Competitive bodybuilding requires muscle size, symmetry, balance, proportions, shape, and conditioning. While anyone can build a decent physique using a balanced diet, training, and recovery program, you must be blessed with Greek (or Indian) god genetics to reach the top of the professional bodybuilding circuit.
With a population of more than 1.42 billion, India has a large pool of talent with the genetics, grit, and determination to become top-tier bodybuilders. India has a rich heritage of strength sports, but only a few bodybuilders have been successful in making a name for themselves on the international stage.
Bodybuilding’s popularity in India has been on the rise for the last couple of decades. We are witnessing fully-equipped gyms popping up across the nation and a growing number of people getting their hands dirty in the weight room. The rise of social media has also played a part in taking the sport of bodybuilding to the masses.
One cannot overlook the importance of role models and motivation in bodybuilding. This is why most gyms have training videos of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, Chris Bumstead, and Branch Warren playing on their TVs.
This article is dedicated to the top 23 Indian bodybuilders who have not only achieved greatness in the sport but are also inspiring millions of people in India and across the globe to start their transformation journey.
23 Best Indian Bodybuilders You Should Know About
- Premchand Degra
- Suhas Khamkar
- Sangram Chougule
- Bhuwan Chauhan
- Varinder Singh Ghuman
- Mukesh Gehlot
- Rajendran Mani
- Arambam Boby
- Murli Kumar
- Sunit Jadhav
- Yatinder Singh
- Ankur Sharma
- Wasim Khan
- Amit Chhetri
- Manoj Patil
- Hira Lal
- Prashant Salunkhe
- Thakur Anoop Singh
- Ashish Sakharkar
- Raymond D’Souza
- Neeraj Kumar
- Monotosh Roy
- Manohar Aich
- Wrapping Up
23 Best Indian Bodybuilders You Should Know About
Here are the stories of the best Indian bodybuilders:
You cannot have a ‘best Indian bodybuilders list’ without Premchand Degra. Degra is a veteran of the Indian bodybuilding industry and one of the most respected individuals in the sport. He is a nine-time Mr. India and eight-time Mr. Asia champion. Degra also won the 1988 Mr. Universe and Mr. World (Middle-weight class) titles.
Degra is the first Indian bodybuilder to earn his IFBB Pro card. He did so by winning the 1988 IFBB World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships in Queensland, Australia. Degra is the only Indian bodybuilder to have competed in the Mr. Olympia Open division. Mr. Olympia is the most prestigious bodybuilding competition in the sport. Degra competed at the 1988 Mr. Olympia in Italy but did not place.
Degra has also been awarded several medals by the Indian and Punjab (state) governments for his illustrious career and achievements in the sport of bodybuilding, including the Arjuna Award (the second-highest sporting honor of India.), Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award (for excellence and achievement in the service of Punjab in sports), and Padma Shri Award (the fourth-highest civilian award of the Republic of India).
Premchand Degra was also awarded the “Achievement Medal” by the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) in 2003. IFBB is the biggest and most reputed professional bodybuilding organization in the world.
Sushar Khamkar is among the most successful Indian bodybuilder of all time. He was born into a family of fitness experts and bodybuilders. From a young age, he idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger and decided that he wanted to be a pro bodybuilder. Khamkar earned his IFBB Pro Card by winning the 2018 Amateur Olympia India.
Khamkar has won the Mr. India title 10 times and the Mr. Maharashtra title eight times. He also has several other bodybuilding show wins to his name.
Sangram Chougule’s monstrous size and razor-sharp conditioning helped him win two Mr. World titles (2012 and 2014), six-consecutive Mr. India titles (2010-2015), three Mr. Maharashtra titles, and a Mr. Universe title (2012). Chougule was the most dominating bodybuilder between 2010 and 2015 in India.
