Sports & Fitness paid bodybuilder Mohammad Ali Asab a visit to his famous and luxurious gymnasium, Ignite, to interview him before he traveled to participate in three upcoming major bodybuilding events that will take place in November: the Romania Muscle Show, the San Marino in Rome, and finally the glamourous Mr. Olympia in Las Vegas.
This year, Asab’s coach is none other than the great Neil “Yoda” Hill, the official trainer of team Yamamoto, who will be leading Asab to achieve his ultimate goal and dream. Hill is a world-class expert, coach, and speaker in the health and fitness industry with over 28 years of experience who has created the Y3T training system. The Y3T has achieved global status and recognition as a proven protocol for hypertrophy, positive body composition change, and overall performance enhancement.
During our one-hour interview with Mohammad Ali Asab, we found ourselves facing not just a bodybuilder or a champion, but an active, ambitious, and exceptional man. Actually, bodybuilding came into his life later. There was a lot more to this man than we knew and that made it difficult for Sports & Fitnessto introduce and define him here on our pages, as he wears so many hats and always has his hands full. Impressively, the modest and down-to-earth Asab is successful in many fields. He is a business entrepreneur, IT engineer, highly certified fitness trainer and nutritionist, and a remarkable bodybuilder in addition to being a husband to an extremely supportive wife and father of two children.
It was only normal to learn that the 36-year-old’s motto throughout his life has been “nothing is impossible”: a motto that has lead him to where he is now and made him proud of himself. He has taken that motto seriously since his early age and he has proven to himself and to the world that this motto holds true and that there is no impossible, or as he prefers to put it, “the impossible is nothing”. So, let’s delve into Asab’s intriguing and captivating story: a journey of love, passion, dedication, education, inspiration, challenges, and ambition.
Mohammed Ali Asab’s education journey is quite interesting, and it had a lot of milestones that had helped him grow in business before fitness. After graduating in Computer and Information Science in 2005 from Helwan University, Asab worked as a network and system administrator at National Bank of Oman until December 2007.
From January 2008 to May 2012, he worked as a consultant for Microsoft, and during this relatively short period, his managerial and leadership skills prepared him to implement more than 25 applications in Egypt and seven in the Gulf countries. Asab also designed client solutions in these projects to effectively leverage product, software, and service technology suppliers and partners within a number of complex customer environments.
As a Microsoft team leader, he was responsible for the training development program for new employees in the company and the improvement of team effectiveness through appropriate training and development.
Asab is also a certified precision nutritionist who helps people every day achieve their target goal in his nutrition clinic: 3B’s - Building Better Bodies.
His road to entrepreneurship started when he decided to pursue his ambitions in business and take the bold step of creating his own business. Let’s find out how Mohammad Ali Asab did it and how it all began as he answers Sports & Fitness’s questions.
How did your first project start?
After much brainstorming and market research, I adopted the idea of Yaqeen. It is a name that represents passion, dedication, and most importantly, the success and distinction that I am presenting through any of my projects. It represents the certainty of the umbrella that my various projects will emit from. Yaqeen never stopped expanding and never looked beneath its feet when it comes to the fitness market, thanks to the role, input, and support of my brother Mahmoud as well as my wife who is the HR manager. I also appreciate having my extended family and long-time pals, founders and school friends Taha Samir, Ismail Atef, and Hossam Ekram, by my side since the beginning. I truly feel lucky and blessed that these people are part of my life. I also miss my late brother-in-law Maher, who passed away last year after a medical operation. He played a great part in my business and sports career and within the family. He meant a lot to me as he was almost my godfather. I would have loved to have him around with me these days as I go for competitions because I am sure he would have been my main supporter as he used to be.
What was your first endeavor?
The first endeavor I embarked on was a male fitness center: the Balance Gym.The idea was established due to the lack of local fitness centers providing services with high-quality facilities at affordable prices for Egyptian men of all ages. To complement our passion for sports at Balance Gym, and bodybuilding in particular, we created the Balance Pro Bodybuilding Championship to match the international tournaments. The event sees 1,000 players participate from inside and outside Egypt and witnesses the attendance of the largest international names in training with total prizes exceeding $50,000. This is an annual tournament that we hope to be the largest tournament in the Middle East by 2023.
