Saturday, December 31, 2011

Less Sets more Weight

I've discovered something.  It is sort of a 'duh' moment for some... but it is still a discovery for me nonetheless.  You see, I always start my squat training by warming up with 20kg for 3 sets of 8 reps.  The pattern would go somewhat like this:

20kg x 8 reps (3 sets)
40kg x 8 reps (3sets)
45kg x 8 reps (2 sets)
53kg x 8 reps (2 sets)

By the time I hit the final set I'm already quite spent so I always felt 55kg was very challenging.  Even at just an extra 2kg it felt really heavy on my back.

Yesterday however, I was a bit lazy.  The bar was already loaded up with 10kg plates on each side.  So I squatted 28kg (standard bar is 8kg) as my warmup instead of the regular 20kg.  The bar felt surprisingly light.

The rest of the workout went like this:

40kg x 8 reps (2 sets)
48kg x 8 reps (2 sets)
53kg x 8 reps (1 set)
55kg x 7 reps (1 set)

I did far less sets than I usually do.  But it's made slightly more intense by the bigger jump between weights.  Funnily enough I felt fine and didn't feel as tired as I usually feel after a squat session.  On hindsight I realize that less sets mean more energy to push heavier.  But I guess it's my mind playing games on me.

I'd feel comfortable lifting the usual weights I lift.  I should change it up a bit.  And I should have hit the 8th rep of the last set.

Must remind myself not to be a sissy the next time round.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Reflection

First up, I must apologize for not updating for so long. Work has been crazy (but in a good way) and training has been routine so I don't really have much to say.

But now that the year is ending it is time for a bit of a review and some reflection. Just last night I came to know of a person who was a close friend of my circle of friends had passed away due to cancer.

Unfortunately I never had the chance to know her but from what I have learnt she was a kind hearted and positive person who was always smiling even though she was very sick.

Her death reminded me of how extremely precious life is and how we should never take it for granted. Life should not be filled with regrets. We should not have to look back and wonder "what if?"

Yes, somethings will not go our way. There will be times that you won't be able to grab an opportunity for whatever reasons but we must move on. New opportunities will arise.

And please, please take care of your health. Shit happens. Cancer can strike anyone. Even the most hardcore of health freaks. But when you are physically strong, most likely you will be mentally strong (let's face it... Nobody gets strong by being a pussy)... And when you are physically and mentally strong... If ever, God forbid, you get a shitty disease like cancer you have a fighting chance of beating its ass.

But dear God, let none of us be stricken by it.

Al-fatihah to the late Mimi.

Semoga ditempatkan di kalangan orang yang soleh.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I am now 50kg

I now weigh 50kg. Checked my weight on three different scales... They all read the same: 50kg. It takes many many months for me to just gain a measly 2kg.

Still doubting the scales, I went to the department store and tried out several pairs of pants of the usual brand I always buy (they are the only ones that offer pants in XS).

I tried on XS. They are really tight at the butt and thighs. They are so tight you can see my panty line(yeah, too much info... But whatever. It's my blog) and the outlines of the front pockets. Size S feels better although it is slightly tight. But in a good way.

The waist feels comfortable though. So I think my butt and thighs have thickened but waist maintains it's normal size. Cool, huh?

On the training side of things... Squatting for 55kg is proving to be my sticking point. But I am still making progress. I wonder if I would ever make it to 60kg by the end of the year. I'm due for another deloading at the end of this month....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some gains... And a discovery

The good news is my squats have progressed nicely. Just now I squatted 55kg for 5RM at a bodyweight of 48kg. Not too shabby, I muzt say. But a long way to go till my targeted 70kg.

Something to highlight...

As warmup, I squat the empty bar i.e. 20kg explosively. I make sure there is hip-popping effect (like what happens when you do kettlebell swings). Empty bar squats are done for 8 reps per set, for 3 sets.

I discover that explosive warmups with the empty bar help to 'entice' the CNS faster. So far I have never had a bad squat session if I start with explosive warmups.

After empty bar squats, I start my work set at 40kg for 8 reps and then work up to my max weight.

Best part is, nowadays I don't suffer much from lactic acid build-up... Which is cool because you can imagine how horrific it is to walk with high heels on when you have a serious case of rigour mortis.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Higher reps for the ladies

Ladies, if you are ever gonna seriously go into weightlifting, I personally would recommend an 8x5 (8 reps for 5 sets) and progressing to 8x8 rather than use the popular 5x5 method.

5x5 works really well for the guys, but women are known to benefit more from lifting higher reps and taking shorter rest periods compared to men. I don't have the science to back it up... But many trainers also acknowledge this. One of them being Jason Ferruggia in his e-book Muscle Gaining Secrets.

As for me, I experimented it on myself. I didn't get far using 5x5 but I am currently on an 8x7 programme for squats and my progress has been much better as compared to using the former programme.

As of 22 November 2011, my 8 RM for squats is 53kg. 10% more than my bodyweight of 48kg. Only a few short weeks ago, I had serious doubts of my ability to squat 45kg and I am quite happy with my progress so far. Of course, I still cannot beat Adeline's 60kg squat for 10reps. But hopefully I will hit that milestone soon enough.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Of being your own worst enemy

I hit a new 5RM for squats today. It's just 53kg, but it has been long overdue.

I talked about my latest achievement with my pal Adeline and we both acknowledged that the only thing that has ever held my progress back was my self confidence. There is this psychological barrier and even though I KNOW deep inside that I can lift much heavier, I never dared to venture outside of my comfort zone.

Again, I cannot stress the importance of a training journal. It keeps things in perspective... acting as some sort of gauge of your abilities. And what my journal screams out is that I am my own worst enemy.

Now that I know that what I am capable of and what I can potentially achieve, I am psyched more than ever. I look forward to getting stronger and stronger each and every day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Of knowing when to call it a day

So I was happily setting up my barbell for another routine lifting session. Then I started warming up. This time though, it felt weird. Something was off. I couldn't get the rhythm going. Nevermind... I thought. I'll start to get it going once I move on to my work sets.

That didn't happen.

Even after the thurd set I felt weak. Something is just not right. I checked my training journal. Hmmm... It is almost my fourth continuous week of training. That pretty much explained it. It was time to lay off the more intense lifting.

So I took 4 days off from training and started again today. I felt great. The warmups are more explosive. And my worksets went really well. I increased my weights again today. It is not much. It is just a 1kg increment from my previous 8RM but it is still an increment.

What I am trying to get at is that there are times you should push yourself. It is just your mind getting in your way. And there are times your body is trying to tell you to give it a rest.

How do you know when to forge on and when to not risk frying your CNS? Beats me. You'll know when you have a bit of experience under your belt. But a training log does help. You can basically tell when it's time to take a short break by how long have you been training consistently.

Most people will need to take a break after training for 4 to 8 weeks. For me, it seems like I need more frequent short breaks. Not sure why that is, though.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I went boxing

I have always been interested in learning how to box. Some say muay thai is the more popular sport nowadays... But there's something about boxing that appeals to me. Besides, my kicks suck. My legs are too short.  They can't hit a damned thing.

So when I found out that there's a gym in Sri Hartamas offering boxing class, I jumped at the opportunity. They give out a free trial, anyway. So there really ia nothing to lose.

On Monday, together with two of my colleagues and my fellow fitness junkie, Adeline... I went for the tryout. The trainer was friendly and entertained all of our questions as well as gave us reasons why certain moves are done a certain way. The other students were friendly as well.

Most importantly, I really had a good workout, sweating buckets and punching the bag with abandon. I can tell my colleagues were having fun too.  Work stress was released in a healthy way, and it was a proper boxing training session and not some crappy cardio bastardization of the sport.

I am thinking that perhaps I should make boxing sessions a  regular staple in my training.  It would complement the weight training that I do nicely.  They're charging RM150 per month for a one a week boxing lessons.  For RM200 you get 2 sessions per week and you get access to the gym as well.

But I already have a squat rack.  Which is still sufficient.  And my primary thing would still be weightlifting.  Boxing is complimentary.  So I think the RM150 package, should I decide to join... should be sufficient.

Now... to find me some wraps and boxing gloves. Hehe...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Training Journal

After almost 4 years of working out and almost 2 years of serious barbell training, I have only recently kept proper training records. When I say recently, it was precisely on 4 September 2011 that I started my training journal.

Some might feel like smacking me on the back of the head for not started it sooner. Much, much sooner. And some might think... "meh... I don't keep a journal but my memory serves me really well."

Yeah, so maybe you have a really good memory. But a journal does not only serve as a place to record your training. It also serves as a diary of sorts. Recording your training journey from being a weakling that could be mistaken for a fallen twig into someone with decent strength and a fairly attractive body.

And for me personally, it serves as a constant reminder of what I am really capable of. That I am NOT a weakling. That with a little push every training day, I will always be making progress.

I flip through my journal and all I see are improvements. If not in terms of the amount of weights lifted, it is in terms of the number of reps done. It amazes me how just a few weeks ago I was stuck lifting the same weights for the same number of reps day after day.

