Whether it is bulking up for a movie role or toning down for a glamorous event, celebrity fitness coach Yogesh Bhateja shows Hannah Cardozo how he helps his clients meet their targets.
Ever envied Sonu Sood’s chiseled form or Tamannaah Bhatia’s svelte look? Well, the secret behind them is their fitness coach Yogesh Bhateja. He’s been in the industry for over 15 years and has built an impressive clientele of celebrities like Kangana Ranaut, Kapil Sharma, Neetu Singh Kapoor, Farah Khan Kunder, and Esha Gupta. Besides training Bollywood stars, he also started an online fitness platform during the pandemic. His goal is to make fitness accessible and help people find what works best for them.
“He’s [Sonu Sood] a really strong person and he’s determined to never give up. He never misses the gym and never says, ‘Yogesh we can’t do this’.”
How did your fitness journey begin and what inspired you to become a trainer?
I have always been an active person; I was a soccer player. I played at the state level and even for university championships. So right from my school days, I’ve been on this journey. I did my Bachelor’s in Physical Education in 2004 and I trained to become a Graduate Teacher. However, what I wanted most was to coach and mentor people, instead of just giving them information about fitness or just making them aware of fitness as a lifestyle.
What are some of the biggest challenges when training clients?
The biggest challenge is time. It is the topmost issue when you train well-known actors and actresses. When two clients expect the same time slot, I am stuck planning. For example, Kapil Sharma and Kangana Ranaut’s time slots would often clash. When I was training Sonu Sood and Farah Khan, their timings too would clash.
What are some common misconceptions about fitness and could you debunk them for us?
People are very focused on superficial looks. Like the lean shape. Having a six-pack does not mean that you are fit and being fit doesn’t mean that you have to have a sixpack, these two things are totally different. The biggest misconception these days is if you look slim and trim that means you are fit, which is untrue.
You launched an affordable fitness training program during the pandemic, what was your inspiration behind this?
I have been training people all my life, it’s been almost 16 years now. When the pandemic started, everything was on pause, and then people started calling me and asking me. ‘Sir, can you please train us? Can you give us a time slot?’ In this profession, you can’t go beyond 15 or 16 hours. I began thinking about a plan with which I would be able to guide a growing number of people in a shorter time period. That is when I got into online fitness training. It has been a really different experience and has enabled me to connect with more clients.
Sonu Sood has been your client for almost a decade, what has that journey looked like? What are his strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working out?
It has been the best experience of my life. I have been training him for almost a decade. I have helped him transform his physique. We experimented a lot when it came to his looks, and the journey has been really good. When it comes to weaknesses, I don’t see any weaknesses. When it comes to strengths, he’s a really strong person and he’s determined to never give up. He never misses the gym and never says, ‘Yogesh we can’t do this’ or ‘I wouldn’t be able to perform this’. He is always the brightest student in the class. He is my guru.
You are the person behind Kangana Ranaut’s body transformations for her roles in ‘Thalaivii’ and ‘Panga’, what did that process look like?
It was a roller coaster. I have been training her for more than five years now and we have done almost five films to date. In every film, the expectation has been so high, and the timeframe very small. When ‘Panga’ happened, she was expected to gain more muscle and look like an athlete. So, she gained a lot of muscle. Then we had a small window before the Cannes Film Festival where she had to lose almost 14 or 15 kg of muscle weight. Then again, ‘Thalaivii’ came around and she was expected to look like a South Indian actress. Once again, she had to gain 20 kgs. The moment we finished ‘Thalaivii’, ‘Dhaakad’ happened where she was expected to look like a lean mean machine and drop 20 kgs. So, the journey has been really good, but very demanding.
“If she [Tamannaah] has only four hours free in her whole day, she might not sleep, but she’ll make it a point to train.”
“No matter what comes their way, they [celebrities] are there to perform and
give their best. That inspires me to keep on training without saying, ‘Okay, I’m done’.”
“The biggest misconception these days is if you look slim and trim that means you are fit, which is untrue.”
What is Tamannaah Bhatia’s secret to being fit while embracing her curves?
When it comes to Tamannaah, she is really consistent. If she has only four hours free in her whole day, she might not sleep, but she’ll make it a point to train. So that level of consistency and determination is there. That’s the reason she stays fit all the time.
Is there something that you have learnt from working with celebrities? Have they inspired you in any way?
People think that celebrities’ lives are very easygoing. But I have seen the opposite side of this. They are more determined to work than any other human being. They put in all their effort when it comes to showcasing their talent and their body. No matter what comes their way, they are there to perform and give their best. That inspires me to keep on training without saying, ‘Okay, I’m done’, ‘I’m exhausted’ or ‘I’m tired’.