Bodybuilding Chat With Vikesh Dhayaram

For almost 25 years, Vikesh Dhayaram has been pioneering the sport of bodybuilding in the South African Police Service (SAPS). The 48-year-old personal trainer wears plenty of hats in the fitness industry. Currently, Vikesh is IBFF Judge, SAPS Bodybuilding provincial chairman for KwaZulu Natal, KZN SAPS head coach, owner of Body Image Personal Training, Supplements SA KZN Franchisee, and past WPF and IFBB Judge. In this bodybuilding chat, Vikesh talks about his accomplishments as a personal trainer, his qualifications and offers solid advice for anyone struggling with reaching their fitness goals.

What is your fitness background; how did you get into fitness?

My Dad exposed me to fitness when I was probably around 11 or 12 in 1981/2.  He had a daily fitness regimen that he followed Monday to Friday to supplement his boxing. Incidentally, his dream was to turn pro and meet his role model / Idol Cassius Marcellus Clay who later became known to the world as Muhammed Ali. Sadly he never lived to fulfil either.

My dad always emphasised training not more than an hour but intensity, nutrition and focus needed to be 100%. At that tender age, he explained the analogy of the 4 legs of a table to me (did sound old fashioned then but these were true words of wisdom). One being the adequate stimulation of the muscles through weight training. Two- adequate rest after training.  Three- adequate nutrition in terms of protein, carbs and fat ( and this he knew without access to any nutrition almanac).

  • I remembered he paused and I thought he forgot about the 4th leg and when I questioned him, he smiled and said, “the 4th leg is discipline, consistency, punctuality and commitment- without this trait you will achieve zero in fitness, in business, in a relationship, in school and in life in general.’’


Despite my exposure to boxing, I instead pursued martial arts and used weight training to compliment my martial arts especially my kata movements for grading purposes. Weight training for a Karateka raised a lot of curiosity but many failed to realise that Bruce Lee trained with weights to strengthen his physique and to improve speed. Having studied and trained in many forms such as Budo Ryu, Kyokushinkai, Taekwondo and Kung Fu instilled a lot of discipline at an early age. However, with Dojos closing and Senseis getting transferred to other towns for better job opportunities, many students and I lost out on proper Belt grading.

In 1985 I started a home gym and had close to 30 members training in an open-air environment, similar to Venice beach.

In 1986, I had the SAPS recruiting officer visit me and request if I could assist in “beefing” up potential non-white applicants interested in enlisting into the police force. My task was to get their body mass up and increase their “chest” width in order for them to pass their medical evaluation.

In 1987, after much publicity in the local media and support from the SAPS, I decided to give my home-based business a name and   Body Image Personal Training was born.

Fast track to 1993; I opened my first gym, Body Image Health Club in Newcastle. It was a fully-fledged registered gym with SAGOF and boasted circuit, aerobics, hard-core bodybuilding, weightlifting and martial arts. In 1998 I opened Powerbodies Health Club in Pietermaritzburg and in 2001 I merged with an existing club, Olympia Bodybuilding Club.

Around 2006 I sold off all my gyms and gym equipment, apart from Body Image Personal Training which I still own. I invested in Supplements SA as their Kwazulu Natal franchisee

Bodybuilding chat with fitness trainer Vikesh with Team SSA Mr Universe
Vikesh with Team SSA Mr Universe

I am currently awaiting registration of my new venture being a personal training business with special emphasis on training war veterans, disabled athletes and amputees in Los Angeles, California, USA.



I have a Diploma in Fitness and Nutrition obtained in 1993 through International Correspondence Schools, diploma in Sports Psychology 1997, a national diploma in Exercise Science obtained through HFPA 2009 and currently awaiting Master Trainer Certification from the National Health Educator based in the USA.

I also have many Certificates etc for courses attended that were presented by prominent Sportsmen/ bodybuilders in the early 80s and 90s.



There isn’t one technique or characteristic that can help you stand out because it is based on so many complex personality traits of the different racial groups of clients one comes into contact with as a personal trainer or coach.

I practice these values:

1. Right Conduct:

This is a client that has invested his or her time, money and faith in you and your training methods so always do the right thing and do not waste their time or money on ineffective exercises not suited to their genetics, illness, injury etc. Do no harm to your client. Be honest with them if they are not performing at their best as more than often the client will appreciate your integrity and honesty and actually put more effort into their diet and training.


2. Truth:

The common question majority of PT get is around the use of Anabolic Steroids. If your knowledge is limited rather advise them to seek the advice of their medical practitioner or a Sports Physician.

Do not play expert here if you are “google” qualified in order to retain them as a client. You have no right to experiment with your client’s health by advising this or that. Keep researching throughout your career as nutrition and fitness is an ever-expanding Science.

Help other personal trainers as much as you can and try to be the person other Fitness Professionals come to for advice.

