As an impressionable 5-year-old, Amir Khounani first caught sight of an impressive physique when a family friend flexed for him, showing off remarkable chest muscles. Khounani wanted to be like that man: strong, defined, and big. Very big.
One day, Khounani thought, he would learn the secrets to such strength and size. But the pursuit of such a body didn't come easily.
Khounani went on to become a multi-sport athlete and was never the biggest dude on the field or court. When he was 16 and a sophomore in high school, he was the skinniest of all the boys on his rugby team. Fed up, he convinced his mom to hire him a personal trainer. From there, things clicked. Over the course of a summer, he put on 15 pounds and a heap of confidence with it.
"I finally stopped all sports at the age of 18 and really turned the heat up in the gym," he says. "I had a dream to compete and decided that as long as I didn't get last place, I would be happy."
At 19, Khounani competed in his first show as a junior, placing first in his class. He then took second place in the Ontario Provincials. After taking a break for several years to put on some size, he came back to compete in his first open show, where he placed first again, this time as a heavyweight.
In November of 2017, however, Khounani's success on the stage was met with setbacks, in the form of a career-halting injury.
"I was having a bad day, so I went to the gym to blow off some steam," he says. "I loaded the bench press with three plates per side and started repping it hard. On the ninth rep, I felt as if my chest exploded."
Khounani was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered that he had torn a muscle in his chest.
This is his story.
Snapshot: Amir Khounani
- Height: 5' 8"
- Weight: 205 lbs.
- Occupation: Real Estate Agent
- Location: Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
- 2010 OPA O'Brien Luchka Mississauga Classic, Men's Junior, 1st place
- 2014 OPA GNC London, Men's Open Heavyweight, 1st place
Can you describe what the moment you tore your chest was like?
I was lying back on the bench and banging out reps when I heard a loud bang. I immediately thought someone dropped their weights, but the noise was actually my chest blowing up from a tear. The bar had already collapsed on my chest before my spotter could grab it, which made the tear worse. The pain was so bad I couldn't think straight, but I knew right away that I had to go to the hospital.
What was the diagnosis?
I was initially misdiagnosed with a torn biceps. I went home and didn't move for the whole week. When I went back for my checkup, the medical provider apologized and said that I'd actually torn my chest muscle and ligaments. My injury was so bad that it took me 11 weeks just to find a surgeon who felt competent enough to make the necessary repairs. My eventual surgery was slated to take an hour and a half but it took four, so extensive were my injuries.
How did you come back from your injury?
Post-surgery, I was out of the gym for 19 weeks. I started my recovery by eating like a bodybuilder again, but I'd lost a lot of weight and had been inactive, so I was too insecure to return to my old gym. I found a new gym, where I didn't know anyone, which made things easier for me.
I started working out again by just going through the movements of each exercise to regain my mobility. Once I got that down, I started putting a few pounds on the bar, and up things went from there.
There were many days I didn't want to work out, but everywhere I went, people asked me why I'd lost so much size. Clearly, they already knew why, so I felt like they were trying to rub it in my face. It made me extremely insecure, and I barely left my house. Eventually, I decided that I would use those feelings and other people's negative observations of me as motivation instead of something to hold me back.
What supplements helped you through the journey?
- Protein: Isoflex (chocolate chip flavor)
- Vitargo for my carbs
- Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy
- Animal Pack by Animal Multi-Vitamins
What diet plan guided you after your injury?
What training regimen kept you on track?
This is what a basic week looked like:
What aspect challenged you the most?
Losing all that size and strength from missing so much time in the gym. It made me very insecure, and I felt helpless. I had to push through the bad thoughts and keep focused on the gains! I tried to eat as many meals as I could to keep as much size as I possibly could. In the meantime, I directed my focus toward my job as a real estate agent. I also took a course to earn my commercial real estate license, so I was busy studying. The difficult moments were when I was trying to shower or put on shirts without the use of my left arm. The support from my grandparents was a huge help, though.
What are your future fitness plans?
I plan to step onstage again in November 2018. Every time I have competed, it has been in an open bodybuilding class, but I have great genetics for the classic bodybuilding class, so I'm going to try that category next. If I do well, I'll chase a pro card from there.
What suggestions do you have for others currently going through or coming back from an injury?
Make improving your injury your top priority. Do whatever it is that needs to be done and do it right away. If you require surgery, make sure your surgeon is good and don't wait on it. Do whatever it takes to remain positive. Absolutely nothing good will come out of being negative, and no one wants to be around a miserable person. You can smile knowing you're on the road to recovery.
How has Bodybuilding.com helped you reach your goals?
I love the inspiring content, like Bodybuilding.com's coverage of Mr. Olympia and all the great articles on diet and other subjects.