Category Archives: Gyms

Top 5 Forgotten Bodybuilding Principles

This guest post is written by Lai Wee Kiat, bodybuilder, personal trainer, Mr Kuala Lumpur 2013 overall champion and blogger of Fabodylous. For his personal training service in Singapore, click here


Protein? Check. Intense weight training? Check. Creatine? Check. These are the essential requirements to build a lean, strong and muscular physique. Who can ever forget them? However, whenever we hit a plateau, more often than not. it is the principles we take for granted that kills our progress. What principles? Here are five of them.

#1 Rest and recovery

Don’t forget, you don’t actually build muscles in the gym, but when you are sleeping. Many trainers, especially beginners push their body so hard and so often in the gym and stay up late at night for a football match or a drink with their friends that they don’t get enough sleep for their body to grow. Get in 8 hours of sleep each night AND if you have been training hard for 2-3 months, give your body a complete week of rest, away from the gym. You’ll be surprised how fresh you will feel after that week.

#2 Intense focus

What are you thinking about when you are performing your set of bench press or squat? Lunch? That hot chick wearing yoga pants? If your mind is not in your muscle, you’re not fully stimulating it. Take a few seconds before each set to forget about the world around you and focus solely on the muscle you’re training. Feel every movement and contract them hard. Control every movement, both concentric and eccentric. Believe me, it’ll make a huge difference.

#3 Putting what you learnt in to practice

A lot of beginners are looking for shortcuts. That’s why they fall for fads and workout programs that promise them loads of result in minimal amount of time. Even as an advanced trainer, I admit that I sometimes fall into this trap. The thing is, if you already know the basics of dieting (protein, carbs, fats and some supplement knowledge) and training (compound vs isolation exercises, rep ranges), you should be able to build a decent body. Knowledge is power and yes, although we should always strive to learn more, we should apply all the knowledge we already know and push hard. Just look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends. I’m willing to bet that in the 70s, they barely knew anything about creatine, but they trained extremely hard with the knowledge available to them back then. And they’re huge!

#4 Customization

You might have heard that different people respond differently to certain training and dieting programs. This claim is legitimate, especially for dieting. Play around with carbs. Some people feel great and burn fat fast on a low carb diet, whereas others will feel weak and lethargic. That is why there are diets out there that recommend plenty of carbs and others recommending as little as zero carbs. Both might have worked for others and are scientifically proven, but you must find what works for YOU and stick to it.

#5 Plateauing

Using the same weight and reps every day when you train? No wonder you look the same! One thing we often forget is that to build muscle, we must challenge ourselves. This doesn’t mean you have to add a huge increase of weight during your next workout. Instead, strive for tiny but consistent improvements in every workout. Add another 2.5kg to the bar or perform one extra rep. Soon enough, these little changes will add up and so will your muscle mass.


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Filed under Bodybuilding, Fitness, Guest bloggers, Gyms



I did my first ever powerlifting competition today! Coming in to this meet, my goals were to have fun, make new friends, soak in the atmosphere and learn. And learn I did. My squats were fine. But when it came to the bench press event, I didn’t score a single point for any of my 3 attempts because I failed to listen to the judges’ instructions.

But what I really took away from this meet was the feeling of “family”. I didn’t expect anyone to come down and support me. But the day before, my coach, Sam, messaged me and told me he was coming down to support me. Even though this didn’t have very much to do with CrossFit, he told me: “family never leave anyone behind”.


I cannot express how grateful and relieved I was to have Sam with me backstage. His advices and tips to me in his calm, reassuring voice, together with his signature smile really helped me to relax and do my best. From advising me on what weight to go up to and just talking random stuff with me to keep my mind relaxed, I really felt like a son to him. The most significant advice he gave to me was before I gave my final weight for my deadlifts. I did 150kg for my 2nd attempt and I was trying to stay conservative and go for 160kg in my 3rd and final attempt. But Sam told me to go for my PR, 170kg, which is honestly a struggle for me. But his confidence in me spurred me on and I lifted 170kg without a hassle, like the first picture. This lift is for you, Sam.

I am also really thankful for the rest of the community in the box who kept sending me endless encouragement messages . Thankful for Farhan, who came down and support me instead of going home for a rest after finishing a 10km race. Thankful for Melanie, who came down despite being very tired. Thankful for Elaine, who is always a reassuring figure.

