Actor, performer, presenter and motivator Siv Ngesi is arguably one of South Africa’s most charismatic celebrities.

While widely known for his head-turning magazine covers that showcase his muscular and chiselled physique, it is his genuine altruism, his bravery in speaking his truth and challenging stereotypes, and his enduring activism for worthy causes that truly makes him larger than life.

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Formula for success

This three-time SAFTA award winner and actor already boasts a career that spans over 20 years, after he first played the role of Gavroche in Les Miserables at the age of just nine.

His career has flourished since then, with his physique, look and unique approach all important attributes in Siv’s formula for success.

But it has taken hard work, dedication and a deep understanding of what truly drives him to achieve his iconic look and his ultimate career success.

Accolades:

  • The Mail and Guardian’s Most influential young South African 2011
  • Destiny Man’s most influential men under the age of 40
  • You magazine’s most stylish celebrity
  • GQ’s top-dressed man for 2014
  • Cosmo sexiest man calendar 2015

Finding his fit

I was never a big fan of the gym,” explains Siv. “I love setting myself goals and achieving results but I struggle to get to the gym when I don’t have a clear objective.

That’s not to say Siv doesn’t have an active and healthy lifestyle. “I love to get active and get my mind off things, but I am not a big fan of gyming for the sake of working out.”

He loves playing touch rugby with friends. And as a provincial water polo player from his school days, he still enjoys swimming sessions in the pool.

I typically play touch rugby about three times a week, and I box once or twice a week, both for fitness and competitively.” Siv has five fights under his belt and is currently undefeated.

He also recently started pole dancing, which he says is the most physically demanding thing he has done in his life.

I love it, though. It is so easy to get lost in the activity and find that mental flow while you focus intensely.”

Siv pole dances about three times a week, in addition to his five or six weekly weight training sessions.

Getting it done

The key to committing to his weight training routine was taking the guesswork out of the equation.

When I first went to the gym I was working out how to train effectively and get the results I wanted, which proved difficult for me.”

Siv soon realised that he wasn’t doing the right things, so sought the help of a qualified professional.

I landed a cover for a catalogue and decided that I needed to take a different approach. Luckily, I found the right trainer.”

Siv connected with Cape Town-based celebrity trainer and Advanced Body Technician, Bruce Benjamin, which he credits as his best investment in improving his health and fitness.

I got a lot of attention from the exposure after that cover, which was great for my career and I have never really looked back.”

The personal touch

Siv and Bruce have now worked together for seven years, getting ready for many cover shoots, TV roles and other challenges.

He is the best in the business in my opinion. He keeps me on track and is strict with his approach. Sometimes we argue, but you can’t argue with the results we’ve achieved,” says Siv. “We have won awards and industry accolades and, more importantly, I look and feel better today, at the age of 36, than I ever have.”

While their approach changes based on Siv’s next project or challenge, Bruce has found what generally works best for his star client.

I now know what his body is most responsive to. Siv’s typical training plan consists of 5 to 6 sessions a week in the morning with one day for recovery. We generally complete a full-body routine every day but with a focus on specific muscle groups,” explains Bruce.

Siv’s focused body part split:

  1. Day 1: Upper chest, upper back, lateral shoulders, quads
  2. Day 2: Middle chest, middle back, front shoulders, hamstrings

When this dynamic duo was prepping to compete in the Men’s Fitness Model category at the iconic Fitness SA show in September 2021, Bruce included a second cardio session in the evening, which consisted of a max gradient incline walk for 30 minutes and a 30-minute run.

That level of intense training and commitment ensured Siv walked away with the title and placed second in the Mr Fitness (pole and body) division, which are achievements that Bruce shares with considerable pride.

In the beginning, there were time constraints and we faced many nay-sayers. But from the get-go, I knew we had the edge because Siv is always the hardest worker in the room. That will always set him apart from his competition.”

The biggest benefit of a trainer, according to Siv, is their experience and knowledge.

Bruce knows what I should do at every session to get the results I want. He gives me the most effective exercises, hands me the right weights, and knows what I can and can’t do. Most importantly, he knows how to push me to get the best from me.”

