I’ve only been connected to Licìnio Goìs for a couple of weeks but I’m already impressed! What caught my eye was a video of him using water bottles and a stick to do tricep extensions. It reminded me of some of what Josh Bryant talks about in Jailhouse Strong and what we did to maintain our fitness when I was deployed to the Middle East and even on disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina. I knew I had to get to the bottom of this so I caught up with Lio when was on holiday (vacation) in Portugal for a couple of weeks.
Lio, thanks for taking time to share your story! I have to admit that my knowledge of the Middle East is limited to the small section of Camp Victory, Kuwait I visited in 2004 and then my six months in Iraq that same year. And I’ve never been to Portugal! So this is a cool opportunity to learn about both places.
Bodybuilding seems fairly popular in Portugal from my quick Google search. Which makes sense because there are a lot of spas and beaches so people tend to be body conscious in those conditions. Are a lot of people into working out where you’re from in Portugal?
Like you said, Portugal is a place with a lot of good conditions to practice sports, as a European country Football rules, but the people start to become more conscious about fitness and healthy and you can see a lot of people on the gyms, street, and other places to do their workout. I believe that the weather it’s conducive to that, although we have seasons, most of the time is sunny. The city where I live, Beja, there are nine gyms. It is a city with 24,000 population.
Did you grow up in a fitness centered environment, Licìnio?
Yes, all my life I do sports, as a kid I play football, have been in karate and other kind of collective sports. You know, when we were kids we aren’t allowed to enter in a gym, at least here in Portugal, the studies about workout with weigh wasn’t developed, and on that time they use to say that interfere in our growth although I’ve always been passionate about workout and bodybuilding so like now I made my own weights with cement and I use to play on my attic. When I become older I make my university in sports and fitness course, I graduate and become my professional life.
How long have you lived in the United Arab Emirates?
Have been living in UAE almost 3 years.
UAE is a nation of expatriates right? I’m familiar with the Abu Dhabi grappling tournament that brings a lot of Mixed Martial artists every year but how about the general population. You’ve got beaches but are people into fitness?
Well, UAE is a country with more expats than local people, the expats depending where they come from, Europeans and Australians mostly, yes they have the workout in their blood. The locals have already started being conscious about it, not just because of the expats habits but also because of all the information on the Internet. But I believe the main problem in the UAE is the nutrition habits. As you might know, UAE is a very hot country, the temperature reaches 42-47 ˚C ( 107˚F) in the hot season but normally it’s always too hot to workout outside. However you can sometimes see people, locals and expats doing their exercises in the parks and the few outside gyms.
I do remember the heat. I was in the Middle East from September to March so I got to experience both the high temperature and ice on the ground a few times during winter. I usually worked out in the evening when it was cooler and early in the day during the colder months. I remember that in Fallujah, the playground only had kids’ equipment, there was only one gym in town and I didn’t see any workout equipment in people’s homes. Then when I interviewed Menna Yousri who is a Kuwaiti personal trainer, she said that gyms in her country are very expensive. Plus traffic is horrible there! So working out at home is very popular. What’s the situation in the UAE? I realize that they have Gold’s Gym and some MMA studios but are these places popular especially since it’s so hot outside?
The big brand here in UAE its Fitness First, they are everywhere, I believe there is more than 40 Fitness First gyms between the two big cities (Dubai/Abu Dhabi), the next one with more popularity its Gold’s Gym. There are a lot of other places with specific programs like MMA, CrossFit, Jiu-jitsu, etc. From what I know yes, the people go to these places to work out because the knowledge about the exercises and specific programs is not too much, so they don’t have other alternatives unless they go to these places with someone who can explain it to them. About what Menna Yousri said, the gyms here in UAE are expensive, but comparing with the typical salary it’s like any other country, traffic here is normal for a big city, in Abu Dhabi there is less traffic than Dubai. Most of the people like to work out at home as well with a trainer, but it’s not that easy for you to find a good trainer here, from what I hear.
Your main income is personal training, is that why you moved to UAE?
Yes, I was recruited by Fitness First.
Do you train your clients in person or do you do online training as well?
I want to start doing something online but at the moment, all of them in person.
How long have you been training, Licìnio?
Like I told you before, I start early, 15 years old maybe, at home with homemade weights.
Why did you choose to train at home?
Like I used to say, choices makes you what you are and what you are takes you to the right choices. No special reason, I have access to a lot of gyms, actually I enjoy the workout in the gym as well but, I like the idea of helping people create alternatives in case they can’t go to a gym.
What made you decide to locate your home gym in your garden?
I like to believe that I’m a creative guy, so the idea was to see if I can do the same workout I do in the gym. My mom’s house had space enough for that and a lot of material I can use and adapt to create exercises. Was like that I start. And of course, you don’t spend money on a gym!
I remember from being in Iraq that we’d have to get inside whenever there was a sandstorm, I remember being caught out in one without my goggles and it was so hard to see I had to duck into a portable toilet until it passed! Do you have to deal with any of that in UAE? I’m asking that because your gym is outside in your garden, so do you ever have to relocate your workout because of weather or are you like my brother who trains outside regardless of the weather?
In UAE normally I work out in a building. When the weather allows me, I work out outside as well, but usually indoors because of the hot weather. I have never had a workout in a sand storm but it’s a idea! In UAE you have like two or three sand storms in a year.
Licìnio, your equipment seems based around things that you could find around the house or that would be fairly easy to acquire. How did you get the idea to make your own equipment?
I always believed that who wants it makes more difference than who can. I challenged myself to find a way to workout at home with gym equipment and I made it. No excuses!
I’m assuming you weigh the water jugs you use—
I use water jugs with 7kg.
