• Birth Date: Nov. 29, 1980
  • Residence: Long Island, NY
  • Birthplace: Tehran, Iran
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 205 pounds (competition); 225 pounds (off-season)
  • Career Highlights: 2017 Olympia classic physique, 4th; 2016 Olympia classic physique, 2nd; 2016 New York Pro classic physique, 1st; 2016 Pittsburgh Pro classic physique, 1st; 2014 North American Championships men’s physique, overall winner (earned pro card)

About Arash:

Long before the inception of the IFBB’s classic-physique renaissance project (announced officially in 2015) came the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This is what drove the Rahbar family out of Tehran to Long Island, NY, in 1981. Arash was just a year old.

Like many future bodybuilders, he was athletic as a child, but not through typical American sports like baseball, football, or basketball. Rahbar’s father, Saeid, was a martial artist, so Arash naturally gravitated toward combat sports, starting with judo and then getting into other disciplines like aikido, taekwondo, and Tang Soo Do.

“American sports were very alien to me,” says Rahbar, who grew up in Great Neck. “I didn’t really learn the rules of the games as a youth. I eventually played American football in high school, and I  remember getting on the field and not even knowing what a first down was. But I was athletic. I took to martial arts at a very young age and practiced it until my late teens. I believe that really gave me a great base for bodybuilding because of the strength in my legs, particularly my abductors. My legs always come in conditioned before my upper body, which is very rare for bodybuilders. I attribute that in part to the explosiveness of martial arts.”

Aside from the physical, these early activities benefited Rahbar mentally, too. Discipline through  martial arts isn’t merely a cliché; it’s real.

“It’s absolutely real,” he says. “My father was very disciplined through martial arts and pretty hard on me as far as expectations. I was a very good martial artist, but he always found fault. So I became a perfectionist, and it kind of made me into a machine compared with other kids. Kids my age weren’t serious about anything.”

Rahbar’s second love, at least where sports were concerned, was bodybuilding. His early influences in this area came not from home, but from complete strangers: men like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Lee, whom he would see in magazines and on television. “From like, 8 or 9 years old,” says Rahbar, “I was infatuated with muscularity, that alpha-male image.”

That infatuation got him into lifting weights. Rahbar was only 11 years old when he started working out. He was uneducated regarding resistance training and lacked equipment, but he had a EZ-curl bar, some plates, and a beverage cooler in his basement at home, and that was enough to get him started. He used the cooler as a bench, and his workouts included little more than curls and the bench press. “I had no clue what I was doing,” he says.

That soon changed, fueled by an intense desire to add muscle and thanks to reading every bodybuilding publication he could get his hands on, sometimes reading a single magazine 10 times. By 13, Rahbar was training at the high school weight  room. At 15, he had a gym membership and was “full-on bodybuilding” (his words). At 17, he probably could have stepped onstage and competed if he’d wanted to.

“That discipline from martial arts transferred over to bodybuilding,” says Rahbar. “At that time in high school, not having anyone to mentor me, I went out of my way to make sure I got enough protein. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I ate five meals a day, I took creatine, and I lifted six days a week during the summer when everyone else was getting drunk. I got infatuated with the bodybuilders from the ’90s—Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates. They’re still my favorites.”


 5 BURNING QUESTIONS (from FLEX Magazine) 

FLEX: You played football in high school. Which positions did you play?

ARASH RAHBAR: “I played both ways in high school—“iron man” football—and I actually played offensive and defensive line. I was pretty strong from working out. I was very fast, and I wasn’t very heavy, so I was really meant to be a linebacker or running back. I ran track in high school, too. I did the 4×100-meter relay, the 100m and the 200m.

FLEX: Do you feel having an athletic background benefits your physique now?

ARASH RAHBAR: “Definitely. Compared with my friends who compete who weren’t athletes, their bodies don’t flow as nice, they’re not as strong, and they’re more prone to injury. Most of the bodybuilders you see who have athletic backgrounds, like Phil Heath, are welldeveloped and are just very solid and strong.”

FLEX: What’s your overall approach to training?

ARASH RAHBAR: “I grew up watching videos of Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman. All I know is to train until you can’t walk out of the gym. And I know everyone talks like they do that, but they don’t. I believe in very high intensity and very low volume. You’ll hear guys say you can’t over-train, but if you want to train heavy and intense, you won’t last more than two exercises. That’s just a fact. I can train heavy and hard for three or four hours, no problem, but I know better. I don’t believe in light weight, superset, fancy stuff at all.”

FLEX: Are you happier in classic physique than you were in men’s physique?

ARASH RAHBAR: Yeah. I didn’t like men’s physique very much. I’m a bodybuilder at heart. But I don’t talk bad about any division. They’re all amazing in their own right. Men’s physique has been great for the sport. It’s brought so many new people into it.”

FLEX: You didn’t start competing until age 33. Do you plan to stick around for a while in the sport?

ARASH RAHBAR: “Yeah. I’ll never stop eating or training like this. I don’t diet and train to compete. I compete because I happen to diet and train like this. I want to be Mr. Olympia not only because I’m competitive and I want the crown, but I feel like I have a lot to offer the sport and to the youth especially—not only from my knowledge of diet and training over 22 years, but also just the way I carry myself and my outlook toward the sport and life in general. People want to be famous and want to be Mr. Olympia just to be on the cover of magazines, but they’re not really helping the people who look up to them at all. And the people looking up to them don’t really know them. It’s just this false image. I might be wrong, but I feel like that’s missing in our sport.

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