Despite his size, Chougule is one of the most flexible bodybuilders. His posing routine involved a full split, which reminded the fans of Flex Wheeler and Ronnie Coleman. Although Chougule last competed in a bodybuilding show in 2015, he is highly active within the Indian bodybuilding community. Chougule runs his own gym in Pune, India, and appeared in the Marathi movie Dandam (2019).
Interestingly, Chougule and Khamkar hail from Kolhapur, a small city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, and the competition between the two bodybuilders mirrored the rivalry between Kai Greene and Phil Heath.
Although several athletes on the top Indian bodybuilders’ list have an IFBB Pro card, only a couple of them have competed in a pro show. Bhuwan Chauhan is the first Indian bodybuilder to win an IFBB Pro show. He did it in the Men’s Physique category.
At the time of writing, Chauhan has six IFBB Pro show wins to his name, including the 2019 IFBB Vancouver Pro, 2020 IFBB Border States, 2021 IFBB Tournament of Champions Pro, 2022 IFBB San Francisco Championships, 2022 IFBB Sheru Classic Mumbai Pro, and 2023 IFBB Sheru Classic India Pro.
Chauhan has competed thrice at the prestigious Mr. Olympia (2019, 2020, and 2022), with a 15th-place finish at the 2020 Olympia being his best performance.
Bhuwan went to the University of Alberta, Canada, on a scholarship in 2011 for his higher education and took up bodybuilding while in university. He started competing in 2016 and earned his pro card at Ben Weider Legacy Cup in 2017.
Indian competitive bodybuilding fans must keep a tab on Bhuwan Chauhan. He has the talent, physique, and genetics to make it big in the IFBB Pro League and the Mr. Olympia contest in the near future.
Varinder Singh Ghuman
Ghuman has the biggest stature of any top-tier Indian bodybuilder. At 6-foot-2 and 130 kilograms (286.6 pounds), Ghuman dwarfed his competition on stage. Ghuman won the Mr. India title in 2009. He also earned a silver medal at the Mr. Asial in the same year. He was also Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pick for promoting his supplements in Asia as his brand ambassador.
Ghuman’s physique and looks landed him roles in three movies Kabaddi Once Again (2012), where he played the lead role, Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans (2014), and Marjaavaan (2019). He was also featured in the Generation Iron bodybuilding documentary Generation Iron 3 (2018).
Ghuman is dubbed the ‘The HeMan of India’ for his colossal physique. According to NPC News Online, his pro shows include the 2017 IFBB San Marino Pro, Arnold Classic Europe, the 2012 Australian Grand Prix, the 2013 Mr. Europe Pro, the 2011 Sheru Classic, and the 2015 Toronto Pro.
Ghuman is a life-long vegetarian. However, many bodybuilding experts believe he could have excelled in his bodybuilder career had he incorporated meats and eggs into his diet.
Gehlot is a four-time Mr. India champion, having won the title in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. Besides being an elite professional bodybuilder, Gehlot is also a successful powerlifter, a distinction no other Indian athlete holds. According to Open Powerlifting, he has won nine different sanctioned powerlifting meets in USA, Ireland, UK, Germany, and Netherlands.
Gehlot is among India’s most respected bodybuilding and powerlifting coaches, earning himself the moniker ‘Guruji,’ meaning a spiritual leader or teacher. He has partnered with several big Indian brands in the health and fitness industry to promote the sport of bodybuilding. Gehlot is also a regular at bodybuilding expos, where he talks to and inspires the youth.
Mani is one of the most decorated Indian bodybuilders. He is an Indian Air Force (IAF) veteran who won his first bodybuilding championship in IAF in 2002. Mani earned the moniker the “Indian Hulk” for his incredible size.
He remained the undisputed inter-services champion in the 90KG class for six years (2004-2010) and has won the Mr. Services titles 12 times. He has conquered the Mr. World five times and the Mr. India title 14 times.
Mani took voluntary retirement from the Air Force in 2010 after being denied a promised promotion. He started his own gym in the national capital in 2011. However, he had to fold up the business after it racked up significant losses. Mani won the Mr. World title in 2013 but couldn’t defend it in 2014 because of the financial turmoil.
