Monday, August 30, 2010

About feeling sore

Ten more days and the fasting month is over. It seems like my worry about not making progress during this period is pretty much unfounded as everytime I hit the barbell I either increase the weights or increase the reps. So much for maintenance. Haha. But then I started with conservative weights, one might argue. Nevermind, it's not the biggest issue. Argue all you want.

Anyway, I've noticed that for the past two workouts, I hardly feel any muscle soreness the next day. Usually my glutes and shoulders would be killing me. But now there's barely any muscle pain post-workout day. Does that mean my body has adapted and I now have better recovery ability? Or does that mean that my form has gone kaput and I don't hit the targeted muscles?


Sunday, August 29, 2010

No excuses

Way back when I first wanted to join a gym, I asked a friend who was a gym rat about membership fees. But instead of telling me how much he was paying he brusquely told me to forget about joining a gym if I was only going to visit it once or twice. I remember feeling extremely pissed off with his answer and thinking that he was one heck of an arrogant schmuck.

Of course, I went on to join a gym and enjoyed it immensely. I went to the gym religiously and relished the sense of accomplisment it gave me. However, I began to understand why my friend was acting like an arrogant schmuck.

Not many people are like me. The desire to hit the gym was not something temporary - which is the case for a lot of people. He may have 'lashed out' on me out of frustration of seeing so many people wasting their money for something they hardly use.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the desire for change comes from within. You must be internally motivated. You can buy all the motivational books the world has to offer, you can buy all the fitness equipment your bank account can afford you, you can hire the best personal trainers but if there is no fire within you, your change for the better will only be shortlived.

Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to lead a better lifestyle? What's in it for you? Or are you doing it for someone else? Is there an ulterior motive?

The desire for change must be profound enough that you will not give up when faced with the smallest of obstacles. Too many times have I heard excuses.

The gym is too far away.

It's hard to find parking.

My schedule does not permit.

There was an emergency.

You'll drive the distance if you want to. You'll look for parking dilligently until you find one. You'll make time. Emergencies don't happen all the time unless you're Clark Kent, Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne.

Don't sell yourself short. You should treat yourself better.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fitness Schmucks

Ever experienced those days when you visit a gym and there's a bunch of well-built guys strutting their stuff and looking smugly at other people who seem to be struggling to lift a quarter of the weights that they're lifting? Unfortunately, I've seen these fools before.

Same thing goes when I visit fitness forums or go to various fitness blogs. While most forumers are very helpful and would not mind imparting what they know to fellow forumers there are a certain few who choose to behave like jackasses. Yes, you're very knowledgable. Yes, we get that you know your stuff. But do you have to be such an asshole?

You have a choice on how to impart your knowledge to others. You can use the "I am a F*cking Schmuck" approach or you can be humble. Guess which approach wins you more fans? I guess some people just don't get the concept of "treat others the way you want others to treat you".

One lesson that I've learnt in my early years of working life is this: The worst thing you could do is to make yourself look good by making other people look bad.

But hey, that's just me.

Why am I writing this totally 'unrelated to fitness' post? I don't know. It's just that I love the fitness industry. But it bothers me that even in an industry that is in its infancy in Malaysia, I already see unhealthy habits and unhealthy competition brewing.

It makes me sick.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Double Overhand Grip vs. Reverse Grip

So there I was feeling a bit smug being able to deadlift about 50kg's worth of bar + plates. And then I realized that all this while I've been using the reverse grip rather than the ideal double overhand grip. Ideal, because it is also the grip that a lot of people are weakest at. So the logic is: the more you improve on your double overhand grip, the stronger you'll get.

The reverse grip: The usual grip I use for my deadlifts

The double overhand grip: This I need to work on.

So tonight instead of using the reverse grip I switched to double overhand and immediately felt that I was a sissy. I had to take off 1kg and reduced my reps from 8 to 5 (barely). Yes, I'm disappointed that I'm weaker than I thought I was. But no, that's not going to stop me.

I'll try to improve on my grip strength. It is my weakest link anyway.

On another note... I've stopped doing barbell benchpress for now and switched to dumbbell benchpress. I need to get back to basics. Something tells me I'm doing something wrong.

