Mohamed Makkawy, fondly called ‘The Magic Egyptian’ is a retired bodybuilder. He competed primarily in the 1970s and 1980s era of bodybuilding and carved a niche for himself in the sport’s history with great performances.
Although he never won the coveted Mr. Olympia trophy, Makkawy came dangerously close to defeating the likes of legendary figures like Lee Haney and Samir Bannout on the grandest stage of bodybuilding. The Magic Egyptian defeated Haney on several other occasions which is an important aspect of his legacy.
This article explores Mohamed Makkawy’s story through his biography, competition history, diet, workout routine as well as statistics.
Mohamed Makkawy (The Magic Egyptian)
Born: August 29, 1953
Birthplace: Panta, EGYPT
Residence: Toronto, CANADA
Nickname: The Magic Egyptian
Height: 5′ 4″ (164 cm)
Competition Weight: 158 lbs (72 kg)
Mohamed Makkawy Biography
Mohamed Makawy was born in Egypt, the land that has produced several high-profile bodybuilders like former 2-time Mr. Olympia Mamdouh ‘Big ramy’ Elssbiay. Makawy developed interest in fitness fairly early in his life. However, building strength and fitness was the goal and he had not given a serious thought to making a career in the fitness industry. However, the rapid progress in the gym compelled the Egyptian to think how far could his passion take him professionally.
By the time he was 16, Mohamed was confident in his ability to compete against the most elite talent of his country and rightfully so. He became the 1969 Egyptian Middleweight Powerlifting Champion in the very first competition of his career.
But something was missing as Mokkawy did not feel passionate about powerlifting as some of the most elite bodybuilders of the time, like Arnold Schwarzengger, had already triggered his interest in bodybuilding. Mohamed Mokkawy started to work towards building a big, strong and aesthetically appealing physique. This pursuit of an impressive physique would later make him one of the most accomplished bodybuilders of his generation.
After three years of rigorous training to get the necessary body composition and size for competitive bodybuilding, Mohamed Makkawy made his debut at the 1972 IFBB Mediterranean Championships and achieved a podium finish.
While this was a great start to the career and the Egyptian bodybuilder continued to build on the momentum, it was not until 1977 that he could earn the IFBB Pro card. Show after show, Makkawy kept making improvements to his physique and finally won the 1977 Mr. Universe competition, where he earned the IFBB Pro card.
Mohamed Makkawy competed as a professional bodybuilder for over two decades and remained a top competitor for several years. Shortly after earning the IFBB Pro card, Makkawy moved to the United States to realize his full potential. At 5ft-3in tall, Makkawy was one of the shorter bodybuilders. But he compensated for the height with an incredibly built physique. Over the next few years, the Egyptian bodybuilder became a popular figure in the bodybuilding community due to his incredible physique.
Becoming an elite bodybuilder
He reached the peak of his bodybuilding abilities in 1982 and won several pro shows in the next two years. This is also when he achieved the best Mr. Olympia placing where he finished second at the 1984 Mr. Olympia. Makkawy competed against the greatest bodybuilders of his time during this spell and even defeated the legendary Lee Haney at the 1983 English Grand Prix. Interestingly, the eight-time Mr. Olympia crossed paths with Mokkawy eight times in his career, losing on five of those occasions!
During his bodybuilding career, Mohamed Mokkawy never finished outside of the top seven on the Mr. Olympia stage. His best placings came at the 1983 and 1984 Olympia when he achieved runner-up finishes.
Mokkawy is highly regarded as a bodybuilder that contributed significantly to the growth of the Egyptian bodybuilding scene and someone that stamped the country’s name on the global bodybuilding stage. He is one of the greatest bodybuilders that never won the Mr. Olympia title.
Retirement and brief comeback
His final Mr. Olympia appearance came in 1985 when the Egyptian finished fourth. He retired from competition after the show but made a short stint more than a decade later. At the 1997 Toronto Pro, Makkawy finished 19th and competed three more times before calling it a career. The 1999 Night of Champions was the final competitive appearance of the Egyptian bodybuilder’s career where he finished 19th.
