Pham Van Mach may have won his first world bodybuilding championship a full 10 years ago but he insists he is still at his peak, saiying his best years could well last until he turns 40.

Besides winning the world championship in the 65kg category two more times – in 2009 and 2010 – the diminutive 35-year-old has also won six gold medals in the Asian tournaments and two in the Southeast Asian Games.

Mach began training to become a bodybuilder in 1994 in his hometown Long Xuyen.

In 1997 he moved to HCM City to take up a job after an earlier failed attempt to get into university, and in 1998 won a bodybuilding competition for students and the amateur bodybuilding competition Class B.

The same year he was called up to the national team and won a silver medal in the Southeast Asian Bodybuilding Championship in 1998 before going one better the next year.

But the turning point his career, he says, was the first world title in 2001.

His most recent feat was to win the Asian championship in Bangkok last week.

"I am at my peak now," he says.

"A bodybuilder often achieves success at between 31 and 40 years old. I have not been thinking of retiring."

Bodybuilding requires a lot of knowledge about biochemistry, the body structure, and so on but since it is still a new sport in Vietnam, there is not much material available about these things, he says wistfully.

Luckily for him, his sister, an English teacher, taught him the language, and he is able to learn plenty from the internet about how to choose his diet and train particular muscles and how his body is structured.

"I learn all this from countries advanced in bodybuilding." The bodybuilder also speaks English fluently.

One person who has helped him is David Sandler, a fitness specialist and strength and conditioning coach.

Mach met the American when he was training at a gym in Tan Binh District. He says it was Sandler who put his training regime in the right direction.

Bodybuilding is not just about bulging biceps and abs, he says, and the performance style is very important. A bodybuilder needs to know exactly how to show off their muscles.

There is more glory than money in the sport, he says. For, despite winning so many honors, he led a modest life until recently.

"I cannot buy anything big from the money in bodybuilding, but the sport helped me initially raise some small money," he said.

What bodybuilding did do for him, though, was to earn him fame. "I have an image or brand," he says.

Mach runs the Tao Dan Fitness Centre which he opened with help from his siblings. It has become popular with both Vietnamese and foreign bodybuilding aspirants. It has all kinds of modern equipment and well-trained instructors, and Mach himself is training some youngsters hoping they will succeed him in future./.