Monday, December 31, 2012

Hip Hinge

Having been training regularly for the better part of 5 years, I have formed the opinion that the hip hinge is the single most crucial movement that you should learn how to do properly. It is the mother of all movements.  The key to good form.  The secret to constantly new PRs.

You get the idea.

And you will never, ever learn proper hip hinge movement if all you do is use the machines at your typical commercial gym.  Failure to learn the hip hinge means failure to do deadlifts, squats, kettlebell swings, snatches... a whole plethora of crucial exercises.

Heck, I only learned the existence of my hips only after a year of going to the gym regularly.  And surprise, surprise... I didn't learn about the hip hinge movement in the gym.  Okay, so how does a proper hip hinge look like?

Most people's forms are like the one on the left.  You tend to bend your back instead of pushing your glorious butt out for all the world to see.  One of the better coaching ques I've encountered is when the trainer tells the trainee to "push your butt out so that it touches the wall".  Just like the lady does in the pic below:

For a better explanation, just watch the video below:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Big Bad Wolf Mayhem and some training updates

I have officially gone book bonkers.  Went to the Big Bad Wolf sale three times over the past 1.5 weeks and have bought more than 50 books.  That's enough books to tide me over until next year.   Anyway, I just find it compelling how my interests have evolved over the past year or so.

My book rack has filled up completely.
These babies will keep me busy for a while.
Last year, I was reading a lot of strength training related stuff:  Starting Strength, 5/3/1, Power to the People, Enter the Kettlebell... you got the idea.  Recently, my interests have shifted towards health and wellness.  I may not have shifted  my interest so soon had it not been for a few things that had happened to me personally and to the people around me.

So yeah, another phase in my never-ending pursuit of knowledge has begun.  It's a good time to be a nerd.

Training wise, everything's been going peachy.  Am starting to go through a low volume phase and will kick off a brand new training programme next year.

An observation I made when watching people train:  There are guys who still have to do kneeling pushups.  What does this have to do with anything? Many years ago when I was practicing Taekwondo, we were trained in such a way that we focus on conditioning, then technique.  But hardly ever on strength.

I now firmly believe that strength should be the foundation of any sport.  As Rippetoe wrote in his book Starting Strength:  get strong to play sport, not play sport to get strong. When you are strong first, the rest comes easier.  You have better control, better movement, you learn and progress faster in your chosen physical discipline.

Okay folks.  That's my rambling for today.

P/S:  I have a bunch of books on network marketing that I would like to give away.  If you're interested, please let me know.  I will give it away for free.  Just promise to take good care of the books.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Musings on being knowledge-ready

Have you ever read a book more than once and find out that every time you re-read it you discover something new that you didn't notice the last time you read it?  It happens to me often.  Heck, there is one children's story book that I read five times and every time I re-read the book I discover a new 'hidden' lesson.

But when you think about it, the lessons aren't actually hidden.  It is there in plain sight.  It was me who wasn't ready to learn that lesson yet.  I hadn't gone through enough life experiences to actually understand the deeper meaning of the words written.  As I grew older and a bit wiser, the lessons became more obvious and I derive deeper meaning from the book.

The same goes with my journey as a fitness junkie wannabe.  There are many things that I have read or skimmed through a couple of years back which I didn't grasp the importance of.  Only until I have reached a certain level of understanding through my readings and experience do I comprehend how vital they are.

So I guess I shouldn't be frustrated, sad, or disappointed when people don't really take what I preach seriously.  To remain positive, I shouldn't just blatantly label them as ignorant.  Like me, they simply aren't ready to take in the new information.

But oh, how I wish I saw the light many years ago.  But it's better late than never.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Krav Maga - Lesson 1

So last night I went to a (paid) class in a gym for the first time in a while.  I was a nervous wreck and came way early for my inaugural Krav Maga class at Muay Fit, Puchong.

Pic taken from MuayFit's website
When the instructor, Master Mike came in I became even more nervous.  But Master Mike is a friendly chap and made me feel more comfortable.  I think he can sense I'm the high-strung type and told me to smile. Hahaha...

Anyway, the lesson is two hours long with the first hour more for conditioning than anything else.  We did a lot of sprints and some basic attacking drills.  The second half of the class was to hone our motor skills so that our body knows what to do when we are in a dangerous situation.

The beauty of Krav Maga is that the things they teach you are so simple yet brutally effective.  You don't need a lot strength to be honest.  What you must have is a fighting spirit (as Master Mike said to me, "I can teach you the techniques, but I can't give you fighting spirit), and presence of mind.

"Presence of Mind" to me is pretty much heightened motor skills in this case.  You don't really have time to think how to block an attack, how to counter-attack when you are in danger.  Your body just needs to react quickly in order for you to survive the ordeal.

That is what the second half of the class is all about.  Constant practice and drills.

At the end of the class, Master Mike gets you to close your eyes.  He would then "attack" you in several ways and you have to quickly react to the attack.  Very practical stuff.  I like.  Can't wait to get to my second lesson next week.

On a side note, the class wasn't physically taxing.  I am not in pain as I type this.  In fact, tonight I plan to weight train.  There is a possibility that weekends could be spent going to a class in the morning, and weight training in the afternoon or vice versa.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rejoining a Gym. Somewhat.

I have been weight training almost exclusively for five years now.  And for five years I felt that there was something missing.  That my journey as a junkie is not yet complete.  The absence of playing a sport makes me feel somewhat inadequate.

Some might argue that weight training is a sport.  And no doubt it is.  But I still feel the need for some additional physical activity.  And I keep on gravitating to martial arts e.g. taekwondo, kickboxing, boxing...

When I was schooling taekwondo was part of my life.  In fact, in some ways it has shaped how I look like physically.  So yeah, martial arts is something ingrained in me.

So I joined Muay Fit in Puchong.  They offer various martial arts including Jeet Kune Do, Boxing, and Krav Maga.  But the whole reason I joined them was the availability of Krav Maga classes which are held on Tuesday nights.

My friend said I looked like a kid on Christmas day when I entered the gym and observed the class.  Hahaha... well it came as no surprise that I signed up right then and there.

So now my challenge is to fit in the class while maintaining my weight training regime.  I will need to do some tweaking but I am pretty sure I can make it work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Supplements you should consider

Right.  So what supplements should a fitness junkie wannabe take? Admittedly, there are a lot of valid supplements out there.  But if you are on a budget or don't really enjoy popping pills or both (that's me), I think these are the bare essentials you should consider taking:

1. Fish Oil
Consume your fish oil.  Don't play around with it and make fish shapes with it.

Very important.  The benefits are proven: helps fat loss, helps maintain lean muscle, helps prevent osteoporosis, improves brain power... Bla bla bla.  I presume everyone already knows the virtue of fish oil (not to be confused with cod liver oil).

2. Greens supplement

One of the recommended greens supplement.
They deliver to Malaysia but it doesn't suit
everyone's pockets.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you to eat your greens?  Well, she was on to something.  Consuming vegetables are important not only for the obvious reasons, but it is crucial in ensuring that our bodies remain in an alkalic state.  And for those allergic to milk, did you know that calcium from vegetables is easier absorbed by our bodies compared to calcium from milk?  Cool huh?

Obviously, it is better if you eat your vegetables rather than take a greens supplement. But there is only so much greens you can stomach in one day. And the amount of greens you need to consume in order to reap the full benefits is huge.  That's where the greens supplement comes in.  Unfortunately, I can't find a suitable greens supplement in Malaysia.  You can get it delivered from overseas but heck it's pretty pricey.

So my alternative is to juice my vegetables.  I make it a point to drink at least one glass of juiced vegetables each day.  Yes, I have even juiced spinach, watercress, and kailan (kailan belongs to the kale family). Even ginger.  I mix whatever I can find and blend them together.  But I have to say my base ingredients are apples, celery, carrots, lemon and ginger.  These are my bare minimum.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar
This is one of the most popular brand
and easily available in supermarkets
and pharmacies.  Very affordable too.

