Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Muhammad Zaid bin Mohd Omar and I am 29 years old this year. People usually call me Zaid.
I am from Singapore, a small island located in South East Asia. It is very near to Malaysia and compared to our surrounding countries, we are really just a small Island, but a very chaotic and bustling Island indeed!
I live in a 14-story building located in Sembawang area, which is in the North part of Singapore. We call the building HDB flats or Housing & Development Board Flats. It’s simply a tall apartment.. And I managed to get the top floor for my apartment. Cool huh? I have the bird’s eye view and would be the first to know if a storm is coming!
I have worked as a Chemical Process Technician in Evonik from 2014-2017. Then, on November 2017, I quit my job to pursue some courses and started my own business which didn’t do well.
About 2 months back, I got the opportunity to join Evonik back again.
I’ve completed most of my part time studies last year and now I am just trying to build my side business while working full-time.
Currently, I’m single and living with my parents.
My proudest accomplishments in my life are:
- Bulking from 47kg to 70kg
- Improving my overall health, fitness, strength, and mental strength
- Building a side business with profits up to $1.5k a month
- Getting myself certified as a personal trainer and nutrition coach
- Getting a diploma in digital marketing even when the odds are against me as I had to work for 9-10 hours 6 days a week, I had a start-up to manage, I was still working out 2-3 times a week, and I was also taking another course for my Personal Training Certification.
- Gained confidence to lead programs consist of 20-30 participants
- Gained confidence to do public speaking in front of 100+ people
I used to dislike weight training or anything that has to do with the gym. Why? Because it reminds me of narcissistic people who loves to show off their muscles and I find it irritating.
Until I was fated to serve the Army as an infantry soldier in 2011. During that time, I only weighed 47kg. I had small and weak limbs and I was prone to injuries and heat exhaustion.
Well, I could have decided to give up and choose a less physically challenging position in the army, but nope, deep inside I know I couldn’t accept the fact if I chose to be medically regarded as “Unfit for duty” for the rest of my life, I would be seen as someone who is frail and weak for my age and that isn’t how I want people to see.
So, I started training alone. I learned about strength training and nutrition. While everybody else was lazing around during free time, I went to the gym. While we had the chance to go out and party, I went to the gym.
Three to four months later, everyone noticed that I did not fall out during training sessions, I was looking better and fitter than ever and my platoon mate started acknowledging my efforts when I contributed more during training as well.
That was when I fell in love with fitness.
So far, I’ve been doing my best to go to the gym at least three times a week ever since I graduated as an operational ready soldier in 2013.
I don’t play much sports as I am the type who prefer to spend my time reading, writing, and networking in events.
Even during leisure time, I rather spend it writing on my blog or when I am drained mentally, I’d watch Netflix shows.
If I ever meet my friends, I would hang out at a cafe for dinner and catch the latest movie.
I’ve never had any sponsors to support my agendas and goals. Sometimes, my parents are the ones who support my supplementary and diet needs.
Most of the time, I had to hustle to keep up with my fitness lifestyle and for my side business capital. It is not easy even until now.
As a fitness enthusiast, the satisfaction comes when I see myself gaining some mass as the months go by. From a mere 47kg to 70kg, that was the best feeling ever looking at the weighing scale and of course, the mirror.
First it was my shoulders that grew wider and rounder. Then, my biceps and triceps started to look bigger with visible lines separating the different heads. Then, my thighs and chest started to develop as well.
Not only that, I could never imagine myself squatting my own weight, but I did more than that. I managed to squat 90kg for 5 reps of 5 sets with a free-weight barbell.
My health and overall fitness improved too. I don’t get sick as often and I can endure more physical labor jobs without tiring out.
I also realized that I’ve improved my self-esteem as I used to think of myself as a weakling and unmanly due to my smaller size.
So, getting fit and bulking is quite a life-changing experience for me.
Describe a typical day of training
My Training Principle
I’ve never had a mentor or someone to guide me about bodybuilding or strength training. The first guy to ever teach me was Mike Chang from 6 pack shortcut on YouTube.
I bought myself some dumbbells and tried following some of his workouts at home before finally deciding to go all-out-gym training in 2016.
I started trying out the 5×5 training regime by using the Stronglifts app to track my workout. I’ve gained the most strength following this program, which even went above my own expectations.