Now that I write everything down... I always have a target to hit each and every training day. And that will almost always guarantee progress.

If you haven't started a training journal yet, I strongly urge you to do so.

Apart from recording the type of workout, reps and sets... You could also record how you physically and mentally feel before, during, and after each workout. For example, I usually feel weak on my first work set but as I progress to more sets I feel stronger and stronger.

Therefore, I know that it is pretty much how my body works and not to feel intimidated by the bar when the first set doesn't go as well as I think it should.

And on days when training just sucks, I note down how I feel and what I ate (or didn't eat) and see if there is any clear pattern that contributes to an unproductive training day for me.

So yeah... Keep a training journal, folks. It requires very minimal investment and it is the best thing you could do to improve your training.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kettlebell swings with thumbless grip

Yep... More thumbless grip experiments.

This time it's about swinging the kettlebell with thumbless grips. Again, this thumbless idea came from Jedd Johnson of Diesel Crew... Pretty much the go-to guys on all things grip strength related.

And yes, the thumbless grip kettlebell swing is used to strengthen your grip. So right after my squat training I did 6 sets of 30s/30s swings, and I discovered that my forearms were burning by the third set. My grip was still okay.

There is a possibility that apart from my grip, my forearms are also my weakest link. Pretty logical since the forearms hardly get any direct work unlike the legs, back, traps and even triceps.

Anyway.... Back to the swings. Swings are really cool. Leaves you drenched as if you just jumped into a pool, trains your breathing, and increases cardiovascular endurance. Plus it sure as heck is not boring like jogging is. And now you can even use swings to improve your grip strength.

All in all, an exercise that is value for time. If you haven't tried it, you should. You can use dumbbells if you don't have kettlebells. So you really do not have much of an excuse.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm waving it (Part deux)

When I first started with Jason Ferruggia's Muscle Gaining Secrets programme, the very first training template comprised of just the three basic lifts: squat, benchpress, and deadlift.  I was to start with 3x5, then 4x5, then 5x5, all the way to 8x5 and only then increase the weight.  By the time I hit 8x5 I'm already psyched and my body is more than ready to lift more weight.

This is what was lacking in the 5x5 programme.  I didn't feel so confident to increase the weights.  I still felt I was too weak.  It's like my body didn't have sufficient time to get ready for heavier stuff.

So I changed things up a bit, in a sense that I 'wave' my work sets.  My total work set is still 5, but the weight varies with each set.  But instead of sticking to 5 reps per set (hence 5x5) I now increase the number of reps for the earlier, lighter sets.

I discover that my body adapts to the later, heavier sets much better and I'm able to increase the weights I lift faster.  I'm only 3 training sessions into this 'modified 5x5' and so far the results are pretty promising.  Let's see how far I can take this until my body tells me to deload.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nifty fitness apps

I would be the first to admit that most fitness related apps in the various app stores are crap. But now and then I discover a few apps that are worth looking into.

My current favourite is the KB Timer Pro. It's pretty much for interval training purposes. What's nifty about it is that it has various preset times for intervals. For inatance, those who are testing out their VO2 max could go for the 15s/15s (15 second swings followed by 15 second rest).

A regular Jane like me can go for the 30s/30s intervals. And you can choose how long your torture session would last. My five minutes of 30s/30s swings leave me gasping for breath and begging for mercy by the fourth set.

It's not free though. The asking price is USD0.99 or MYR3.20. Fairly priced, if you ask me.

Do you have any cool fitness related apps that you frequently use? Care to share the info?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Overhead Press with Thumbless Grip

To be honest, I am not sure where exactly I got the idea of using the thumbless grip when doing my overhead press.  It definitely was from one of the myriad of blogs I read.  And there is quite a high probability it came from James Smith (the guy behind Diesel Crew).

Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about using the thumbless grip.

Thumbless = Unstable

At least, that's what I thought.

But I was pleasantly surprised that it made the lift that much steadier.  The 'line of movement' of the overhead press felt smoother and more comfortable.  Most probably because I could bend back my wrists a bit better.  Bottom line... you should try using the thumbless grip for the overhead press.  It's certainly one of the better tips I've read so far.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wow.. It has been quite a while since I last posted anything here. Life has been pretty busy. Training went smoothly and it's the same routine thing. But two weeks into my post-sickness training phase I had a call from my mom saying that my dad isin hospital and he is not doing so well. So I dropped everything so that I can be with my family and have just started training again last Sunday.

But that is not what I wanted to write about.

You see, my dad is an interesting case. He doesn't take care of his body. He ised to smoke packs of unfiltered cigarettes each day and drank copious amount of coffee. He doesn't control his eating. While he is by no means obese, he is a diebetic so his diet should be restricted.

Couple that with late nights and hanging out with friends who are heavy smokers as well... You have a time bomb just waiting to explode.

My dad is 64. Still young by today's standards. Yet he is already on dialysis and he had a bypass surgery 7 years ago. His body is pretty much damaged. But a couple of years back he changed hia lifestyle for the better. He quit smoking altogether and made an effort to walk around the neighbourhood on a daily basis.

His health improved tremendously. And despite being on dialysis, I reckon he is in better health now than he was 5 years ago. The reason why he was hospitalized recently was because he grew a bit too confident that his body can take a bit of abuse. And by abuse I mean sleeping right under the fan and drinking too much liquid.

So again... The only reason For his recent hospital stint was due to his own bad judgment.

What's the point of my ramblings, you may ask.

Well, the point is this:

Take care of your health. You may think you are the only one that is suffering. But the truth is, when you are sick... It takes a toll on the people who has to take care of you. Don't be selfish.

The occasional fun and partying are fine. But the key word here is OCCASIONAL, folks. Don't make it a habit.

Everyone wants to live a long life. But what is the point ofliving a long life when you spend half of it having to restrict yourself from doing this and that due to ill health? It's just so silly.

So yeah. Stay healthy, get strong. Kick those nasty habits. Or at least... Get them under control, eh?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Non-training day activity

Believe it or not, I have not played any kind of sport for some time now.  The only exercise I do is weightlifting.  And even that I don't do as well as I want to.

My colleagues have been asking me to join them for a game of basketball.  Gosh... the only kind of basketball that I play is the one at the arcade.  And I suck.  And here they are wanting me to run around the court, while dribbling a ball and try to shoot it into the darn hoop.

I was actually concerned that I couldn't move fast enough.  That all that weightlifting made me inflexible.

Thus I am happy to report that I moved pretty okay for someone who hasn't played any kind of sports for many many years.  I was pretty fluid (it could be better) and didn't suffer injuries due to inflexible joints or crap like that.  Just a bit disoriented and rigid because I was more accustomed playing netball (product of an all girls school) rather than basketball.

I suck at shooting the ball though.

Oh well.  Perhaps with a bit of practice I'll get better.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My barbell training progress thus far

The good thing about documenting your fitness journey in a blog is it puts things in perspective.  In my mind, I have been exercising regularly for about 3.5 years now.  But I was caught by surprise to rediscover that I have only started using the barbell extensively since mid June of 2010.

And looking back at my previous post, I'm quite pleased at how much I have progressed.  AWhat I used for my work weights a year ago are now pretty much my warm-up weights.

But I still have a long way to go.  I don't see myself as strong.  I mean, I am strong but I am not as strong as I want to be.

There's still a lot of work to be done.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Improving my grip strength

I did squats and deadlifts for tonight's training.  Based on my training log, it seems like I have made some progress... which is good.

For deadlifts specifically, I am pulling well below my 2RM.  For now I'm pulling 58kg only.  But I don't actually plan to improve my deadlift numbers.  My goal is to improve my grip.

Basically, I plan to pull strictly using the double overhand grip.  I've had enough of having a pussy grip.  I've had enough of using straps.  What's the point of lifting 73kg with the aid of straps?  It doesn't mean crap to me.  I am ashamed to have to use straps.

It's double overhand or nothing.  The reverse grip may be used.  But sparingly.  To complete sets when the double overhand grip can no longer be sustainable.

And I am quite confident that I will have no problems hitting my current 2RM (using straps) anytime even if I have not been pulling nowhere near it in recent times.  I don't have studies to back it up, but instinct tells me that if I improve my grip strength substantially, then the rest of the body will follow.

Perhaps its a stupid theory.  But someday soon I'll test it out and see whether I am right.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Battling the 48kg Curse

I can safely say I have fully recovered.  So far this week I have managed to train every single day (taking turns between barbell stuff and bodyweight training).

The good news is I wasn't as weak as I thought I was (prior to being sick).  Good thing I kept a training log. If you have never kept a training log, I suggest you do.  It really keeps things in perspective.

The not so good news is I'm still on the skinny side.  I've regained some of the mass I lost, but it's a long way from my peak.

The great news is it now takes a shorter time for me to regain my lost mass as compared to before.  That's muscle memory doing its work.