Random Thoughts

I wish I can hire a personal trainer and personal chef that can take care of my wellbeing 24/7. Maybe I should fly over to Hollywood and try to make it big as a moviestar.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sahur Conundrum

Fasting is going just fine. My training sessions are pretty steady. I eat a small meal for iftar (breaking fast) then take half a serving of protein shake. Rest a bit and do whatever needs to be done. Then I start weight lifting. Not too shabby indeed.

But that's not what I wanna write about. I've no problems with appetite for iftar, but sahur (very early, pre-dawn breakfast circa 5am) is a whole different thing altogether. Try waking up that early and then forcing yourself to shove food down your throat.

Not appealing. But it is a necessary evil. At least for me it is. I can barely survive fasting without having sahur. My body would be in catabolic overdrive. Not good.

For now, I'm just taking my protein shake for sahur. Maybe make a tuna sandwich. But that's all I can stomach. I don't have a big appetite so early in the morning. Plus, I'm not a morning person. Which makes it worse.

For those who are observing the fasting month, or have experimented with fasting (like me blog-o-buddy Adeline)... what do you take for sahur?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Benchpress - a bit of a rut

My Ramadhan workouts are going along just fine. I'm still sticking to the basics of 5 sets each of squat, deadlift and benchpress. But the funny thing is... while I'm making steady progress with my squat and deadlift, my benchpress is stuck in a bit of a plateau i.e. I'm stuck lifting 22.5kg for 7 reps for 2 sessions in a row now.

By the fifth set I'm struggling to make 7 reps. I'm not overly worried, though. I know I just need to work on it more. And the benchpress is the final move I make after doing the squat and the deadlift. And the deadlift is taxing.

I'll see if I can break through the benchpress plateau come Monday.

Choosing the Right Exercises for Fast Muscle Gain

By Jason Ferruggia

When I first started training, I didn’t know any better so I went to the gym and did all the machine exercises and isolation movements that I saw everyone else doing. I figured these would all lead to fast muscle gain and I would be huge in no time.

My dad knew a steroid-using Italian guy named Tony who owned a gym and competed in several bodybuilding shows. He asked Tony if he could write me a program and Tony obliged. I was bursting with excitement and thought this would be the difference maker in my training. I met with Tony at his office one day, and in a scene that could have been straight out of an episode of The Sopranos, he interrogated me about my muscle building program. I gave him a piece of paper with my workout on it and he took a long, hard look at it.

“Here’s whatcha gonna do. And I don’t wan any a’guments. You do dis and you’ll grow. Ya undastand me?”

“Yeah, definitely. No problem.”

He pulled out a legal pad and scrawled out my new training program. It was loaded with all of the exercises that all the top name bodybuilders in the magazines were always shown doing. Stiff arm pullovers, concentration curls, leg extensions, cable flyes, you name it—they were included.

I took my new program, thanked Tony, and left. The next few weeks would surely be an amazing time for me, I thought. The growth that I was about to experience would be dramatic, I just knew it.

But nothing happened.

You know why? Because those exercises suck, that’s why. Sure, the volume was too high for my limited recovery ability at the time, but if he had me doing the right exercises, I might have experienced some kind of gains.

Choosing the right exercises could ultimately be the difference between lightening fast muscle gain and absolutely no muscle gain whatsoever. No matter how well thought out your workout plan is, if you use the wrong exercises, it will be completely useless. Even a bad training program will yield some results if you are using the right exercises. For these reasons, exercise selection is one of the most important components of any muscle building system.

So how do you choose the best exercises?

The best mass building exercises are always multi joint, free weight, compound exercises that use as much muscle mass as possible and allow you to use heavy weights. This includes movements like squats, deadlifts, chin ups, dips, overhead presses and rows. If you are desperately seeking fast muscle gain, the last thing you should ever waste your time doing is using machine or isolation exercises during your workouts. These exercises are great at producing that burning feeling that so many people love and can often lead to a great pump, but they do very little to pack on massive size or build real world, functional strength.

For a very unique, scientifically advanced rating system which gives you a complete list of the best exercises on the planet, proven to lead to insanely fast muscle gain and mind blowing strength visit now.