Say what? ACV is not a supplement.  You're damn right it isn't.  And that is what makes it even better.  Your supplement isn't really a supplement.  And the best part is it doesn't cost a bomb.  Pour in two tablespoons of organic ACV (it MUST be organic. MUST!!!!!!!) into a glass of water and drink up. Why must it be organic?  Organic ACV has the 'mother' swimming around.  That's where it gets its health benefits.

So what are the benefits of ACV? It helps to alkalize our body. It helps lower blood cholesterol.  It helps build muscle. It makes your skin clearer. It helps improve your immune system. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. In short, it does wonders.

Yeah yeah, I know.  ACV has a very strong taste.  Indeed it does.  You'll need to get used to it.  Try mixing it with some juice.  Or add it into your fresh vegetable juice concoction  Me, I just dilute two tablespoons of organic ACV into 700ml of water and drink up. Do whatever it takes.  To me, you can't go wrong with ACV.  No home should be without one.  That's how strongly I feel about it.

So there you go.  My list of  'supplements' that should be in your must have list.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Supplements the average fitness junkie can do away with

Okay so in my previous post I gave you a list of supplements I have tried.  The thing is a lot of supplements you can actually do away with most of them.  Some things you can do away with:

1.  Mass gainers
Mass gainers work.  But in my opinion, they only work for advanced trainers.  Beginners and intermediates are better off trying to gain mass by consuming whole foods.  One of the reasons why I took mass gainers was I couldn't stomach so much food.  I thought mass gainers could help me improve my caloric intake without having to resort to stuffing myself silly.

The things is, you really don't need to eat 6 meals a day to gain muscle.  You can still gain muscle by just eating 3 square meals a day.  Eating too frequently puts you into a lot of digestive stress anyway.  And you feel sluggish instead of energetic.  Now why would you want that?

Over-ripe banana:  Easy to get, cheap and effective
 pre and post workout food.  Cool huh?
2.  Pre and Post workout shakes
Did you know that an over-ripe banana (the ones with brown spots on them) is a fantastic pre and post workout food?  You'd be surprised by how much energy you get from one or two pieces of banana.  So far it has never failed to provide me with fuel even when I haven't had time to have a proper meal prior to my workouts.

It's dirt cheap too.

3.  BCAAs
Again, not to say that BCAAs are useless.  They actually have their merits.  They give you a slight edge but you would still progress even without them.  If you can spare the cash, take them.  If you'd rather spend your money elsewhere then skip them.  No biggie.

This pretty much sums up my
sentiment about fat burners
4.  Fat Burners
Fat burners are NOT for the average person.  Might be okay for those about to go into a bodybuilding contest and what not... key word here is "might".  But for you and me, it's a definite no.  I am a traditionalist.  If you're overweight, you need to take care of your diet first, and take care of exercise second.  That is the only path to PERMANENT fat loss.  There is no magic pill.  There are no shortcuts to success.

"When I hear someone say that they have all the answers or the secret code, what I really hear them saying is that they've given up on getting better." - Dave Tate

So there you have it... common supplements which I think is not worth our while.  Next post, I'll share with you about supplements you should consider taking.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Supplements that I took and what I think of them now

When I scour my Facebook page I see a lot of people asking about supplements or peddling them.  I have come to a stage where I categorize people into 2 broad categories: well-meaning but misinformed and the unenlightened.  

Not to say I am a super genius when it comes to supplements and nutrition.  Far from it.  I have made my fair share of mistakes.  So far I have experimented with a few supplements:

1.  Mass Gainers
I went through about 4 tubs of BSN True Mass before I realized that it didn't help me gain that much weight in the end.  It only aggravated my allergies.  So after almost 1000 bucks down the drain, I stopped taking it.

2.  BCAAs
Went through two bottles of these but didn't really see any noticeable difference.  And it was kind of pricey to keep on taking them until I finally see results (if any) so I stopped.

3.  Calcium 
This was a loooongggg time ago.  Back when I wasn't even exercising and was one of those people who I now lump into the "unenlightened" category.  Complete waste of time and money.

4.  Multi-vitamins for ladies
I still think this is a pretty okay thing to take.  But I have never really bothered to finish the one bottle of multi-vitamins I've ever bought.

5.  Fish Oil
If you could only take one kind of supplement for the rest of your life, this should be it.  The benefits are proven.  I've been taking fish oil off and on for most of my life (off and on because like I mentioned, I'm not a disciplined supplement taker).

6.  Evening Primrose Oil
Okay the things is, I took evening primrose oil during my early 20s as part of my bid to alleviate PMS and improve my eczema situation.  It didn't work so I ditched it.  I only came to know recently that evening primrose oil only works on more mature women (30s and above).  But now that I'm in my 30s I don't really have much of a PMS problem (except for the psycho behaviour behind the wheel) and my eczema is now finally under control.

7.  Collagen 
It was a vanity thing.  I wanted to try it out.  And I've also read that collagen could help improve joint health. Waste of time and money.  Pooh.

8.  Garlic Oil
Now this one is also a good supplement.  It's cheap too.  I also enjoyed a noticeable improvement in my immune system after taking this.

9.  Carb drinks
I bought a tub for RM50.  I think it's still an okay buy although I use it sparingly.  It usually serves as my pre and peri workout drink.

So yeah.  More misses than hits.  Like I said, I was unenlightened.  But that doesn't mean all supplements are bad.  Far from it.  Will share with you more about this in my next post.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Single Leg Exercises using the Landmine/Cable

The problem with many single leg exercise is that the weight that you are able to lift is far lower than your typical bilateral exercise (namely the squat).  The main reason for this is not because of strength, but because of the lack of balance.

I don't know about you, but many times I have struggled doing lunges and single-leg romanian deadlifts because of my shaky balance.  This results in me having to significantly reduce the weights I'm carrying although I know I could actually carry more IF ONLY my balance doesn't suck so much.

This is where cable and landmine exercises become pretty much a god send.  Due to having a fixed point, cable and landmine exercises allow you to really load up on the weights without having to worry about toppling over and screwing up your back.

If like me, you don't have a cable or a landmine contraption fear not.  Just put one end of your barbell in a corner with a towel underneath (to make it less slippery) and a weight plate on top (to make it stable) and you've made yourself a landmine unit.

So far I've actively used these three exercises in my training.  I love how it doesn't hurt my right knee, serves as a natural counterbalance and how bad ass it feels:

Cable Split Squats

Just use a landmine unit (or stick the barbell into a corner) if you don't have access to a cable machine.  You can make this exercise even more effective and torturous (if you have masochistic tendencies) by slowly descending (about 3 seconds) and then pausing at the bottom for about 2 seconds.  Your glutes and quads will BURN!

Landmine Reverse Lunges

I know I've posted this vid before, but it merits repeating.  This is my personal favourite and can be credited for really improving my weaker leg ( the right leg).  So far the maximum I've loaded for this exercise is 25kg (plates only) but I know I can definitely load more.

Landmine Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

This one requires a bit more skill than the landmine reverse lunges but definitely much easier to learn than the traditional single leg RDL variation. Burns your buns and hammies.  Guaranteed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Going Alkaline

It all started easily enough.  My friendly neighbourhood fresh goods store had recently started selling alkaline water by the bottle and the owners recommended I tried it out.  I really had nothing to lose, since I have always bought bottled water for my consumption and the price isn't that much different than the alkaline water they're touting.

To be honest, I never did any research before buying the alkaline water which made the results even more pleasant.  My eczema has gone completely and the few times it flares up, it dies down again in just a couple of days.  My skin is noticeably clearer too.