These people drive me to do what I love and I’m really really proud to call them my family 🙂




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Monstrous Arms & Other Stuff

This post is a hat tip to Melanie’s post, “Monstrous Calves & Other Things”.

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I have monstrous arms.

After doing push ups during PE lessons in school one day. I was amazed to see my arms growing bigger. This event served as a catalyst for me to enter and explore the world of fitness. But having big arms has been both a blessing and a bane for me. A blessing because I look good (not ashamed to admit this) and I have an advantage whenever a task at hand calls for arm power.

A bane, because everytime I meet someone new, they immediately assume that I’m a bodybuilder or I’m a superhero (for real), who can do everything and anything in this world. When I entered the army during my National Service, I was constantly asked to do certain things just because I have “big arms” . Nothing wrong with that, but this perception of me caused me to place huge stress of myself and I would feel lousy every time I failed to do a task.

I was also more conscious about my body because questions like “Why do you only train your arms” were put forward to me, which gave me the mindset that I had to grow “bigger” so that people will stop focusing on my arms. That fitness was all about being big and buff. I will start getting defensive and try to change the topic.

Till I started training in CrossFit.

After training in this sport for close to a month and being humbled in training on more than one occasion, I have come to the realisation that being big doesn’t mean that you are fit. And in CrossFit, ( to borrow a phrase from the Melanie’s post and please pardon my language), “nobody gives a fuck about how you look”. Nobody judges me in training. When I use a lighter weight to get my form right, my coach doesn’t insist that I use a heavier weight because I’m “strong and have big arms”.

Now you know why I love CrossFit?

Because for the first time since I started my fitness journey, I have truly found a place where people around me are more focus on fitness, instead of a normal, regular gym where people are more focused on training a specific body part just to look good (no offense to bodybuilders). My mindset has also changed. I have stopped caring on how “big” or how “buff” I need or want to be. Now when people ask me why are my arms so big and why the rest of my body are not as big, I will smile and tell them it’s a blessing from God and how He used this blessing to bring me to a place where people celebrate strength, and not aesthetics.

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May 24, 2013 · 4:37 pm

Day 10: “I’m only stopping when I’m dead”

It’s Day 10 of my journey in to CrossFit. I have started to notice that despite training 6 days a week, my body doesn’t feel as sore as when I was lifting heavy weights all the time. Heck, I don’t even suffer from DOMS anymore. While Coach Sam has been trying his best to torture me, he says the worst for me has yet to come. I decided to post it up on Facebook and see what my friends in the fitness world would say.

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For the uninitiated, Feng Yi Chew is the pioneer of CrossFit in Singapore. She was the one who introduced Coach Sam to the sport.

Not going to go in to the full history. The conversation was about how I’m not being given the real dose of CrossFit yet. As I would later explained myself, I wasn’t trying to say that CrossFit is too easy for me. It’s probably just my love for it that makes me want more of it. I believe and trust in Coach Sam’s programming and the training methodology that he stands for. And I think Coach Sam is getting fed up that I keep saying he’s not pushing me hard enough. Because he posted a video after I completed today’s WOD with a warning to be careful with what I wish for. Hehe.

Anyway, today’s WOD was 5 rounds of 21 box jumps and 15 deadlifts of my body weight. Halfway through the box jumps, I wanted to give up. It came to a point where I was just screaming at myself to push through. And then, my mind started to fill up with thoughts like”I’m not stopping till I’m dead”. It’s a place I have never entered before in my mind. It was this dark place where I ignore the pain I was feeling in my body and keep going. This is what I looked like during the WOD and how I collapsed on the ground after I was done:


CrossFit is really a mental game as well as a physical game. When your body is ready to give up, it’s up to your mind to keep you in the game. As long as your mind hold firm, you will be able to keep going. Yes, CrossFit may look tough. But nothing worth having, comes easy. If you want real and true fitness, CrossFit is the sport you should be in.

Which brings me to my next point. Since I started writing about my CrossFit journey, numerous people, strangers and friends have been asking me about CrossFit and how it’s like.