Okay, so how much weight are you using for:
Bench press: 28kg plus ladder 18kg= 46kg
Tricep extensions: 14kg plus rope resistance (can´t precisely measure this)
That leg press with a door was CRAZY! I loved it! Was that your most fun piece of equipment to make? If not what was?
The leg press with the door was not easy, I started with gas bottles, pushing with my feet with some wood between my feet and the bottles but it was a disaster! I believe that was the most fun but I like the ones I do with the rope and the stick.
Tell me about the thought process that went into creating the ladder bench press. Do you just sit around thinking of ways to use water bottles to train?
Well, when you know about the movement you have to do, you do with whatever you can use, I look around and with the things I have available I just adapt to create the exercise.
We used sandbags a lot to work out in Iraq and they are really popular now. Have you tried sandbags?
Yes, already use some sandbags in my routine.
In Portugal, do you belong to a gym or do you train at home there as well?
The last time I have been here in Portugal I was in the gym, this time I only workout at home.
People often complain about not having equipment to train, I think that in the West we’re often spoiled by having so many options. Is it tough for you to make the switch from Portugal to UAE when you go back and forth on holiday?
For me is not difficult at all, I’ve worked out since I was 15 years old with some stops between, and like everyone it’s always challenging to start again but when you know where the workout takes you, you just keep going— when your mindset is on track no matter where you are although the facilities it’s the same on both places.
Lio, let’s talk about nutrition. Are you Muslim?
No, I’m not Muslim most of my clients they are Muslims and let me tell you in Ramadan it’s not easy at all to control the nutritional needs! But with some effort we do what we can.
Yes, Menna talked about that as well. Ramadan is basically thirty days of intermittent fasting. Tell me how you balance your clients’ goals and physical training with dietary restrictions such as the need to fast all day during Ramadan?
For me the main problem is the water. The food we can adjust with the workout times and with the goal of each client. Normally they work out after iftar (the evening meal) but it always depends on the goals. And of course I always adjust the volume and intensity of the workout. You have a lot of nutrition ways you can follow, there are some writers who say the main thing is you get the number of macros you need during the day whether in one meal or in ten meals. My advice is to take the calories in the two meals they have after iftar, dividing it up with more in the first meal less in the second.
You’re not Muslim but Licìnio, you still live in a Muslim country. Yes, it’s populated mostly with European expatriates but . . . it’s a Muslim country. So is it difficult to get the foods you need to maintain a bodybuilder’s lifestyle? I remember a documentary on bodybuilding in Afghanistan, Afghan Muscles, I think it was called, that talked about how expensive protein powder was because of the need to make sure that the ingredients were halal (acceptable to Muslim dietary laws). Do you take any supplements to help with your commitment to fitness and are they easy to get?
You know the big macro responsible to build muscles is the protein, and the only thing about this country is they just don’t eat its pork and for me pork is not the best protein you can take. The other kind of foods, yes, are very easy you get, you just go a supermarket and you can find whatever you need to have a healthy life style or to have a commitment with your fitness status (eggs, chicken, veggies, cow, beans, oats, peanut butter, fish, fruits etc). The supplements are not that expensive. I can tell you, that a protein powder I use, from the Muscletech brand, is around 60 euros. Yes, normally I take supplements, according with my goals I always include omega3, multivitamins, glutamine, BCAAs, casein and whey protein. Sometimes I include creatine and tribulus; other times I include CLA and some fat burners. I use to spend between 1000 and 1200 dirams, that’s something like 250 -300 euros, I believe it’s the same everywhere. In Portugal for example it’s not too much different.
In the West, our problem isn’t lack of food but too much intake of bad foods. You’re fairly lean, are there any foods you absolutely have to avoid or can you just watch your calories and be fine?
No, my body type is endomorph. I have to fight for a good body and work out a lot. For example, now that I am on holiday I’m not taking care 100% about food, just controlling the calories, but when I’m in my space and focus in what I’m doing I control everything I eat. Normally my diet is based in Paleolithic although I eat sometimes sweet potatoes, oats, black beans and peanut butter.
Who inspires you?
Arnold Schwarzenegger was my big inspiration to start when I was a kid
Have you competed in any bodybuilding or fitness competitions or do you have ambitions of competing in fitness competitions one day?
I never think about competition because I like to do some mistakes sometimes, I’m never 100% focused about food, ha ha!
How do you stay motivated to train?
This is my life. When I started being aware about food, taking care about what I eat— this is the main thing because you can work out all your life but if you don’t control your food you never reach a body you will like, and of course a good pack of supplements is essential, than it’s always the same, workout, sleep, repeat.
I saw you doing some bodyweight squat jumps and pistol squats. How do you incorporate body weight and your weight training?
It always depends in what you want to achieve, in this moment my target is not growing muscle mass, so I include exercises that stimulate my heart capacity and flexibility which will help me in the future in other kinds of exercises and workout goals. But I believe when you mixed this two kinds of workouts its beneficial for you.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about starting a gym in their home?
I will encourage him, telling him that it’s the right option to live an active lifestyle, it’s a good way to save money and they always can have good support about exercises and the right way to do it doing some searching on Internet. Or if they can do work with a personal trainer. Because sometimes the problem is not only because they don’t know what and how to do the exercises, most of the times the problem is motivation.
What’s your next piece of equipment? Do you plan to make all of it or would you consider buying something if you thought it was important to have?
No, I’m not thinking to buy nothing. With what I have I can do the most important movements in bodybuilding, Squats, deadlifts, rows, bench press, pullups, shoulder press and the variations of these exercises, so I don’t think of buying nothing but if I didn’t have these other options at home, I might think about buy some equipment.
How can people follow your training or get in touch with you?
Well, I believe Instagram or Facebook are a good way to follow my workouts or to contact me like you did and like I do with many others as well!