Due to my shift work pattern and busy lifestyle managing my full-time job and part-time studies in 2016-2017, I’d only manage to hit the gym twice a week at most.
I’ve chosen Anytime Fitness gym as it is like the only gym that is available all around the world and I can visit it anytime. Plus, they have good equipment and facilities (toilets, lockers, vending machines with protein shakes in it)
My philosophy on training started off with gaining as much strength as possible before focusing on bulking. My goal was to squat and deadlift 1.5x my bodyweight before going bodybuilding style.
I believe that the 5×5 regime forces us to be good at the basic movements first so that if I ever need to do more complex exercises, I’d already have the basics mastered.
It took me about a year to reach my first goal, which was to squat and deadlift my own bodyweight. Then, nearing the end of 2017, I tried changing to a five-day split workout regime focusing on medium to high volume workout.
The Five-Day Split looks something like this:
- Day 1: Chest and Back
- Day 2: Cardio and Abs
- Day 3: Legs
- Day 4: Cardio and Abs
- Day 5: Shoulders and Arms
- Day 6 & 7: Rest
Usually, I’ll run for 3km on the treadmill for my cardio workout at 60-70% capacity followed by doing a 15 minutes Abs Circuit Training. By the time I’m done with both, I’d be sweating and panting so hard and it’ll feel awesome!
My favourite exercise would be arms. I’d usually feel my arms pumped up the most after arms day. Other muscle groups don’t give me the same pumped-up feeling.
I don’t really use any gadgets that much as it distracts me from my “zone”. The only thing I keep track of are the weights I am using on an app called, Jefit.
I have never joined any competition before as I am doing this only for my own fitness and don’t intend to compete in the future.
I usually train alone as I always prefer to get into the “zone” where I am totally focus 100% throughout the workout session.
My training ritual starts off with me emptying my bowels first, looking at myself in the mirror, and giving myself a pep talk. I’d remind myself that I have a goal to achieve and I will not give up and that today, just like any other workout day, will be painful but worth it. I will not stop until every tissue in my body beg me for mercy.
Then, I put on my earpiece, start my Workout song playlist, which consist of A7X songs, some hard metal songs, some pop rock and punk rawk songs as well.
Then, I’d warm up my core temperature by running on the treadmill at 70% VO2 max for 5-6 minutes.
Then, I will do some upper body and lower body dynamic stretches. This routine helps with loosening some “sleeping” muscles due to whole day of sedentary lifestyle.
Then, I will do at least two sets of light weight exercises for the body part that I am targeting. For e.g, if I am doing squats, I will do 20-30% my Max Rep of 8-10 reps for two sets just to pre exhaust the muscles and get it firing up. Usually, if I do the exercises immediately before pre-exhausting the muscles, I tend to be less stable and could not feel my targeted muscles working.
I will always start with free weight compound exercises first as it requires the most focus, strength, and energy to do. Then, I will end off with isolation exercises by either using machines or dumbbells.
After the workout, I will take at least 10-15 minutes to stretch all my big muscles. If I don’t do this, the tightness and DOMS can be crazy the next few days.
I always keep a full one litre bottle with me and take three to four sips after every sets as I have a history of heat injuries as well.
Sometimes, I put in BCAA Musclepharm Essentials in raspberry flavor. It tastes great and even though it doesn’t really boost my energy like Redbull or Monster drink would, it still makes me feel secure knowing that I am not wasting my muscle protein stores if I workout hard.
After I’m done with my workout, I’d take a good 10 minutes warm bath and make my way home. Upon reaching home, I’d immediately have one serving of my homemade chicken thigh glazed with honey either air-fried or stir-fried with my Titan Whey Sg Protein shake and also about 1.5 serving of basmati rice.
Since I am always on the go and managing my side-business as well, I’d carry a bag which contains:
- A smaller bag containing towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, facial wash, body wash, cologne, and hair gel (gatsby pomade)
- A plastic bag for dirty clothes
- My Acer Aspire Es13 laptop and charger
- Another small bag which contains my powerbank, a few USB cables, powerplug, earpiece, earpiece buds, spectacle lens cleaner, spectacle clens cloth
- Two notebooks. One for personal meeting notes another for client/partners notes
- Two to three pens
- 2 Resistance bands 10kg and 15kg resistance respectively
- A few packs of tissue papers and wet tissue papers
- A medium sized cotton tote bag for my gym clothes and extra inner wears.
