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Here’s how Aamir Khan got that Dhoom 3 physique. Excerpts from his trainer’s book

In his book, The Shivfit Way, celebrity fitness trainer Shivoham shows how to work-out without depending on equipment or machines. In this excerpt, he talks about training with Bollywood stars like Aamir Khan, Jacqueline Fernandes and Sonakshi Sinha.

books Updated: Jan 23, 2018 08:52 IST
Shivoham and Shrenik Avlani
Aamir Khan,Aamir Khan's fitness trainer,Shivoham Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan in a still from the film Dhoom 3 (2013).(Imdb)

Aamir Khan had called for me.

I was nervous. What was it about?

I had no idea, but I was excited. I had worked in films and with film stars before. But this was the meticulous Mr Khan. I could hardly sleep that night, wondering what it could be about. I ran through the most inane questions in my mind. ‘Should I act like my normal self and go there in my workout vest and tracks, or should I put on a pair of denims and a T-shirt?’ There was too much excitement, and my brain was working overtime. A variety of thoughts kept doing somersaults and burpees in my head.

I was also worried about being late. After all, Aamir Khan is known to be very punctual. Considering I punish everyone who shows up late for workouts with ten to twenty burpees, I was afraid to find out what Aamir Khan’s punishment might be. I got there with time to spare. It was a two-minute meeting. He knew what he wanted. He wanted to start training with me.

Bollywood legend has it that Aamir, the conscientious man that he is, doesn’t do anything or meet anyone until he has done his research. You might spot Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham, Bipasha Basu or other Bollywood stars at popular gyms, but not Aamir. What he wants, he researches and then gets it on his own terms (as far as possible). He didn’t waste time— his or mine. He knew what CrossFit was.

I was also worried about being late. After all, Aamir Khan is known to be very punctual. I got there with time to spare. It was a two-minute meeting. He knew what he wanted. He wanted to start training with me.

Back then, in 2010, he didn’t know me though. My younger brother, Kirnay, fondly called Bunny by the family, was an assistant director on Aamir’s film Talaash. One day, Kirnay showed up on the sets wearing a black sweatshirt with CrossFit printed in white across the chest. At the end of the shoot (or maybe sometime during a break), Aamir asked Kirnay about it. The good brother that he is, Kirnay briefly explained what CrossFit was and added that I ran a CrossFit gym in Mumbai. ‘He is the CrossFit guy of Mumbai,’ he said referring to me. Well, his playing me up in that manner clicked. Aamir asked him to set up a meeting. The next thing I knew, we— Aamir and I—were training together.

Now, Aamir is a very, very fit bloke. We have seen his chiselled body in Dangal and Ghajini.

Before that, we saw him as a boxer in Ghulam. He trains with the best in the business. If you ever want to meet a fit Bollywood actor, Aamir is your man. With the amount of knowledge he has about various exercises and training regimens, he could easily become one of the most informed fitness experts in the country.

We started training while Aamir was shooting for Talaash. At that point, he was also preparing for his role as a circus entertainer inDhoom 3. since the movie involved trapeze performances and a lot of gymnastics, Aamir had already started preparing with his trainer and was taking gymnastics lessons with a personal coach. To me, his brief was simple: teach me how to pull off a handstand, do handstand walks, and keep me in shape.

Aamir trained with me for two months. Around the time we started, he had put on some weight. But he was dedicated and willing to do whatever I asked of him. By the end of two months, he was doing extremely advanced exercises, which included handstand push-ups and handstand walks. You could see his abs, the cuts were well-defined, and all the unwanted fat and weight had disappeared to reveal a well-proportioned body with rippling lean muscles. But ask him and he will tell you that those two months were not a cakewalk. We not only worked on his exercise regimen, but also had to concentrate on nutrition and diet. Since it was Aamir, who questions everything, I had to work very hard to convince him to try new things and switch to the Paleo diet, which I shall discuss in a subsequent chapter. This book is as much for women who are looking to become fit—not skinny and thin enough to squeeze into a size zero dress but fit—as it is for men chasing the elusive six-pack while guzzling down an occasional six-pack. If you are one of those for whom the weighing scale is the ultimate indicator of fitness, you really need to rethink your entire concept of fitness. This book will help you do precisely that.