Mani’s son, Benjamin, is following in his footsteps and has become a professional bodybuilder. He is a three-time Mr. World and a Mr. Asia champion. Benjamin is one of the most exciting prospects in the Indian bodybuilding scene.
Arambam Boby has won three Mr. South Asia titles, five Mr. Asia titles, eight Mr. World titles, and 12 Mr. India titles. Boby started his career in 1989 as a gymnast in the Sports Authority of India (SAI). He joined the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the Indian border security force, in 1993 under their sports promotion program. However, he shifted from gymnastics to athletics and became a 100 and 200 meters sprinter.
Boby transitioned to bodybuilding in 1995 and entered and won his first bodybuilding show one year later — Mr. Manipur Junior. He also won the Mr. Manipur Senior title in the same show. Boby got an employment offer from the Indian Railways in 1997 after a solid performance at the 1996 Jr. Asian Bodybuilding Championship, which he accepted. Boby won the coveted Mr. India title in 1998 and Mr. World in 2010.
The mustached bodybuilder is among the most famous bodybuilders in India. His posters grace several gym walls across the nation. Born in the southern state of Kerala, Kumar started his career as a software engineer. He then joined the Indian Navy, seeking a more active lifestyle.
However, Kumar injured his leg during naval training, and the doctors advised him to take up strength training. Kumar fell in love with training, and as they say, the rest is history. He soon realized his potential in competitive bodybuilding and started following a structured training, diet, and recovery program to improve his aesthetics. Kumar is a three-time Mr. India, 10-time Mr. Services, and Mr. Asia champion.
Sunit Jadhav is one of the hottest properties in the Indian professional bodybuilding circuit. An economics student, Jadhav dropped out of college to pursue his passion for bodybuilding. He had started lifting weights at an early age and won several small-scale shows.
Jadhav entered and won the Maharashtra Shree contest in 2009, which gave him the confidence to compete at the highest level. He won the Mr. India title in 2012, 2013, and 2015. Jadhav also won the Mr. Maharashtra title six times and the Mr. Mumbai title four times.
Jadhav is an IFBB Pro bodybuilder and works with the world-renowned coach Hany Rambod. Jadhav aims to win an IFBB pro show to earn a qualification to compete at the Mr. Olympia contest.
Yatinder Singh is one of the most successful Indian bodybuilders that is currently active. Singh started his bodybuilding journey in 2001. He entered and won his maiden bodybuilding contest in 2002, the Western Uttar Pradesh Championship.
Singh’s bodybuilding journey has had its fair share of highs and lows. After winning the 2004 Mr. North India and Federation Cup Championship, Singh ruptured his lower back vertebrae while prepping for the 2005 Mr. Asia. This accident led to about 30 percent paralysis of his right hand and leg, and Singh was bedridden for several months.
It took Singh four years to recover from the injuries, but that didn’t deter him from his dream of becoming a pro bodybuilder. He returned to the stage in 2009 and won the North India Bodybuilding Championship.
Singh retired from competitive bodybuilding after winning gold at the 2016 Senior Mr. India and bronze at the Mr. International Championship. However, he came out of retirement after a six-year hiatus to win the 2022 Mr. Asia title in Maldives.
Ankur Sharma of Delhi won the Mr. Universe and Mr. South Asia titles in 2009. He emerged victorious at the Mr. India contest in 2012 and backed it with a WBPF World Championship and Mr. Asia win in 2013.
Sharma is among the few Indian bodybuilders to have finished on the podium in a top-tier IFBB Pro League competition. He finished second runner-up behind Ahmad Ashkanani and Issa Al Hasani at the 2016 Arnold Classic Australia in the 212 division.
Sharma returned to the bodybuilding stage in 2023 after a six-year break. He competed in the Mr. North India contest in the Classic Physique division and secured gold.