While age was one of the factors behind his less than satisfactory performances in the later years, the drastic change in bodybuilding competitions contributed greatly to Makkawy falling behind. By the late 1990s, size had become the determining factor and most of the athletes started prioritizing it over aesthetics and proportions. However, Mohamed Makkawy never subscribed to this idea and challenged the new age competitors with his best efforts.
Makkawy stepped away from the sport at the age of 46. He then dedicated his time and energy to share the bodybuilding wisdom and help others achieve their dreams. Makkawy has trained several new generation bodybuilders in achieving their competitive goals.
1969 Egypt Junior Powerlifting Championships – 1st place
1972 Mediterranean Championship – 3rd place
1974 Mediterranean Championship -2nd place
1975 Mr. International – 1st place
1976 Mr. Universe, Short Class – 1st place
1977 Mr. Universe, Lightweight – 2nd place
1977 Mr. International – 1st place
1978 USA vs The World – 4th place
1978 Pro World – 7th place
1978 Mr. Olympia – 6th place
1979 Grand Prix Vancouver – Not Placed
1979 Grand Prix Pennsylania – Not Placed
1979 Canada Diamond Pro Cup – 8th place
1980 World Pro – 5th place
1980 Canada Pro – 9th place
1980 Night of the Champions – 8th place
1981 Grand Prix Wales – 8th place
1981 Grand Prix Belgium – 10th place
1981 Grand Prix England – 8th place
1981 Grand Prix Canada – 10th place
1982 Grand Prix Sweden – 1st place
1982 Grand Prix Belgium – 1st place
1982 World Pro – 1st place
1982 Mr. Olympia – 7th place
1983 World Pro – 1st place
1983 Mr. Olympia – 2nd place
1983 Grand Prix Switzerland – 1st place
1983 Grand Prix Sweden – 1st place
1983 Grand Prix World – 1st place
1983 Grand Prix England – 1st place
1983 Grand Prix Las Vegas – 8th place
1984 Mr. Olympia – 2nd place
1985 Mr. Olympia – 4th place
1997 Toronto Pro – 19th place
1997 Canada Pro – 19th place
1997 Night of the Champions – 16th place
1999 Night of the Champions – 19th place
Mohamed Makkawy Workout
Just like any old-school bodybuilder, Mohamed Makkawy trained extremely hard and had an intense training routine. For the most part, the Egyptian bodybuilder did not train extremely heavy. Instead he worked with weights that allowed him to maintain proper form and technique.
Makkawy always felt that he paid his dues with heavy workouts during his days as a powerlifter. As a result, he focused solely on achieving muscle hypertrophy and the necessary body composition for bodybuilding. As a result, he did not put a lot of emphasis on doing forced or negative reps for any of the exercises.
‘Magic Egyptian’ was one of Vince Gironda’s favorite athletes to train
Although the Egyptian bodybuilder was always appreciated for his physique, he became the best version of himself under the tutelage of Vince Geronda when he trained at the latter’s gym in Studio City, California. Makkawy often credited his coaches Bob Kennedy and Vince Gironda for helping him become a great bodybuilder of global calibre.
One of the most appreciable aspects of his personality was that Makkawy was a lifelong sincere student of the sport. He listened to the coaches intently and implemented their suggestions into training with all honesty.
“Mohamed Makkawy was an absolute joy to train. He would listen intently to all I had to suggest,” Vince Gironda once said.
Taking it to the next level for contest prep
At the peak of his career, Mohamed Makkawy trained six days every week. Like most bodybuilders, he would take Sunday off to allow his body rest and recover from the stress of bodybuilding training.
However, it was a whole different story during the contest prep. Makkawy took no days off when he was close to contest prep and worked vigorously even on Sundays. His training splits also changed from time to time when he wanted to bring up a specific part of the physique.
“If you think I take a rest on Sundays you’re mistaken! As the contest season comes around I do not allow myself this luxury. Most Sundays I will do some miscellaneous exercises, training any area that I feel needs extra attention,” Mohamed Makkawy wrote in an article.