What came next?
After the success of the first project, Yaqeen, and Balance Gym, we quickly cloned the female model. This time, it was the Hers Gym, a woman’s second home, the ladies-only fitness community in Egypt. We heard the call for a ladies-only facility for functional and performance training and the idea came through. The gym serves more than ten thousand members annually in all aspects of women's health. It also provides nutrition programs and specialized sports training suitable for different health conditions.
Hers Gym organizes the annual event, Rise of Hers, aiming to raise health and sports awareness for women in Egypt. More than four thousand women and children attend every year and receive health awareness training and education about the importance of playing sports. We have been organizing these events for seven years, which has made us one of the leaders in the fitness field.
When and how did the Ignite come to light?
The market was striving for a platform for athletes. Ignite offers challenging performance training programs that push athletes out of their comfort zone. Ignite was designed to guarantee results and help every athlete be a champion in his field. Ignite is being run in partnership with renowned fitness coach Hussein Abdel-Dayem. In Ignite, we have Egypt's largest sports and lifestyle camps that take campers all around Egypt to locations where they enjoy several days of sports training. Our camps operate four times throughout the years in all the corners of Egypt.
Tell us about the Physio Cure?
Physio Cure is another partnership, but this time with Dr. Mohamed Wafaay Makady of Al-Ahly Club. Physio Cure is a physiotherapy clinic that offers a unique model of assessment and treatment for patients. Our team of 20 doctors is dedicated to helping patients reach their goals and perfect health through our various physical therapy treatments.
How do you manage working with partners?
Actually, I enjoy working with partners. We are not alone in this world. We need people around us in work because it brings us together. Thanks to my partners, Dr. Wafaay and Abdel-Dayem, we have been a big company since the beginning of our businesses together. We established it with our own money. We received no funds or loans from anywhere. We have many chains. I might be the CEO of this whole business, but for me everyone working in this huge business is part of my family, be it a partner or an employee. There are 600 employees with an average age of 27-28 years old. Not all of us come from a fitness background, but we work together and complete each other. We are always there for each other, and I feel I am at my best in such an atmosphere.
Do you consider fitness a business?
Fitness was never just a business for me. My fuel is education, and through my business career, I accomplished a humble list of certificates and accreditations in the field of training, nutrition, and sports facility management. I am an International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) management institute graduate from 2013, IHRSA member since 2013, and IDEA member since 2013.
Since you believe education is your fuel, how did you use it to develop your business?
I have always had a passion for education that was derived from my successful business. As technical director of Balance and Hers Gym, I have always believed education is the key to successful management. This is why my education journey didn’t stop. In 2018, I became the first TRX master trainer in Egypt and one of four master trainers in the Middle East region. I am also a master trainer in VIPR program. Egypt has only two master trainers in this fitness program and the Middle East region has only six.
Now, we move to bodybuilding. What attracted you to the sport?
Bodybuilding is my motivation, my passion, my heroine, and all my business success was derived from my passion for bodybuilding. As a child, from the age of 14 or 15, I loved the sport. I used to watch a lot of videos on the sport, but I was first inspired by actor Sylvester Stallone in his “Rocky” movies and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was so amazed by them. Children in general are always in awe when seeing bodybuilders in real life. Even my children, who are seven and five, think bodybuilders are hulks or giants. They love it though and try to imitate the moves we do.
Who are your idols in the sport?
Well, in addition to Schwarzenegger and Stallone, there is another idol, though not a bodybuilder. The late boxer Mohammed Ali. We share the same name, and this is why I love my name because it is after him. He is really my idol being a sportsman with morals and virtues and the charitable work he did for the sport and to the community. His attitude and work off the ring and out of the competition has really inspired me. I appreciate his journey and have full respect for him as a man.
Why did you start professional bodybuilding at an older age?
I was so busy with education and then work, but the main reason was that I have always been very fat as I came from an obese family. It took me years until I finally decided in 2016 to take the sport seriously and turn professional. It was a dream that I made come true to the amazement of everyone around me. Nobody believed it when they saw how I lost weight and became fit enough to compete or even when I went through competitions and won at that age. It was a very tough journey but worth it because I had fulfilled my dream.
How tough was it?