Wasim Khan is a 13-time Mr. Delhi champ, five-time Mr. India champ, three-time Mr. World champ, two-time Mr. Asia champ, and a Mr. Universe champ. Khan won the International Bodybuilding Fitness Federation (IBFF) championship for three consecutive years (2015, 2016, and 2017). He is the only Indian bodybuilder to have won back-to-back IBFF titles.
Although Khan is on break from competing in bodybuilding shows, he is active in the fitness industry and participates in bodybuilding expos nationwide.
Amit Chhetri hails from the northern Indian state of Uttrakhand and has served as a constable in Uttarakhand Police since 2006. Chhetri won first place in Mr. India Federation Cup in 2007 and the Champion of Champions for the Federation Cup title in 2013.
He won a gold medal at the 2013 Sheru Classic and the 2016 Mr. Indian title in his weight class (100KG). Chhetri beat 42,000 competitors from 90 countries to win the 2015 Fairfax World Police and Fire Games in Virginia.
Manoj Patil is the third bodybuilder on the best Indian bodybuilders list from Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Patil started training at the age of 18 and entered and won his first bodybuilding contest, Junior Mr. Mumbai, at 21. Patil won the Mr. India Men’s Physique Overall Championship in 2016. He earned his IFBB Pro card by winning the 2019 Sheru Classic in the Men’s Physique division.
In 2021, Patil attempted suicide alleging cyber-bullying from an actor and fitness entrepreneur. He was rushed to the hospital in time, which saved his life.
In May 2023, Patil received a six-month suspension from the IFBB Pro League for participating in a non-IFBB Pro show as a judge. The prohibition dashed his opportunities to compete at the 2023 Olympia, scheduled for November 2-5 in Orlando, FL.
Hira Lal has four Mr. Asia titles under his belt. He has also won the Federation Cup, Mr. Punjab, and Mr. India contests. Lal won the Mr. Universe title at the 65th World Body Building Championship, bringing the title to India after 23 years. The iconic bodybuilder Premchand Degra was the last Indian bodybuilder to win the Mr. Universe title in 1988.
The 5-foot-5 vegetarian bodybuilder idealizes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mr. India Bihari Lal. Lal also won a silver medal at the 2012 Amateur Olympia and 2012 Arnold Classic Amateur.
Prashant Salunkhe is one of the most genetically gifted Indian bodybuilders. His thick, round, and full-muscle bellies helped him win the Mr. India crown in 2015 by defeating the dominating Suhas Khamkar. Salunkhe has eight Mr. India titles under his belt. He also won the Mumbai Shree and Jerrai Shree titles in 2016.
Thakur Anoop Singh
Thakur Anoop Singh won a gold medal at the 2015 Mr. World in the Men’s Physique division, silver at the 2015 Mr. India, and bronze at the 2015 Mr. Asia. Besides being a bodybuilder, model, and actor, Singh is also a trained pilot.
Singh always wanted to be a pilot and achieved his dream at the age of 19. However, the worldwide economic recession of 2009 left Singh without a job, and he had to seek a career in modeling and acting. Singh got his big break in 2013 with the hit TV show Mahabharat.
Singh is among the most successful personalities on this list. The pilot-turned-bodybuilder-turned-model-turned-actor has appeared in famous Indian TV shows and Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Hindi films.
Ashish Sakharkar came from a family of bodybuilders. His father was also a bodybuilder who had won the Mr. Maharashtra title.
Sakharkar entered his first bodybuilding competition in 1999 after six months of training and won the gold medal in the Men’s Novice category. The early win hooked Sakharkar to competitive bodybuilding.
Sakharkar was a four-time winner of the coveted Mr. India title. He also won a gold medal in European Championships, a silver medal in the Mr. Asia Championship, a silver and bronze medal in Mr. Universe Championship, and placed seventh in Amateur Olympia.
Sakharkar passed away at the age of 43 in July 2023 after battling a prolonged illness, leaving behind his wife and two sons.
