First of all, before I begin this guide, go read on Stronger By Science’s article. It is really comprehensive and it will give you a really good idea of strength training as a whole.
This is not your typical beginner’s guide to strength training. This will relate everything you need to know if you want to start strength training in Singapore. How do I know whether I want to start strength training? Well, don’t question yourself. Just do it and start. Try it out for 1 month or so and see whether it is suitable for you. If you like it, just continue it. This is a guide to strength training as a beginner in Singapore.
- Understand the importance of good technique
- Focus on compound exercises
- Go to the cheapest and most accessible gym
- Your nutrition is more important than you realized
Before you start
Before you start on any sort of program, do your research. I repeat, DO YOUR RESEARCH.
I strongly believe in the utility of the Internet. The Internet is the best resource that mankind has ever created. So, make good use of it. There are so many resources out there. Go out there and read up, start watching youtube videos, browse the r/Fitness community. I can also help you out!
To list a few examples, here are some resources that I personally used when I just started. I have never hired a personal coach. My lifting experience is heavily based on free Internet resources as well as the gym community that I frequent. (I usually go to the CCK ActiveSG Gym.)
I think the best place to start would be the r/Fitness wiki page.
This wiki has so many resources and has been compiled by the community to help out other beginners to give them a headstart. Just think about it, 20 years ago, we did not have access to any of these resources. Now, the lack of information should not be an excuse.
After that, you can look at the r/Fitness, r/loseit, r/gainit, r/weightroom subreddits. They are all subreddits with a Fitness theme. They provide really good advice for their niche. Go look up other people’s body transformation. Trust me, you will feel so much more inspired and you will definitely want to start trying it out. (For my female audience, there is r/xxfitness!
There are also very good websites out there.
https://www.strongerbyscience.com/ – A really good blog which is heavily based on science by one of the smartest people in the industry, Greg Nuckols.
https://examine.com/ – Independent analysis which is based on scientific research put together by a team of experienced lifters and smart researchers.
https://labdoor.com/ – Rates your supplements and gives you a better objective view of supplements choice.
For youtube resources, you can look at these channels.
Jeff Nippard – He makes really cool videos that are mostly science-based. Also, he has some really good series you can start on. (Technique Tuesday and Fundamental Series)
Vitruvian Physique (Igor) – I really like his long podcast style videos. It really shows his no bullshit attitude which I really admire. He may not have the best genetics but he is willing to put his head down and grind for what he wants. I really respect that.
Omar Isuf – Omar is the real OG of Fitness Youtube. He gives really good small tips here and there. These tips may not seem like much but it stacks up over his videos and I go to him whenever I want to fix small form problems.
I researched about strength training for one whole year before actually taking action and starting to lift. So don’t rush into it. Take your time and learn from them. Practice with nothing first. Then with a barbell. Then with light weights. Slowly progress. Leave your ego at the door.
Gyms in Singapore
As a beginner, I really only recommend a few gyms in Singapore. Because you are just starting out, I really do not see any reason to spend a huge sum of money on getting a gym membership.
If you are Singaporean, good news! You should have access to $100 in your ActiveSG account once you sign up. I used the $100 and found it really helped in removing the financial barrier. Throughout my lifting journey, I have only been using ActiveSG gyms. I have only switched to GymmBoxx recently because an 8 min walk to the gym is more convenient than waiting for a bus and a 5 min bus ride because I have to fit in my work schedule. It should be no excuse for you too!
If you really do not have an ActiveSG gym close to you or accessible to you, maybe you can take a look at the other gyms around you. They include Anytime Fitness or GymmBoxx or community center gyms. Also, if your parents have gym memberships for the more expensive gyms, make full use of them, if you don’t bother. They don’t provide facilities except for fitness classes. Personally, I have not attended them yet, so I do not know enough to comment.
So, you have some lifting knowledge and you have decided to step into which gym. But how are you supposed to actually lift without being afraid that people are judging you all the time?