When Siv is not prepping for a specific goal, Bruce likes to keep his training varied. “Variety tends to keep Siv more engaged, and helps him burn more calories throughout the day,” explains Bruce.

Feeding muscle

Siv’s dietary regimen consists of 5 to 7 smaller meals a day. They are predominantly high-protein meals that contain quality, ‘clean’, natural sources like fish, chicken and egg whites.

We complement these high-protein meals with nutrient-dense green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and asparagus,” continues Bruce.

And Siv’s busy on-the-go lifestyle needs fuel and lots of it. In this regard, the focus is on quality carbs in the form of sweet potato, potato and rice.

Eating smaller meals more often delivers sustained energy, and the regular protein feeds support his recovery, muscle maintenance and growth needs,” adds Bruce.

The key to sticking to this dietary approach, says Siv, entails keeping the correct food in your house.

If you buy bad food, you will eat bad food. You will never find any processed carbs in my house, despite my love for croissants. Making sure I need to leave the house to eat one means I don’t do it often.”

Siv recommends keeping healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, and natural foods in your home. He also swears by the Daily Dietitian meal delivery service.

The company delivers personalised pre-packaged meals to ensure I get the most incredible healthy foods. And the meals change every day so I never get bored.”

Siv’s supplement approach

Bruce and Siv support his diet with a range of Biogen supplements. “I have worked with Biogen for eight years now and I love the results I get from the products. The flavours are also amazing.”

Siv fuels his training and maintains muscle with Biogen Amino Power. He mixes up some Biogen Iso-Whey Premium and Biogen L-Glutamine after training to aid recovery and drinks another shake before bed to support lean muscle gains.

Siv uses Biogen’s extensive vitamin and mineral range to meet his daily nutritional needs, including Biogen Immuno Boost, Biogen Magnesium Chelate, and Biogen Vitamin B12.

I’ve focused a lot on this aspect of my nutrition during the pandemic to boost my immune system”.

Bruce adds that Biogen Multi Vitamin Plus and an extra top-up of vitamin C with Biogen Vitamin C 1000 mg caps are crucial components in his plan considering his lifestyle and training frequency.

Siv’s Biogen supplement stack

Life beyond the gym

When he is not training, Siv pours his boundless energy and passion into creating new content.

I love my job as an actor, comedian and entertainer because it allows me to create new content for my shows or performances, and offers a creative outlet when I play different characters on set. I also love motivating people through my talks.”

And this is where he ultimately finds the balance in his life.

I believe that balance between fun and work are not mutually exclusive. The best way to become successful at anything is to find what you’re really passionate about. When you find that, you’ll have fun while working, be it in the gym, the office or in front of a camera.”

And this is quintessentially what defines success in Siv’s mind. “Anyone who does what they love and is happy doing it is the epitome of success for me. It is easy to look at people who have a lot of money and possession in life, but that is not always how we should judge success.”

For example, Siv considers his mother as one of the most successful people he knows.

She was a school principal for 34 years and changed many lives. She didn’t have a lot of money but she had an immense impact on the world.

“I judge success by how you impact other people and how you make them feel. Your legacy is ultimately about what you do in this world.”

That’s not to say that Siv doesn’t look for opportunities for downtime. “There is a time to work hard and work smart, but you also need to find time to rest and clear the mind.”

Siv prioritises extra sleep to recharge and boosts his recovery. “The most important aspect of any successful active lifestyle is rest and recovery. Never let anyone tell you otherwise!”

Quick facts

  • Best music to train to? I’m obsessed with musical theatre, so I listen to show tunes from Rent, Le Mis, or Dear Evan Hanson
  • Favourite exercises? Chest day, boxing and pole dancing
  • Favourite cheat meal? Malva pudding and junior burgers
  • Favourite thing to spend money on? Other people
  • What do you do to relax? Sleep, sleep, sleep
  • What’s in your gym bag: A towel, gym gloves, boxing gloves, and Biogen Amino Power
  • Top home workout tip: If you can afford to get one, buy a treadmill for your home. I got one from Technogym and it has been a game-changer for my conditioning