Tuesday 25 January 2022

The female Bahraini bodybuilder during a workout

Bahraini woman eyes top bodybuilding contest

MANAMA, July 20, 2015

A Bahraini woman is blazing a trail to become the country’s first female professional bodybuilder.

Haifa Al Musawi, 32, has set her sights on winning a women’s title in Mr Olympia – one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind in the world, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

The Dubai resident, who works as a fitness instructor, has crafted her body into a finely tuned flexing machine over the past 15 years – turning her rippling back on a career in public relations to pursue her dream.

She has now set her sights on success at Mr Olympia next year after coming sixth at the International Natural Bodybuilding Association World Championship women’s category in Dubai last month.

However, the lack of a professional association for female bodybuilders in the region means she is moving to Portugal so that she can compete on the highest stage and enter regional or international tournaments.

That is because she needs to be backed by a local association to obtain her International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro-card, but none of those in the region support female bodybuilders.

“I did not get the support I wanted from the sports association in Bahrain to represent my country at professional competitions,” she told the GDN.

“I asked around and found out they do not back women bodybuilders because of the cultural stereotypes.”

After quitting her job in public relations Al Musawi became a personal trainer certified by the International Sports and Sciences Association, which paved the way for her move to Dubai four years ago.

“I train people now on weight loss, athlete support and rehabilitate injured sportsmen and individuals, which makes me happy,” she said.

However, she admitted that her journey had not been easy.

“For more than 15 years I have worked very hard on my physique and adapted to this lifestyle, where you work out twice a day, have seven meals and also deal with the critics who often question my femininity,” she said.

“I was overweight (before I started training), but always interested in those bodybuilding magazines which I used to buy in stores as people gave me those looks.”

Even as a young public relations professional, all she wanted to do was get to the gym.

“My dream was to train hard and get a muscular body with proper symmetry,” she said.

Al Musawi now expects to move to Portugal by October to register under the Portugal bodybuilding federation, so she can compete at future events.

“I will travel by October and complete all the residency formalities and stay there for a couple of months,” she said.

“My goal now is to compete for the Power Expo in the physique category (+165cm) that will be held in October and then aim to reach Mr Olympia.”


Her friend and trainer Andrea Sousa will help her settle in Portugal and prepare for the competition, as she aims to become the first Bahraini woman to be recognised as a professional bodybuilder.

“Once I am registered under the Portugal Bodybuilding Association, I can compete in amateur competitions and need to be the overall winner to earn the IFBB pro-card that allows me to compete with professional athletes,” she explained.

However, while she said she had the support of her family she added there were some reservations when she told them about her plans.

“My family, like many others, is conservative and when I informed them about my decision to compete at international level they were first shocked,” she said.

“But they still support me. I just don’t want any drama as this is my personal decision to move to Portugal to live my dream.”

Her daily routine begins with cardio training in the morning, followed by weight training at noon, and she trains her clients after completing her own workout.

“I can squat 150kg and my bench press is 85kg (four sets of 15 repetitions), which I eventually plan to increase with all the training,” she said.

“I just want people to understand that it’s not about going to the gym and lifting weights, it’s 80 per cent nutrition and a lot of dedication as you have to be crazy, yet mentally strong.”

On top of that, as an Arab woman she must also contend with strange looks and barbed comments from strangers who do not understand her muscular appearance and think she looks too “masculine”.

“If muscles measure masculinity, then the majority of men don’t have muscles.”

In fact, Al Musawi said there were many women like her who wanted to take up bodybuilding, both in Bahrain and other Gulf countries, who sought her advice.

“If only women in the Gulf were more ambitious to chase and actually live their dreams, trust me we will be up there,” she said.

“All many dream of are basic things such as finishing college, getting a good job and later marrying and there is nothing wrong with all this, but in all this they forget to chase their dreams and add value to their country.”

The Bahraini’s hard work in Dubai has even resulted in multinational company Unilever signing her up as a brand ambassador for an outreach programme, which involves visiting schools in the UAE to educate girls on the importance of fitness.

“The obesity rates are high in Gulf countries and diabetes is also on the rise, which means we need to shape up and live a healthy lifestyle,” said Al Musawi.

“I want to see a change 10 years from now where more women bodybuilders from Gulf countries win international prizes and show the world how strong they are.” - TradeArabia News Service

Tags: Bahrain | Female | builder | Body |

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