Monday, December 23, 2013

What Does Core Training Mean To You?

To me, the Human Core has always been one of the most fascinating and intriguing areas of study in exercise science.

And despite having been involved in the fitness industry here in Singapore for well over a decade, I still find the subject of Core Training or Core Fitness wildly exciting and pretty amazing.

Image of a client performing the kettlebell swing for the core
The Kettlebell Swing - A Great All-Round Core Exercise

As a fitness professional, I have been privileged to been exposed to the many different concepts, interpretations and understandings of what constitutes the Human Core and the varied types of training modalities associated with that area.

Unfortunately, most of this knowledge is NOT readily available to most of the general population - at least not here in Singapore - based on the numerous misconceptions, fallacies and erroneous training methods that I encounter frequently among members of the general public and the gym-going majority. It just seems that every other person that I come across is either misinformedconfused or simply ignorant over the whole issue of core fitness out there.

So let's see if we can make things a little bit clearer here .........

Well, firstly, what is the Human Core? Without going into the deep technicalities and terminologies associated with it, the Core is essentially made up of a large, complex group of muscles running along the - front, back and sides - of the human torso and spine. These muscles are responsible for supporting and stabilizing our entire back, spine and shoulders, and help us practically in all aspects of our daily existence: from our posture, to our balance, to our movement, to our day-to-day physical activities, and on top of these, they also play a crucial role in injury prevention.

Image of a lady performing the barbell overhead press.
The Overhead Barbell Press - Another Great Movement For The Human Core

How then should we best go about training the core? This is where differences in opinions and approaches arise even from among the most seasoned fitness experts and authorities from around the world.

For me, in line with my professional fitness philosophy and approach, I adhere to the school of thought that the Core Should Always Be Trained As A Single, Inter-Connected Unit Of The Body, due to the complexity, inter-related and integrated nature of the various core muscles.

In other words, when we train the core, we should literally FORGET about small, isolated movements like crunches or sit-ups, and instead think along the lines of big, compound dynamic movements like Deadlifts, Wood Chops, Farmer's Walk, Squats, Overhead Presses, Roll-Outs etc, complemented with selected full-body static drills like the 4-Way Pillar Move (Plank, Side Plank - both right & left sides, Hip Bridge etc).

Image of a woman demonstrating the plank exercise.
The Standard Plank - A Static Move To Work The Core Muscles

I also firmly believe that the core should always be worked through a wide range of movements, planes and angles, using as many different kinds of functional equipment and tools as possible (examples: bosu balls, stability balls, suspension trainers, kettlebells, medicine balls etc)

Indeed, training the core can be pretty complex, scientific and multi-faceted - even to the initiated, what's more to those who are uninitiated.

No wonder so many of us out there are intimidated and confused over how best to go about working our core optimally.

If you are one of them, and your core health is really a primary concern for you, fret not. I suggest you do your part first: by reading up as much as you can about core fitness from reliable and reputable sources such as: scientific publications, exercise science journals, academic papers etc........

Image of a man performing the Farmer's Walk with kettlebells.
The Farmer's Walk  - An Underrated But Excellent Core Movement

And then, feel free also to check out our Core Fitness Services and Core Training FAQs Section to see how we can help.

Remember: Core Training is BOTH a Science and an Art. As such, it has to be approached from BOTH a scientific perspective as well as from a personalized angle in order to bring about permanent transformation and lasting results.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Best Fitness Tools For Gym-Free Fitness Workouts

For those who have been actively following my blogs, you would have known by now that I am a strong advocate of gym-free fitness training and mobile fitness workouts here in Singapore.

In so much that for all the fitness programs that I conduct here locally in Singapore, I always strive to adhere to 3 main guiding principles. These are:
  1. the scientific use and application of Body Weight Training principles (the concept of your body being your GYM), 
  2. the creative use of everyday environmental objects around us in fitness training - an approach I term - Environmental Fitness Training, and
  3. the proper utilization of Portable, Functional Fitness Tools for varietyzest and added dimension to any workouts.
For the purpose of this blog, I'll be touching on the last principle - the proper and creative use of functional mobile fitness tools in any training program.

Portable Fitness Equipment For Gym-Free Training

As a matter-of-fact, portable fitness equipment form a large part of my training programs here in Singapore.