Hopefully, with consistent training and consistent eating habits I'll reach my previous peak.  Who knows?  I might even surpass it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weak

I am frustrated that I am so freaking weak.

My squats are pathetic.  So is my overhead press.  And I can't deadlift that much without straps.

I am so weak it's just sad.

But I'm not going to quit.  Not a chance.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Missing It

I feel fully recovered.  Coughs are still there.  But they're fairly mild.

Tomorrow, it's time to get under the bar.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Training Programme Evolution

First up, I'm recovering from that dastardly bug that's been plaguing Klang Valley.  The worst is over, but the very bad cough is still there.  I am sure as heck not gonna get under the bar until I get this coughing fit under control.

So, I took the time I should be using to exercise to ponder a bit and write in this humble blog instead.

Right.  So I've been reflecting on the various exercise programmes I've been on and I'm quite amazed at its evolution.

Initial Phase
When I first started out, I heavily depended on my personal trainer to write a programme for me.  I tried to make sense of the programme, to see if there was a clear pattern but it just left me even more confused and felt that I need to depend on my trainer for guidance.  This of course, never happened.

Intermediate Phase 1
I then moved on to 'training templates'... a pre-written training programme written for different objectives.  Specifically, I followed the Turbulence Training programme.  They're pretty decent.  I love that it is structured.  Provides me with the kind of exercise, required reps, sets and rest time, and the kind of warmup to use.  It's heaven sent for someone so confused like I was.

But even though in principal I knew how the programme was constructed, and I had access to an array of exercise that could be used I felt that there must be a simpler way to achieve my objective.

Intermediate Phase 2
This was when I discovered Jason Ferrugia's Muscle Gaining Secrets book and programme.  His was also 'cookie cutter' programme but specifically for hardgainers.  JF's was by far simpler compared to Turbulence Training and suited me fine.

***

In time and through various research I discovered a common thing that all (creditable) fitness gurus preach about:

  1. Stick to compound exercise
  2. Go heavy
  3. Don't train for too long.  Ideally only for 30 to 45 minutes per session
  4. The 3 to 5 guideline: 3 to 5 exercises, 3 to 5 days a week, 3 to 5 minutes of rest between sets
If you take a look at my previous entry on my post-raya training programme, you would see that I've incorporated all 4 of the general guidelines given.  Basically, it's pretty easy to write your own training programme.

Just keep it simple.  Simple doesn't mean easy.  And complex doesn't mean effective.  Always have that in mind.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The 48 Kilo Curse

I was making such good progress.  From 45kg, my weight surged to 48kg and I believe they're mostly mass, not fat.  And as always, when I reach the 48kg mark I fall sick.

Maybe it's just a coincidence.  There's a bug about town and it doesn't help that it's been hazy as heck in the Klang Valley.  Combined with the fact that I am susceptible to colds and flu, it's only a matter of time until I catch the darned bug.  It's pretty bad this time.  I haven't had asthma for ages and yesterday alone I lost count on how many doses of ventolin I took.

Worst part is I've lost weight again.  Sigh.

Back to square one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Post-Raya Training Programme

Okay.  As you know I lost about 5kg during the fasting month.  I stopped training for 2.5 weeks and have started my workout routine starting this past Sunday.  I've written a training programme for myself.  It's a 5-day  plan but note that the plan includes recovery workouts.  So it's basically 3 days of barbell training and 2 days of  recovery workouts using bodyweight exercise.

My programme goes like this:

Week 1
Sunday: Squats, OH Press
Monday: Pushups, BW Squats, Leg Raise
Tuesday: Squats, Deadlift
Wednesday: Pushups, BW Rows, Leg Raise
Thursday: Squats, OH Press

Week 2
Sunday: Squats, Deadlift
Monday: Pushups, BW Squats, Leg Raise
Tuesday: Squats, OH Press
Wednesday: Pushups, BW Rows, Leg Raise
Thursday: Squats, Deadlift

Repeat between the 2 workout sets accordingly.  I reckon I'll be using this programme for 8 weeks.  Notice that I excluded my kettlebell swings.  At least for now.  I gotta concentrate on rebuilding my muscle mass first.  Once I think I'm 80% there I'll start swinging again.

Also, I know my programme doesn't look like much.  I like to keep it simple.  And I notice my body responds better if I just do 1 or 2 basic exercises (but of course you gotta go heavy... that's a given) per training session.

On another note....

I've never been very organized.  Lots of things I do I just plan it in my head and execute as I see fit.  I know it's bad because what I think I did may not be what I actually did.  It's best to have black and white.  So beginning this post-raya workout I am FINALLY logging my training sessions.

One good tip I learned from reading Convict Conditioning is to note down how I feel after each workout (e.g. I started struggling in the final set of my deadlifts/My squats felt really good after the second set onwards).  This way I know where my sticking points are and what I should concentrate more on.

On yet another note...

My legs are damn sore after not squatting for almost 3 weeks.  It still felt sore (or perhaps felt even worse) after I did my recovery workouts yesterday.  I was foolish enough to start my warmup set using the barbell.  It didn't feel good at all... after 1 rep.  So I re-racked the barbell and started with a few reps of bodyweight squats first.  Then only I started with the barbell warmup.

I'm happy to report that I felt so much better and managed to pile on slightly more weights then my previous session.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Oh... the blasphemy!

Be forewarned.... this is a bitching post.

Amongst the list of people (some whom I hardly know and remember) in my FB account, there are bound to be those who are into direct selling/multi-level marketing/crap like that.  You know the type.  Heck, I can bet you that almost everyone who owns an FB account would have at least one annoying friend who promotes his/her little business online.

I usually tolerate the kind of crappy marketing some of them put up on FB.  I mean, it's only natural that you'd want to earn extra income.  But when you start making stupid statements like wearing a miracle corset would help you get the figure that you dream of without having to go through the hassle of exercise, or taking certain supplements would allow you to eat the kind of crap you've been eating that made you overweight in the first place then I have a bone to pick with you.

It's one thing to promote your business online.  It's another thing to make idiotic statements.

Let's take my pet peeve... the 'miracle corset' for example:

  1. Yes, wearing the corset will make you appear slimmer than you really are.  It's the same as a woman who looks beautiful with make up on but look absolutely hideous without it.
  2. I don't think a guy would appreciate being deceived.  You hook up with a girl thinking she's got great curves only to discover once she took the bloody corset off that she doesn't have curves.  She's just a big blob (ok, I'm being mean... but I'm stating a point here).  
  3. Really?  Do you really wanna waste a thousand bucks to buy a bloody corset?  A kettlebell would set you off for about 100 bucks and you only need to swing it for 10 - 15 minutes a day to burn your excess fat off.  Come on... don't tell me you don't have 10 minutes.  I have a suspicion it takes longer to put that damned corset on. 
  4. 1000 bucks could hire you a personal trainer.  But then again, with the kind of trainers that we have you're better off buying the corset.  KIDDING!!
  5. If you're silly (read: dumb) enough to believe that wearing a corset would mean you can eat whatever crap you want then you're sorely mistaken.  You're just going to make your bloody corset seller happy because she now can sell you a bigger (more expensive) one that you can actually wear.
  6. Geeeezzzz.... isn't it uncomfortable wearing that thing underneath your regular clothes?  ESPECIALLY in our humid climate?
Apparently, I just pissed off a girl who sells this corset bullcrap.  I couldn't care less.  I've always been opinionated.  But hey, I stand for what I believe in.  I won't apologize for that.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I don't do planks no more

I no longer think doing any variation of planks will work your abs.  I mean, it does work your abs but I have discovered several moves that would smoke them harder if not just as hard.  And it's not as boring as doing the plank.  Yes, I find planks boring.

Okay... here's my list of stomach cramp inducing ab exercises:

  1. Pushups.  Don't  splay your legs.  Keep them together.  It will make it your core work much harder to keep your body in a constant straight line.  Plus, it works your pecs as well as your triceps.  Talk about being efficient, huh?
  2. Leg raises:  You can do leg raises while lying on the floor or hanging on a pull up bar.  If you think you're too macho for leg raises then you might wanna try the dragon flag ala Bruce Lee.  I'm still not up to that standard yet, though.
  3. Pullups/Chinups/Bodyweight rows:  Again, your core plays a major role to ensure that your body is propped up effectively.
  4. Turkish Getups:  Done correctly, this will totally kill your abs... and your whole body.  Expect expletives to involuntarily spew out of your mouth when doing this particularly exercise.
Anything else you wanna add to this list?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Post-Raya Entry

First up:  Selamat hari raya and happy independence day to fellow Muslim and/or Malaysian readers of my humble blog.

I'm back in my hometown, devoid of access to a barbell so I have not been doing any kind of proper training.  But I have been carrying weights around.  Cartons of soft drinks.  Babies.  Household items.  They're more like conditioning work though.  And it's good to know all that barbell stuff has transferred nicely to real-world function.

