Pump Up Your Workout

24 March 2015

Make every move count with tips that help you work smarter – and harder – at your exercise sessions.


Why? Strengthen your core, and increase coordination and flexibility. Taekwondo focuses on kicking while Muay Thai offers cardiovascular and toning.

Do it right:

  • Stretch and warm up before class to gain greater hip flexibility – this comes in handy with pushing-type kicks and torso-twisting punches or jabs.
  • Correct posture is crucial. “You must train it above everything else first,” says Mitch Chilson, conditioning director at Evolve MMA. Strong stabiliser muscles help maintain good posture – try yoga’s Plank pose to develop your strength.
  • Never tense up during your workout. You need relaxed muscles to move quickly and fluidly. Agility is especially useful if you’re sparring with a partner.

TIP: Refuel after your workout with protein and carbs. “Your body needs to repair damage while the glycogen in your muscles needs to be refilled,” Mitch explains.



Why? Since you’re lifting and bearing your own weight for many tricks, like spinning and inverted poses, pole dancing tones your arms without adding bulk. It also helps build bone density which can help prevent osteoporosis. “Regular sessions will also give you shapelier thighs and hips, as well as stronger back muscles and abs,” says Eleanor Chia from Groove Dance School. “The workout also improves your co-ordination and flexibility,” adds Tania Chew from Bobbi’s Pole Studio Singapore.

Do it right:

  • Because so much muscular strength is needed for tricks, warming up properly is crucial. “Work on strength conditioning exercises like planks and crunches,” advises Eleanor.
  • It’s all about the correct body lines, according to Tania. “Keep your legs straight, toes pointed, stomach sucked in and butt clenched to double your toning and workout benefits.”
  • Avoid rushing into a trick for safety reasons. “Focus on isolating and engaging the correct muscles first,” says Eleanor, and “pay attention to your hand grips and body lines”, adds Tania.

TIP: Don’t work on the same trick for too long. Make sure you rotate moves or change sides every 10 minutes to avoid injuries due to overworked muscles.



Why? The conditioning workout – which comprises stretching and toning exercises done on a mat or on machines such as the reformer – strengthens your core, buttocks and thighs. ‘The machine-based classes make muscles work harder with varying resistance and adjustable bars to give your workout extra oomph’, says Claudel Kuek, director of PowerMoves Pilates in the Park.

Do it right:

  • Focus on your breathing. As you start each exercise, inhale and prepare. On every exhalation, contract your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. ‘Never hold your breath!’ Claudel says.
  • ‘Concentrate on every move, as this is a mind-body workout,’ says Daniel Dittmar, exercise physiologist and head instructor at Focus Pilates. ‘Or you may succumb to bad posture and form.’
  • Don’t tense your neck and shoulders, which works the wrong muscles, and don’t push your belly outwards during exercises. These mistakes will defeat the purpose of doing Pilates.

TIP: ‘You can incorporate Pilates principles into your life,’ says Daniel. Try tightening your core and tummy muscles as you sit at your desk or walk around.



Why? De-stress as you tone up. Different types of yoga have various added benefits; hot yoga is done in a heated room of 35 to 40 degrees Celsius so you can sweat out toxins, while yin yoga comprises passive poses held for at least a minute, making connective tissues stronger and more flexible.

Do it right:

  • Breathe slowly and deeply in every pose. This ‘allows your muscles to release tension’, says Hom Yoga instructor Katie Simpson.
  • Your knees, shoulders and back are most prone to hyperextension (where you move the muscle, joint or tendon beyond its normal limit). Never force your poses, and ‘engage your abs for support’, says Bikram Yoga City Hall instructor Tara Jimenez.
  • Don’t crunch your shoulders and neck in any pose. ‘The shoulder is an unstable joint,’ cautions Katie, so when you practise, keep your shoulder blades down and your chest lifted high.

Tip: Don’t rush to the shower right after your class as your body is still warm and your heart’s pumping hard. Rest in savasana (corpse pose) for five to 10 minutes to allow your body to integrate everything it has learnt.



Why? Dancing raises your heart rate, and give you a total body workout without overworking any one muscle. And if the choreography’s complicated, your mind will be hard at work too.

Do it right:

  • Use your ab muscles, “especially in dance workouts where you crunch your core muscles, like K-Pop dance classes”, says Yiwen Yong from Studio Wu. Don’t rely on bending your legs to get that down-beat rhythm.
  • Move with control. “Beginners often think they have to exert strength to train their muscles,” says Yiwen. “But muscles actually need to be tensed and released to get toned.” So stomping too hard or jerking abruptly can impact your back and knee or shoulder joints, leading to injuries over time.

TIP: Don’t worry if you have two left feet. You’re not training to go on stage. Dance workouts are all about self-expression and repetition – and you work out the moment you start moving.

Want to eat smart even when you’re out? http://www.thefinder.com.sg/body-soul/healthy-living/eat-smart-even-when-youre-out-socialising

By Madeline Lin, The Singapore Women’s Weekly, May 2014

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