they train one client at a time — conducting courses for trainers and juggling their myriad other commitments.

For instance, the two will conduct beginner-level courses for trainers in India early this month. Then, when Hill travels to Las Vegas with his bodybuilding athletes for the Mr Olympia, Gethin will take over training Mahesh, even travelling with him to Thailand. Gethin usually spends about three hours daily training his client and the rest of his time is spent on managing Physique Elite and his food line, Nutrition by Design, and working with Bodybuilding.com, among other things.

  • PVR Cinemas's Ajay Bijli says that training with Hill wasn't restricted to the gym, but that it was all about changing his lifestyle; Pic by Rupinder Sharma

Make no mistake. Physique Elite's trainers don't come cheap. A full-time elite trainer charges between 6,000 (almost Rs 6 lakh) and 30,000 (around Rs 30 lakh) a month, plus expenses. They have nine trainers in India currently, working with one client at a time and tailoring the programme to their needs. For instance, Singh and Kapoor have been training with them for a year now. Kapoor's goal, says Gethin, is to keep losing body fat and improving his fitness. With Singh, it's about maintaining his fit body and ensuring that he "stays on track with his nutrition as he's a foodie".

There are other star clients too like Jackky Bhagnani. Besides, former professional bodybuilder Marika Johansson, who's Gethin's wife, is training the rest of the Roshans — father Rakesh, mother Pinky and sister Sunaina. "We do a mix of weights with functional training.The goal is to get strong and lose weight," she says.

  • Bollywood stars from Ranveer Singh (top) to John Abraham are all turning to Physique Elite to pump up their fitness levels

She's already got results. "Pinky has lost 30 pounds since she began training. She was overweight and sluggish earlier. But now, she's energetic all day," says Marika.

To be sure, Physique Elite's clients mostly train for vanity reasons. But it is also about improving fitness and endurance. The 12-week programme is a lifestyle-changer. Says Gethin: "When a client comes to me, he needs to transform. But I'm not going to focus on just the training. I'm also going to focus on the nutrition and supplementation and, the rest and recovery. But a lot of it is also about motivation and building a healthy obsession about fitness."

The physical training typically comprises only 20 minutes of cardio daily and an hour's weight training, four times a week. With Hrithik, Gethin focused on strengthening his core and legs by incorporating a lot of cross-fit training. So, he got him to flip truck tyres and run with sandbags and even pulled him out of his home gym to run on the beach. With Mahesh, he worked on improving his flexibility. "Both are completely dedicated. They didn't cheat even once," he says.

  • Physique Elite is also focusing on turning Indian trainers like Kumar Mannava, its first master trainer in India, into transformation experts

With Abraham too — he hadn't picked up any weights for eight months when he approached Gethin — the goal is to get "ripped". "John just does what he's told. He's never late, never complains and never asks for more rests," says Gethin.

Gethin and Hill have reversed the rules of most fitness regimes. Most regimes say you can only build muscles with heavy weights and low reps. But Gethin and Hill are firm proponents of the high reps (with varying weights) strategy for muscling up. That's the premise of their DTP and Y3T programmes too.

They actually developed them independently while working on their own injuries. Gethin first got into fitness and bodybuilding in the late 1990s when he left Wales to work on cruise liners and then set up his own gym in Australia before moving to the US as a fitness writer in 2005. His magazine Bodybuilding.com is based in Idaho.

He found himself grappling with knee and elbow injuries picked up during his days as a motocross racer and so couldn't cope with heavy weights. But instead of stopping training, he did exactly the opposite and started doing higher reps, progressing from lighter to heavier weights. He did just one or two exercises for a complete muscle group but with higher reps and fewer rests between sets, working his muscles till they reached "absolute failure".

"I noticed that I was getting more fullness to my muscles and more separation within them as I was able to remove the intra-muscular fat. And I was burning off calories too," he says. That's how DTP was born.

Hill too devised his Y3T programme by experimenting on himself. He was an international swimmer for Wales and got into bodybuilding at 19. But a knee problem led to constant injuries when he trained with heavy weights in the early 1990s. "I had to be very cautious about lifting weights. So I decided to go lighter and do more reps that would exert less stress on the joints and tendons. I found that by changing reps and forcing more blood flow to the muscles, they were not only increasing, but also growing at a higher rate," he says.

Y3T follows a three-week cycle. It starts with heavy weights and low reps in week one, switching to medium weights-and-reps in the second week and then lighter weights and higher reps in the third week. The cycle is then repeated.

DTP and Y3T are effective because they hit every muscle fibre type and also different energy sources in the body. But they're only part of the fitness regime, which also includes cardiovascular and cross-fit training.

  • The Indian edition of Gethin's The Bodybuilding.com Guide to Your Best Body has become a bestseller ever since Hrithik Roshan released it in Mumbai recently

The nutrition is even more important than the exercise. Gethin and Hill stress on eating the right carbs, proteins and minerals. "Abs are made in the kitchen not in the gym," asserts Gethin. That's because irrespective of the thousands of crunches a day, "if you've got even a layer of fat covering them, those abs are going to remain shy", he says, taking a bite of the fish-and-sweet potato meal that he's got Abraham on currently — he usually eats the same food as his clients.

And when it comes to food, Gethin insists that his clients eat eight to nine meals a day to keep the fat burning.Johansson admits that changing eating habits is the big challenge. So, she even taught the Roshans' chefs to cook "healthy Indian food" with no oil, cream or milk products. "I've invented 80 recipes of healthy Indian food that will go into a cookbook shortly," she says.

Are 12 weeks enough for a transformation though? Gethin thinks so. "I've got to give people a sense of urgency," he says. So, he's relentless in the gym and educates them thoroughly too about their body so that they can train independently after his 12 weeks are up.

Hill admits: "The personal training market in India is at the beginning of a wave that has the ability to grow and grow." Clearly, the Physique Elite trainers are pumped up to crest that wave.