“Back double biceps pose… Flex! Relax… Next, side triceps pose… Flex!” the announcer instructed two aspirants who were vying to get into Delhi University under the sports quota.

On Friday, of all the 12,423 sports quota applicants, Dishant Thakran and Vikas Varma were the only two eligible for the ‘Best Physique’ category that has seven slots across four colleges this year.

In a small weight room filled with the scent of muscle relief cream and stale sweat, the two men — only in black trunks — flexed in front of three judges and rows of spectators.

“We measure muscle size and overall muscularity. We look at the side chest, rib cage, biceps, and thighs,” said Gyan Singh, general secretary of the Association of Body Builders, Delhi.

Mr. Thakran and Mr. Varma’s success depends on the extent to which they are able to define their muscle lines through full-body poses, he said.

“Muscles being proportionate is a must. Their whole body, the hips, back, calves, and abdomen must look good altogether,” said Prem Bahadur, vice-president of the association. Skin quality is also a significant determinant in bodybuilding competitions.

“The athlete’s skin must be stiff, glowing, and not have stretch marks,” said Mr. Bahadur.

The first section of Mr. Thakran and Mr. Varma’s trial required presenting six technical poses that accentuated different muscle groups.

The second section involved more creativity on their part as they chose their own aesthetic stances that were performed to the beat of energetic music and the applause of an amused audience, as if in a televised contest.

Health regime

“Bodybuilding is a difficult lifestyle as it takes hard work and is expensive,” said Mr. Thakran, a 22-year-old silver medallist at Junior Mr. India and the pride of his father, a farmer in Gurugram.

To maintain his physique, Mr. Thakran eats Rs. 20,000 worth of groceries a month, which includes a daily diet of 30 egg whites, 500 grams of chicken, 250 grams of fish, oats, fruits, and salads.

Tuesday is cheat day when Mr. Thakran indulges in food of the circular, cheesy variety: “Pizza is my favourite food,” he chuckled.

Mr. Varma’s vegetarian diet also costs close to Rs. 20,000 per month. “I am from Punjab, so I love to have tasty food. But even though I want to cheat on my healthy lifestyle, I have to make the sacrifice as it is not easy to get back on track,” said Mr. Varma, who loves eating
chhole bhature
as a cheat meal. He allows himself this indulgence only twice a month.

Both aspirants exercise about six hours daily, and have eight to nine nutrient-packed meals. While most students focus on number in their Board exams, Mr. Varma and Mr. Thakran occupy themselves with figures on the weighing scale and measuring tape.

Mr. Thakran wants to attend Deshbandhu College for the B.A. (Programme) and secure a job at the Railways. He also hopes to represent DU at all-India competitions. Mr. Varma, who aspires to be an Indian Foreign Service officer, wants to study B. Com in Motilal Nehru College or Deshbandhu College.

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