For instance, Makkawy trained extensively to bring his back and arms up for the 1984 Olympia contest when Frank Zane and Samir Bannout were his chief competitors. As he got closer to the competition prep, Makkawy trained arms more than three days per week to overshadow the duo with dominant arms poses.
Mohamed Makkawy revealed this training split in an article he wrote in 1984. Typically, this is what Makkawy’s training routine looked like when he was preparing for competition:
- Bench Press – 5 sets of 8 reps
- 20-degree Bench Press – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Incline bench Press (40-degree) – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Bent Arm Pullovers – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Wide Grip Gironda Dips – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Straight Arm Pullovers – 5 sets of 10 reps
- High Bench Rows – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Pull-Ups to Waist – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Wide-Grip Chins Behind Neck – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Wide Grip Pulldowns to Chest – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Hack Squats – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Seated Pulley Leg Squeezes – 5 sets of 10 reps
- Leg Curls – 5 sets of 10 reps
- Leg Extensions – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Roman Chair – 5 sets of 10 reps
- Flat Leg Extensions – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Seated Calf Raises – 5 sets of 15 reps
- Standing Calf Raises – 5 sets of 15 reps
- Lying Leg Raises – 5 sets of 15 to 25 reps
- Hanging Leg Raises – 5 sets of 15 to 25 reps
- Hanging Knee Ins – 5 sets of 15 to 25 reps
- Bent Knee Sit-ups – 5 sets of 15 to 25 reps
- Twisting Sit-ups – 5 sets of 15 to 25 reps
- Cross Ankle Crunches – 5 sets of 15 to 25 reps
- Wide Grip Rows – 5 sets of 8 reps
- 45-deg Lateral Raises – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Kneeling Cable Raises – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Cable Lateral Raises – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
- EZ Bar Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Cable Short Range Seated Curls – 5 sets of 10 reps
- Parallel Bar Dips – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Dumbbell Kickbacks – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Cable Triceps Pushdowns – 5 sets of 8 reps
Mohamed Makkawy Diet
Mohamed Makkawy’s discipline and mental fortitude was unmatched at the peak of his physical abilities. There was no room for weakness or timidity in any area of his life, most importantly in diet.
The Egyptian bodybuilder’s off-season diet is not available to us. However, he adhered to a Spartan diet while preparing for contests. Makkawy had no room for carbohydrates in his diet and solely relied on an extremely simple diet consisting of meat, chicken, fish and some necessary supplements.
The Egyptian bodybuilder revealed his dietary preferences in a published piece and wrote:
“My diet has been the same as it always is when preparing for a contest. In other words I start out by eating only meat, chicken and fish (zero carbohydrates), then as the contest gets nearer I reduce the amount of food and take amino acids and liver tablets instead until in the last week when I live entirely on amino acids and liver tablets and no food.”
As extreme as the diet may be, it certainly helped Mohamed Makkawy achieve the results he wanted and lead a healthy life. While it might be compelling for some to give this style of dieting a shot, think again. Makkawy cautions newcomers and beginner level athletes and says:
“Unless you are an advanced bodybuilder do not try and follow it exactly or you will lose muscle size. Notice how many times a day I train! For a better understanding of my recommendations for those who are not yet ready to compete in high level contests, I would like to advise you that I have completed my new training courses…”
Mentioned below is the typical competition prep diet that Mohamed Makkawy followed:
- Amino Acids and Liver Tablets
- Amino Acids and Liver Tablets
- Any Meat
Long before Derek Lunsford pushed side the mass monsters to get a top placing on the Oympia stage, Mohamed Makkawy achieved a similar feat. In spite of being a short individual, Makkawy proved that aesthetics, proportions and symmetry can serve you well on the grandest stage of bodybuilding.
Although the sport had changed drastically after his return to competition in the late 1990s, ‘The Magic Egyptian’ never wavered from his principles and stood his ground firmly. In doing so, he has given a powerful message to the younger generation of bodybuilders that chase size above every other aspect of bodybuilding.