By Gavin Gibbon
Symmetry Gym in Al Quoz has been billed as the most expensive gym in Dubai by owner Amir Siddiqui. Here he explains why CEOs and top executives are willing to pay top dollar to look good and feel great
As the saying goes, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, but if you’re using Symmetry Gym in Dubai then you’ll also need a healthy bank balance.
Owner Amir Siddiqui claims that the Al Quoz studio is “probably the most expensive in town”.
The price point certainly backs that up (not that you would argue with the huge man mountain of an individual anyway); the New Yorker charges anything from AED4,397 per month for his long-term Fit Body Forever 12-month plan; AED5,497 per month for the Radical Physique Transformation 12-week plan; and AED8,947 per month for the Extreme Fitness Recharge six-week plan.
With more and more budget gyms opening up across the UAE, Siddiqui explains the reasoning behind the fees he charges.
“I started with one rate and I had to increase it. Everyone asks why is it so expensive? Because there is a demand for it. It’s just a supply and demand thing, it’s basic economics. You can’t just be expensive,” he says.
“It was half looking at what everyone else was charging and making sure I was at least double.
“The thing about the price point is that it’s recession-proof. If you’re only targeting the one percent, then it’s a smart move. It’s harder in the beginning to sell, but once you get the clients in... A recession can’t hurt me and it hasn’t.”
And it works. The gym currently boasts a membership of around 100, including a selection of top CEOs and business leaders from the emirate. But whether that opening statement is true or not, Siddiqui isn’t sure.
“It’s kind of the mind-body duality. Is physical fitness actually really important for intellectual prowess? I don’t know because I have to look at Stephen Hawking too. Can we go at zero and still be a genius? I guess so,” he says.
“We have to average that out because we’re talking about extreme ends of the bell curve. The average person probably can’t do good high quality thinking unless they are healthy, which can translate into being physically fit.
“I think there will be a performance increase, by simple fact of the matter that you’ll get sick less often, you’ll have fewer missed days, you’re less prone to depression, less prone to anxiety if you exercise. There could be a tangible quantity to benefit.”
What he does know for sure, is that those who have subscribed to his Fission Fusion training system, designed by Siddiqui – “created”, according to the gym’s website, “with the understanding that the human body can be trained as constituent parts (fission) or as a whole or set of wholes (fusion), but not both at the same time” – have initially needed it and have subsequently felt better for it.
He says: “Most people come in super super stressed. I’ve had a guy tell me he thought he was going to die soon. That was like six or seven years ago, he was like ‘I feel like I’m going to die, so I want to try not let that happen’.
“I don’t think anyone else has a training system to be honest. I’ve never heard of it from any other gym. They randomly make up programmes or a work-out of the day, something like that. I have a long-term system.”
Siddiqui is a man who is very hard to say no to, and not just because of his massive frame. He is hugely intelligent and philosophises a lot during our interview; his reading list includes: Scientific Perspectivism from Ronald N. Fire; The Lucifer Principle - scientific expedition into the force of history, from Howard Bloom; and The Lives of a Cell, from Lewis Thomas.
However, while his clients may be high-flying executives and multi-millionaires, his methods don’t change, and that is occasionally too much for some to handle.
He explains: “We get CEOs, these alpha-dogs in their own circles, and every CEO is, because in his office setting he is the alpha-dog. So it’s really funny when they come into a gym environment or my environment and they can’t do five push-ups and they’re pushed off the top of the totem pole, they literally can’t handle it and I never see them again, because they are so embarrassed at not being the top dog in a certain environment because that’s the environment they’re used to.
“Everyone is feeding their ego and here, they’re like shut down in two seconds, you can’t do a goddamn push-up, you aren’t strong.”
There is an argument, however, that while they might not be able to do that one push-up, at least they are there and giving it a shot.
Siddiqui isn’t one for excuses, And while the job of a CEO or managing director may well be hectic, he most definitely doesn’t buy into the theory that people are too busy to train and keep fit.
He says: “I think they know it can make a big difference, but a lot of them are so lazy, they’re in denial.
“CEOs get off on telling everyone they’re too busy. It’s like a status symbol, when people say ‘oh, I’m so busy’, get out of here. Nobody is. If all the billionaires in America can make time for working out, you’re not even close to being too busy.”
Siddiqui suggests that as little as 30 minutes a day can be enough, while two hours of training is “doable”.
He goes on: “We all know it’s nonsense because the richest people in the world work-out. If these guys think they’re even close to that level, then they’re talking rubbish. Billionaires are working out, barely millionaires aren’t because they’re too busy. Get real here. This is a status drive, people saying ‘I am too busy, I cannot do this’, is simply hierarchical play.”
Earlier this year Symmetry Gym launched a 28-day programme costing AED36,000.
The 28-day programme involves intensive workouts, using the Fission Fusion training system, as well as the latest performance mind techniques with support from the entire gym personnel.
This includes 24-hour support from Siddiqui on the phone, online, face-to-face, food shopping, fridge detox, mentoring and more.
The programme also includes daily meals, a weekly massage and daily performance assessments.
Asked to describe it further, Siddiqui said: “It’s black ops. It’s covert.” And whether it would involve an intensive boot camp with periods away from home, he added: “Depends what I decide, I’ll put them in a goddamn hotel in Barsha if I want.”
It is the only programme Siddiqui offers that is not guaranteed, in a bid to attract only the most committed.
Commitment is key at Symmetry Gym, and not just of the financial kind.