Anyway, I've been catching up on my studying and have just finished reading Convict Conditioning.  It's a fantastic book and guides you step by step on how to perform the 6 most essential bodyweight moves.  It's written by ex-convict Paul Wade and he explains how you can build a powerful and functional body with bodyweight only.  Which does come in handy when you're behind bars and have no access to training equipment.

Coach Wade ( as he is fondly known) is a strong advocate of bodyweight exercises because it allows for natural movements, hence prevents injury and improves joint and tendon strength unlike barbell/dumbbell exercises which forces you to follow a certain range of motion which may not be as natural.  It also takes a toll on your joints and tendon.

Coach Wade  outlines 6 key bodyweight exercise one should master in order to be strong, powerful and agile.  He calls it The Big Six.  They're listed below:

  1. The Pushup (master step: one-arm pushup)
  2. The Squat (master step: full one-leg squat)
  3. The Pullup (master step: full one-arm pullup)
  4. The Leg Raise (master step: hanging straight leg raise)
  5. The Bridge (master step: stand to stand bridge)
  6. The Handstand Pushup (master step: one-arm handstand pushup)
I'm a long way off to conquer the master steps of each of the Big Six.  But hopefully, with enough perseverence and proper training, I may at least be halfway there.  Anyway, I actually agree with Coach Wade in a sense that you don't really need the barbell to get powerful.  

BUT. I still think barbell squats and deadlifts MUST be incorporated in ones training regiment.  I don't care much about the benchpress as I honestly think pushups are a far more superior alternative. And I reckon the handstand pushup is a superior alternative to the overhead press too... but I am nowhere near being able to get... uhhh... vertically inverted, so I guess I will still have to get my overhead presses done while working towards a handstand pushup.

I've already written a post-raya training plan for myself.  It's a 5-day programme with alternate days of barbell training and bodyweight training.  Let's see if I can keep with the programme and whether it works for yours truly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mass Gaining Strategy Post Raya Hols

I have lost the war against mass loss.

My clothes are wearing me.  And I'm around 5kg lighter.

"Arghhh!!!" you say....

Arghhh is a good way to describe it.

2 years ago I would've panicked and hired myself a personal trainer.

But now I know what to do regain the lost mass.  It would be hard work.

At present, I have stopped my training.  I'm planning to shock my body to build muscle faster by letting it become 'complacent'.  By the time Raya hols are over, I think even 70% of 1RM lifts would help rebuild lost muscles.  Of course, this will only happen during the initial stage.

And I would have to eat A LOT.  That shouldn't be a problem.  Empirical evidence has shown that I tend to devour almost anything in sight during the holidays.  Cool thing about being an ecto is it would work to my advantage.

So yeah.  Just keep it simple.

EAT A LOT.

TRAIN CONSISTENTLY.

Fairly easy to do, I reckon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Of shrinking and niggling doubts...

My butt has shrunk.

My hard-earned butt.  Egad... I'm on a downward spiral of weight loss!  And I only have myself to blame.  Maybe age is catching up on me.  I used to have quite an appetite.  I still have quite an appetite, but it's been suppressed this fasting month.  I just don't feel like eating much.

It's a vicious cycle.  I get tired because I don't eat, and I don't eat because I'm tired.

Maybe it doesn't make sense to you, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

Good thing is I can still lift as much as before.  Which tells me that on normal non-fasting training days I am not fulfilling my lifting potential.  If I can lift as much as I can (albeit for fewer sets) when I am deprived of calories, shouldn't I be able to lift more when I'm free to take in as much calories as my stomach could handle?

Hmmmm... admittedly sometimes I lack faith in myself.  I know I can lift more, but somehow I doubt my own ability.  At those moments I wish I had a training partner to psych me up.  But I train alone, and most times I prefer it that way.

Any tips on how to build confidence and get psyched up to attempt a new PR?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ramadhan Updates Part 2

I did a weigh-in last Friday and I now stand at 47kg.  A 2kg weight loss since the start of the fasting month.  And we still have another 2 weeks to go.

A part of me is obviously upset by the weight loss.  It took me months to gain 2kg and it just takes me 2 weeks to have it go down the drain.  A part of me has accepted the fact that this will be the case for as long as I live.  That for 1 month in the whole year I will shed hard earned kilos.

But this year I am quite confident that I can regain the lost kilos pretty quickly.  As long as I eat regularly and train hard, it shouldn't be that challenging.  Strength-wise, it seems like I haven't lost much of it.  I still can lift almost as much as I do on non-fasting days.

We'll see how it goes.  Another 2 weeks.  Let's hope the weight stops at 47kg and I don't lose much strength as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This Ramadhan, focus on Technique

So we're into the second week of the fasting month.  My training schedule is back to normal.  I am training almost daily.  It's amazing how I can feel lethargic all day long but immediately feel so much more perky once I start lifting.  Must be all those feel good hormones coursing through my system.

As we all know, it's not easy to lift as much as you normally do during days when you are not fasting.  I used to think that's a bad thing.  But as these past 1.5 weeks have taught me, it is actually a blessing in disguise.  You see, sometimes I am too eager to increase the weights that I lift that I tend to forget about the most important thing: technique.

I've been going through some of the strength training books that I have in my possession and realize that I have overlooked or forgotten about some key points when lifting.

Take the squat for example.  It is advisable that you adopt a wider stance when you squat.  I've discovered that it is much easier to keep your knees out and your hips back as you move downwards as compared to when you adopt a narrower stance.

I'm actually glad that I have to settle with lighter weights this Ramadhan.  This way it is much easier to focus on technique.  You learn faster and your CNS would love you for it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I would do anything, but I won't do that

I am a Malaysian. And you know what that means: I love food. Take into account that I used to study in Kedsh where delicious and cheap food are in abundance, and a foodie is born. Being a foodie and a fitness junkie sometimes do not bode well. The fitness junkie in me would go "tsk tsk" when I indulge in 'sinful' food like pizza and waffle topped with ice cream and strawberry sauce. The foodie in me would say "awww come on girl, live a little!".

The foodie always wins.

This doesn't mean that I eat junk all the time. Quite the contrary, actually. I tend to love wholesome food. They taste better than junk food, anyway. But I am not one of those people who go on a carb free, sugar free diet. Sorry, I love food to much to ever subject myself to such torture.

Would I love to get myself a six pack? Sure. But if it is at the expense of the food that I love, then I would be more thsn happy to just settle with my fairly flat stomach with some muscle definition.

I know I won't grow fat and flabby as long as I eat clean food most of the time. I may not look as athletic as those crossfit chicks or those sexy fitness models. But heck, I don't look that bad myself... Maybe a bit on the skinny side. But not too shabby I must say.

There are sacrifices in being a fitness junkie that I am willing to take, like reducing my late night partying and socializing so that I can spend more time training. But the one sacrifice that I am not ready for is eating bland boring food most of my life. Heck, Malaysia has too many delicious food. To not eat them is a sin, in my opinion.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Exercise Withdrawal Syndrome

I feel sluggish, tired, sleepy and irritable.  Not because I'm fasting.  But because I've not been training for some time.   Things keep cropping up and I keep having to skip my training sessions.  I don't like that.  I don't like that at all.

It got to a point where I was so sluggish, I just crawled into bed and slept like a baby.  The other night however, I've had enough.  It was quite late (by my standards, as I get to bed early) but I did my exercise anyway.  It wasn't much.  And it sure as heck wasn't what I am used to doing.  But it's Ramadhan anyway, and calories are not in abundance.  But the point is, I trained anyway.

The result?  I felt so much better and my lethargy was eliminated.  My brain was finally functioning at optimum capacity.  Could it be that I was suffering from exercise withdrawal syndrome.  I only felt much better after I got my training fix.

Oh well.  Better be addicted to exercise than to be addicted to unhealthy stuff.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ramadhan Updates Part 1

The holy month of Ramadhan is here again.  The fasting month is a month that I look forward to eagerly as it is indeed a very special month.  At the same time, I am filled with dread because I know I will lose my hard earned mass no matter how hard I try to preserve it.

So far, I'm just trying to eat sufficiently.

Training wise, I'm still training.  But not as usual.  I do fewer sets.  And dropped the weight a bit.  I did squats today and yesterday.  Last weak, I only managed to train for one day due to unforeseen circumstances.  It was frustrating, but setbacks will occur.  What's important is you still trudge through.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Improvising at a sucky gym

So my car broke down. Again. And I'm staying at a friend's place for the time being. The apartment is much closer to my office so it's cheaper in terms of taxi fares. Anyway, the worst thing about staying at someone else's place is that my training routine goes awry.

Thankfully there's a gym at the apartment and I eagerly went there to check out the facilities. It sucked. It sucked big time. There were machines galore and only had a pathetically small range of dumbbells. There are no barbells whatsoever. Yup. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Once upon a time I may make lack of equipment as an excuse not to train. But by now I should know better and should be able to think of ways to use whatever equipments that they have to continue with my training. Sure, it won't be as swell as hitting it up at my very own squat rack but life can be a bitch and when life is bitchy you need to find ways to get around that bitchiness.