Intrigued, I researched about alkaline water and alkaline diet in general and this is what I found out:

Our body is meant to be slightly alkalic and maintaining that delicate balance is vital to ensure that we remain healthy, disease-free individuals.  But at this day and age, our body has become more and more acidic due to our lifestyle and diet.  Think coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, red meat, dairy, processed food.

All this things contribute to our imbalance but the good news is it is quite easily reversible.  I know not many people are as lucky as I am having access to alkalic water but one of the simplest ways you can make your diet more alkalic is:

Ramp up on the juicing.

Yes, if you haven't started juicing yet you should.  NOW!! Take your pick on any alkalic forming food, juice it and drink.  I had a bad case of the sniffles yesterday and juiced up a combo of apple, lemon, carrot, celery, kailan and ginger... All alkalic forming food (not much so the apple but its delicious so I added it in anyway). And today I am feeling absolutely fine.  Very well rested and very fresh at 6.30am.

Make it a habit to juice.  Seriously.  The stuff that I bought aren't expensive and very easily available anywhere.  Don't go buying your juice at those fancy healthy juice places.  They aren't healthy at all.  They say their stuff is sugar free but what they don't tell you is they submerge the fruits in sugar water to make it taste better.

Plus, it's pricey.  Invest in a decent blender.  And make your own juice.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stiff Arm Pulldowns

The best lat exercise is still the pull up.  There is no doubt about that.  But many of us, yours truly included, simply do not have the strength to execute a pull up properly.  Hence the pull up becomes a very ugly looking bicep exercise instead.

I have been experimenting with the stiff arm pulldown as a substitute for the pull up.  Both work the lats but while the pull up is more bad ass, the pulldown can be properly executed by more people.  And the stiff arm pulldown can really smoke your lats like crazy.

I did 3 sets of 15-rep stiff arm pulldowns yesterday and my lats are begging me for mercy today.

If you go to the gym, just use the cable machine and get cracking like how the lady in the vid does it.  If like me, you don't have access to a cable machine, you can use a resistance band instead..  Just loop it over something overhead, hold it with both hands (like you would the reigns of a horse) and pull away.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Renegade Diet - First Week

Okay, I have read the Renegade Diet once.  As a matter of principal I will read it again at least one more time.  But to tell you the truth the book was an easy read, with concepts very easy to understand and most importantly, implement.

I think the most important concepts that I took away from the book were:

  1. Skip breakfast - your body is in its best fat burning mode in the morning.  Eating a heavy breakfast would put stress to your digestive system.  Personally, skipping breakfast is wonderful since I really don't have the time for it and I don't have much of an appetite in the morning. Plus the lack of digestive stress makes me more mentally alert.
  2. Fast for about 12-14 hours after your last meal (hence the no breakfast rule)
  3. Stay away from carbs during the day.  Eat your carbs at night.  You will sleep better because of it too (think about it, how many times have you felt like sleeping after taking nasi lemak for breakfast and then eat more rice during lunchtime?).  This is also one of the best tips I got from the Renegade Diet.  My sleep quality has taken on a whole new level and I feel very well rested when I wake up in the morning.
Of course, there are so many other things that you can learn from the book, like how to repair an impaired immune system (this one was really interesting).  But don't take my word for it.  I strongly suggest for anyone who is serious about fat loss or muscle gain the healthy, natural way to immediately go get the book.

For the record, I don't get a single sen promoting this book (I could if I use my affiliate link but I'm just too damn lazy.  Plus I don't have much of a readership to really profit anyway).  I just want people to know how easy it actually is to take care of your diet no matter your objective.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Home Gym Wishlist

To most people my home gym seems complete.  But to be honest there are still a few toys I would want to get my hands on:

1.  Trap Bar

I've been eyeing one of these babies for a long time.  But Malaysia being what it is, no one supplies it here.  I did check out a few Chinese suppliers and their asking price is pretty reasonable.  But once you add in the shipping cost (which is actually more expensive than the cost of the bar itself), the figure is a bit on the high side.

In any case you're interested to get one as well, let me know.  Maybe we could get a discount.

2. Medicine Ball
Now these you can get at your friendly neighbourhood Fitness Concept.  Off the top of my head I'd definitely be using it for medicine ball slams (at least its an outlet for my anger issues).

3.  Bands

I have only one at home and I need at least 2 more of various strengths.  It'll also make it easier for me to sub in cable-centric exercises like lat pull downs if I have more than 1 band.  I can also use them for pre-hab stuff.

4.  Lifting Platform
Yeah this would be so cool to have.  Actually you can just DIY this.  But of course I am a DIY klutz and I'm not sure how my living room is going to look like if put this up.

5. Olympic barbell set
I've actually asked around and a 140kg set would set me off for RM2,100.  I was tempted.  Really tempted.  Although at this point I would omit the olympic barbell, get the trap bar but just buy the weight plates.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Focus Shift: From Training to Diet

The immediate reason being that I now have the luxury of not having to think about training programmes.  All I need to do is follow whatever programme that is running over at the Inner Circle.  Saves time and preserves sanity.

But a more pressing reason is because I am developing allergies like nobody's business.  I fall sick easily.  And nutrition is the missing puzzle in my quest to become the ultimate fitness junkie wannabe.

For starters, I have begun to cook.  And I am getting more disciplined in making sure that my food are mostly home-cooked instead of store-bought.

But then again, home-cooked doesn't mean everything is healthy.  There are times that I wasn't aware that I was putting myself in harm's way.  Like last Sunday when I cooked myself scrambled eggs with cheese and mushroom.  The cheese made me scratch like crazy and I couldn't concentrate on anything until I took antihistamines.

I know it was the cheese that did it, because I had no problems with the eggs nor mushrooms beforehand.

So now I am trying to equip myself with knowledge on the kinds of food that would improve my overall health and well being and the kinds that would ensure that I will be dependent on endless rounds of antibiotics, antihistamines and a slew of other medications.

First up is reading all about the Renegade Diet, written by Jason Ferruggia (you don't seem surprised.  Why?).  I just bought it last weekend and I've read through a few chapters and already I am mesmerized.  But I think I will have to read the book at least twice and take down notes so I can do more research.

It's a lovely time to be in nerd-mode.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


It is disconcerting when you google "swiss barbell" the search results are full of stuff about swiss balls instead.  And when you google "trap bar"... Yep you guessed it.  The list was all about bars.

It's a sad day for this fitness junkie wannabe.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My immune system sucks

I get eczema fairly frequently.  I get sick pretty easily.  And the good doctor prescribes me the same antibiotics for my various ailments.  He also said my immune system is pretty weak.  Hence the pretty frequent trips to see him.

I suspect he has no complaints.

But I'm getting sick of being so sickly.  So lately I've taken to doing two things:

  1. Drinking a glass a day of apple+celery+carrot juice
  2. Taking garlic oil supplements (smells disgusting, and you can practically taste the concentrated garlic.  But at least vampires will stay away).

Of course, there are many other ways of trying to boost the immune system.  But I'm just doing things that I know I can keep up.  So far, I've been on this new regime for a week now.  And perhaps it's just a psychological factor, but I have observed a noticeable reduction in my eczema without me having to resort to taking antihistamines.

So maybe there's some hope.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Training Updates

Wow, it's been a while since I've last done an entry.  To be honest there is not much to write about.  Training has been pretty smooth now that I don't overthink things and just get on with the programme.

But, as I have mentioned before, I am laying of squatting due to that nagging knee pain.  I've laid of squatting for more than 2 months now and to be honest, I don't really miss it.  I miss what it does to my butt and quads, that's for sure.  But the squatting itself?  Nope.

I've been trying to build my quads and glutes up over the past three weeks and mainly substituting squats with landmine reverse lunges.  They're very knee-friendly as the movement assures that your knee is perpendicular to the floor thus reducing joint stress; but by no means are they a sissy exercise.