I’m happy to take time out to explain to them, but I also make it crystal clear to them that this is not a cheap sport. The reason why it’s expensive is because, you pay for world-class teaching. It’s as simple as that. Now, I understand that money is important and hard to come by. Look, we are in Singapore, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

What really pisses me off and gets on my nerves is some people who are willing to blow $300 on a new pair of jeans or on a new gadget every other month, are also the ones who exclaimed loudly that CrossFit is expensive when I told them about the price. These are the same people who wants to make a difference to their body, but are unwilling to spend the money where it matters. Isn’t that amazing?

The bottom line is, yes, CrossFit is expensive. But I assure you that you get what you paid for. After all, when you put in the effort, you get the results.


Filed under Fitness, Gyms, Singapore

Day 7: Of bruised shins, minor achievements and hydration

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I bruised my shins so much when I train deadlifts for my powerlifting competition, that I decided to buy deadlifting socks. So when I realised that my shins were getting bruised when learning hip drive and the first pull for snatch, I decided that my socks would come in handy again. After all, most pro-CrossFitters wear long socks.

But today as I was learning about the first pull again during CrossFit class, I started to realised that my knees were starting to get bruised as well. I’m not one to whine, because I feel that bruises are inevitable because when you do any movement with the Olympic bar, the bar has to be close to your body as possible, hence the bruises. Well, a little sacrifice for proper form doesn’t hurt eh?

After a week of CrossFit training, I have some minor achievements to announce. Nothing significant to shout about, but little things like these are motivation for me to get in to the box every single day and train my ass off.

Anyway, as Coach Sam put us through paces of learning hip drive and first pull, I realised that I was sub-conciously shooting my knees out to meet the bar as I slide it up from my shins. Before that, I had to keep reminding myself to shoot my knees out. I guess it’s all about muscle memory.

Next minor achievement was during today’s WOD. It was a 12 min AMRAP of 5 handstand push ups, 10 toes to bar and 15 box jumps. I MANAGED TO DO THE 5 HANDSTAND PUSH UPS. Ok, sorry for shouting. I’m so excited because for a person like me who has never done a handstand in my life, to do a push up while being upside down is a big leap of faith. In fact, I did 25 reps since I managed to complete 5 rounds of the WOD. Which brings me to my next minor achievement.

Every WOD, I aim to go 1 more round. So during this WOD, I decided to do what Coach Sam has been trying hard to teach me. That is, to pace myself. I usually only manage to last for 4 rounds. But I managed to complete 1 more round for this WOD. There, another minor achievement.

I’m going to end this post by touching on hydration. I have started to notice that halfway through my the 3rd or the 4th round of a WOD, I will start to feel extremely thirsty to the point that I have no saliva to swallow.  This is the point where my body starts to slow down and I will have to take a quick pause to go drink some water, hence, wasting a huge amount of time if the WOD is AMRAP.

Well, today I happened to chance on this article by Eric Velazquez, which was published in The Box magazine. It talked about how dehydration affects CrossFitters during WOD and how stopping to drink water is a time-wasting tactic. This article touches on everything that I have described above.

I would love to hear from novice and experienced CrossFitters on their tactics for hydrating before a WOD or what do they do to prevent dehydration during a WOD. Feel free to leave your comments below!

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Day 5: Patience


“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success”

      Napoleon Hill

I have fallen in love with CrossFit. There I said it.

That is also probably the reason why I’m trying my best to be patient with learning the most basic movement for Olympic weightlifting: hip drive.  I know I’m only Day 5 in to my journey in CrossFit. But have you ever felt so much love for a sport, that you just want to be perfect the movements as soon as possible? Seeing all the seasoned CrossFitters around me, it inspires me, but at the same time, I feel a little down because I’m not up to their standard yet.

I have to keep reminding myself that I have to be patient. I’m very thankful for Coach Sam who knows what I’m going through just by looking at me. And for CrossFitters who blog about their journey also, like Melanie. It shows me that I’m not alone in this journey.

Today WOD was 12 mins AMRAP of 4 sets of push press, 8 sets of sumo deadlifts and 12 sets of front squats. I was looking at the weights, and I thought I could easily do 45kg sumo deadlifts. I totally forgot about my push press and front squats till Coach Sam was about to start the timer. Only then did I look at the 45kg barbell in front of me and go: “This shit just got real”.