So for tonite's workout... And to test the waters, I shall start off with goblet squats and then shoulder presses. Finish it off with farmer's walks. That should not take me long to complete, I reckon.

I hope my car gets fixed pronto.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Pressing Matter

It's guys like this that made the
overhead presstough to judge
Before the benchpress became the staple in powerlifting competitions, the overhead press was used as a measure of strength.  It was one of the things that was competed in powerlifting meets until the year 1972.  The reason why it was omitted wasn't because overhead presses suck or make a lifter prone to injury.  Rather, the overhead press was hard to judge because flexible lifters tend to arch their back which then enable them to press more.

It's easy to figure out why the benchpress was then introduced.  It simply is much easier to judge.

I for one, am not impressed by guys who can bench a huge amount of weight.  I usually go "mehhh...." when I see guys grunting and heaving to bench weights.  But pressing huge weights overhead is another story altogether. Now THAT is impressive.  THAT is the mark of a strong man.  Plus, it has good carryover to real life usage.  Unlike the squat and the deadlift, I don't see how lying on your back and lifting weights can be beneficial when going through your daily activities.

Yes, I am biased.  Sue me.  I am entitled to my opinion.  Plus, it's my blog. Haha.  Anyway, here's a list of benefits of overhead presses:
Keep your elbows tucked in... Like this
dude does right here

  1. It's a total body workout.  It works your legs, glutes, core, shoulders, upper chest, lats... it smokes everything.
  2. It especially gives your obliques a nice workout.
  3. Unlike the benchpress which focuses more on the front shoulders and not much on your back shoulders, the overhead press works all parts of your shoulders.
When done correctly, the overhead press is a heck of an exercise.  For me, it's one of the toughest lifts.  But I love it nonetheless.  However, my shoulder was once injured because I had been using the wrong pressing technique.  Luckily, it wasn't a serious injury but I had to stay away from upper body exercises for a few weeks.  That's enough to make me weep.

My mistake was that my grip was too wide and my elbows were flared.  You must always tuck your elbows in.  For that to happen, you must also have strong and flexible wrists.  Or else you're gonna have some trouble keeping your elbows tucked in when you're at the overhead press starting position.

If you haven't tried out the overhead press, you should.  Just make sure you do it with proper form, ok?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sexism and weightlifting

I sometimes get friend requests from strangers on Facebook.  Usually when I take a look at their profile they are mostly guys and girls who are into fitness.  So I just accept their friend request and classify them under "Fitness Junkie".

Ever so often I get a request from some guy who has a  profile pic of himself (I assume that is himself) shirtless.  And obviously when you pose shirtless you have to look good.  And on my side, whenever I see these kind of profile pics I automatically assume they've got hold of my profile from the myriad of fitness pages I 'liked' on Facebook.  So naturally I just accept the friend request and categorize them under "Fitness Junkie".

Perhaps I shouldn't assume, as I have actually received some stupid comments (well, I think it's stupid) from these buggers that are in my friends list like:

  1. You lift weights?
  2. Oh, you're into bodybuilding?
And other similar things.  I have this one fuckwit who commented on an article I shared on FB about the correct squat technique... and the whole conversation ran something like this:

Fuckwit:  You're into bodybuilding?
Me:  No I'm not into bodybuilding.  I'm more into powerlifting.
Fuckwit:  Oic... really?  But you look so small (I just LOVE the condescending tone)
Me:  So?  Small doesn't necessarily mean weak and big doesn't necessarily mean strong

He has yet to reply.  But what irks me is that someone who is into the sport of bodybuilding/powerlifting (I assume) would make such a stupid comment like "you look so small".  Anyone who has actually spend time to do a bit of research would know that size does not determine strength.  There are so many examples of 'small looking' powerlifters who can lift monumental weights.

Besides, I am a woman for crying out loud.  Add in the fact that I am an ectomorph and you can easily deduce that there's only so much growing that I can do.  It's guys like this particular Fuckwit I encountered that make women shy away from the sport.

Luckily for me, I have a lot of guy friends who are supportive of my passion in weightlifting.  It's too bad that there are those who have a chauvinistic and cynical attitude towards women who are into the sport.  I'm not sure whether it is because of the lack of knowledge or just their overall attitude towards the opposite sex, but all I can say is I am not the only one who is subject to stupid remarks by ignorant guys.

p/s  I am NOT declaring war against men.  A lot of people that have helped me along the way are great guys who are very happy to see women indulge in weightlifting.  But like many things in life... the minority who are opposed to the idea makes the most noise.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

About conditioning... Or the lack of it

Strength and conditioning goes hand in hand. Muscle without muscle endurance does not translate into much. Conditioning work can be grueling yet fun at the same time. If you decide to indulge in only one form of masochism, doing conditioning work should be it.

I for one am worried about my muscle endurance. Yes I am getting stronger, but is my strength akin to a spark.. It burns brightly and brilliantly for a few seconds and then it fizzles out or is more like a burning candle... Burning steadily for hours.

Looking at things now, I am more of the former than the latter. But I am slowly trying to improve things. I do my kettlebell swings on upper body day. But upper body days come once or twice a week and I should do conditioning a bit more frequently.

So I'm looking at swinging on lower body days as well. Just to up the ante a bit. Once it gets to easy than perhaps I'll incorporate some snatches as finishers.

P.s. I do 3 sets of 30 swings as finishers on upper body days.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Increased caloric intake = more mass?

I'm not feeling so good right now. I was under medication, and i guess my stomach wasn't agreeable to it as I kept on puking after I take it. So I have decided to ditch the darned pills and visit my doctor and see if I can get something milder which my tender tummy can handle.

Anyway, prior to me puking my guts out I was actually about 49kg which is pretty impressive for me. Impressive because I didn't really try to devour more than what I usually eat. The only additional 'meals' that I took were cashew nuts and soy bean milk prior to a training session and soy milk again as a post workout drink.

The rest of the time it's the typical day consisting of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

From this little outcome I can conclude that ectomorph me don't really need to stuff myself silly with Big Macs and fries just to get some extra calories in. Eating fairly clean and weight training regularly does the trick. Again, I'd like to emphasize that eating nutrient dense food, and eating clean I.e. Unprocessed food would help you gain mass without gaining too much fat along the way.

At least this is the case for me.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The by-product of weight lifting

I like the way I look. Sure, I'm the typical ectomorph and can't build muscle as well as my more genetically endowed counterparts... But hey, it's okay. When I first started hitting the gym it was more for killing time and improving how I look.

But as I progressed, my objectives changed. I'm now more concerned about getting as strong as I can get. I only do very basic, compound exercises: squat, deadlift, standing press. I add some basic bodyweight stuff like the humble pushup and rows. And of course, I throw in kettle bell swings as well.

I don't work on any particular body part.

Looking good is the by-product of lifting heavy.

Of course, diet plays a role. No doubt about that. Ectomorphs have some leeway when it comes to diet. We pretty much are able to eat anything without accumulating a tub of fat around our bellies.

But what I am trying to get at is this: forget about chasing the pump or working on certain parts of your body and ignoring the rest. Your body will only look disproportionate. Concentrate on getting strong and agile and before you know it you'll have your dream body.

P/s I don't look like Sarah O'Connor in Terminator 2. But I can safely say I look better than all of the sedentary girls out there. The only advantage they have against me is that they have boobs and I'm pretty much an airport runway.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Strengh Training Books

Let's face it.  Most fitness magazines suck.  They tell you to do 10,000 crunches and slave over the treadmill.  And when you don't get results they entice you to buy yet another useless issue and the vicious cycle starts all over again.

And then you have the internet.  The internet could be a good friend or a sneaky bastard.  It feeds you with a wealth of information.  But not all of the information are legit.  You have to sift through a lot of junk to get to the gems.

As for me, I prefer to read books to get some credible facts.  Ehem... since I got myself an iPad I have procured quite a few fitness books.  Some of which I've already read through.  And many more still to be read.  Here's a list of what I've read and what I'm about to read:

  1. Power to the People - Pavel Tsatsouline (I recommend that anyone who is interested in strength training to read this book first and foremost)
  2. Enter the Kettlebell - Pavel Tsatsouline
  3. Starting Strength - Mark Rippetoe
  4. The Poliquin Principles - Charles Poliquin
  5. Beyond Bodybuilding - Pavel Tsatsouline
Yeah I know.  I have quite a few of Pavel Tsatsouline's books.  He has a way of explaining complex fitness science concepts in a simple way.  It makes learning easier.  And it makes the information stick in your head.  That's what good teachers do.  

Do you have any fitness books that is a particular favourite?  Care to share?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Squats Update

Adeline and I had a little bet a while back. She was supposed to be able to deadlift 60kg for 5 reps by 16 June while I'm supposed to squat 50kg for 5 reps by the same date. Adeline managed to keep her half of the deal while I floundered.

The best I could do was 46.5kg for 5 reps. Probably my 1RM would be somewhere in the 50kg region. But not for 5 reps. Not yet anyway.