Trust me.  Your quads and glutes will BURN!

In my effort to add some meat to my legs I've incorporated landmine reverse lunges in both my lower body max effort days (where you go heavy) as well as lower body high rep days (which concentrates more on 'accessory' exercises and conditioning).  For the high rep days the weight I use is reduced but the reps increase (which fits the whole theme of high rep day).

So far I'm liking what I feel.  I can't see the result as yet, but hopefully within another 1.5 months of undisrupted training I'd be able to struggle into my jeans again.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

DIY Weekend: Hurdles

Jumps are something I absolutely suck at.  In school I avoided anything jump-related.  But now that I know that jumps are absolutely essential in developing good mobility and athleticism, I reluctantly practice it.

Part of the training programme I am following right now requires for hurdle jumps.  I don't have hurdles, so I jumped over the bench instead.  But even that was too easy for me.  So I scoured the internet on how to improvise on hurdle jumps.

I came across a gem of resources on how to make your own hurdles out of PVC pipe.  It set me off for less than RM10 and I still have some extra stuff that I could use for later on.  The best part is one piece of hurdle can be assembled in 2 minutes.  And that is by a DIY-challenged clutz like me.

First up, get yourself some 0.5" PVC pipes.  My measurements were as below:

  1. 1 piece measuring 3 feet 
  2. 2 pieces measuring 50cm each
  3. 4 pieces measuring 6" each (these will be used as the base)
  4. 4 pieces of T-connectors

The finished product looks like the pic above.  The height of this hurdle is a conservative 56cm.  I used T-connectors instead of elbows because I can easily add to the height of the hurdle as my jumps improve.  And I hope it improves fast.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Leg Work Alternatives

Lately I've been worrying that my quads are shrinking, and shrinking fast. That creaking knee has improved somewhat in a sense that it doesn't give me anymore sudden pain.  But it is still creaking nonetheless.

Confession:  I am still avoiding squats.

I tell myself that I am not gonna compete in powerlifting.  When once I used to do only strict powerlifting stuff, I now know that overall balance is important: I want strength, speed, and mobility.

So, if I can achieve those and still be able to avoid squatting, more power to me.  But like I said, my quads are shrinking, and shrinking fast.  Enter Ben Bruno.  This guy is a genius when it comes to alternative leg work i.e. knee-friendly stuff.  You can read his articles over at T-Nation.

But over here I've compiled my favourite leg work stuff Ben Bruno style:

Building Quads - "Squat Free"

For you Glutes and Hammies

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Post-fasting month weirdness

I lost weight AFTER Ramadhan is over.  How weird is that?  I mean, it's Hari Raya season and of course food is in abundance.  I spent one whole week in my hometown stuffing myself silly every chance I get and I lost weight.

Okay, there will be people who would want to slap me unconscious right now but I worked hard for my butt, shoulders and traps and they're not what they looked like before and it is so frustrating.

The one week Raya holidays coincided with my deload week.  I didn't bother with any exercise at all because hey, I am on a break!

Anyway.... Now that I am back, it's back to building my backside again.  Sigh.

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Push Press PR

I hit a new 3RM. 30.5kg.

Yeah, it's not much.  I know.  Especially for the push press.  If it was for the military press, I'd be pretty impressed myself.

But it's better than nothing.  The good news is I was actually aiming 30.5kg as a 1RM.  I felt strong enough to hit 3 reps and still have some left in the tank.

Will test for a new PR in another month.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Journey So Far

I've been a regular at the gym since early 2008.  Mostly because I was bored at home and the fact that I can memorize the TV programmes alarmed the f**k  out of me.  I wasn't actually surprised I got so into it (the gym, not the TV).  But 'getting so into it' doesn't mean I'm getting it right.

I did a lot of stupid things, and wasted a lot of my time going nowhere.  I only started flirting with free weights late 2009 and that was only using dumbbells.  My flirtation with the barbell only began in June 2010.  2 years after I started exercising regularly.

If I could kick myself in the ass I would for taking such a long time to actually start doing things properly.  But better late than never they say.

I think I did pretty okay for someone who started so late.  Pic on the left was taken early 2009 after 1 year of hitting the gym regularly.  I weighed about 47kg - 48kg at that point.  Pic on the right was taken earlier this year (2012) and I weighed about 50kg - 51kg.

After 3 years I only made a gain of 3kg, give or take.  But those 3kg look pretty damn good if I say so myself.  And it does seem that 50kg is my new normal weight.

I have hit 50kg before but the weight didn't last long and I reverted to my then normal weight of 48kg.  I start feeling sluggish even when my weight only increased to 49kg.

The heaviest I have hit was 53kg.  Which I achieved this year.  But similar to before, I didn't feel good at 53kg.  Sure I looked bigger, and I have certainly put on muscle but I felt bloated.  I've trimmed down to 50kg and it feels like the ideal weight for me for now.

Let's just hope I never hit 47kg ever again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ramadhan - Day 18

18 days of fasting and I've only lost 500g so far.  This is an achievement for me since I usually lose 3kg - 4kg  .  4kg won't be much for some but it's about 8% of my bodyweight.  8% is a lot in a month if you ask me.

As you may know, I have successfully started my cooking adventures this month.  Granted, it isn't much.  Most All of them are fried stuff e.g. stir fried veges, fried meat, fried chicken, fried egg.  The plus point is I get to control what goes inside my frying pan.  And I have increased my vege intake quite easily.

Also new this past week is my efforts in detoxing my body.  Simple stuff.  I just blend a green apple and 2 pieces of celery together and drink the concentrated juice.  Maybe it's just psychological, but I'm starting to notice a reduction of dry skin in the eczema-prone parts of my body.  That's kind of cool.  But I have to say the apple+celery concoction makes me wanna pee more often.

Training wise, I've cut down training from 4 days per week to 3 days only.  And my de-loading week will coincide with the Hari Raya holidays.  Talk about nice timing, eh?

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Passionate about exercise does not equal passionate about running.  So stop asking me why I don't sign up for marathons.

I hate running.  You can either make me walk, sprint, or push a sled.  Ask me to run, and I'll throw your car keys into a monsoon drain.

Stop saying I should benchpress to grow me some pecs.  It's just not worth the inevitable shoulder injury.  I am happy with my tiny boobs.  Thanks.

Don't give me advice about strength training when you can't even squat/deadlift MY bodyweight.

I am a nerd.  I like to read about all things strength and conditioning related. It doesn't make me an expert.  And you sure ain't no expert either.  So stop giving me your unsolicited opinions, you skinny little twig.  

Don't ask me how to lose weight.  Especially if you're sedentary.  You know bloody well how to lose weight.  But you are just wondering if there's any shortcut.  There is:  swallow tapeworms. (The sarcasm might be lost on some people and they'll go searching for tapeworms for sale on ebay after reading this).

I keep quiet not because I think you're right.  I keep quiet because I know telling you the truth is futile.

Dude, if you need a belt to lift your bodyweight then you're weak as heck.  You might wanna work on your core muscles first.  But of course, you'd give me a thousand and one reasons why I'm wrong.  Yes, yes because you are the expert and I am just a woman.

Sheesh.  No wonder I don't bother.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Week 1 of Ramadhan.

The training programme I am currently following requires training 4 days a week.  But I have received the OK to skip day 4 and just stick to training 3 days a week.  Which is sweet, especially during the fasting month.

I don't know about the others but I feel more pressed for time during this fasting month.  Probably because I make it a point to sleep an hour earlier than usual.  Plus I am cooking my own meals now.  Although to be honest it doesn't require a long time.  Maybe I'm not used to it yet.

Last Friday I changed my workout schedule and trained before iftar instead of after iftar.  I timed it carefully so that I didn't have to suffer long and can quench my thirst soon after I complete my training.  I didn't feel weak at all but the having said that, it was a deload week so there wasn't a lot of weights involved.