How do you keep going and push harder?
Motivation is always an issue even if I am working as a personal trainer in a gym before. The few things that will stop us from hitting the weights are usually:
- No time
- No energy
- No mood/Stress
- No access to a nearby gym
First of all, I have to manage my expectations because I was running a start-up business (which was not doing well), I have a full-time job, I was studying part-time, and I have some family commitments as well, not so much as I am not a breadwinner for my own family.
At times when I just can’t make it to the gym, I’d just do a simple bodyweight workout at home or a near-by park. Just to keep myself moving and muscles pumping. But surely these exercises and being away from the gym for a few days to weeks would mean that I have lost some muscle mass and strength as well.
In the end, I had to start from where I was again. The feeling really sucked big time.I felt like giving up a lot of times but one thing kept me trying again and again is because of my deep hatred towards my old-self. I’ve never liked my skinny, weak, and sick-ish person who I used to be.
One thing I believe helped me a lot is when I have my family to support my goals as well. I ensured my parents understood why I am doing all this and explained how they could help me in any ways.
My mum saw how passionate I was and because of that she helped a lot with meal preparations.
The best hack to get the fastest result is really to have a professional trainer or someone experienced to monitor and help you plan your workouts.
I realized after engaging a master trainer for myself, I was doing a lot of workouts in a way that was not very effective. What I have always been doing were correct just that it could have been done better to see faster results.
The biggest problem I had was going jobless for almost two years with debts looming in the corner. I had to rely on my parents help to get food and having gym memberships was not at the top of my mind.
I just did bodyweight workouts and jogged around the neighbourhood on alternate days.
It was hard losing all those muscles and feeling hungry most of the time too, but thank god, I did manage to find a job now.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My training today is picking up after being financially stable again. I have started a job back at my old workplace So, I am splitting my workouts to three day splits as a start.
My goals are to achieve 12-13 body fat % and obtain at least above 42% for muscle mass and I hope to maintain that as I reach the age of 50+ as well.
My plan has always been the same. I’ll do strength training three times a week and do cardio and abs on non-training days. Diet will not be too strict, but my goal is to focus more on getting enough protein, moderate carbs, small portion of fats, and 5-6 servings of veggies daily.
80% of the food will be home-made and the other 20% will be bought from food stalls or fast foods.
Currently, I am focusing on my startup in the religious niche as I see that there is a growing local market where people are willing to pay to learn about Islam and its practical solutions to modern problems.
I plan to build a small institute that will serve around 200-300 people a month to at least give me a profit around $SGD 10K a month.
Of course, I can never forget my passion for fitness as well. Although, I won’t have the time to coach people on a 1 to 1 basis, but I do tend to collaborate with Precision Nutrition by utilizing their nutrition and lifestyle coaching software called Procoach to offer online weight loss programs by next year.
Other plans for my personal life would be to continue working in my full-time job until I can safely earn $10k a month from my businesses I run and have at least $30k worth of savings. By then, I think it will be comfortable enough to quit my job and still have some emergency funds.
I am also planning to get married in 1-2 years. So, all my other plans might get affected as well during this phase.
If I could change anything if I were to start my fitness journey all over again, I’d start earlier so that I can fail earlier, and learn faster to get better results by now.
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I had injuries before as other fitness freaks would. Luckily, mine was still manageable.
There was once when I was doing a 90kg-barbell deadlifts, I popped my back and couldn’t walk properly or sleep well for a month. To make matters worse, during that time I was jobless and had to drive as a grab driver with a sprained back.
And another time was when I hurt my left wrist while doing bench press and it took almost two weeks to recover as well.
During these times, I reminded myself all the time great people who achieved great things had setbacks worst than mine and they never gave up, they find ways to work around the problems.
So, I endured. I took painkillers even though I know it is harmful for the liver. I took as much vitamins to improve recovery rate as well. I did dynamic stretching exercises and low impact bodyweight exercises to keep my metabolism high.
Then, as the pain subsides, I’d start with a weight that won’t feel painful and progress from there.
Ever since these few injuries, I do my best to reflect the causes of it and most of the time it is due to poor form and I was in a rush while doing each rep.
So, I’ve learned my lesson to always stay calm and focus 100% on each rep nowadays.
