by Christian Duque
For many years, countless writers in the fitness press have discounted the hard work that’s done in Kuwait, by the athletes and their coaches, focusing instead on what many believe has got to be the driving force behind the many successes from Big Ramy to Roelly Winklaar to reigning Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry. Many have gone to Kuwait in hopes of capitalizing on their already-good fortunes. There was a time when everyone wanted to make the trek and to this day, it remains one of the hottest spots for bodybuilding in the world. With that being said, the articles, videos, and much of the shop talk, focused around stronger gear, experimental drugs, SARMS and experimental agents so exotic and so obscure that even most scientists had not heard of, much less had a chance to study.
The speculation started getting almost whimsical. Now, some journalists in our industry have zero knowledge about supplements. Sometimes media outlets will hire writers from other sports, maybe because they’re moonlighting or maybe because they assume that a good writer in one sport can be a good writer in another. That may be true for most sports, but not when it comes to bodybuilding. For this sport, if you’re not a competitor and if you don’t have some kind of formal study in sports science and nutrition, then you have got to be a fan. In fact, fans make for some of the best writers – after all, the ole Iron Duque is a fan turned writer – so case closed, right? Well anyways, some of the best writers and media personalities happen to be guys that competed and coach, guys like Dave Palumbo, for example.
Now, without throwing shade on Jumbo Palumbo, here’s a guy who went to med school (making it to his 3rd year), who competed at the highest levels of the NPC national level, and who has coached countless athletes, from mainstream athletes to top physique-based athletes. Dave is such a great coach, he even trains wrestlers and movie stars, so he really knows what he’s talking about. So when Palumbo added his voice to the considerable group of others speculating to the quality and potency of the supplements in Kuwait back in the day, it just created an unparalleled level of interest. The bottom line, however, is that drugs aren’t the secret ingredient for all the successes coming out of this gym. It’s also not a facility that accepts all. They have high standards, they’re very selective of who they’re going to invest in, and if the athlete gives 110%, there’s no telling where elite level athletes can go.
Most physique-based athletes today lead very demanding lifestyles. Many don’t make their primary income from the stage so this forces them to have to work for sponsors in a variety of contexts. Photo shoots require athletes to be in a certain contest shape that’s very similar to getting dialed in for the stage. The shoots are key for promotional purposes so if an athlete has a deal with a supplement giant, a clothing company, meal prep, etc., they’re going to want high res images and many are also going to want content where the athlete trains, poses, and/or speaks about the goods and services in question. All of that takes time and effort – time and effort that takes away from the gym, eating, and taking supplements on time. That’s another thing, supplements require being taken at specific times and even something as trivial as that can affect the outcome of all the elements in the process. One of the biggest pet peeves coaches have is that their clients not miss meals, not miss supplements, or not train at 100%. It all factors in. That being said, a coach can’t exactly scold a client for making a living. Part of the money made, goes to pay the coaches for their services.
In addition to working for their sponsors and/or working busy expos, many of the best physique-based athletes in the world are also active on the social scene. This is something that’s not often broadcasted because it’s largely in the realm of athletes’ private lives. Although most athletes embrace social media and seem to show everything to everyone, the vast majority not only keep their privacy off limits, but they cherish it – as well they should. Although they may love building muscle and competing, it’s still work and who wants to work 24/7? A line needs to be drawn and athletes should be able to have time with their families, unwind, and enjoy hanging around their homes. That being said, not all leisure time is spent eating home cooking, having a cold one, and going back and forth on a rocking chair. A lot of athletes, especially the single ones, go out clubbing till 4AM, they drink hard, some take pills and who knows what else. Just because you’re ripped doesn’t mean you can’t drink like a fish and eat horribly. Some do and they just pay for it later in the gym or on crazy preps. While their placings might still be good, they may not be great, and few if, any, ever become top guys if they’re, essentially, sabotaging themselves years round, then buckling down and giving 120% for sixteen weeks. The single athletes also jump in and out of relationships. At the beginning when things are good, it’s all about smiles and happiness, but sometimes relationships end in drama, fighting, and this too can totally sabotage a prep if it goes down as a competition approaches.
I guess what I’m saying is, most competitors (like most people in the mainstream) have a lot of distractions. From clubs, to drinking, to dating and even basic flaws like making poor dietary choices, they all factor into the physique. And whatever affects muscle, effects placings. That’s just basic common sense. Most coaches won’t even read their clients the riot act because its just not that kind of relationship. A lot of coaches won’t pass judgment because the same counterintuitive choices their clients make are part of what make them the money they’re paid with. A lot of gurus choose their battles wisely. They’re just trying to make a living, also, and that can’t be overlooked. The reality is, no one is really on the ball, everyone just trying to make do with that what’s available.
When it comes to the guys who train at Oxygen Gym, they fly to a country most have never been to. They’re going to a gym where it’s all men, no women, no distractions in that sense. The guys who participate in the program, live close by, where they get their meals, where they get access to massage therapy, and where everything is based on bodybuilding. There aren’t crazy parties, no hangovers, and no social media fallout. There’s obviously access to supplements, but they’re the same supplements as in America, Europe, or any other part of the world. There are no exotic sounding agents, there’s no experimental concoctions, it’s just basic gear and supplements. There’s great food, but there’s great food in America and Europe too. So what is it? Oxygen Gym does have some pretty amazing equipment, with machines you’ll only see there, and that definitely adds a dimension to the process, but there’s also some great gyms in America and Europe. I guess what I’m trying to say is, everything that’s there is elsewhere, but it’s The program that creates the environment for some competitors to either turn their careers around or take great careers to the next level. I’m a firm believer that if Oxygen Gym wanted to export their program to America, Europe, or elsewhere, that they could. It’s also the coaches and the fact athletes are leaving their families, friends, and lifestyles behind. It’s a mindset, a program, it’s a lot of different factors that all collectively make for some incredible results. We don’t have anything like that in America and I dare to say there’s probably nothing like it anywhere else either.