Tomorrow, the real challenge will come as I start Phase 2 of the programme.  Shall keep you posted of the outcome.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ramadan Training 2012 - Week 1

Okay so the first week of the fasting month coincides with the training programme's deload week which is sweet.  Intensity is brought down a notch and that would help my body adjust to a slightly different kind of environment.

Throughout this first week I trained after breaking fast (iftar).  I'd eat a light meal, rest a bit to let the food settle and then start my workout.  Once workout is done, I drink 500ml of soy milk (as I always do after training), rest, shower, then eat.

The only gripe I have with this is that by the time I'm done with training and dinner it's already pretty late (about 10.30pm).  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely have no problems sleeping right after dinner (it actually works well for me believe it or not) but 10.30pm is a bit late for fasting month standards.

This is due to the fact that I have to wake up at least an hour earlier to prepare for sahur.  Rightfully I should sleep by 10pm the latest to ensure sufficient rest.  Especially so on days that I hit my training as we all know that you need a good rest after a training session to allow your body to recover.

Looks like I'll have to tweak my training schedule somewhat.  And see how it goes from there.

p/s FINALLY started cooking again after a 6-year hiatus.  Starting simple, with my beloved stir fry veges.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keeping it simple

I have noticed a change in my habits lately.  Specifically my reading habits.  Even more specifically, my reading habits when it comes to all things fitness related.

When previously I read every single blog/website that I came across, nowadays I only read a select few.  And even among those select few, I only read one or two sites religiously.

You see, it is best not to clutter yourself with too much information.  Just stick to one or two that suits well with your fitness objective and forget the rest.  Stop overthinking.  Stop trying to incorporate every single damn fitness regime known to man and for crying out loud just do one programme and see it until the end.

Doing crossfit one week, powerlifting the next, metabolic conditioning the third week then delving into olympic weightlifting the week after will do you no good.  You'll end up getting nowhere fast and all that does is make you frustrated.

Simplicity is key.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ramadhan again

The fasting month is looming.  My game plan is to stick with the training programme.  But most likely I will cut down on the conditioning portion to preserve as much mass as possible.

After a 6-year hiatus from cooking, perhaps it's time to start again.  I'm developing a lot of allergies lately and I think it's largely due to me eating outside way too often.  I have no control over the ingredients they use.

Logically, this is the best time to re-learn cooking as I only have to cook once a day.  Or perhaps just during the weekends.  Hopefully this time round I'll get round to doing it for real.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another training programme and a new toy

I have finally completed all 4 phases of Uncaged and I am blown away by the huge progress I have made so far.  People are definitely noticing I am getting bigger (in a good way).  I am now on to the next Jason Ferruggia programme which everyone else in the Inner Circle is currently doing.

Some of the exercises require the aid of the resistance band and I also thought it was high time I acquired one.  I don't know why on earth I didn't buy them much earlier.  There are quite a number of exercises that I can  do with just a single resistance band.

Bought a blue "Gym in the Pocket" resistance band at my friendly neighbourhood Fitness Concept
Over the course of 1 day acquiring it, I have used the band for:

  1. Tricep pushdowns
  2. Shoulder dislocations
  3. Woodchops
  4. Assisted pullups
  5. Resisted glute bridge (I totally underestimated how tough this would be)
I have a feeling I'm gonna need to get the green (which provide the strongest resistance) band soon enough.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Can't squat. What now?

Okay first up.  I think my knee tweak is due to some imbalances of my lower body.  I'm gonna get it checked out at Fitology on Monday and see what they think about it and what their recommendations are.  In the meantime, to play it safe I have laid off squatting.  But laying off squatting doesn't mean I laid off lower body work.  I shall sub it with my favourite lift:  the deadlift!

Okay, so many people say that the deadlift is more of a low back and traps exercise rather than a bona fide leg exercise.  That's actually not accurate.  The deadlift is a very versatile exercise and has many variations.  These variations serve to focus more on well... stuff you want to focus on while also still hitting the traps and low back.

Still not clear?  Look at the pics below:

Snatch grip deadlift gives more emphasis on upper lats and upper back

For more glutes emphasis, use the sumo stance.

Wanna target you hamstrings and calves?  Hit the romanian deadlift
Duck deadlift for more quad development.  Turn your feet and knees out approximately 45 degrees.

The beauty of rotating various types of deadlifts in your training routine is you still get to work your legs but avoid burning out and frying your CNS which is common when you train using one type of deadlift on a regular basis.

Best way is to change to a different type of deadlift every 4 weeks.  

I'm starting a new programme by Jason Ferruggia this Monday and I will be subbing the squat for sumo deads for the first 4 weeks.  Let's see how it goes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dealing with Distractions

I needed a change.  Badly.

Work's been shitty.  But I can't change things up at work.  So I changed how my living room looked like.  I was also starting to have some trouble moving around and exercising in the apartment.  But it was mostly because of my inefficiency in arranging my furniture.

But now I have allocated a dedicated area to do my training.  As you can see in the pics below:

The dining table was initially at the place where the squat rack is.  The rug is anti-slip and is sufficient to absorb the impact of deadlifts.

Previously the dining table created a barricade effect to the doorway.  Now everything is clear and neat.

Me and my friend looking oh so proud after a whole day of supervising the paint job and moving around furniture.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Breaking the silence

Yeah I've been busy.  Plus life's been kind of sh*tty lately.

I took a week off training and lost weight.

I started training again on Monday.  Felt pretty okay.

Interesting thing was I'm so much stronger on my deadlift.  Weights I previously struggled with felt easy.  I knew I could lift more but constrained myself.

I am laying off squats.  My right knee is tweaked.  So looking for some alternative stuff to compensate for squats.  I did 'sled drags"... 30kg.  Felt nice.  Could've been better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My training observations

This applies to me, someone who is not naturally athletic and not genetically gifted.  This kind of training system/philosophy works really well for me.  And if it works for me, it would most likely work for anyone else.

  1. Always train sub-maximally.  Always quit well away from failure.  Having said that,  don't be a pussy and train light.  You must train heavy:  at least 70% of your 1RM and progress from there.  Don't be in a hurry to hit crazy heavy weights.  Your muscles may be getting stronger.  But your ligaments/joints take a  much longer time to strengthen.  
  2. Sets and reps have an inverse relationship with each other.  More sets means less reps.  Less reps means more sets.  For me personally, it gives me a psychological edge knowing that I will always be able to kill every set and rep. Your CNS will thank you too.

Personally, I think the beauty of this is that adapting the above system would minimize the risk of injury and allows you to train for a longer period of time before you experience symptoms of overtraining (if any).  The key is to always keep your CNS fresh and recovery period short.

JF's Inner Circle has really become the best training-related investment I have ever made (dare I say even better than my squat rack?).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Phat Fatz

Fat Gripz.  They're my latest edition to my collection of home gym equipment.  I've been eyeing them for ages but I didn't feel it was worth it to buy them overseas and suffer the exchange rate and shipping rate.  So when the good people of Fitnutritions finally brought in Fat Gripz to Malaysia I jumped at the chance of owning a pair.

For those who aren't familiar with them, Fat Gripz is a tool that would help you improve your grip strength without you having to dedicate a special session to training your forearms.  Just put on fatgrips onto a standard barbell (I even fasten them to my TRX) and just continue with your regular training.

You'll find that your training session has become a lot harder using Fat Gripz:  a thicker bar is harder to grip than a standard bar.

So far I've been using them for less than a week on exercises such as barbell rows and barbell hang high pull.  It's pretty cool in sense that I don't even have to increase the weight to get a tougher workout.  Much tougher.  Much much tougher.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sled drag substitute for dummies

Prowlers.  Sleds.  They are undoubtedly essential for one's training.

