Ramy 1

“New York was his show last year,” says Dennis James, explaining Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay’s decision to return to the Big Apple this May for another shot at the New York Pro. “He wants to defend his title. After the Olympia he needed some time off. There wasn’t enough time to get ready for the Arnold. So the plan became, let’s go to New York and do the same thing we did last year, then bring it to the Olympia.”

Only one other man has won the NY Pro more than once: Kai Greene, who went from the ignominy of placing 14th in 2005 and tying for 18th (“did not place”) in 2006, before leapfrogging to sixth in 2007 and then finally winning the contest in ’08. Greene returned to take the title in dominant fashion a second time three years later. Others have tried, with less success: Darrem Charles, 2005’s winner, gave it two shots (2nd in ’06, 7th in ’09); 2009’s champ, Roelly Winklaar, placed ninth in 2011; and 2012’s winner, Cedric McMillan, placed 12th last year.

Ramy 2

Will the 2014 contest be the cakewalk for Big Ramy that it was for Kai in 2011? That’s not guaranteed. Juan Morel has had a year to grow, and if the heft he covers up under his sweats at Bev Francis’ Powerhouse Gym is any indication, he has. Mass monsters Akim Williams and Max Charles will be making their pro debuts. Texan Steve Kuclo will be returning to Manhattan to better his third-place finish from two years ago. As of this writing, it’s still too early to tell what other kinds of beasts will blow into the city that never sleeps the weekend of May 17. But this is New York and the NY Pro: The freaks will come.

The 288-pound package Ramy revealed last year shut everyone up for a while and lef them blinking. However, in bodybuilding, no competitor is immune to criticism, not Mr. Olympia Phil Heath, and certainly not an unheard-of newcomer who owns his pro debut. When jaws finally came up off the floor last spring, there were two criticisms of Ramy: (1) He hasn’t nailed that grainy conditioning we like to see in a bodybuilding champion yet; and (2) his upper chest could use a little more size. Now, this might sound like nitpicking, and it is: Ramy was good enough to beat Victor Martinez and Juan Morel in New York, and to go on to place eighth in his first Olympia. But Elssbiay has been listening to what people have said, and as his friend and trainer Dennis James makes clear, he’s concentrating on bringing up his chest.

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Big Ramy’s pec routine is really straightforward: the two big basic compound movements and the two most common isolation exercises. Elssbiay isn’t reinventing the wheel when it comes to training his chest. Remember, in only three years of training, this guy has made gains no one has ever seen. The heavy, basic movements are working well for him.


4 sets of 8-12 reps

Ramy 3

Elssbiay has had two days of when he comes into the gym to train his chest. He starts with his upper chest because he’s heard where the bodybuilding cognoscenti feel he has room to improve and he agrees. Ramy will mix things up between dumbbells, barbells, and machines. At owner Bader Boodai’s Oxygen Gym in Kuwait where he trains and works, he has a variety of equipment to choose from, so he’s never limited.

Elssbiay will complete four working sets of 8–12 reps each. His rep tempo is slow and precise. “He controls everything,” James notes. “He’s real good at that. And he’s very, very strong. Especially with his dumbbells.” Ramy will allow himself enough rest between sets to catch his breath and then he’s on to his next set.


4 sets of 8-12 reps

Ramy 4

Again, upper chest is a priority, so Ramy does incline flyes next. He lowers the dumbbells in a slow, controlled fashion and brings them together in an equally controlled manner, stretching and squeezing his pectorals. One workout he’ll do flyes on an incline bench as seen in the picture, the next he’ll use a flat bench. Four sets of 8–12 reps is the order of the day here.

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4 sets of 8-12 reps

Ramy 5

Elssbiay returns to a compound movement for his third exercise. He’ll do his bench presses with dumbbells, a barbell, or seated on a Hammer Strength or similar machine. “He trains by himself,” explains James, “and he knows what he can do. If he’s training with me getting ready for a show, we’ll do a lot of dropsets with these and the inclines. I’ll have him bang out some superslow reps, really making sure he’s feeling the muscle work.” When James is visiting and pushing him, Elssbiay’s sets of 12 reps might look like this: three regulartempo reps followed by one superslow concentric and negative repetition, repeated twice more.


3-4 sets of 12-15 reps

Ramy 6

Big Ramy performs these in a variety of ways. Standing, he’ll bring the cable handles to his navel, mimicking a most muscular—the most commonly seen variant of this exercise. Or, also standing, he might bring the handles across his upper body, upper arms parallel to the ground, until his hands meet in front of his chest (as in the photo). Another time he’ll do them seated, bringing the handles up from the ground to above his pecs. Always, Elssbiay is squeezing and stretching the muscle, pumping blood into it.

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Ramy rotator

James says Ramy will eat “six to eight meals a day, it all depends. He’s not as huge an eater as you’d think. You look at him and you think he’d eat you out of house and home. He’s unbelievable. I’ve been around this sport for a long time and it’s still trippy to me sometimes: how he can get that big with so little food and training for only three years? I don’t care what anybody says, there’s no drug or supplement that can make you do that.” When asked how far he thinks his friend can go in the sport, James answers without hesitating. “Mr. Olympia, no doubt. It just depends on how fast his body matures and gets harder, gets that grainy condition. He’s walking around at 337 pounds in unbelievable condition right now [late January]. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes onstage in New York at 300 pounds.” Fans can only wait with baited breath in the expectation of what Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay will bring to the stage May 17. One thing’s for sure: It’s gonna be scary! – FLEX

Training split and chest routine
2014 IFBB New York Pro

2014 IFBB New York Pro

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