At least my squats are progressing. It has stalled for quite some time. I'm just glad I'm finally starting to chug along. Dare I say that I'm beginning to love squats more and more nowadays? In fact, today's my rest day and I was considering training squats just for the heck of it.

Unfortunately something came up, so I couldn't train. Oh well. Tomorrow's another day.

Anyway, below are some coaching cues that I've gathered from various sources that has helped me improve my squat technique:

1. Legs slightly wider than shoulder width
2. Toes should point slightly outwards.
3. When descending, make sure knees are out. Knees should 'travel along the foot'
4. Eyes should look somewhere slightly above eye level. DO NOT look down. DO NOT look too high at the ceiling either.
4. When ascending, hips and shoulders should move upwards together. Don't lift hip first then shoulders.

Anythings else you want to add?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Strength as a Foundation

There are so many ways to keep yourself fit.  Some are into yoga.  Some are into spinning classes.  Then there are those who are into running.  And there others who dig crossfit.  Me, I'm into weightlifting.  But you know that already.

It is unfair to say that yoga is crap.  Or spinning class sucks.  To each his own.  Having said that though, I believe that no matter what your chosen style of fitness is, you must incorporate strength training into your fitness regime.  It's common sense, really.

You need to be strong first in order to excel in your chosen sport.  Nobody ever benefited from being weak.

You like running?  You need the muscles to give you the kind of stride and endurance that will take you further faster.

You love football?  If you're a tiny prick you'll get shoved about more than you get to kick the ball.

You're into martial arts?  If you want a kick that would knock the air out of your opponent you gotta be strong.

So you see, strength training is THE foundation of any kind of sport.  I strongly suggest you incorporate strength training into your fitness regime regardless of what you're into.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Journey of Learning

When I first started going to the gym I was like a headless chicken.  Unsure of what I'm doing.  Paranoid as heck.  I felt if I didn't hit at least half the machines available I will be wasting my time.  Luckily for me, I'm very inquisitive and it wasn't long until I started to go online to research about all things fitness related.

I count my blessings when I discovered a blog which seemed to be popular.  Lots of readers.  Lots of comments.  And more importantly, decent content.

I credit everything that I've learned thus far from that blog.  Because from that blog, I discovered other blogs, other fitness enthusiasts, other fitness experts.  The decisions that I've made, the things that I've learned... it may never have happened if not for that fortuitous day when I discovered it.

A weird thing happened though.  While I *think* I've advanced somewhat in my knowledge about fitness and (a little bit) about nutrition the blog that I used to frequent seemed to stagnate.  It's the same thing over and over and over again.  Nothing new.  Same old same old.  You get the idea.

The blogger has achieved tremendous success today.  And I'm very happy for the person.  When you work hard for something, you deserve it.  No doubt.

But at the same time I feel that we have chosen different paths: I am deemed what some may call 'hardcore' while the blogger has chosen to advocate more mainstream things.  And talk about things like how fructose spiked milk is bad for the children of the nation and how the government has this hidden agenda of making kids fat and stupid.  On another note, I wonder why the blogger kept quiet when the government made the initiative to ban 'sinful' food like nasi lemak.  Goes to show people only pay attention to the bad things and don't acknowledge the good ones.

But I digress.

I guess this is bound to happen when you embark on a journey of learning.  You can't expect your primary one school teacher to guide you all the way until you graduate from university.  As you become more knowledgeable you will of course seek those who are more knowledgeable than you.

It would be great if your initial teacher progresses at the same rate (if not faster) as you.  But sometimes it just doesn't happen that way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ramadan, Catabolism and BCAA

If you read my blog long enough you would know I used to take supplements and have now entirely stopped consuming them.  When I say supplements, I mean the likes of mass gainers, creatine, whey protein and what not lest anyone gets a bit anal technical about the term.  Anyway, I used to spend quite a tidy sum for mass gainers but it only served to aggravate my allergies.  It didn't help me in anyway in terms of gaining mass though.  Gee... how ironic.

However, the mass gainers were pretty useful during Ramadan when I had to ensure my caloric intake was sufficient to minimize the inevitable weight loss that I would have to endure during that one-month period.  Am I going to take mass gainers again?  No.  It's not worth suffering eczema for.

Enter BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acid).  I first knew about BCAA reading blogs by people who are like walking pharmacies.  I knew the rest of the supplements were pretty much crap but back then I have never heard of BCAA before.  So I asked around and did some research and in a gist of it, this is what BCAA does:

It helps a person reduce the effects of catabolism.

I could further write about other scientific aspects of BCAA but I'm too bloody lazy. So come this Ramadan I'm gonna get myself some BCAA supps and get into guinea pig mode.  I'll weigh myself at the start of the fasting month.  I shall take the BCAA capsules during sahur (pre-dawn breakfast) together with a decent meal of course.   I shall continue doing so throughout Ramadan and I shall weigh myself again at the end of the fasting month.

Will let you know if BCAAs were successful in reducing the inevitable catabolism.  Last year I lost 'only' 2kg. Pretty okay seeing that I am known to lose as much as 5kg.  May not seem much.  But when you're 48kg and you're down to 43kg, you downgrade from 'normal weight' do 'underweight'.

Okay that's my ramblings for today.  Tata.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Weightlifting saved my soul

"The iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body has been awakened to its true potential, it is impossible to turn back."
-Henry Rollins

How true. Lifting is by far the best thing that I have ever discovered for myself. How I wished I've discovered it sooner. Especially during my years spent in Hellhole (that's the uni I went to). Indeed, the iron has yet to fail to lift me out of any emotional rut that I sometimes find myself in. After every session I become so much more relaxed. Who needs a shrink when you have the barbell, eh?

How does lifting help me specifically? Off the top of my head...
  1. Gives me something to look forward to
  2. Makes me more disciplined. I've a feeling without weightlifting I'll go down a downward spiral of the typically unhealthy hedonistic lifestyle.
  3. Gives me a sense of achievement - very important for the typical Type A personality
  4. Provides structure in my life
  5. Introduced me to like-minded souls
  6. More self confidence
  7. A more effective outlet to release anger (I have a short fuse)
How has weightlifting helped you with life in general? Care to share?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Of being deceivingly strong

"You lift weights? But you're so skinny! Aren't weightlifters supposed to be big?"

"You lift how much? Seriously? I don't believe you."

Yeah, I get this crap all the time. Not that I mind. I'm not even pissed off. Amused is more like it. You see, the thing is if you're a girl and you lift weights chances are you're not gonna get bulky. You'll get more defined and fill up in all the right places, but provided that you maintain a fairly clean diet you won't get anywhere near bulky.

Yes, you're gonna gain weight but in a good way and in all the right places. And you're gonna get STRONG.

Check out this lady powerlifter. Deadlifted 230kilos would you believe it.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Deadlift PR: 73kg 2RM

Okay so I went out partying on Saturday night. Came back home in the wee hours and by the time I hit the sack it was almost dawn. Woke up a couple of hours later and went to sleep again at about 10am. Woke up yet again at almost 2pm just to grab lunch. After lunch I thought I wanted to do some work but ended up sleeping until almost 7pm.

So yeah, my Sunday was 'wasted away' by sleeping.

But I wanted to get some training done. Besides, it's supposed to be deadlift day. The deadlift is my favourite exercise. So no excuses. Feeling crappy because of excessive sleep, I loaded up the bar. I knew today was gonna be a short 'practice day'.

Happily, I managed to hit a new PR. Here's what I did tonight:

40kg x 5 reps (warmup)
50kg x 5 reps (warmup)
68kg x 5 reps
70kg x 5 reps (new 5RM)
73kg x 2 reps (new 2RM)

So yeah, I'm pretty satisfied with my numbers. And I know I can do better.

P/S I stopped at 2 reps although I have a feeling I could get away with perhaps a few more reps. Maybe I shall test new boundaries next week.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Get on with the programme

The day before yesterday was upper body training day. I did overhead presses, pushups, bodyweight rows and some chin-ups. Topped it all off with some kettlebell swings. Good times. But the DOMS onslaught was especially painful.

Yesterday was spent moving around like an old lady and refraining myself from laughing because it makes my stomach hurt like hell. I was in pain.

Today was a bit better. But I still haven't recovered fully. My upper body is still a bit sore but my legs are good to go. Today's supposed to be squats day and my heart wasn't in it. In my mind I made a lot of excuses for why I should take one more day off.

Luckily, I trudged through with the training. Loaded up the bar and squat I did. Didn't do too bad. Didn't break any PRs but I didn't slack off either. And I'm feeling so much better now after breaking some sweat.

Sometimes you just have to get on with it. It's amazing how you're able to power through even when you're feeling sub-par. Goes to show how fantastic our body is.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Things that make me keel over and go ARRGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!

There are things that I can tolerate. And there are things that I can't. And these things specifically could make me go into violent convulsions when I think about how atrocious they are.
Unfortunately, so many have become victims. Enough of the ramblings. Ladies and gentlemen, here are the things that make me keel over and go ARRRGHHHHHHH.....