Prowlers are out of the question for me because no one in Malaysia sells/makes them and where the heck am I gonna keep it and then push it?  I live in a pigeon hole.

Now sleds are a better bet.  They're smaller, easier to keep and take out any time I want to have a nice conditioning session.  But they don't sell/make them here either.

Admittedly it's quite easy to make your own home made sled.  Get yourself an old tyre and some sturdy towing straps/TRX straps and you're good to go.

Homemade sled for dummies.  Dummies like me, specifically.

However, I do think it's impractical for me to undergo my usual training then having to find some space outside where I can drag in peace.  While searching for ideas, I came across the perfect solution.  And it doesn't cost me a single sen.  Why I never thought of it in the first place, I have no idea.  Goes to show I'm not really creative when it comes to improvising.

Thank god for the internet.

Okay for those who are DIY challenged like myself, simply put a barbell plate or two on a towel and push away!  And I can attest that it is a pretty brutal workout.  For those training in a commercial gym, you can put the plates on a folded up yoga mat.

Easy peasy.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Mistakes

I cringe when I look at my past blog entries.  But I guess that's a good thing.  It means I have become more enlightened as I continue with this little hobby of mine.  I can quite safely say that I know more now than I knew back then.

But then again, if I still stick to what I believe 4 years ago it really means I am not serious in pursuing my interest in training.  Some of the things that make me cringe now include:

  1. Doing direct triceps work that kill the elbow joints (e.g. skullcrushers) or look so damn sissy (e.g. triceps kickbacks).  I like doing presses now.  Specifically overhead presses.  Badass compound movement that hit your triceps hard.
  2. Admiring Jillian Michaels.  
  3. Going overly minimalist and training the 'big lifts' only.  It may work for some, but it didn't work for me.
  4. Taking too long a rest between lifts.  Now it's a maximum of 3 minutes' rest and that is only for really taxing lifts like the deadlift.  For stuff like lunges and holds, it's 60 seconds' rest or less.
  5. Taking weight gain supplements.  I made my biggest gains without the aid of weight gainers.  It's all about proper training and eating sensibly.  All you need to do is just eat slightly above maintenance.
  6. Warming up by just lifting a few sets/reps of lighter weights prior to the actual work sets.  I still felt like crap when doing my actual workout.  Doing a quick but dynamic 5 minute warmup does wonders to improve your mobility and fire up your CNS.
  7. Never incorporating jumps and explosive lifts (like snatches) in my training.
  8. Going all out (i.e. heavy sets and high reps) all the time.  Smart  move if you want to fry your CNS real quick.
  9. Thinking that having wholemeal biscuits + milk for breakfast is a sufficient meal.
  10. Eating junk food like McDonald's and Sneakers are fair game when trying to gain mass.  I know now to always prefer whole foods.  Junk food may give you the calories but you end up feeling really really sluggish.  What do you expect when you abuse your body like that?
I am glad to have learnt about my mistakes than not to have discovered it at all.  Mistakes are after all, an investment towards my education.  I wished I hadn't had to made them all.  But I'd loath to repeat them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The MOST important reason to train at home... to avoid MAJOR embarrassment when you rip your pants while squatting.  Bloody hell.  It was my favourite pair of track pants.

Well, on the bright side it means my butt is bigger now (in a good way).

The scrooge in me would hate to spend money to replace the ripped pants though.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Using deadlifts to improve squats

Usually it is the other way round.  Squats provide you with better quad development which then carries over well to the deadlift.  But this particular article that I recently read got me thinking.  Maybe deadlifts can help me improve my squats.

Squats are challenging for me.  I have always struggled with it.  But it is still one of the most efficient lower body exercise that has ever existed and for that, squat I must.

Anyway, the article was mentioning about segregating exercises into movement patterns, and how the trapbar deadlift and the sumo deadlift closely resembles a squat.  I don't have a trapbar.  But I sure can do sumo deads.

So testing out the theory, I first tried out the back squat (that's the nice thing about having barbells lying around in the living room) then I tried out the sumo deadlift.  There are differences.  But there are also similarities in terms of the movement pattern.

So when I start my next training programme (I am torn between Yoked and Triple Threat Muscle.  Yes, both are Jason Ferruggia's programmes) I'll be using sumo deadlifts instead of my preferred regular deadlift and see whether it could help improve my squat.

I have nothing to lose really.  If the experiment fails I still get a good workout at the end of the day.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bodyweight training is strength training

For the longest time I have always treated bodyweight exercises as more for conditioning rather than strength. But after doing some reading and based on my own experience I have come to realize that I have approached bodyweight training the wrong way.

Rather than doing high rep pushups, squats, leg raises... Etc. I should concentrate on their progressions (e.g. Normal pushups to close grip pushups to incline pushups and so on). Just like high rep weight training, which defeats its purpose as your body simply adapts to the stress, the same thing happens with bodyweight training.

The body adapts and you don't gain anything out of it except for maybe improved endurance and possibly ligament wear and tear. So treat it just like any other strength training. Stick to the tried and tested 8 - 10 rep range. Once that becomes easy do more advanced versions of it. It's more economical that way.

Monday, April 16, 2012


I am PROUD. Proud of my home gym. It is not much. It is more of a living room gym. Those who are priviledged enough to set foot in my humble pigeon hole are all dumbstruck by my choice of furniture.

Squat rack
2 Barbells
Weight plates
12kg kettlebell
Chin up bar
Power wheel
Stability ball (I haven't used this for years. Tried to give it away but no takers. Hmphh)

I might want some additions/upgrades:

Multi-grip chin up bar
Skipping rope
Punching bag (though there is really no place I can put it without obstructing traffic)
Sled (though i need to pull it OUTSIDE my pigeon hole)
Box (for jumps more than anything else)

Hmmm.. What else? Though I must say what I have is already sufficient to give me a nasty workout.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Of barbells, dumbbells, and bodyweight

So I finally joined Jason Ferruggia's Inner Circle. Best to take advantage of the favourable exhange rate while it lasts, right? As I expected, it is a treasure trove of knowledge. There are articles, other written resources, the forum (though so far I have not benefited from it much).

I scoured through all of Jay's programmes and I noticed a recurring pattern: the barbell exercises are kept at a minimum (at most 2 barbell exercises per session) and the reps are between the 4 - 8 range. 8 is a rarity actually.

The rest are dumbbell and bodyweight stuff.

Don't get me wrong. The programmes are all tough. But it isn't killer tough that it fries your CNS and takes ages for you to recover. I think Jay has found the balance that gives the trainee the optimal combination of strength, power and athleticism.

Reminds me that I still have a long way to go before I can write an effective programme for myself. Let alone for others.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dumbbells... So Underrated!

There was a phase I went through where I left my pair of dumbbells gathering dust.  I used the plates on the barbell, but the dumbbell handles are left in a dark corner, and hardly ever saw the light of day.  The barbell was the ultimate tool to get strong and dumbbells do not have a place in the grand scheme of things.

Boy, was I a bloody idiot!

Trust me when I say that you can still get awfully strong with only a pair of dumbbells and nothing else.  Heck, I honestly think you can get crazy strong with nothing else but dumbbells and bodyweight stuff.   In my opinion, anyone who is thinking of strength training, ESPECIALLY the girls, would not hurt starting their training career with a pair of adjustable dumbbells.

Dumbbells are less intimidating than the barbell and easier to master.  It gives you a good foundation when you start training with a barbell.  Heck, I started 'serious strength training' with dumbbells just 3 years ago!  And finally, below are a list of my favourite dumbbell exercises, in no particular order:
  1. Snatches
  2. Clean and press
  3. Farmers walk
  4. Lunges (I have a love/hate relationship with lunges)
  5. Step-ups
  6. Military press
  7. Goblet squat
Hmm.. I can already think of a few tough training sessions just looking at the list above.  Do you have any other dumbbell exercises that you love?  Care to share?