In his prime, Raymond D’Souza was known for his aesthetics. He was compared to the bodybuilding legend Frank Zane for his overall physique’s shape, symmetry, balance, size, conditioning, and balance.
D’Souza won the Mr. World title in 1990. A banker by profession, D’Souza also won the Bharath Kesari title in the All India Body Building Competition in Chattisgarh in 2010. He has won several other bodybuilding contests, including Bharath Shrestha, Bharath Kishore, Bharath Shree, and Bharath Kumar.
He has won many IFBF Titles such as:
- IFBF Bharath Kishore 1 time 1983
- IFBF Bharath Kumar 1 time 1984
- IFBF Bharath shree 4 times 1985,86,89& 93
- IFBF Bharath kesari 1 time 2010
- IFBF Bharath shreshta 8 times 1986,87,89,90,91,92,93 & 95
- INBA Mr natural international in japan 1990 first Asian to win it.
- IFBF Indo Pak meet Title in 1992
Neeraj Kumar won the Mr. India title in his weight class in 2013. He also bagged a bronze medal at the Mr. Universe contest in the same year. Born in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Kumar has been nominated as the president of the Bihar Bodybuilding Association.
Monotosh Roy was the first Indian and Asian bodybuilder to win the Mr. Universe title in Group III Amateur Division in 1951. Roy started training at the age of 12 and competed in his first bodybuilding competition in 1939. Unlike most other bodybuilders on this list, Roy didn’t place well in his maiden bodybuilding contest. However, he didn’t let the setback affect his resolve. He returned stronger to win the 1939 East Indian Bodybuilding Championship.
Roy won the All India Bodybuilding Championship in 1947 and traveled to the UK in 1951 to participate in the Mr. Universe contest, which he won in his division.
Roy’s son Moloy took up professional bodybuilding and won the Mr. India contest eight times and Mr. Asia thrice. He is also an Arjuna Award recipient.
Aich was nicknamed ‘The Pocket Hercules’ for his 4-foot-11 stature. He was the second Indian bodybuilder to win the Mr. Universe title after Monotosh Roy. Aich dominated the 1952 NABBA Universe Championships in the Pro-Short division to win the coveted title.
Aich started his bodybuilding journey after he joined the Royal Air Force in 1942. He was soon imprisoned for slapping a British officer in protest at the officer’s remarks in favor of colonial oppression. Aich used his time in jail to improve his physique and started competing after his release.
Born on Mar. 17, 1912, Aich was a proponent of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and using strength training to improve longevity. He lived to be 104, proving that his methods worked.
Has an Indian won the Mr. Olympia title?
No Indian bodybuilder has won an Olympia title in any division.
Has any bodybuilder from India competed at the Mr. Olympia?
Yes. Two Indian bodybuilders have competed at the Olympia weekend. The legend Premchand Degra compete in the Mr. Olympia Open division at the 1988 Olympia. Men’s Physique competitor Bhuwan Chauhan competed at the Olympia in 2019, 2020, and 2022 and is qualified to compete at the 2023 Olympia.
Who is the biggest Indian bodybuilder?
The 6-foot-2, 130-kilogram (286.6-pound) Varinder Singh Ghuman is the biggest IFBB Pro Indian bodybuilder. His stature earned him the moniker ‘The HeMan of India.’
- 21 Bodybuilders Who Died of Heart Attacks
- 21 Best Natural Bodybuilders You Need To Know About
- 21 Famous Black Bodybuilders That Achieved Greatness
A few decades ago, sports were not considered a good career path in India. This is one of the biggest reasons India’s sports infrastructure lacked, and the nation didn’t produce many top-tier athletes and never won many Olympics or Commonwealth Games medals. However, this is quickly changing.
India is producing elite athletes in every sport, including bodybuilding, and it is only time before we see Indians win significant bodybuilding events. This article covers the 23 best Indian bodybuilders starting from the 1950s. Let these bodybuilders be the inspiration you need to transform your physique.
All Photo: © Facebook & Instagram