Are you the UAE’s strongest athlete?

The search for the country's all-round fittest person starts now

Know how to yolk walk and can carry twice your own body weight? Then FAST wants you in its Strongman Competition. Benita Adesuyan speaks to the organisation’s head coach to discover more about the sport.

You might think a competition for the UAE’s strongest athlete is bound to attract the types who spend every waking hour in the gym, with bulging muscles and veins popping out of the side of their necks. Well, the bulging muscles bit might be useful, but FAST (Foundations of Athleticism Strength and Training), the strength and conditioning facility hosting the event, says it’s not about being the buffest person in the gym.

The organisation is looking for all-round strength, something that Head Coach Olivier Lamoureaux says is commonly misunderstood. ‘Strength-training does not equal muscle mass development,’ says the towering 6ft 8ins coach. ‘We’re looking for different components. Individuals have different strength qualities – and in this competition, we’re looking at all kinds of strengths – explosive and relative – the complete picture.’

The competition will be held over two days, from Friday April 18 to Saturday 19, with preliminary events followed by finals on the last day and those strong and brave enough to sign up, will take on physical challenges such as 40 metre ‘yolk walking’, which is a race carrying heavy loads, tossing a 20kg ball overhead as far as possible, as well as a tug of war and turning over truck tyres that are twice the average body weight. Competitors will be categorised by gender and weight, and the event is open to anyone who is relatively fit and aged between 15 and 45.

Lamoureaux and his business partner Areej El Heloueh set up FAST three years ago. Hailing originally from the Quebec, Canada, Lamoureaux played college basketball in America’s NCAA Division one, and then worked for eight years in ice hockey – Canada’s premier sport. After studying kinesiology he came to Dubai and realised a gap in the way athletes train here. ‘Athletes need two kinds of training – skill and physical preparation. In the Middle East there’s huge potential but it’s geared towards skill development, we wanted to offer a facility that is supported by a team of strength coaches that offer that strength preparation to amateurs and pros alike.’

Lamoureaux and his team use the ‘Strongman’ method of training, which requires using exercises that do not need skill to complete. Lamoureaux explains: ‘Not everyone can do a perfect squat – but everyone can push a truck, or flip a tyre. There’s no skill required but these exercises recruit so many muscles and that’s extremely beneficial for you. Anyone can do strongman.’

This kind of training can seem daunting, but Lamoureaux says it’s gaining in popularity, especially among women. ‘We had a seminar on strength-training and half of the group were women. When you do something you never thought in a million years that you would do, the feeling of empowerment is incredible.’

If you want to be in the running for UAE’s strongest athlete, Lamoureaux says it’s time to ditch the treadmill. ‘Avoid machines – just get yourself a truck tyre and flip it.’
FAST Strongman Competition takes place at Ahdaaf Sports Club, Al Quoz. Friday April 18-Saturday April 19. Dhs150 registration fee. Visit or call (04 880 0977).

Work it: learn how to bulk up properly

Champion bodybuilders as well as husband-and wife team, Dorian Yates and Gal Ferreira were recently recognised by the Emirates Bodybuilding Federation for their contribution to the sports industry. Here, the pair give advice on how to get the best out of a workout.

Height: 165cm
Weight: 72kg
Age: 39

Some women find bodybuilding off-putting – how did you manage to succeed in this arena?
Bodybuilding is still very male-dominated. Women can of course be successful, but you need to have a lot of passion – that’s key.

What errors do you see women in particular make then?
Women can often think they have to do too much and some starve themselves, which is very bad. You have to learn to feed your body, and prioritise the intensity.

Do you have to change your diet significantly to maintain your physique? If so, how?
At the moment, I’m eating low carb, high-protein. A typical breakfast would be egg whites and toast. Lunch is usually chicken breast and vegetables. The rest of the day consists of protein, salads and vegetables.

Height: 5’11cm
Weight: 115kg
Age: 51

What common mistakes do you see people making in the gym?
Training too much and too often. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym. But you do have to make the time count. People continuing to do the same thing over and over even though it’s not working. If you’re focussing on a particular regime and you don’t see any changes after a month, then change it. If you see no changes after one month, it’s not going to suddenly work the next.

Bodybuilding has an image problem with doping issue – to what extent is it a problem?
There is an issue in every sport but I don’t think it’s particular to bodybuilding. I think that because the athletes in bodybuilding look so different to a normal person, it’s easy to point the finger at doping. Regardless of the sport, you still have to put a lot of hard work into it.

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