It was a real struggle to get through the push press and front squats, which I had to bring the bar to a power clean first, then perform the front squats, no surprises there. Just to bring the bar up for both of the movements, I had to use my hip drive, which at that point in time, I realised why Coach Sam drilled us so much on it. Because without hip drive, it’s nearly impossible to bring the bar up when you are already so drained and exhausted.

I dropped the bar so many time, that I broke one of the weight plates. And when I completed 4 rounds and time was up, I just collapsed to the ground. Coach Sam just smiled at me and said: “This is an experience for you, Shawn”. Then he wrote this on the wall:

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I looked at this, and it suddenly became very clear to me. As humans, we sometimes forget that when we learn something  new, it takes time, practice and at the core of it all, patience. Coach Sam then went on to say that he knew I wouldn’t be to handle the weight. But he rather have my body suffer now by doing the exercises the hard way, then to teach me the “shortcuts”, which will not bring me far.

I guess what I need to work on is to not allow my love for CrossFit to influence me to be impatient.


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Day 3: Embracing pain and breaking mental boundaries


What do you do when you are in terrible pain?

Hurting from the last set of pull up that you just did and still have another round of 21 pull ups to go?

I decided to talk about pain today because in CrossFit, as most of the Workout of the day (WOD) engages most of your muscles in your body to work at the same time, your body will fatigue faster.  Which also means that you will have to dig in to your inner reserves to find that last ounce of strength, that final burst of energy to complete that last rep of the exercise or the last round of the WOD.

Today’s WOD sounded manageable. 3 rounds of 50 air squats, 21 pull ups, 21 ring dips and 10 hang cleans. Before Coach Sam shouted go and started the timer, I was already going through the “game plan” in my head. I will break up the reps and it will be smooth sailing for me, right? Well, it wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be.

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I was really ambitious and thought I could break up the reps for my pull ups to 2 sets of 10 and 11. It was fine for the first round. But when I reached the second round, I was feeling the strain and the sore in my lats. By the last round, I was really struggling in pulling myself up. I was feeling faint, really exhausted and feeling like I was going to vomit.

Now, at this point of time I really wanted to quit. The thought that this was only my second day in CrossFit kept running in my head. I had nothing to lose if I quit because I was so new to this sport. But as I dropped down from doing 2 reps of pull up, with my hands on my hips, taking in really deep breaths, I started to realise that this is what CrossFit is all about. You cannot only be physically tough, you must be mentally tough as well. And it applies in life as well. Do you quit when the going gets tough? Or do you find ways to improve your situation so that you can keep on pressing forward?

As that realisation drawn on me, I decided that this will be the mindset that I will adopt for the rest of my journey in CrossFit. It doesn’t matter if I’m the last to finish and have the slowest timing. I will be damned if I quit and give up. So I took a deep breath, shake away the lactic acid in my arms, jumped up and pulled away as hard as I could. When I finished all 3 rounds, I collapsed in a heap like the first picture shown above. There’s something satisfying about finishing a WOD and feeling like you are going to die. It’s proof that you didn’t give up under pressure. Instead, you hunkered down and push through the pain barrier.

Moving on to the breaking mental boundaries part of my post.

I have never tried gymnastics before. Which is also why I have never attempted doing a back flip, wall crawl or a handstand push up. Because I have this fear that I will break a bone or two.

So when I looked at the warm-up, my heart sank. Because it called for 3 rounds of 10 reps of wall crawl. I just looked at Coach Sam and went: “I can’t do wall crawl”.

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Coach Sam just smiled at me and said: “I will show you”. Now, before I go on, I just want to comment on Coach Sam’s teaching style. There’s something unique about the his teaching style, from what I have observed so far. He will explain and show you the technique of the moves you need to do but he will not go in to details. Because once you start doing the moves, you will slowly find out what the details are after making mistakes after mistakes. It’s a learning process that I enjoy, because you only learn when you make mistakes.

Anyway, back to the wall crawls. I was skeptical when all Coach Sam said was “Just use your legs and hands to push yourself up” because I thought I will definitely fall. But I decided to step out of my comfort zone and my mental barrier of breaking my bones and tried the wall crawls. It turned out to be not as hard as I thought it would be.

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I guess it’s really impossible till you try. I broke one mental boundary today. Will I break more? I’m as excited as you to find out 🙂

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