Treadmills, Elliptical Machines and the likes of them

I Know!! WTF right????

Like the innocent/ignorant mass, I too slaved upon these machines thinking that it would help me gain cardiovascular endurance. Instead, all it did was provide me with the much dreaded cortisol.

Worse still, a lot of people who want to lose weight think they have no choice but to subject themselves to hours upon hours of boring, monotonous 'exercise' when in fact there are better ways to burn off those excess fat and gain muscle.

And don't get me started on those foolish enough to buy a treadmill (all of them are bloody expensive) only to use it as a gigantic clothes hanger 2 weeks down the road.

Corsets
Yeah... right.

Everytime I open my Facebook page some nitwit will be promoting this stupid corset you wear underneath your clothes which apparently helps you to burn fat while making you look slimmer. Oh... My... God.... seriously??? SERIOUSLYYYYY???? I mean, geeee... if it was that easy we won't see so many overweight people walking around right?

And maybe it does help you look slim. But what happens when you take off that godforsaken corset at the end of the day? All those flabby bits are finally free from their confinement and the reality is, you still don't look good naked, baby.

Herbalies Herbalife


Herbalife. What can I say? Maybe it's not the product. Maybe it's the agents that make cringe and entertain the thoughts of murder. I remember when I first entertained the thought of joining the gym. I asked around about affordable gyms and this fuckwit told me that I don't need to spend money for a gym membership. All I need to do was consume Herbalife crap and I'd look a heck of a lot better. Even back then, I knew it was crap.

Then there were the comments made in DM's blog by one of his readers. The reader mentioned that after taking herbalife, he feels a whole lot healthier. His skin was not botchy anymore. Heck, Herbalife was sooo good that it even made his crooked teeth straight.

All I could think of is that that guy may be one heck of an ugly dude.

Meal Replacement Powders (MRPs)
Okay, to be fair MRPs are not that bad if a person knows how to use it. You can use it to avoid catabolism when you really don't have time to have a proper meal. But if you're pretty much on a liquid diet than you're just asking for trouble. Sure, you might lose weight but be warned that you will gain it all back. Plus a few extra kilos for good measure.

Smith Machine, Leg Press Machine, and other similar stuff
I think my readers already know my disdain for all things machine related. Say all you want about the virtues of these monstrosities but it won't beat free weights. Not now. Not ever.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Importance of a Support System

It has dawned on me for quite some time that we are a lonely bunch of people. Some of us may train in a gym full of people but all it does is to accentuate that loneliness. What am I talking about, exactly? You see, although it is a no-brainer fact that strength training coupled with a decent dose of conditioning will make you stronger and.. ehem... sexier, the majority of (mostly commercial) gym goers think that doing squats, deadlifts and kettlebell swings are 'hardcore' and pretty much an overkill.

Fellow fitness junkie Adeline for example, has always been subject to snide remarks from fellow gym-goers who can't even squat and deadlift even half as much as she does. Yet they shamelessly give stupid advice. I once told Adeline it's like the bonsai plant telling the mighty balak tree how to grow bigger and stronger. The irony is so apparent.

Luckily for us in this day and age of cyberspace, we can look for like-minded souls and get support and encouragement from them. To know that you are not in it alone is important. It serves to keep you going; not to mention that these people would also push you to become better. Healthy competition is vital as well.

Fellow blog-o-buddy Kev has setup the Malaysian Powerlifting Group over at Facebook so that people passionate about powerlifting (obviously) have a go-to place where they can hold healthy discussions and seek support. So why don't you guys head on over and like the page, eh?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of cardiovascular endurance

As your typical hardgainer, I have long ditched any typical cardio exercise in order to hang on to as much lean mass as I can. I did that gladly, since cardio is not something I look forward to doing. The monotony drives me absolutely crazy.

Unfortunately, I've become extremely deconditioned. While I may be stronger than the typical woman, I get winded pretty quickly. What's the point of being strong when you have the endurance of a 90 year old?

Maybe even Homer Simpson can beat me at a marathon

So I tried to run again. From hating to run I became indifferent to it. But I sure as heck don't enjoy it. Running is actually good, provided that you know how to run properly. Or else you're just gonna be susceptible to injury (this applies to everything else in general). And when you don't enjoy doing something you tend to not do it. So I stopped running.

I still want a decent VO2 Max though. I want decent cardiovascular health.

Enter the kettlebell. Initially, I saw the kettlebell as yet another strength training tool. But as I did my research on it I discovered that a lot of people are using it to improve their cardiovascular health as well. Seriously? How could something like that be better than something as classic and old school as running?

I quickly changed my mind when I went to the kettlebell class at Pushmore. The feeling was the same running. I was panting, sweating loads and begging for mercy. Yet unlike running, it wasn't monotonous. It wasn't boring. There are plenty of ways to spice things up.

It saves my joints from all that jarring that I tend to experience whenever I run. Some are natural born runners. I'm definitely not one of them.

Kettlebellin' y'all....

Anyway, even the humble kettlebell swing would burn your lungs; as I discovered. Yesterday, after my upper body training, I finished it off with 3 sets of kettlebell swings. 25 reps per set. I used my newly acquired 12kg kettlebell. Interesting how a less than 10-minute exercise left me drenched. Maybe it's because I'm not used to it. But I like the feeling it gave me.

It felt good, like a decent running session. But can be done both indoors in a limited space, or at the great outdoors... on a field or at a playground.

My kettlebell is definitely a keeper.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Updates on Development (Redundant; I know)

Well I am happy to report that I weigh 49kg and filling up in all the right places. I am feeling stronger too. Granted, my progress is not as fast as fellow fitness junkie Adeline (you can read about her progress here) but like she said: "it's not a competition. We progress at our own pace."

I shall TRY to take those words to heart. But knowing how antsy I can get, I'll be trying my darnedest to catch up.

I am deloading on my overhead presses. Working on technique, mostly. I'm just doing 5x5 with a 20kg barbell only. Feels good. Wrists need to be a whole lot stronger, but I'm getting there.

Squats... I'm progressing from 43kg to... wait for it... 44kg!! Yeayyyy!!!! What a huge progress, huh? Again, I am working on technique. I'm pretty confident I can progress to 45kg come the next squat session.

As for deadlifts, I'm doing pretty okay I guess. 3 sets of 5 reps of 65kg. Will hit another session with the same set and rep scheme and then try to increase the weight.

Diet wise, this is what I've been eating:

Breakfast: Disgusting, fried stuff. I get an egg for the protein.

Lunch: Rice, Vege (usually spinach), Fish (oily ones like Ikan Keli)

Pre-Workout: Soy Milk + Cashew Nuts

Post Workout: 2 bottles of Soy Milk (equivalent to 18 grammes of protein)

Dinner: Pretty much whatever I want

I was a bit apprehensive about taking soy milk at first. But it seems to work for me. I don't get any skin inflammation like I do if I drink dairy milk. It is pretty filling so I need some time before I eat my dinner. Other than that, soy milk is pretty okay.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More rants about trainers

A good friend gave me a call the other day. Said she was about to meet a trainer (she lives in Melaka, so trainers are pretty much scarce) that would help her lose weight. I'm always wary of trainers. I personally think most trainers out there teach a whole lot of bull. Of course, there are the occasional trainers who know what they're talking about but most of them talk crap.

Take a look at the trainers of the Biggest Loser fame (doesn't matter if it's the American, Australian or Malaysian version), they're all teaching crap. They're doing more damage then they're doing good (if any).

Anyway, back to this so called trainer my friend was meeting. Oh by the way, she was calling me while waiting for the trainer to arrive. He was already 15 minutes late. Wow, very professional. Great first impression. Absolutely fabulous. Anyway, these are the things that she told me:

  • Training will be held at a pay per entry gym (RM5 per entry) - fair enough
  • Training will last 2 hours - you're trying to make a sedentary person train for 2 hours. That is stupid. It's gonna give a negative psychological effect to the trainee. 2 hours is way too long. The trainer obviously has never heard of cortisol.
  • Fee is RM50 per session (0r RM25 per hour I presume) - way too expensive. I wouldn't part with a dime if I were my friend. Why would you pay people to teach you crap?
Probably some would argue that this trainer may not be certified hence explaining his utter ignorance and lack of professionalism. I have personally met trainers who are 'certified' or graduated with at least a Sports Science diploma.

They're still stupid as heck.

Not saying I'm better (well, perhaps I am... who knows?) but in my defense, I am pretty much money-motivated. I am NEVER gonna part with my hard earned cash and give it to some delusional prick who thinks that he knows what he's talking about but in actual fact know squat about... well, squat.

