Massachusettsâ€™ Moustafa Ismail wants his body to become the talk of the world as he seeks to become a household name in the world of professional bodybuilding. But he may have to settle for only one body part becoming world famous. Recently representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records made a special trip from London to measure his bulging arms, measuring a whopping 31 inches around. Ismailâ€™s arms could in fact be the largest and strongest in the world, according to his friend and manager Justin Sulham.
Ismailâ€™s official rank will not be known for certain until the newest edition of the record book comes out in September, but just the fact that Guinness sent a team to photograph and measure Ismailâ€™s impressive biceps and triceps is enough to make both men proud. â€œIt took me 15 years of working out, working out,â€ said a grinning Ismail.
The 24-year-old Ismail originally hails from Alexandria, Egypt. He originally eyed a position on the national bodybuilding team of Egypt, but found the limited resources there to be a stumbling block. So he turned his eyes westward.
Sulham, himself a bodybuilder, is helping him along the way, offering support and encouragement and a challenge: He and Ismail are both preparing to compete in a major bodybuilding event, the Jay Cutler Classic, in May. It will be Ismailâ€™s attempt at earning his pro card. â€œWe will be competing against one another,â€ said Sulham.
Sulham is also directing a documentary film following Ismail in his quest for the world record and his pro bodybuilding dream, with help from colleague Shaun Cyr and a team of about eight others. The hope is to release the film at the same time as the 2012 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, and to show it at various film festivals. â€œHere in America he (Ismail) is finding people do not understand his physique, his record breaking arms. This film will tell his story, and introduce people to the man beneath the biceps,â€ Sulham said. The filming will continue through the next year, he said, and there are plans to make a trip to Egypt to get some footage there. He said the focus is on making the film inspirational and family friendly. â€œI want people to enjoy it, laugh a little bit, be inspired themselves, and all in all walk away from the screening thinking â€˜if he can achieve his dreams, so can I,â€ said Sulham.
Sulham met Ismail at a Goldâ€™s Gym last January and was instantly impressed with his arms. He was convinced Ismail was in the running as a record-breaker, and was further inspired by Ismailâ€™s pursuit of his dream to break into the bodybuilding world.
After having previously formed a friendship with filmmaker Christopher Bell, who is known for his film â€œBigger, Stronger, Faster: The Side Effects of Being Americanâ€ that won in the documentary category at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Sulham got interested in doing film himself. â€œI became inspired to shoot a documentary, but I didnâ€™t know on what. Fast forward a few months. I met him (Ismail) and I said, â€˜thatâ€™s the film. Iâ€™m going to help him break the world record.â€™â€ Sulham then contacted Guinness and got the ball rolling.
He certainly knew what he was talking about, having made his own name on the bodybuilding scene â€” he is a past winner of the state Strongman championship and spent time ranked among the stateâ€™s strongest men until an injury put him temporarily into a wheelchair in 2009.
Now Sulham is determined to help Ismail earn a niche in the bodybuilding world, and perhaps reclaim his as well. â€œThe film and the upcoming competition, said Sulham, â€œwas a way to challenge myself and to challenge Mo to want to break the record.â€
Ismail comes from strong stock. His father was an Egyptian wrestler, he said. â€œMy father, he was big naturally,â€ said Ismail, who recounted hours and hours spent at gyms in Alexandria as a kid, even spending the night sometimes so he could work out before school â€” at one gym he was told he was too small and shouldnâ€™t come, but he disregarded the criticism and didnâ€™t let his dream die, even going on to open his own gym.
Now at 270 pounds, Ismail said he really enjoys the atmosphere of the bodybuilding gym where â€œitâ€™s just lifting the weights and screaming.â€ I get up at 5 a.m. I try to get done with work by 11 because I want to go work out. Then I go to my next job from 3 to 11,â€ said Ismail. Ismail runs two gas stations, including Irving on Lincoln Street in Franklin and a station on Rte. 9 east, while Sulham works part-time at a GNC store and runs security at a bar.
Keeping up his body is a lot of work, said Ismail. In a day, he may take in as much as three pounds of chicken, and a pound of steak or fish. When he takes in carbs, he may eat an entire box of rice or a whole sleeve of rice cakes, plus up to four cups of almonds and two gallons of water, plus protein shakes. Then there are the work outs. Ismail lives for his workouts, which he completes at least six days a week. â€œIt makes me in a better mood. Youâ€™re just focusing. And I like that in this type of sport you can see your improvement in your shape. I know they are growing, my chest, my shoulders, my arms. I love the weights.â€ His personal best so far, he said, was lifting 500 pounds for six repetitions.
The upcoming competition, says Ismail, â€œitâ€™s not about the title. Itâ€™s about finding trust in yourself. Then you can go around the world and compete with no fear,â€ he said. As for Sulham, he said one of his main reasons for doing the film on Ismail and helping him pursue his dream is â€œto do something worthwhile. For me, I want to feel I did something that mattered with my life, and I feel helping a man achieve his dream of making history and shattering a world record will allow me to do that,â€ he said. Let us see what comes about in September.