Home Workouts in Singapore: Top Tips and Training Advice by Fitness Experts and World Champions
From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) champions to founders of Singapore's top fitness studios, we speak to experts who share their two cents on fighting fit at home
Discipline is key when it comes to fitness for Bruno Amorim, a mixed martial arts (MMA) professional who has a wealth of experience under his belt, including the position of head coach of the Indonesian national BJJ team during the 2018 Asian Games. As a regular at the gym, Amorim acknowledges that "working out at home can be a challenge sometimes because one tends to be a little lazy when they are comfortable," but it is precisely that reason that staying disciplined is of paramount importance. On days when training doesn't seem appealing (especially during the circuit breaker period) he makes it a point to show up on his mat with a mental note insisting that "you're not leaving this room until you have paid your dues"—a tough order that serves as encouragement for days when his motivation falls flat.
Besides discipline, he believes that one needs to commit to a balanced diet to complement their physical efforts. "You should have the right amount of carbs, fat and protein incorporated in your diet," he shares, "if possible, you should also stay away from overly processed foods and refined sugar."
For those looking to kickstart their fitness journey at home during this time when social distancing is paramount, head coach of Evolve MMA, Siyar Bahadurzada, has a piece of advice to share: "the secret is to start slow and build the intensity from there." Besides pacing themselves to avoid burnout due to muscle fatigue, they should also gear up with fitness equipment such as a yoga mat and a set of elastic resistance bands—a common answer provided by Alex Salihin, founder of Level gym as well. "Exercises with resistance bands will not only strengthen your joints, muscles, it will also give you the satisfaction of a good workout. With basic equipment, you can tone your body in an athletic way without leaving the house, this includes legs, hips, shoulders, arms, waist and back," Bahadurzada says. After pushing through the initial sessions, each incorporating bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges and jump squats, your body will adjust to the new fitness routine and ready itself for tougher challenges to come.
If you're curious as to what the head coach listens to during a heart-pumping workout, electronic dance music DJs such Tiësto, Avicii, Hardwell and Swedish House Mafia are recurring names in his playlist. Additionally, tracks from old school hip hop artists such as Dr. Dre, Eminem, 2pac, Biggie, Snoop Dogg and American hip hop group N.W.A. gets in him the mood for a hearty sweat sesh on days when he doesn't particularly feel like hitting the gym.
Teco Shinzato is no stranger to the world of martial arts. The two-time BJJ world champion is also the coach to Singapore's national jiu-jitsu team, and has built a reputable name at Evolve MMA as an acclaimed instructor. With a wealth of experience under his belt, his advise to students is typically as such: take time to keep up with your strength and conditioning routines, and don't skip on the stretching. "Flexibility is a big component of BJJ, while strength exercises train the big muscle groups that are utilised for the sport," he says. Experienced athletes should also take this time to work on perfecting their weaknesses, as competition season would not give one the time to brush up on their skills. "Utilise this time wisely," he shares, "apart from correcting your weaknesses, aim to keep your body and mind strong for the challenges to come."
Shinzato also broke down the typical schedule of a BJJ fighter into three distinct pillars—diet, exercise and rest—each requires the full attention of athletes who are training under him in lockdown. "BJJ athletes' love for competing extends to the element of winning and losing in a match, but with the current Covid-19 measures, you have to make do without being in the ring so it's easy to get complacent and lazy." Highlighting star athletes from the Evolve Future World Champion programme Constance Lien, Paul Lim and Noah Lim, he says, "they are constantly looking for the next competition, but if they want to win, they have to keep up with their routines to stay sharp and fit."
For vice-president of One Championship and former world champion, Miesha Tate prefers to work on her leg strength through a combination of squats, sumo squats and lunges. But when it comes to cardio, she chooses to walk or run up flights of stairs, and incorporates daily errands into her workout routine. "Try carrying your groceries up to your condo next time, or even opting to take the stairs up from the MRT," she exclaims, "it's a great workout!"
Taking the first step in your fitness journey is always the hardest, but finding the right routine to ensure it stays consistent and sustainable is most important, shares multiple-time Muay Thai world champion, Nong-O Gaiyanghadao. "No one has ever said they don't feel good after exercising," he says, "keeping to a routine is challenging and takes a lot of discipline when starting out, but the rewards are endless."
For beginners who tend to tire quicker, walking is a great way to start. And when your body gets used to it eventually, start to introduce a jog or run as cardio will help to build your stamina over time. If you're seeking for a sport that ties everything together, Muay Thai is the way to go. Not only will it provide a well-rounded workout that incorporates cardio, strength and endurance training, but with the help of instructors at the side, will help you with working towards your fitness goals. "You can burn up to 1,000 calories in a one-hour class," he explains, if weight loss is one of your key objectives.
Xiong Jing Nan
There was no such thing as a day off for the One Championship Women's Strawweight titleholder Xiong Jing Nan, as she used the circuit breaker to improve on her techniques in the ring. "I trained every single day," she says, "sometimes even twice or three times a day."
For the reigning champion, there is absolutely no room for failure, and she keeps up with inspirational podcasts and music to keep her going. But if you're curious about the way she chooses to wind down after a hard-hitting workout, the mixed martial arts athlete prefers to either follow a yoga tutorial on YouTube or go for a run outdoors. "It's important to decompress with these exercises to keep your mind and body strong. Subsequently, when you're able to perform and get better at what you do, the confidence you need to overcome challenges will come along naturally."
Founder and head coach of Level Gym Alex Salihin believes that the human body is not designed to be overexerted over and over again through fitness. In fact, nutrition takes a more important precedent over exercise selection—with the concept that health and fitness will naturally improve once you start taking better care of yourself and your body.
If you're active and do not have any withstanding injuries, he recommends to do a full body routine three to four days a week, working in four sessions of low cardio exercises such as walking, cycling or swimming for 30 to 45 minute periods. The goal for the latter is to keep a heart rate between 110 to 130 bpm—a general estimate for folks who do not have any physical limitations. Most importantly, it is crucial to get your foundations right. He says: "understand how to squat, push up and plank properly. Work on understanding how eating better massively impacts your goal and don't skimp on speaking to professionals if you have no clue on how to get started." Besides, it is important to stick to a fixed training plan for a duration of 12 to 16 weeks. "Change does not happen in a week," he emphasises, "keep a food diary and learn to understand portion control. Be sure to hydrate, manage stress levels and sleep seven to eight hours at night." For those who love to participate in a myriad of HIIT classes, know that elevated cortisol levels from overexertion is going to negate your fitness and health journey as well.
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For MMA titleholder Tiffany Teo, she looks to yoga and meditation to build on her mental strength. "Yoga helps to increase body awareness, relieves stress and reduces muscle tension, while meditation helps to sharpen attention and concentration," she says. When practiced together regularly, it helps to calm and centre the nervous system. It is also something she practices before a match, as it enables her to be more focused on fight ahead.
According to her, it is important to make a commitment to yourself when you start your fitness journey: "you don't have to go to a gym to workout, neither do you have to workout for hours. But you do have to workout at least three times a week, preferably for around 30 minutes every time." If you're curious about her favourite track that fuels her workout, check out "Knock me out" by American rhythm and blues band, Vintage Trouble.