Kiran and Coach @ INBA San Diego
Vikesh and athlete Kiran at the INBA in San Diego

3. Non Violence:

This refers to having a professional image with a proper tone of voice, not using harsh words, not shouting ridiculously at your client but motivating them with words of encouragement. Give your clients the best experience possible.

4. Peace:

Any athlete, personal trainer or coach etc understands that if you are not at peace with yourself your client will suffer as you will not be 100% focused on them in terms of their progress and development.


5. Love:

Many of us got into personal training, fitness, health; bodybuilding etc because of the love of it, the business aspect in my case is secondary. So portray that love to see your client excel, motivate them, encourage them, and always offer praise when they have achieved their set goals.


By knowing what works best for them in order to utilise their time more effectively and get quicker results. I really do focus on being SMARTER with HOW I train my clients. I firmly believe that time is a very rare and precious commodity.


1. Safety First:

Everything must revolve around this. If you hurt or harm your clients you are not going to retain them. Always offer the highest level of client care and if need be, change exercises. Always remember it’s not about training the client hard but effectively.

2. Positive Client Experience:

Having all the knowledge in the world or having the best physique amongst all the personal trainers at your gym does not make you the best personal trainer.

If your client is not welcomed or treated enthusiastically, smiled at or talked to they are not going to spend their hard earned money on you. Also, maintain a level of confidentiality with your client and do not discuss one client’s issues with another.

3. Academic Studies for Self-Improvement:

With the advent of the internet, clients are going to test your knowledge on certain aspects of their training and nutrition that you recommend, so be well researched in this regard. Keep up to date with the release of university studies on exercises, supplements, nutritional strategies etc. Also research on proper educational websites supported by scientific studies and peer-reviewed research etc.



Over the last 3 decades of being involved in the personal training/coaching/ supplements industry, I have literally changed the lives of 1000’s of clients who are non-competitive that have given me, in some instances greater joy than producing a world-class athlete.

National SAPS Body Building Championships for 2017
2017 National SAPS Body Building Championships
Image courtesy: SAPS Facebook

On the competitive front, I have produced many international, national and provincial champions in a variety of sports from bodybuilding, athletics, modelling, junior soccer, powerlifting, to bodybuilding for the physically challenged and disabled categories, either directly as their mentor/coach or as part of their team. These are just a fraction of my highlights:

  • IBFF SA Champion 2017: Sergeant Trevor Alexander (Men short)
  • IBFF SA Champion 2017: Colonel Vincent Xaba (Mr Athletic)
  • IBFF S A Champion 2017: Colonel Vincent Xaba (Mr Physique)
  • IBFF Mr Universe 2017 (Italy): Trevor Alexander, awarded a Pro Card. Now has a Provincial Championship named in his honour viz the Trevor Alexander Classic which will be an annual IBFF KZN event.
  • IBFF Mr Universe 2017 (Italy): Vincent Xaba- Bronze medal in Mr Athletic and Mr Physique categories.
  • Heroes Marathon winner 2017 ( A marathon in Honour of Nelson Mandela): Nkosikhona Mhlakwane – Gold
  • INBA SA Champion 2014: Tharish Ragubeer and selected to represent South Africa at the Natural Olympia held in San Diego, USA.
  • INBA S A Champion 2014: Kiran Singh (Physically Challenged) Gold Medal
  • INBA Natural Olympia World Championships 2014, San Diego, USA: Kiran Singh- Silver Medal.
  • World Police and Fire Games 2009 British Columbia, Canada: Vincent Xaba – Silver Medal winner
  • WPF World Championships 2008 France: Mzwakhe Qwabe Gold Medallist and World Champion.
Piet Nabba 2017 Champ
Vikesh’s athlete Piet Nabba 2017 Champ


  • KwaZulu Natal- winning the IBFF SAPS National Trophy for Best Performing Province six times in the last seven years.
  • Being affiliated to a supplement brand, viz Supplements SA and not only producing the 1st  Black SA  Bodybuilding Champion, the late Vusi Njisane but also setting a record 6x 1st place wins and 3  x 2nd place wins at the 2011 SA IFBB Championships.
  • Samson Classic hosted in Durban ran for 3 years and Supplements SA Athletes won it every year.



  • My daughter, Saián (14) a Model with Irene’s Modelling agency through her consistent and disciplined approach to her training and nutrition has successfully appeared in the media and recently is featuring in the Sanlam advert currently broadcasted on national television.
  • My son, Akshan (12) a member of Savages FC, the 2nd oldest football club in the world, through his dedication and passion for football, consistency in his training and discipline in his nutrition has been awarded most skilled junior footballer for 2017 and has been awarded Golden Boot for 2013,2014,2015 and 2016. Player of the Year 2014, 2015 and 2016.
  • Having moved clubs and now a striker for Westside Lads FC in Pietermaritzburg and after WSL players were scouted, they have been invited to participate in the Manchester Cup 2019 in the United Kingdom next Easter.



Always remember the 5 Ps :

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!

This can be used in any event be it from prepping for an exam, photo shoot, bodybuilding or fitness competition to even planning a vacation.