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Deloading after 2 months of continuous training. Starting to notice a slight decline in performance. I tire easily too.

Taking a week off. Perfect timing. Going off to hometown to see my nephews.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wish List

Last year I managed to get one very important item in my inexhaustable wishlist: the squat rack. It has turned out to be one of the better investments I have ever made. It is also a great conversation piece. Not many girls have a squat rack sitting in their living room.

This year, I would like to cross off one more thing on my wishlist: to join Jason Ferruggia's Inner Circle.

Basically I will get 12 months' worth of membership and with the membership I get a brand new programme each month. I am not sure if I can get access to previous programmes posted in the Inner Circle. It would be a fantastic bonus if I do.

It is pretty clear that I am reverting to following other people's programme. But I guess I am simply not ready to design stuff on my own. I either over simplify or over complicate things. Goes to show I still have a long way to go.

The cost of the membership is US$147. Equivalent to MYR460. Not that pricey to be honest. I can afford it for sure. It definitely cost much less than the typical 10 sessions with a trainer. Would definitely get it soon.


The trouble with gaining weight and having broader shoulders is that I have to chuck away some of my favourite work shirts since I can barely button them up anymore.  Time to shop for new ones.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Don't ask me for advice

Once upon a time, I was eager to share what I know about diet and exercise to anyone who is willing to listen or pretend to listen. But unfortunately I discovered that people are mosly skeptical about what I say and keep on doing what they have been doing anyway.

Which is pretty funny since I don't see them lose an ounce of fat despite dedicating quite a chunk of their waking hours slaving on the treadmill.

Nowadays, I just listen to them talk about exercise and their so called diet with disinterest. Sometimes I get the urge to say something... To correct their misguided beliefs but eventually I decide not to other.

It is unfortunate that I have come to a stage where I couldn't be bothered. I wish I could share what I know with the general public. But it is just not worth it. Now I just share information with those who are smart enough and genuine enough to want to actually learn.

The rest can continue their love affair with the treadmill.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Training: what i did differently or revisited

Once there was a time when I felt confident enough that I could design my own training programme. I thought just practicing the basic compound lifts like squats, deadlifts and presses are sufficient to make me stronger and increase muscle mass.

For a time, it did. But only for a short while. I think my CNS got fried in the process. I hit a squat PR of 55kg and then I struggled to even lift 40kg. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

Fed up, I turned to the AMF programme which focuses more on athleticism rather than how much I can lift. I struggled for the first few training sessions but I grew to enjoy it. I felt fantastic as well. After finishing the AMF I am now doing the UNCAGED programme which is very similar to AMF.

I think in future, should I regain my confidence in writing my own programme, I must remember to incorporate the moves below:

1. Explosive movements (e.g. snatches, cleans)
2. Compound movements (e.g. squats, deads, presses)
3. Single leg movements (e.g. lunges)
4. Bodyweight movements (e.g. chinups, pushups, rows)
5. Holds (e.g. handstand, front lever hold, L-sit hold)

The moves above are basically what I have been doing for the past couple of months and the gains have been noticeable. As of yesterday I am 51kg. The heaviest I have ever been. And still as lean as ever.

Diet wise, not much has changed. Only supplemented with BCAAs and fish oil. And I don't take those as regularly as I should (most of the time I just simply forgot to take them). So it must be my training programme that's the biggest contributer to my gains. No?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Swimming updates and coaching cues

Three swimming lessons later and I am now able to swim at the deep end of the pool. This is quite an accomplishment for me as I never EVER swim where my feet can't touch the surface. It took half the lesson for my instructor to make sure my strokes (free style) and breathing technique was up to par.

I had trouble perfecting my breathing technique. That was what was holding me back. After a while, I finally got it and that was after the instructor gave me coaching cues that made me finally understand how to coordinate my body which then made me feel confident enough for me to swim across towards the deep end of the pool and back. Yeay.

It made me rediscover the importance of good coaching cues. Good coaching cues improves a trainee's learning curve and body coordination. In the realm of weightlifting, it could even prevent injuries, not to mention increase the weights that can be lifted.

It's pretty unfortunate that not many trainers are able to give good coaching cues though.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Back from Tioman

Just arrived!
It was a pretty fabulous holiday. The view of the island from the plane was simply breathtaking and tugged at my heart strings. For someone who can't swim that well, I am very much a beach baby. There's something about the sea that commands respect. But at the same time I somehow feel strangely safe getting myself acquainted with salt water.

It rained all day the first day I was there. I got very restless in the room and started to do bodyweight exercises much to the chagrin of my friends. They said I was acting like a spoilt brat, throwing a tantrum at the grey skies. Hm.

Happy to frolic at the beach
But the second day was simply heavenly. It wasn't raining and the sun wasn't too harsh even at noon. We swam all day. At the pool as well as at the beach. I am baked. Didn't bother to put on sun tan since the sun wasn't looking very threatening. But still... I got baked.

Oh, I checked out the gym. They actually didn't have a good selection of dumbbells. They have that all in one weight machine thingy and several treadmills, but not much of a dumbbell collection. But it was fine with me since I got a whole load of exercise swimming all. day. long.

Uhh.. strike a pose!
But I saw a funny sight. The weather was lovely. The beach was inviting... yet there were people walking on the treadmill which was facing the beach.. Sheesh. You're on a beach vacation. Walk on the beach for goodness sake. No point going nowhere fast indoors, don't you think? Humans are funny creatures.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I am going...

... for a holiday in Tioman this Wednesday and I am obsessing about:

1. How bloated my tummy currently is since I am nearing thw time of the month and water retention is my bitter enemy (my swollen boobs look bigger though. Ok. Too much info)

2. How am i gong to fit in my training session. Will the gym have decent enough equipment? Although quite frankly I just need a decent selection of dumbbells. The rest I can substitute with killer bodyweight exercises.

3. My pre and post workout meals.

4. Whether no.2 & no.3 would actually matter. I might just have a bit too much fun u der the sun to care. Which brings us to no.5...

5. Will the sun shine?

Oh screw it. I am just gonna wing it and not think too much. I shall have myself a great holiday.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why am I bigger?

Sometimes I really wish I can know accurately what it is that has made me bigger. My shoulders are definitely broader now. I am still lean. There's a bit of fat that has tagged along but nothing serious. I can get rid of it pretty quickly with an added conditioning session after the main workout.

But back to the subject. What exactl made me bigger? Was it the more MMA-style programme? Was it the BCAAs? Or maybe the salmon oil? Perhaps it was the soy? Most probably it is combination of all those factors.

I would really like to know which gave the biggest contribution though.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Swimming! Lesson 1

So I went for my first ever swimming lesson last Sunday. I was nervous as heck and was very very close to chickening out. But with a bit of prodding (I was basically laughed at by my friend for thinking such a ridiculous thing) I just went for it.

It didn't help that the lady manning the place was kind of unfriendly. No smile, no nothing. But at least she allowed me to change the time of my lesson to later in the afternoon for the remaining of my lessons. So it wasn't that bad.

Ok. The lesson. It was quite predictable. First my instructor Ellie (friendly gal... Made me feel at ease immediately) taught us to feel comfortable in the water and made sure we are relaxed and are able to float.

Then we started kicking our legs to get across the pool but without using our hands to paddle. We had the aid of a 'mini board' thingy to help us float. And before I know it, I was able to swim free style.

She hasn't taught us the breathing techniques yet though. Hopefully that will happen in the next lesson.

The 30 minutes was quickly over and I am really looking forward to my future lessons.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Barbell snatch vs. Dumbbell snatch - which is better?

Well, the barbell snatch is definitely more bad ass. But it is much harder to learn and control as opposed to the dumbbell snatch. I tweaked my right trap doing the barbell snatch even though I lifted very light. Goes to show technique is of the utmost importance.