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more How to Build Muscle Fast tips, check out

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Day of Ramadhan

Not wanting to disrupt my Monday Wednesday Friday training sessions, I still weightlifted today despite the fact that it was the first day of Ramadhan. Yes, preserving muscle mass is important but to me, it is more important to maintain your exercise routine. The worst thing that could happen is you lose your momentum just because you have to fast for 30 days.

Admittedly, I was slightly weaker even though I had a pretty decent meal and on top of that, took half a serving of True Mass before training. My grip wasn't as strong, but I made it through my basic routine of squat, deadlift and bench press. But I feel good.

Maybe it's the first day and the toll of fasting has not taken its full-blown effect on me yet. But I'll take it one day at a time.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This was when it started

Ramadhan is only a few days away. And it was because of Ramadhan that I actually started becoming a bit more serious about my workout routine. I remember feeling worried that the change in schedule would adversely affect my gym sessions. And because of that I invested in a pair of 10lbs dumbbells and a stability ball.

Then came the worry that I won't have much to do with just a pair of dumbbells and a stability ball. Which then led me to discover Turbulence Training. I used the TT programme throughout Ramadhan and for once I felt that my workouts had some structure in it.

After Ramadhan I stopped using the machines at the gym and just settled for the wide range of dumbbells that they have. I wanted to use the barbell at the gym but was too intimidated by the men there. And I don't like the way they stare at women who have the balls to use the barbell.

That led me to slowly phase out the gym and I spend more time working out at home. To be honest, the first time I ever properly held a barbell was actually at Pushmore. And that was only for 3 days.

The rest of the time I just used my dumbbells (by then I'd already invested in a pair of 10kg adjustable dumbbells) and also did various bodyweight exercises. The main reason why I bought the barbell was that I came to realize that if I really want to build serious strength the best way is to train with a barbell.

I was also frustrated that I couldn't do the exact moves that was instructed in Jason Ferruggia's MGS programme which requires a barbell. Ahh... that's another change. From Turbulence Training I have now moved on to Muscle Gaining Secrets.

I wonder what other changes would I have gone through when next year's Ramadhan arrives?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't flush your money down the toilet bowl

It was a nice peaceful time at the office and I got to talking to one of my colleagues. She was telling me that she plans to buy a treadmill. I still don't get why people would want to waste money and/or incur debt just to buy something they'd use once or twice and ultimately becomes part of the furniture.

Looks silly, doesn't it? I wonder why people are still doing it, though.

Like me and everyone else, my colleague has cash constraints. So I told her that if she wants to lose weight, she could invest in two equipments that combined, cost less than a fraction of what a treadmill would. What are those two things?
  • A stability ball
  • A kettlebell
She was pretty skeptical about the kettlebell. "I want to exercise while I watch the tv." Sigh... typical. I refrained from telling her that if she can hit the treadmill and can still concentrate on watching the tv, she's basically not burning enough calories.

I just told her that she can do kettlebell swings in front of the tv. No problemo. It seems that I have picqued her interest. But we'll see whether someone would take my advice. I am after all just a fitness junkie and not a qualified instructor.

Oh, by the way... I also told her that diet is more important than exercise.

Basics again

Came home at 10pm. As I've mentioned before, I have not trained at all this week which results in me being extremely cranky and unable to de-stress. I was feeling sluggish at first but I went ahead with a few basic lifts.

Just for maintenance, I told myself. Well, that 'just for maintenance' became more of a warm up session as I piled on the weights to my barbell (that barbell is turning out to be a fabulous investment).

Below are the stuff that I did. Like I said, very basic. Nothing fancy. But definitely a total body workout.

5 sets of 5 reps (6.75kg)

5 sets of 5 reps (20kg)

Bench Press
5 sets of 5 reps (11.25kg)

The weights represent one side of the barbell. I think that's the right way to calculate how much you lift. But please, correct me if I'm wrong. I'm open to ideas and opinions. Admittedly, the weights aren't that impressive. I think I can improve on my squats most definitely.

