One of the visiting former competitive bodybuilders said he was surprised by the sport's growth in popularity in Dubai over the past 10 years
Bodybuilders hit the beach ahead of Dubai Muscle Show
Bodybuilding has come a long way since the days of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone when the niche sport was viewed suspiciously by many as a freak show rather than serious sport.
As the World Trade Centre prepares to host the Dubai Muscle Show, competitive body building has become more popular than ever with 20,000 expected through the doors for the two-day event.
With new ‘physique’ categories for men and women to show-off sculpted bodies after years of dedication to the gym, bodybuilding is now reaching a huge audience.
Two global stars to capture that imagination, who have helped take interest in the sport into the mainstream, are in Dubai promoting this weekend’s event.
Jay Cutler reached the pinnacle of bodybuilding as a four time Mr Olympia, and is an inspiration for many young body sculptors trying to build that perfect physique.
Cutler was joined on Jumeirah Beach to promote the show by Kai Greene, a winner at the 2016 Arnold Classic and three time Mr Olympia runner up, also known as 'The Predator'.
Although both are now retired from competition, they have each carved out impressive careers thanks to their success in the sport.
Whilst Cutler is involved with a multi-million-pound supplement and nutrition company, Greene is making the successful transition into Hollywood – appearing in series two of Stranger Things.
“The role with Stranger Things was not important to how I looked or the strength of my body - looking at me on screen, I look like a fat guy in clothes,” said Greene.
“I’ve learned to take care of myself and pay the bills through a prize winning physique, so to see yourself with those assets covered up is like having your hands tied behind your back.
“Because of that, I’ve had to develop other skills without the body being a distraction.”
Whilst Greene is hoping there will be a role for him in Stranger Things series 3, Cutler is happy to view the evolution of bodybuilding from afar and said the sport can help turnaround an unhealthy lifestyle.
“The first time I was in Dubai was 2008, fitness wasn’t big here, I had no idea how bodybuilding would explode in this region,” he said.
“It will continue to grow, as we have so many divisions now for people to compete in.
“It is not just about being as muscle bound as possible, there are men and women physique competitions to enter.
“Like the UAE, the US has a big problem with obesity and diabetes, and the growth of the fitness industry can help to address that.”
More than 60 athletes are due to turn out at the Dubai Muscle Show, with amateur sports competitions and an exhibition of over 150 fitness and nutrition brands.
Other athletes from the sport attending include Eddie Hall, Ronnie Coleman, Simon Panda and Paige Hathaway.
There will be a Q&A with selected athletes on Friday, and an interactive strongman training session on Saturday.
“Bodybuilding as a sport is growing all over the world, and that includes the UAE,” said Greene, 42.
“The lifestyle is part of the attraction, as more people are becoming conscious about how to improve their health and dedicate their life to exercise to see the positive benefits that brings.
“The industry is thriving and not showing any signs of slowing down. New people are discovering the sport every day, and discovering the new opportunities that it presents.”
Greene also involved in the filming of upcoming martial arts movie, Crazy Fist, due for release next year.
Whilst Cutler, 44, has turned his attentions to business, helping amass a reputed fortune in excess of $81 million, he is concerned about the stigma of drugs attached to his sport.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were my inspiration, and I watched a lot of Jean Claude Van Damme movies – that was the kind of body shape I wanted to achieve,” he said.
“I looked at Arnold and he was great, but he wouldn’t be able to compete with the top guys around today.
“In that time, the sport was not generating money. The sport has gone from paying $500 for events to $400,000.
“There has been a big swing in money, and everything is being driven by that success.
“There is a culture of drugs in the sport. But speaking from a perspective of being at the top for so long as someone who didn’t have a problem putting on a lot of size, genetically I was suited to be the best that I could be.
“You can’t train for that, you have to have the mental capacity to train at a certain level of intensity and no drug can replace that.”