Well, just remember that people probably have better things to do than to constantly judge you. If anything, I am happy when I see a newbie starting to go to the gym consistently. It reminds me of myself in the past. Moreover, I am more than happy to help him/her.
Just do not be obnoxious. Soon enough, you will gather enough courage to share equipment with people. After that, you can start smiling at people and spot the people who share the same equipment with you.
Maybe start with people from your age group then branch out. Just start some relatable small talk. Anyone who has manners will reply to you. Worst case scenario, he has no idea what you are talking about, and you never talk to him again and you remain a hi-bye relationship. That is honestly not too bad either. That means you can ask him to spot you when you need help.
Personally, I was approached by a middle-aged uncle (around 40s). He smiled to me at first and began talking. Up to today, I look up to him very much and I tell my life problems to him. He has become a very trustworthy mentor for me. He was also the one who has introduced m,e to many other people at the gym, allowing me to broaden my connections and learn from the lifting veterans.
Okay, you started lifting and now you came back home. Now, you are moving on to the most important part of gaining muscle. That is nutrition.
If training simulates your body, nutrition provides the fuel for growth. Nutrition should take up 70% of your focus. The other 30% should be reserved for training.
I have talked about nutrition pretty thoroughly here. However, as that article is done for losing weight. To bulk up and accelerate your muscle gain process, you can eat about 300 calories more than your TDEE.
As a skinny guy naturally and a hard gainer myself, I will tell you my tactics to bulk up in a future article.
Soreness and Recovery
You are BOUND to feel sore. Touching a barbell for the first time in your life will just give you Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This is very common among new lifters, or if you hit your body with a novel stimulus. It is NOT a good indicator of muscle growth/hypertrophy.
Just rest for two days, and it should be gone. If it is really bad, it should last about 4 days maximum. But don’t worry, you probably are not over-exerting yourself. It is just your body’s natural response to weight training.
After a few weeks of the same training, your body will get used to it. That is not to say that training has become useless. In fact, you should be increasing the weight every session in a linear fashion, so the intensity should be increased. Thus, you are actually getting strong due to progressive overload.
To accelerate your recovery process, ensure that you are eating a surplus of calories and you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep every day. 8 HOURS.
Sleep is so so important to your body. I cannot emphasize its importance enough. Take a look at world-class athletes and see how many hours of sleep they get on a daily basis. Why shouldn’t you? Yes, you may not be world-class, but you definitely should try to!
Food choices in Singapore
In Singapore, you cannot miss out on cai png. It is the best invention known to our Asian country. It provides you with the calories and gives you the value while giving you some choice. Always add rice, always have some vegetables and some meat.
If you are not lactose intolerant, I really recommend milk. Meiji milk. The full cream one. No skimmed bullshit. Meiji milk provides you with so many calories and the protein that every lifter needs so desperately.
If you really cannot gain weight, here is a quick recipe for a smoothie that I always make for myself.
- 1 RIPE banana (the riper the better because it’s sweeter)
- 250ml of Meiji Full Cream Milk
- 30g of Whey Protein Isolate (I buy the unflavoured one from MyProtein)
- 1 Meiji Strawberry Yoghurt (I just like the taste)
- Some frozen berries to your liking
- If you really need more calories, add some peanut butter or 1 tablespoon of olive oil (Yes, I’m serious) (Side note: Olive oil tastes like plasticine by itself, so do not eat it by itself)
- Exactly 3 ice cubes for the perfect temperature
Next, chicken rice is probably your best friend. Ask for steamed breast meat (what I always order). You save the trouble of biting through the bones and get more protein for your money. It is just simple and delicious, classic Singaporean style.
Lastly, my secret weapon. It is the Wall’s Vanilla Ice Cream. I am a sucker for vanilla flavoured ice cream and I just eat it straight out of the tub. Do note that you should only resort to this method if you have exhausted the above methods and still find trouble gaining weight.
Also, I like to eat some kueh lapis after my lunch just because it is so good.