Luckily for me it was just a minor tweak and I am happy to report that I am as good as new. But it did got me thinking about the merits of the dumbbell snatch.

The dumbbell snatch is just as taxing but much easier to learn. Plus, it also allows your shoulder to follow a more natural movement. But what I like most about the dumbbell snatch is it gives both arms a fair amount of work. With the barbell snatch, it seems like my right side compensates for the weakness of my left side. Which is also why I think I tweaked my right trap in the first place.

So for now I will be using more dumbbell snatches while I perfect my barbell snatch technique.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

TRX Handstand and some dismal discovery

So in preparation of embarking on Jason Ferruggia's UNCAGED programme, I did some research and tested out some gymnastic-esque 'holds' that would be a staple throughout the 16 weeks of training.  The holds that I am talking about are:

  1. Handstands
  2. L-Sits
  3. Front-lever holds
Now I must confess that I am no good in all three of  'em.  I have a long way to go.  While I think I can manage the beginner's progressions of L-Sits and front-lever holds (front-lever holds are a bitch!), doing handstands.. let alone handstand pushups give me the jitters.

With no spotter to assist me, the thought of tumbling over or not even being able to kick up to a handstand position is pretty much off-putting.  Enter the TRX.  It has definitely been one of my better investments (I am staring at my stability ball, sitting dormant on a chair while I type this).  I tried doing a TRX-assisted handstand earlier this afternoon, and I am happy to report that I have succeeded.  

Granted, my body is not totally upright; but I am definitely getting there. (No.  That's not me in the video.  Just so you know).

My confidence boosted, I tried doing some chin-ups. I haven't done chin-ups for a while. Most times I substituted with TRX rows.

I could only do a single proper chin-up. Egad! What the heck happened?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I work in the investment industry where a fund manager's performance is scrutinized in a scientific manner. How much of his performance is attributed to stock selection skill. How much to asset allocation decisions? There is a mathemetical formula for almost everything.

Maybe something similar is also available to measure a trainee's performance. How much is attributed to strength training? How much to conditioning? How much attributed to nutrition? How does supplements come into the picture?

Can you measure how these different factors contribute to a trainee's performance gains in a precise scientific manner?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Good progress and going UNCAGED next

This is the beginning of the third week that I am on the Advanced Muscle Formula programme. And I am seeing very positive gains. My arms are getting bigger. My tummy leaner. And I am getting much better on the snatches and other olympic style lifts.

Pushups are easier to do now. My upper body strength was never my strong point. But everything feels lighter now.

And I've returned to weighing 50kg! Cool huh?

After this programme is done I am continuing with Jason Ferruggia's UNCAGED for building size, strength and power. It is very similar to what I am doing right now but knowing Jason's inclination towards programming for the ectomorph, I think I will be enjoying his programme as well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Swimming. Hmmmm...

Hi. My name is Aizan. I am 32 years old and I can't swim. At best I can float and do a couple of breaststrokes before running out of breath.

I have entertained the idea of going for swimming lessons but I don't really know where to look for an instructor. Plus I'm a scrooge.

So I was pleasantly surprised when Groupon posted an offer for 6, 30-minute swimming lessons for RM88. I kind of have some inhibitions on going at it alone. If I am gonna make a fool of myself, it is best to do it in the company of friends.

Unfortunately they are not as keen as me. And although I have my insecurities, I am NOT going to let it be a stumbling block for me to learn something new. So yeah, I have already booked my lessons and I shall make a fool of myself starting from 19 February 2012.

Hopefully in 7 weeks' time I will be a better swimmer than I am now.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Strength/Power and conditioning on the same day? Hmmm...

Bloody hell. This new training programme (Travis Stoetzal's Advanced Muscle Formula) is brutal to say the least. My body has been aching all week. For the first week, these are my observations and thoughts on it:

What I Like
1. It incorporates a lot of explosive movements like the snatch, the push press, and power cleans. Since a lot of these moves are unfamiliar, I had to start really light to make sure my form was as perfect as possible.
2. Recovery days are about quick and effective conditioning. Sprints, barbell complexes and core exercises galore.
3. The sessions are never boring. It sure does beat doing just squats, deads and presses. Makes me feel more athletic.

What I Don't Like
1. I am not keen on the tabata-style exercises done (usually as the last set of exercises for the day). Yes, it is challenging but I don't think my ectomorph body appreciates it.
2. Since many of the exercises are new, I can't go heavy. Yet. I know the best is to start light but I just feel unsettled. I'm not stuoid enough to go heavy unnecessarily though.

Today was the beginning of the second week. And I think I'm starting to get the hang of things. On the first day, even the warmups left me dripping with sweat. Now I am more coordinated and they aren't as taxing anymore.

The exercises is as fun and challenging as always. I think my CNS are starting to fire correctly. But I did not do the tabata-style exercises which are also the last set. I think if the other participants of the AMF programme knows this, they would say I am being a pussy and I have to step it up a notch.

Hmm... May be they're right. However, I know how my body works and it's not gonna react well with intense albeit short conditioning sessions on the same day I train for strength or power. Conditioning sessions are best done on seperate days.

Let's see how things turn out in week 2 excluding the tabata-like sessions.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I have not sprinted in a long while. I would probably not have sprinted anytime soon if not for the fact that the programme I am following now requires sprinting. So I put on my running shoes and a cozy sweater (weather was cool, it's been raining heavily lately) and went out to sprint.

Sprint I did. 10 rounds of it with the walk back to the starting point as rest. The distance is about 100 meters give or take. I've never felt so alive. Makes me wonder why I didn't do this before.

It was only a 20 minute session. Perhaps less than that. I'll time it next time.

Screw jogging. Sprinting is king. At least for me it is.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 3 and still alive

Day 3 of the new programme and I am only just beginning to get into the groove. It has been a while since I did this kind of workout (think turbulence training meets crossfit). But I kind of like it.

Let's see if I survive the whole programme.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eat, train and gain (hopefully)

I am hovering at 47kg now. All that hard work down the drain. I have enough experience to know that I'll get back the weight quickly enough provided that I eat and train properly. Yesterday, I started off with the first workout of Travis Stoetzel's 28-day Athletic Muscle Formula.

Sheesh. I am not in good shape. For the first time ever I felt like puking after a workout. He is one sadistic guy. But I felt good. Lots of sweat pouring out and made me sleep better. Well, better than usual. So yeah, I got my training programme taken care of.

Diet is where the real challenge lies. I am guilty of skipping meals when I am swamped at work; which is occuring more frequently nowadays. I can't take protein shakes because of the milk content. So I have to be contented with soy milk.

I also bought salmon oil and BCAA from GNC. I got extra discounts since it is my birthday month. So I think it's a pretty decent bargain.

So with my training and supplements all taken care of, I took a 'before' picture of myself. Can't post it here though... For obvious reasons. Let's see if I see some progress after a month.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sick and bored

Gosh.  When it rains, it pours.

  1. Work has been challenging lately, more challenging than usual (which is good, or else I might get complacent)
  2. I am working long hours.  Must make a point to get off by 6pm.. therefore, working hours must be extremely productive.
  3. I fell sick... bronchitis.  So need to rest well and lay off strenuous exercise
  4. I lost weight. No surprise there.
I am growing bored of strictly powerlifting.  I think I've let complacency set in.  I also discovered my mobility has been suffering quite a bit.  What I need is a change of programme.  At least for the next few weeks.  So I got myself Travis Stoetzel's 28-day Muscle Formula.  Yeah, yeah.. I thought my days of following other people's programmes ares over too.  But I needed a change.  No strict powerlifting stuff.  And I'm a bit lost on how to start things.

Plus I have actually been following this guy's blog for some time and I have to say I am quite impressed with his style of training.  So heck... I'll just give it a go.  If I have the time I'll try to write a review for each new workout that I have to endure under this programme.