And in order to make sure that I am indeed truly equipped with the BEST, with the "cream of the crop" of portable tools , I have in place a system of checks and criteria when selecting fitness tools for use with my clients.

Basically, these fitness tools have to satisfy the following criteria:
  • Portable in nature (pretty obvious, since our philosophy is training in an "out-of-the-gym" context: with primary emphasis on in-home training and outdoor fitness workouts. Hence, all equipment must be pack-able and carry-able in any heavy-duty bag)

  • Functional in use ( they got to be able to replicate specific movements used by my clients in their physical activities and pursuits)

  • supports Total Body Workouts ( they must be effective for integrated, full-body workouts, in line with our fitness philosophy)
And from my years of running around, conducting these mobile-based fitness programs across Singapore, I've come to realize that the following fitness tools best suit our Gym-Free Approach, besides satisfying all the necessary criteria as listed above:

A) Resistance Tubings And Exercise Bands

Tubings and bands are two of the most affordable and adaptable training tools you can possibly find anywhere. With their unique elastic properties, varying resistance levels, and ability to work in multiple planes of movement, resistance tubings and exercise bands are simply perfect for total body functional workouts. Add to that their low cost, portability and convenience, you won't find it hard to see why they are one of my all-time favourite bring-along fitness tools for clients' workouts.

Resistance Band Workouts Are Functional And Effective

B) Suspension Trainers

Another one of my favourite training tools has got to be the Suspension Trainer. So named because it leverages upon our own body-weight and gravity - via a system of suspension-  to engage our bodies in functional movements and total body exercises. And the great thing about suspension training is that it is extremely versatile: by a mere change in your body position, you can either increase or decrease the difficulty level and/or intensity of any given exercise in a blink of an eye. As such, it benefits clients of all fitness levels (from beginners to pro athletes), on top of having the added advantage of engaging our CORE at all times. Its ease of set-up, and endless range and angles of movement, also add to its attractiveness as a great training tool.

The Suspension Trainer Is Great For Full-Body Workouts.

C) Medicine Balls

Medicine balls also rank among one of my favourite training tools. Versatile, portable and convenient, medicine ball training helps to make workouts fun, interactive and effective for all types of clients - regardless whether they're beginners or serious athletes. Superb for total body conditioning, medicine balls also have an added advantage over other training tools: in that they can be thrown or slammed, thus making them great for power training and for developing all-round explosiveness.

Medicine Ball Training Can Be Conducted Anywhere

D) Kettlebells

The kettlebell is another extremely versatile and portable tool that can be used for all-round fitness development. As kettlebell training uses virtually the entire body for every single movement pattern, it is a great functional fitness tool to use for developing strength, endurance, balance, coordination and overall fitness. Even with just one single kettlebell, you can still get an intense and effective workout from it by tweaking and adjusting the various training variables surrounding it.

There you have it. My list of favourite portable fitness tools for a gym-free training approach.

Of course, there are some other portable, mobile training tools out there in the market that I did not mention above, which may also serve as great training tools for total-body fitness workouts.

However, in my humble opinion, the equipment mentioned above are probably some of the BEST, if not the BEST, tools for the purposes of our gym-free fitness programs.

Till the next time, take care and GOD bless!

Rick Wong
Singapore Fitness Coach

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NOT Your Typical Singapore Fitness Trainer

Whenever I tell people that I'm a professional fitness trainer here in Singapore, what usually come to their minds and their basic assumptions would be:

1) I must be one of those - huge, bulky and heavily-muscled trainers - out there,
2) I must be working in a typical commercial gym setting,
3) I must be training my clients using conventional gym machines and other latest 'hi-tech' gadgets,
4) I must be utilizing a "body-part" system or "body-building" philosophy in coaching my clients, and
5) I must be selling health supplements on the side to supplement my income (pardon me for the pun) ..... etc etc

Well, in truth and in reality, NONE of the above really describes me ........

You see, to be quite honest, I'm actually quite the antithesis of most of the fitness trainers or coaches you would find here in Singapore.

Although I have to state emphatically that I did not intentionally set myself out to be unconventional or different, somehow, a combination of fortuitous circumstances, together with my personal take on fitness, understanding of exercise science principles and human movement concepts, coupled with my personal life and business philosophy, brought about this difference .......

So much so, that I'm now pretty much, more or less, known as "that mobile trainer/coach in Singapore" or "that gym-free guy in Singapore" within the fitness circles here locally - a tag that I'm pretty comfortable to hang around my neck as long as it serves the greater good of fitness here in Singapore .....