I work on 12 hour shifts since six years ago and I feel that it is easier to go to the gym during off days at non-peak hours. I can really take my time before and after the workout session, have a relaxing long bath, and still have a good meal at the nearby food court too.
When it comes to sleep, I ensure I’d get at least five to six hours of sleep. I realized seven hours of sleep makes me more tired maybe due to my sleep apnea problems. During off days, I’d take naps in the day. On working days, I’d usually have 5+ hours of sleep only. But, so far, my health and metabolism have been healthy.
On holidays, I’ll always ensure that the hotel I stay at will have a gym facility. If I go to villas or a homestay, I’d bring along my resistance bands. I try to not miss any workouts sessions wherever I am.
For tight muscles, I use the tennis ball or the lacrosse balls. I’ve been through some physiotherapy sessions for my leg and lower back so usually I will apply what the Physiotherapist had taught me before too.
The supplements I take for recovery are sold locally only called, Guarana Extract by Perfect Solutions. Although you can still find it on a lot of online websites.
Guarana acts as a natural organic pain-reliever and it also improves blood circulation, which helps with DOMS a lot.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
My diet has always been about being practical and being self-aware. For example, I use to try and count calories, but then I realized it was very hard.
Then, I tried managing my macros and micros using just the hands and a standard nutrition data I get online for measurement. It works better for me as I do not need to stress myself with numbers every time I eat, but no matter what, tracking and consistency is always important.
I’d eat the same type of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner so it is easier to control the portions.
For example, breakfast is always six whole eggs and two pieces of honey spread on toast and a cup of sweetened coffee using Stevia for sweetener.
Lunch is always about 1.5 to 2.0 cupped-hand size of basmati rice, 2-3 palm-sized of chicken thighs, 2 fist size veggies with either a sprinkle of teriyaki sauce or honey glazed sauce.
Snacks have always been eight ounces of one scoop of whey protein mixed with three tablespoons of oats, and dinner is the same as lunch.
Every Sunday, I’d measure my body composition with the weighing machine that has the body composition analyzer built in it, then I’d adjust my portions again according to the results I get from the body composition analyzer.
Usually, any changes for my carbs and protein intake will give a huge difference to my bodyfat %. Once, I went on an eating spree for two days straight eating buffet with lots of pieces of bread and sweet drinks, I gained 1% body fat in a week.
If I go out to parties or events where they serve huge portions of unhealthy food, usually I will start off with taking just a few portions first and then engage in conversations with the host or anyone I know. Then, when the host insist me to take more food, I’ll take another small portion and pretended like it was my 3rd or 4th round. Usually, they will fall for the trick.
It’s all about perspective and deception. Most of the time it works, but there was once when I was given a huge serving of rice and other dishes all in one plate infront of everyone seated on a dining table, of course, in that kind of situation, I would eat as much as I can and stop once I feel like I am getting full.
I do not have cravings nowadays because I ensure that I am never deficient of any nutrients. I used to crave for desserts and fast foods a lot. But ever since I take supplements containing fibers, vitamins, and minerals, I stop having cravings.
The only time I would eat unhealthy foods is only on special occasions like festive seasons, birthday parties, achieving a business goal, going on a special date with someone, etc.
I track my diet using my notepad app on phone. I usually use codes like “N” for normal portion. “U” for unhealthy portion, which usually means too much carbs and fats.
“LP-2/3/4” for Lack of protein and the numbers refer to how much more portion I need to make up for the day. “LC-2/3/4” Lack of carbs. “LHF-2/3/4” Lack of healthy fats. Usually referring to both Omega 3 and 6. “LFi-2/3/4” means Lack of FIber. “LMi-2/3/4” Lack of Micros. Usually referring to veggies.
So it will look like this on a typical day:
- Breakfast: N
- Lunch: LFi-2, LMi-3
- Snack: LP-2
- Dinner: LFi-2
So, meaning for that day, I’d not meet my daily requirement for fiber intake, protein intake, and veggies intake.
What has inspired and motivated you?
As I’ve said, starting out, I was just learning from Mike Chang and online websites like Stronglift.com and Bodybuilding.com articles.
The things they each there were enough to give the whole picture of exercising and dieting basics.