Everything started for me to become a bodybuilding champion at Balance Gym. This became a reality because I wanted to create a platform for bodybuilders, a place where they grow the beast inside them, a place for conquering the impossible. At that time, I was practicing bodybuilding as a hobby. I went through a firm and strict diet and worked on my muscles for years, until, I finally decided to turn pro and participate in the World Championships.
I started by joining the national bodybuilding team and participated in local championships in Egypt, but in 2016 I decided to compete internationally. It was a bold and weird decision because before the World Championship I had gone through an operation on my knee and had gained 30kgs. But I insisted and went on a tough diet and managed in just six months to get ready for my first World Championship in Spain in 2016, where I participated in the 90kg weight category and was among the top 10 on stage and came in the seventh place. It was an astounding achievement. Until now, many don’t believe how I did it. I say it was my stamina and determination that took me there. What seemed impossible to others, I made possible.
How did this achievement motivate you?
I became more ambitious, and I went on to participate at the Mr. Olympia Amateur in Amman, Jordan in November 2016. This time, I made progress as I moved one-step up and clinched sixth place, getting closer to my goal and closer as I prepared for more challenges. The Dubai Muscle Show was next, and it was full of trophies and success with another sixth place win. The achievement in Dubai stimulated me to focus my eyes on the biggest dream, making a first place win possible.
Are your family fans of bodybuilding?
They are of course and they love what I am doing, especially now. They have been supportive since the beginning in 2016, which was full of competitions. Unfortunately, it was a busy year for me, and I was always either working or training. Bodybuilding is a 100 percent commitment. It is a very difficult life that not everyone can endure, and I was so committed to it that I hardly saw my family or joined them in our travels and outings. We are a family that loves traveling, excursions, vacationing, going out for picnics, beaches, movies, etc. I failed to join them, and they were angry, especially my wife. She finally revealed to me that my routine wouldn’t work with the family and that they couldn’t take it anymore, so I had to stop after that and focused on developing my businesses until the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did the pandemic affect you?
Well, it affected us both negatively and positively. First, it had a negative impact on our businesses, which I had managed to grow in the past three years to become the top company in the field of fitness gyms. We are the biggest, with 17 branches all over Egypt. Earlier this year, we opened six new branches. We were thrilled and looking forward to a profitable year that would bring us millions of pounds because our gyms serve not only the elite but also athletes and celebrities. Then, the pandemic broke out. For us, it was as if the electricity had been cut. We had to close and suffered as everyone else. We were in a bad situation. I was at home receiving usual calls from employees and clients regarding their salaries and subscriptions. We had to pay them of course. We were withdrawing from our cash balance, which was dropping every month, and we lost five million pounds. By the time we re-opened in July, our balance was zero, but we survived and made four million to compensate our loss. We are holding on and will hopefully manage to deal with the loss, and we are looking forward to regaining our financial position soon with more profits to come.
However, on the positive side, and for me personally, the pandemic was a blessing. I was doing nothing sitting at home, and I did test positive for the virus and had to isolate myself in another home away from the family. I was so depressed and of course put on more weight. It was there that I resumed my training, and suddenly I decided to return to bodybuilding and to compete again at the World Championship. That was in June when I took the decision as I have found the time and dedication to train again. I contacted the world’s famous bodybuilding coach Neil Hill, who was surprised with my decision as it would be difficult to train during the lockdown. However, I told him that I was the owner of a gym and I have the keys to it and that I would go there and train and prepare. So, we agreed, and we are in contact, and I am following the plan and have almost gone through 90 percent of it and am ready for the three upcoming competitions.
What is your goal in the upcoming events?
My goal of competing in those events is to get the IFBB PRO-CARD in classic physique category and be one of the only four athletes who are holding the PRO CARD.
I have been dedicating myself to my target in next months’ three major bodybuilding championships. I am so optimistic and proud of myself to have reached this point since I always believe that hard work is the key to success, but clear vision is everything.
Finally, what advice would you give to younger bodybuilders?
Train and eat well. The most difficult thing in bodybuilding is to eat well, about five to six meals a day, clean food not junk, whole meals, and lots of proteins and vegetables. Eating many meals is very difficult in this sport, but whoever aims high should follow this eating protocol as well as training. This is important in addition to supplements.
Photos by : Remon Elmarkiz, Oshy photography