As to how I'm un-conventionally different from my fellow fitness professionals:

Firstly, I am neither huge nor bulky nor heavily-muscled.

In fact, with my relatively small bone structure and frame, coupled with my personal conviction on training only for All-Round, Integrated Functional Fitness - above all else - my physique has evolved over the years to become the lean, athletic-looking type rather than any of the above. In fact, I intentionally resist putting too much muscle bulk on my frame these days - so as not to compromise my day-to-day fitness performance in areas such as agility, speed, balance, coordination and dexterity.

Secondly, I have NEVER worked in a typical commercial gym setting, neither do I own a gym nor aspire to set-up one.

As a matter-of-fact, I conduct most of my fitness sessions and training at client-determined, out-of-the-gym locations - such as in my clients' living rooms, balconies, home garages, and even in the occasional basement/attic etc, and also in the Great Outdoors - in parks, gardens, along beaches, in parking lots or just about any empty space that we deem "train-able". In fact, I would go so far as to make it my personal goal to wean each and every of my clients away from a gym setting - so that they can truly get in touch with their bodies, and learn how to manage, move and maneuver their bodies the way Nature intends them to - functionally, naturally, multi-directionally, multi-planarly and in an integrated fashion ..... .

Outdoor Stair Sprints - One Of The BEST Ways To Get In Great Shape

Thirdly, I eschew most forms of technology and machinery when it comes to training.

This includes all the latest chrome-plated, eye-pleasing "hi-tech"contraptions found in today's modern gyms. Frankly, in my opinion, most of the gym equipment we see around us are fundamentally flawed and virtually useless. In fact, many are just mere eye-candy - nice to look at but serve ultimately little if any constructive purposes for scientific fitness training (For a more thorough treatment on this subject, you may like to check out my earlier blog entry entitled "The Problem With Singapore's Gyms And Fitness Centres") Hence, I always make it a practice to announce to all my prospective and current clients that one of the main pre-requisites or conditions for acceptance into my training program would be an agreement to be trained using ONLY real-world, functional fitness aids/tools, like: suspension straps, medicine balls, ropes, exercise tubings/bands, kettlebells, free weights (weight plates, dumbbells, barbells, etc) and other environmental tools (everyday objects like: park benches, tree branches, stairs, slopes etc )

Outdoor Bench Work - Another Great Way To Get In Shape 

Fourthly, unlike many other fitness trainers, I do NOT favour a "Body-Part" or "Body-Building" Approach to training

While the "Body-Part" approach (training as in: "Chest & Shoulders Day", "Back & Arms Day", "Legs & Abs Day" etc) may have been highly-popularized back in the 80's, 90's and even early 2000's, the latest findings and research emanating from exercise science labs and sports performance fields have pointedly proved that this approach has serious limitations in today's scientific training environment. Personally, I favour an Integrated Approach coupled with elements of Functional Training, Movement-Based Training, Metabolic Training and High-Intensity Interval Training whenever training my clients; regardless whether their goal is to: build lean muscle mass, burn body fat, enhance sports performance or develop all-round functional fitness. In fact, the above combination has helped many of my clients transformed their bodies and changed their lives for the better.

Metabolic Training With Kettlebells Build Serious Strength & Muscle

Finally, supplement sales are a strict NO-NO to me.

Much as I'm trained in sports nutrition, scientific supplementation and other fitness dietary principles, I always make it a point to give only general suggestions as to what supplements would be useful in pursuing one's fitness goals. And then leave it to my clients to purchase their own supplements from their own sources. At no time would I ever consider selling supplements or even recommending certain "brands" to my clients. Yes, I know I'm probably missing out on a large "profit cache" (as in commission sales), but to me, my professional, ethical and moral obligations to my clients come first.

Yes, I'm aware that many (both within and without the fitness industry) consider me quite a Maverick here in Singapore.

But, frankly, it does not bother me a bit - simply because all the above is how I TRULY think and how I TRULY feel fitness training and running a fitness business should be.

And since it is also turning out to be the very BEST thing for my clients, I'm more than happy to wear this hat for as long as possible.

Improvising Your Home Workouts With Common Household Objects

With the COVID-19 pandemic still wrecking havoc throughout the world, and with most commercial gyms and fitness facilities operating with se...