As I gained more experience, I started learning from fitness and diet experts and other master trainers personally found here in Singapore. Yes, I paid for their services.
At times, I also listen to podcasts by Mike Matthews, Dr John Berardi, and Ben Greenfield.
The best advice I ever received was from my Master Trainer, Kevin Chiak. He told me “You might not get the body you always wanted due to many factors and reasons right now. But, your will and passion to be better in fitness while having a big heart to help others be better as well is praiseworthy. Because of that I believe one day you will be one of the highly-respected and influential people in fitness and in your social network. Never give up on your fitness journey, and most importantly never give up hope, my friend.”
It made me teared up hearing this from a 50+ year old Ex-Singapore Bodybuilding Champion and a successful entrepreneur.
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
For people who are just starting out, the first thing they should do is to read sources from bodybulding.com. Whether it is to lose weight or gain muscles. So far, it is the only website that I know who speaks the truth and are unbiased to any type of fad trends.
Follow a type of routine for beginners and something that you can do safely and consistently. The most important thing here is to get into the habit of planning for the week ahead, having smart strategies for your exercise routines, and most importantly, turning up consistently.
For example, never plan a chest workout day right after an arms day. Always give yourself two days to recover before hitting the same muscle groups again.
Always take into consideration peak hours and your busy schedule. Don’t just blindly book a gym session on a day that you might not have enough time or the full energy to complete a proper workout at the gym.
Also, always have a plan B and C workout plan. For example, sometimes when the gym is full or the equipment you’d like to use is not available, have an alternative workout on standby.
Or even when you don’t have enough time to go to the gym, get yourself some dumbbells and pull up bar, and do a simple home workout.
Because once you’ve told yourself, “Maybe I’ll skip today’s gym session because I am busy” or “I’ll start the workout routine next week.”
Trust me. Skipping just one workout session will create a huge mindset block and you will quit working out forever. It happens to all of us.
So instead of skipping the one-hour session and not working out at all for the day, you can still workout at home. Just never miss a session. It is like a taboo.
Stupid Things I’ve Seen In The Gym:
- Doing fast repetitions with poor forms
- Using heavy weights and barely lifting it to maximum range, or worst, using the wrong muscle group
- Using a weight so light and just following through the motion with poor form while getting distracted with their phones
- Random workout routines. From arms to legs and chest workout. All done with poor form, wrong weight and wrong total number of repetitions and sets
How I combine bodybuilding/fitness with other sports:
Bodybuilding is a sport by itself. It can’t be used to train for other sports. For example, I am still serving the ARMY every year for my Reservist period.
We have to run 2.4km as part of our fitness test. Bodybuilders don’t train much on running. The concept is simple. To be good at something, we must do it many times and consistently better each time.
And, I can see many people with big ripped bodies not able to run as fast as those with lean bodies and not as muscular too.
The best hacks you have for life outside the gym:
There are no such thing as hacks. Just the right habits that I build over time. I still spend time with non-bodybuilders or non-fitness freaks and still able to workout consistently and eat well.
It is a lifestyle and the only thing we should start hacking is in our head – The way we think. The way we make decisions and plan our daily activities. It is called being mindful and having self-awareness.
Whatever things that I do or plan, I will always put my personal fitness and health as a priority.
From the things I eat, the types of food I buy, the “cut-off” time from socializing, family time, partying, playing games, watching Netflix, or doing work on my laptop, just so that I have time to hit the gym or to prepare my meals for the next day or to have enough sleep.
All of these things requires me to rewire my mindset and of course, having knowledge to begin with.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I am not taking clients right now, but I do answer questions and love to discuss about diet and exercise plans. Most common question I get is how to get rid of belly fat fast.
Usually I’d answer with one sentence, which is to “Start from your diet”. From there I can already filter those who are really serious or just wanted to test out the water.
90% of people who asked that question usually don’t apply what I explain either.
Where can we learn more about you?
I have a personal blog, TheLeanLife.sg. It’s not so much about fitness but rather a compilation of my experiences, thoughts, and journey to be better at what I am trying to accomplish in life, be it in business, studies, work, relationships, and fitness.
Ready to get really fit and inspired?
I’m Mads Phikamphon, founder of Bulk Hackers.
Here on Bulk Hackers we interview bodybuilders, personal trainers and fitness heroes. We ask them to share their stories and all their greatest hacks!
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