Let’s assume you have chosen the ideal coach that you are comfortable with and who has a  proven track record in contest prep and I am not going to touch on any specific training method or nutritional/ dietary strategy as I believe that each plan has its own merits.

There are also countless studies and theories on contest prep and I have used the following factors as important for an individual embarking on this journey.

  1. Discipline
  2. Commitment
  3. Consistency
  4. Accountability
  5. Punctuality
  6. Motivation
  7. Productivity in the gym
  8. Time awareness



The age-old saying applies here: ‘Rome was not built in a day’

One has to be realistic: If you have spent the last decade eating unhealthy or have gained an unwanted amount of fat or lost muscle mass etc, there is NO overnight success. You have to put in the work to reap the rewards.

But there can be “overnight success” in your Attitude to life. Once you have made up your mind to change the way you look and adopt a healthy Lifestyle the rewards are endless. It all starts with that first awakening. This is based on a first time client not interested in Competitive Bodybuilding but just wanting to improve fitness and overall health.

  1. The first question one should ask is, Why do I want to work out?
  2. Then set a Goal.
  3. That Goal must be based on my SMART Principle. It needs to be

Specific: Your training and nutritional regimen must be specific to either fat loss, muscle gain, cardio health, endurance, flexibility, injury rehabilitation etc. With all the different classes etc being offered these days boredom should not be an excuse.

Measurable: set small achievable goals eg reducing sugar or salt intake if you have excessive consumption, slowly cutting down on carbs, fatty foods, junk food etc

Achievable: Its easier to achieve smaller goals eg fat loss of minimum 2kg a month then to say I want to lose 30kg in 3 months.


Realistic: set realistic goals so you are not demotivated should you not achieve them. Smaller increments of fat loss with lean muscle gains will keep you more motivated than just fat loss on its own. Remember that long-term sustainability is important not some crash weight loss plan that causes you to lose excessive muscle instead of fat.

Time: you have to set all these goals within a time frame. In that way, you are committed to your transformation and have a deadline to meet.  Having a deadline will instil discipline, consistency, accountability and keep you motivated. Scheduling time in meal prep etc is also vitally important.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals with similar goals can make staying on track much easier. Choose your friends wisely. Stay far away from people that bring you down or make every excuse in the book not to follow a healthy lifestyle or make a mockery of your healthy eating/ fitness  I label those people as “TOXIC”. Likewise stay clear of the ‘Keyboard Warriors’ on social media, even better block them if they are “TOXIC” to your progress.

Generally people who comment on what our ancestors ate fail to realise that although they ate foods that were high in  fats or foods that now seen to be unhealthy and contrary to good health, our Ancestors were hunters and gatherers and these types of foods eaten provided the fuel for their daily chores, hence they seldom carried that excess tyre around their waistline.

Presently we are so bombarded with sedentary lifestyles and modern living that humans have become less active but have every excuse not to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

I often tell my clients that if they think that a  healthy lifestyle is expensive, try costing a stroke, heart attack or diabetes. The post-op care costs will shock you!

Engaging in a training partner can also be beneficial as there is less chance of skipping a workout or cheating on a diet as you are accountable to each other.

Often athletes/clients are too shy or feel intimidated when they enrol in a gym and hence lose that motivation to continue.  What they need is a change in mindset. I sometimes have to use the analogy of a panel shop undertaking repairs to different makes of motor vehicles. I mean you enter a panel shop and here are all these damaged vehicles awaiting a cosmetic makeover through repairs and panel beating. The panel shop is in the business of giving you that end product of a new look/repaired vehicle. Similarly, the gym is in business through their employees of sculpting new bodies, improving health etc through the different forms of fitness training to give you, your ideal body.

Sometimes a change in training times may work for the client where he or she is not exposed to all the hardcore athletes training.

A professional personal trainer should be able to come up with a  variety of options to assist the client.

Finally, the client should also do an introspection, more than often you will find either the client spends unnecessary time watching television, on social media, engaging in behaviour/habits contrary to their fitness and nutrition goals, sleeping too much or too less.


What is your ultimate goal in fitness?

I have been  plagued by  sports injuries that have required surgical intervention over the last 30 years such as chondromalacia resulting in bilateral arthroscopy to both knees several times, reconstruction of my ACL, reattached torn hamstrings, reattached right biceps and tendon, torn left rotator cuff and calcification in both elbows is all part of the Trade so these have somehow shifted my earlier aspirations/goals.

However, the worst injury stemmed from a work-related incident that resulting in a break in my right deltoid joint that warranted surgery and the insertion of a 23mm screw to stabilise the joint capsule.

Still as stubborn as hell I am still addicted to the grind and I will achieve  My ultimate goal of winning the INBA Masters World Championship in the USA but for now, my wife and kids take precedence over any trophy. I am very involved with my kids’ fitness and nutrition and now fully involved in their coaching, one being a model and the other an aspiring footballer.

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