But the ass was definitely on the ground when I did squats. Having the correct form is of the utmost importance.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Of training (or lack of) and getting back to basics

I have not done any sort of training throughout this week. My schedule got messed up big time and I've been coming home late every single night. By the time I unlock the door to my apartment I'm pretty spent, so yeah... no training at all this week which is uncool because next week's already Ramadhan and that's gonna hinder progress (I hope I won't get struck by lightning writing this).

Anyway, the plan for Ramadhan is for me to do just basic stuff. I'm just gonna do compound exercises (squats, bench press, deadlifts) for maintenance. Nothing too extreme. But then again my training has never been 'extreme'.. I guess extreme needs to be defined.

But I'm digressing. So I wanted to tell you that I got home tonight and tested the strength of my make-do squat stand (a.k.a. my dining chairs)... whether or not they could hold my barbell shod with a pair of 10kg plates. They're holding steady.

And I can squat 20kg (or is it 10kg? Do you calculate one side or both sides?)... A bit of a struggle, admittedly. But I can squat 20kg.

I hope I can regain my strength quickly once the fasting month is over..

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Silver Lining

20kg's worth of weight plates on my barbell (10kg, 5kg, and 2pcs of 2.5kg plates. The 2.5kg plates are taken off one of my dumbbells). Tried a few deadlifts... real sweet.

The fact that my friendly neighbourhood Fitness Concept didn't stock up on 10kg weight plates has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Went to One Utama to watch a movie earlier tonight and stepped into Kettler.

Looked over at the weights section and they were well stocked with 10kg weight plates and then some. The plates are slightly pricier compared to Fitness Concept. RM96 compared to Fitness Concept's RM91. But that's before discount. After discount a pair of 10kg weight plates (cast iron) are RM155. Fitness Concept does not offer any discounts currently.

So if you're planning to buy some home gym stuff, head on over to Kettler. The sales guy said they're having a sale until September. Adeline -> *hint* *hint*

Monday, August 2, 2010

How I lost faith in situps and crunches

If I could re-do or not do something (fitness-related) which I didn't do or did before.. it would be not to waste my precious time and risk injury by doing countless sit-ups and crunches and focus more on compund exercises, and doing more planks and side-planks.

When I first read about how situps and crunches are pretty much useless in improving core strength, I was skeptical. The traditionalist in me was thinking how could that be when situps and crunches have been the most basic of exercises.

But another side of me was relieved. I was tired of the backaches and neckaches often associated with those two main exercises. So how do I satisfy both sides? I did an experiment, of course.

I did situps and crunches at the gym on one day. And the next time I went to the gym I did stability ball jackknives and spiderman crawls.

Yup, you guessed it. The gym session sans situps and crunches left my tummy sore while the gym session with situps and crunches left my back and neck sore but my tummy felt nothing. That convinced me to ditch them altogether.

Nowadays, I happily go without those two 'killer ab exercises' choosing instead to just concentrate on compound exercises and perhaps end (or begin) with doing planks.

Don't believe me? Here's a little challenge for you.

Try doing 300 situps one day (I did this).

The next time you hit the gym, try doing squats or deadlifts. See which one makes your core hurt more.

Comment about your experience here if you'd like. I'd definitely appreciate it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My progress and gripes about warmups...

I'm almost done with Jason Ferruggia's MGS programme. Only one more week to go, actually. Yup, I've seen some progress but somehow I feel that I could've done better. I guess this is one of the setbacks of a home gym. You're limited to the weights that you have available.

You can't go on increasing your reps forever, can you? Eventually you have to move on to heavier weights.

And I don't think I'm eating enough. I know I'm supposed to 'stuff my face' but it's really tough to do. The exercises are challenging, yes. But maintaining my diet is way way tougher. Most likely I'd make a whole more progress if only I'd eat more.


On another note, I notice that I can lift heavier if I minimize my warm up sessions. I hate warm up sessions, to be frank. Many times I just wanna hit the weights and skip on the boring 'let's get our heart rates up and losen those joints a bit' phase.

I don't mind warming up by lifting weights though i.e. high reps lighter weights before moving on to more serious lifting.

Is warming up a necessary evil or can we just skip it altogether. I think I know what the answer is, but I wanna hear your opinion.