30-year-old Ivan Low is almost always praised about his body.
Said Ivan, an Admin Officer, “Basically, everyone around me gives me comments about my body. They may say, you look good, you look fit or you are very muscular.”
A good body does not come without time and effort
But Ivan, who stands at 163cm tall and weighs 56kg, quickly added that having a good body doesn’t come without taking the time and effort to achieve one. And he is not shy either, to admit that he puts in plenty of work to achieve the body that he currently has.
Ivan has a pretty intense workout regime for five days a week and each day, he targets a different set of muscles. For example, he will work out his chest and calves on Mondays, and focus on his back and abs on Tuesdays. Wednesdays will focus on the legs & calves as well as some cardio, while Thursdays are reserved for the shoulders and abs. And finally, on Fridays, Ivan spends time working out on his arms and calves.
In all, he does a variety of strength training and cardio-based exercises weekly, including incline bench and dumbbell flat bench workouts, push-ups, hanging leg raises, wide grip pull-ups, barbell curls, pushdowns and one-arm extensions.
Ivan’s favourite exercises include squats, skull crushers (lying down whist lifting heavy weights over the head) and viper exercises (involving hanging from a chin-up bar).
Ensures that he does not overdo his exercise
He ensures that he does not overdo his exercising though, by limiting his daily workout to roughly 30 to 40 minutes. Said Ivan, “It’s better to work out at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time.” That’s because in this way, the body would not be likely to suffer burnout and overexertion.
At the same time though, the gym enthusiast ensures that he continues to stay interested and engaged in the exercise by selecting something that he actually enjoys doing – especially when it comes to cardio exercises. Said Ivan, “That way, it’s not just about lifting. I can have both my cardio and strength training.”
His dream has been to have a six-pack body
When did this former runner become so involved in keeping himself fit? He admits that since his teenage days, his dream has been to have a six-pack body, as he finds it cool to be “checked out” by people. Said Ivan, “I think a six-pack body looks very good. I want everyone to have a glance at me. I want my presence to be felt as I walk past people – and that’s the one and only thing that got me started” (in gym workouts).
Added Ivan, “So I then told myself that one day, I will train to get a six-pack. But I didn’t want to be so big till I could enter bodybuilding contests, because I am very short in terms of height.”
So after he completed his National Service, Ivan decided to finally act upon his dream and signed up for a gym membership. Since then, he has been making regular trips to the gym – and his dream has finally come true.
However he said that towards the end of 2010, he wanted to try something new, so he took up running – and quickly rose, to become one of Singapore’s top marathoners.
Now though, Ivan has cut down on his running and is focusing more on gym workouts again, because he feels that these are less time consuming than distance running. Nowadays, he runs for leisure. Said the former top runner, “For a long run, you need about two and a half hours to build mileage. But at the gym, I only spend a maximum of 40 minutes there and go all out with high intensity exercises, so I can save half the time.”
Maintains a relatively strict diet
To complement his gym regime and maintain his body, Ivan also follows a relatively strict diet. For example, he eats egg whites with oatmeal & banana for breakfast. Lunch may be chicken breast with rice and plenty of vegetables, while dinner could be lean meat with vegetables.
Moreover, Ivan always makes it a habit to prepare his meals himself at home too, rather than consuming the less healthy local hawker fare. For example, when this interview was conducted during lunchtime at a hawker centre, I chowed down a bowl of wanton noodles, but Ivan didn’t order any food, saying that he would be eating his healthy lunch later at home.
Has a sweet tooth
However, despite all of his healthy eating efforts, Ivan admitted that he has a sweet tooth – and occasionally caves in, especially when it comes to cakes. He tries to eat cakes only on days after a hard workout though, so that he can afford the calories. But there are still times when he can’t resist.
Said Ivan, “I get tempted by cakes and sweet stuff easily. Like the other day, I was supposed to be having coffee at Ya Kun Kaya Toast, when I saw a Twelve Cupcakes shop directly opposite. So I bought one to eat with my coffee! It was totally random.”
He added, “Substituting cakes with fruits cannot satisfy me. Fruits don’t taste nice leh. But I do try to eat plenty, because they contain fibre and nutrients, which I know are good for my body.”
Nevertheless, from the look of his six-pack, which is the envy of his family and friends, Ivan is doing well in the diet front and keeping his sweet tooth at bay too.
Go all out during your workouts
What tips does Ivan have, for people who want to get fit and start a strength training exercise regime?
He said, “You need to go all out during your workouts. Concentrate hard on these. Try to imagine that you need to finish the set in order to make someone you love, stay – if not, he/she will leave you.”
“Also concentrate on your muscles at play. Feel them being activated as you go through your workout. Just remember to have a solid workout plan and a solid diet, and then you’ll be set towards making great gains,” Ivan continued.
Do not lift heavy weights that you cannot manage
The gym enthusiast also advised people not to suddenly lift heavy weights if they cannot manage it. It is not true that the heavier the weight is, the better it is. “If you try and carry a weight that you can’t control, you will be out of form and the appropriate muscles cannot be targeted. You may also get injured,” Ivan said.
To determine that the weight is appropriate, Ivan suggests that people should be able to lift the weight with a good form and not struggle. But at the same time, if people are having no trouble at all with lifting the weight, it is clearly too light.
Squat a maximum of 1.5 times your body weight
When doing squats, Ivan recommended that you should squat a maximum of 1.5 times of your body weight, sticking to one to two reps. “For example, for me, I am 56kg, so I would carry a total of 80kg, including the barbell, which weighs 20kg on its own,” he said.
If the weight is too heavy, Ivan adds that it can be very uncomfortable as you won’t be able to stand up properly and you would be shifting around in a very awkward position with the weight on your back.”
Would never consider plastic surgery
However, despite all his efforts in maintaining a strong and fit body, the gym enthusiast would never consider plastic surgery to enhance himself, though. In fact, when I had asked him this question, he was completely taken aback and stunned.
Said Ivan, “I believe in being natural and not implanting anything. I think you should make yourself look good via natural and not artificial means.”