Publisher: Ebury Press/Penguin Random House, pages: 212, price: Rs 250.

Among Bollywood actresses, I have worked extensively with Jacqueline Fernandes and Sonakshi Sinha. Both are polar opposites as far as body types go. Jacqueline is an established dancer who is extremely fit, athletic and energetic. She is petite, light on her feet and pretty strong for her built.

Sonakshi, on the other hand, doesn’t have the typical Bollywood body. Her bone structure and body frame are large, which she can do nothing about. But she certainly could have done a lot about the muscle and tissues connected to her large frame. She has the body type that needs constant exercise to stay in the shape she flaunted in Dabangg and subsequent films. If her discipline, diet or workouts lapse for a prolonged period of time, the extra kilos and layers will appear before she knows it. She is dedicated and works very hard, which is why she is as fit as she is. When she came to me, she had spent very little time in the gym. With her, I had to spend much more time working on form and posture so as to make her go through the entire range of exercises.

Though Aamir, Sonakshi and Jacqueline are three very different people with different physiological compositions and needs, all three had to do one common thing—start with the basics.

Basics First

Fitness is a complex and complicated entity. Getting a body like Aamir’s in Dhoom 3 or Ghajini is not simple. It’s not as if you start working out and the fat starts dissipating, muscles start getting bigger and more defined, and you begin looking lean and beefedup. It takes much more than that. Discipline, diet and dedication are the three holy pillars of fitness. Ignore any one and you may be better off than where you started but still won’t be as fit as you could have been, or wanted to be. you won’t see the results that you had imagined: a body like Aamir Khan’s, the ripped physique of Sylvester Stallone in Rambo and Daniel Craig as James Bond, or a beautifully proportioned shell like Scarlet Johansson, Jennifer Lawrence or Jacqueline Fernandes.

Let’s begin with the basics. That is where Aamir, Jacqueline and Sonakshi started. That is where everyone else started. Leave your ego behind and go back to the A, B, C of fitness no matter how much you may have advanced in the gym. This is going to be integral in laying the foundations of your fitness journey.

Aamir is fit and strong and exercises regularly. The fact that he questioned everything and went deep into whatever he undertook meant that he was already aware of the movements involved in working out with me, which are integral to the eight basic exercises we covered in the previous chapter. So with him, the foundation work was easy. But he went through this process too. Just that it was done quicker than usual. It was pretty smooth sailing with Jacqueline as well, while with Sonakshi I had to go slow because of her body type and inexperience. But she is a fast learner who mastered all the movements just a week into training.

While training for Dhoom 3, Shivoham focused not only worked on Aamir’s exercise regimen, but also on nutrition and diet. (

By foundation I mean the basic movements and concepts of exercise, using which you can build your workout regimen in order to achieve your fitness goals. These movements are pull, push and hold.

The basic exercises are squats, pull-ups, pushups, sit-ups, burpees, planks or bridge holds and lunges. Since push-press requires weights, we shall include that at a later stage after you have undergone some amount of conditioning.

Everyone starts with these exercises, minus the barbells, dumb-bells, kettlebells or any other weight. Once you are convinced that your form is right, you can move on to adding weights to your exercise regimen. But before you start forming the misguided notion that lifting more weight is the only sign of being fit, try running 10 kilometres in less than sixty minutes (a comfortable target for close to 45 per cent of the population) or do the basic CrossFit routine of five pull-ups, ten push-ups and twenty squats for twenty minutes non-stop. At the end of the run or the twenty minutes, you will realize how beneficial these exercises are for your muscular, cardiovascular and core fitness as well as endurance. Free-hand exercise is just as important as lifting weights: this is one of the basic principles of fitness that many trainers seem to gloss over in their pursuit of giving their clients pumped up or size-zero bodies really quickly.

Excerpted with permission from The Shivfit Way: A Comprehensive Functional Fitness Programme, Shivoham with Shrenik Avlani, Ebury Press/Penguin Random House.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 08:52 IST