BOSTON. Why would strongmen, bodybuilders, weightlifters and powerlifters fight for the right to brave heavy lifts and painful workouts day in, day out?
These four sports disciplines seem the same but are actually different. Weightlifting uses the snatch and the clean and jerk - both overhead movements. Powerlifting uses the squat, bench press, and dead-lift, none of which is directed vertically overhead. Bodybuilding is a sport with no lifts, its more like a pose-off with a bunch of people.
For Ronnie “The King” Coleman, eight time Mr Olympian (highest honour in bodybuilding), it was that free pass at the Metroflex Gym that gave him courage to work out tirelessly.
Edward Hall is an English former professional strongman, notable for winning the World’s Strongest Man 2017 competition and for being the world record deadlift holder, lifting 500 kg (1,100 lb; 79 st) under strongman rules, which he achieved in 2016. His zeal for conquering England as the country’s strongest man always kept him in the gym.
As for our own Roy Mubiru, a Ugandan powerlifter, who is taking America by storm, its because of his lack of education that keeps pushing him to hit the gym, again and again.
“I never went far with education. I am a Primary Six dropout,” says Mubiru.
“But I realised that in order to achieve success in life, it had to be through sports. That is why I joined boxing and later on got into powerlifting. The gym is my office now and what I do there is what pays my bills as well as take care of my family.”
The muscular but rather soft spoken 41-year-old Mubiru, who resides in Lexington, Massachusetts - USA with four of his kids and his fiancé, was born in Naalya, Kiira Constituency to Justine Nakabugo and the late Samuel Ggaliko.
From boxer to powerlifter
Mubiru was introduced into powerlifting by Ryan Vandermil, who was his manager while in South Africa. Initially, the Ugandan had been recruited as a boxer.
“I traveled to South Africa to do boxing in 2007. I wanted to try out my luck as a professional there after spending a few years as an amateur boxer in the lightwelter weight division in Uganda. Adam Kassim, Jackson Asiku, Eric Lakidi and Andaman Daku are some of the boxers I competed with at the time,” recalls Mubiru. “My manager arranged two fights for me as a professional in South Africa and I lost them all. But since he was a powerlifter, he noticed that while in gym, I was doing well with the weights and this is when he talked me into joining the sport of powerlifting. He started giving me techniques and within a period of eight months, I was ready to start competing. I have never looked back since.”
Mubiru earned his powerlifting debut in 2008 at the Pretoria North Powerlifting Championships. “My manager registered me in that championship because he wanted to determine my readiness. I did well in the deadlift category but not that good in the bench press,” said the gentle giant.
With more training, Mubiru was able to compete at two more events in South Africa and finished fifth and sixth in the light heavy division before returning to Uganda for a short stay that unfortunately got prolonged.
Qualifying for World Championships
Mubiru is the first Ugandan powerlifter to ever qualify for the World Powerlifting Championships set for next May in Ukraine. Enroute to this historical achievement, Mubiru had to better the best including American lifters at the recently concluded 32nd State Bay annual American Powerlifting Association (APA) Championships held in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The APA is used as a qualifier for both the USA national powerlifting team and other nations do always take part as well.
Mubiru, who weighs 122kgs, lifted weights that nobody would even fathom picking up, and he was doing it with relative ease. He lifted 365kgs in deadlift, did 210kgs for the bench press and 259kgs for the squats before being declared winner of a gold medal in the heavyweight division.
Meals and gym time
Mubiru has no fear of weights. His mindset is just at another level. The things he does at the gym with that amount of weight doesn’t come from normal strength. He says it’s a gift from God. His work ethic is supreme. He is self motivated. “ My day starts with a glass of water at 6am. Most times I prepare my meals because the people I stay with don’t exactly know how I want them,” said Mubiru.
“I have a bowl of jungle oats with cinnamons and honey. Then 20 hard boiled eggs but I eat only the whites although sometimes I am tempted to eat the yolk. I also add on five quero eggs. After one hour, I go to the gym for my morning session but I make sure that before 10am, I am home for a brown bread sandwich with half a chicken on the side or beef, a glass of juice and other nutritious foods for pre-work outs. I also have a protein shake as well as a smother for fruits,” he adds.
For lunch, Mubiru goes for starch including one kilo of rice and a whole chicken with a bowl of salad and one jug of juice. “In a day I drink about six litres of liquid, that’s water and juice,” reveals Mubiru. “Before my evening training, I eat a mixed fruit salad because I have to go to the gym when I am light. Immediately after training, I take a vegetable sandwich plus my nutritional drink as I prepare my dinner. I eat dinner by 7pm, another whole chicken but this time grilled with salads. If its a night for fish, I eat two big Tilapia fish.”
Contributing to Uganda’s progress
Mubiru acknowledges that powerlifting is still at a low in Uganda but remains hopeful that one day, it will prosper. “The good thing is that we now have a mother body - the Uganda Powerlifting Association. But it has no events besides the one I organise annually (for the last four years). The local governing body should start getting more events so that the guys back home get exposed as well as gain more experience which will help them compete internationally,” advises Mubiru.
The next edition of RM (Roy Mubiru) Powerlifting Championship is slated for next January at the Elite Fitness Satellite Hotel, Kisaasi. The event dubbed ‘Beast Mode’ showdown, will have powerlifters competing against bodybuilders and cross fitness.