I say screw these fake trainers. At times it's better off to research and train on your own.

p/s be wary of trainers who advocate corn flakes. Corn flakes are high GI (i.e. 'fast burning' carbs) hence not advisable to be taken for breakfast. They're probably ignorant or have been paid good money by the corn flakes company (i.e. he's sold his soul to the money making factory)

Using a 6kg Kettlebell... still a great workout

Never underestimate a kettlebell. Doesn't matter if a kettlebell is 16kg or 6kg. My sister's 6kg kettlebell wreaked havoc on my body. I used her kettlebell for some brief workouts which still left me sweating and breathless. Here's what I did:

Day 1 (2 sets)
1-arm swing x 10 (each arm)
2-arm swing x 10
Snatch x 10 (each arm)

Day 2 (3 sets)
2 arm swing x 10
Goblet squat x 10
2 arm swing x 10
Press x 10 (each arm)

If you don't have a kettlebell, you can use a dumbbell to do this simple workout. Give it a go!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Balik Kampung

Going back to JB for the birth of my third nephew (I only have nephews, no nieces yet). Can't wait. It's hard to go back to my hometown and leave my barbell behind when I'm making good progress so far. Will have to borrow my sister's 6kg kettlebell and improvise on some exercise.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Omigod... this is far worse than running, dude!


Woohoo!! My kettlebell has arrived and I've finally taken it home with me yesterday. It's supposed to be a rest day for me today but I wanted to give my kettlebell a testdrive. I actually ordered an 8kg kettlebell but the good people at Pushmore ordered a 12kg for me instead. They said that I'd easily outgrow an 8kg kettlebell so it's best to get a 12kg one instead.

It's the same price, so I don't have any issues. So took it home, I did.

Today, after waking up so early in the morning and having had breakfast, I decided maybe I should see what kind of challenge this lil cannonball of mine can provide me with. This was what I did:

2-hand kettlebell swing x 15
Pushups x 15
2-hand kettlebell swing x 15
Goblet squat x 15

I only did a single round. One. And I'm sweating like a pig and whimpering like a baby. Guess I'm extremely de-conditioned. Will definitely incorporate more kettlebell work in future.

p/s I consider my home gym complete now.

Sunday morning thoughts

It's a beautiful morning over here in my part of town. What better way to celebrate the day than to nip out for a quick breakfast? So went out I did and it was heartening to see my neighbours already out and about at the playground exercising.

There's this one particular neighbour of mine who religiously jogs every single day. When I come home from work, there she is running round the playground doing countless laps. There she was again this morning, running laps as usual.

She's definitely not overweight, I can tell you that. If people were to calculate her BMI (which personally I think is a dumb way to measure whether you're fat or not), her weight would fall into the ideal range. Yet, she has no definition to her body. Skinny legs. Skinny arms. Whimpy back. No ass.

No doubt she could outrun me at any given time. But I'm fairly confident I can beat her in everything else. And more importantly, I have a hotter body (please exclude boobs when making the judgment call.... every woman in town has bigger boobs than mine. That part of my body seems to think I am still in my pre-adolescent years).

Takeaway message: ladies, if you wanna have a hot looking and functional body, throw in some weight training on top of those endless cardio sessions. Heck, concentrate more on weight training and redefine what you understand as 'cardio'.

Some would argue that running is good for you. Maybe it's true. But it is boring as heck. I'd rather do bodyweight + kettlebell combos, barbell complexes, sprints, and farmer carries rather than run laps. So there. Pbthhhh...


Saturday, May 7, 2011

What I Have Learnt So Far

  1. Strength likes rest. I've tried training daily. And I've also tried training every other day. Training daily works for a while. But I discovered that training an ideal 3 times a week gives the best results in terms of performance as well as giving you a better physical appearance.
  2. Eating fast food post workout is okay. But in the longer term you feel sluggish if you do this too often. Besides, whole food tastes so much better.
  3. You don't need supplements to get bigger or stronger. Eat natural, nutrient-dense food and you're good to go. (Having said that, I'm doing my research on BCAAs... will write on what I have learnt in another blog post)
  4. Keep it simple. Training doesn't have to be complicated with 15 different types of exercise per session. Stick to the basics. Squats, deads, presses... and you're on your way to become stronger (and more importantly for some... look a heck of a lot better).
  5. Get enough sleep. Going out clubbing and staying awake till the sun comes up after a training session won't do your body any good.
  6. Drink milk instead of one of those expensive supplements after training. Much cheaper and still does the job. Can't drink regular milk? Take soy milk instead.
  7. Pre-workout meals must consist of low GI carbs and protein. So far, I've been eating cashew nuts and washing it down with soy milk. Sometimes for additional fuel I eat a couple of egg sandwiches. So far it works. It could be better, though.
  8. Never underestimate bodyweight training. Being able to do countless pushups, chinups and single-leg squats is damn impressive.
  9. Forget the benchpress if you can't even do 10 pushups with perfect form. You'd be insulting the barbell. You'd also be susceptible to injury.
  10. Take care of your joints (e.g. knees, shoulders). Do your lifts with perfect form. If you can't, reduce the weight. It's ok to look less macho. It's better to work up to being macho than not being able to train at all because of injuries.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Diet Observation

I am back from a very enjoyable holiday in Kuching with a bunch of my buddies. And in a typical holiday, I threw my diet to the wind and didn't hit the gym. But in my defense, we did a heck of a lot of walking and the food we ate was really good.

About the food. As most of my regular readers would know, I have pretty bad eczema and my food intake is pretty much restricted. Shellfish (i.e. crabs, clams, prawns) are out of the question and there is only so much dairy products that I could tolerate.

Funnily enough I ate prawns and crabs in abundance when I was in Kuching but my skin didn't act up at all. My theory is that the food was so fresh that there are hardly any toxins that are often associated with shellfish. Which is why my skin didn't act up.

***

As a hardgainer I can easily get away with eating stuff like pizza or a McD burger on a fairly regular basis without receiving any sort of punishment (read: get fat). Therefore I always eat these high-calorie food as its easier to meet my daily caloric needs. Keep in mind that my objective is to gain mass.

The only setback with this diet regiment is that I feel pretty sluggish putting in that much junk in my tummy. Then I noticed that my energy levels are better when eating nutrient-dense food (like spinach and even ikan keli) although to total caloric intake is much smaller than say... a McDonald's value meal.

This is all good news for me because I honestly feel like puking whenever I get a fastfood overload. Give me nice, warm, 'real' food any time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Shoulder Update and Training Ques

Went for a massage on Sunday and my shoulder feels so much better. No more pain when lifting my right arm overhead. But for safety measures, I am refraining myself from any kind of overhead presses until I am super confident that my shoulder is as good as new or as close to it as I can get.

What I can't refrain myself from doing any longer is training. So I trained squats the other day. Also did pushups (which I can do without any pain whatsoever) and TRX backrows (ditto). I think my squat technique is getting better. My previous trainer told me that I was more of a hamstring-dependent person (i.e. my posterior chain is stronger than my anterior chain).

I agree. And I also agree that I squat funny. Especially when trying to get up to the neutral position. I've always found it difficult to activate my quads for some reason that befuddles me. Until I bumped into these series of squat tutorial by Matt Wenning of Elite Fitness Systems.

The training que that I find most helpful in improving my squat technique was to look up. That way the body follows you in an upward direction rather than horizontal, than upwards... like I usually do. Okay I don't know how to describe my funny squat posture. But what you need to know here is that giving out the right coaching que helps a trainee immensely in improving technique and body-consciousness.

All in all there are 5 parts to this squats tutorial. I'm gonna just post the first one in this blog. The rest you can find in YouTube. Shouldn't be hard to find since it's titled "So You Think You Can Squat Part 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. I believe my readers are smart enough.

Enjoy the vids! Hope you find it as helpful as I did.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shoulder Injury Update

The good news is the shoulder feels better. The bad news is it's still not as good as new. Hence I am still not doing any exercise whatsoever. I will let my shoulder be subject to another massage session this Sunday.

In total my shoulder has been massaged twice, a week after the injury happened. My friend nagged me about it for ages. She told me I should not take any kind of shoulder tweak lightly and I should have gone for a massage immediately.

In my mind I thought I am still in my early 20s and have healing abilities of the likes of Wolverine. Apparently I was wrong.

Anyway, I noticed a funny thing during this involuntary resting period. I'm getting bigger and more defined. Clothes and pants are tight in all the right spots. Perhaps it is coincidental that it was about time I de-load? Maybe not. But whatever it is I like the effect.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Opinion

I'm pretty much a relative newbie to things health and fitness. But being a relative newbie doesn't mean that I can't form my own opinion. And my opinion is this:

For those who are absolute beginners, I would recommend mastering the two things first:

  1. Bodyweight squats
  2. Pushups
I believe these two exercises are the foundation of weight training.

Knowing the correct mechanics of bodyweight squats (ass back, not ass down) would serve you in good stead for future pursuits of weight training: barbell squats, deadlifting, heck... kettlebell swings even.

And there's a lot more to the humble pushup than meets the eye. Do you know that the pushup works your back muscles as well as your pecs? And it also activates your lats quite a bit. And of course, it also trains core strength.

Once you get decently good at these two moves I think it would be so much easier for you to learn other things.