Fit And Fab

Building muscles with hard work

Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time, but rewards himself about once a fortnight with cheat meals, like zi char dishes.
Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time, but rewards himself about once a fortnight with cheat meals, like zi char dishes.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time.
Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time.
Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time.
Mr Ong exercises six days a week for up to two hours in the gym each time.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Bodybuilder Brendan Ongtells JoanChew whyhe cannot do barbell squats.

Q How has your exercise regimen changed over the years?

A I used to focus only on muscle groups that I thought would impress people, so I trained justmyupper body and focused heavily on my chest and arms. I did not train my legs and back until I picked up dragonboating in Republic Polytechnic.

I realised there wasmuchmore to training and incorporated different exercises into my workouts as I read online and watched videos.

Since then, I have been training every muscle group– essential for bodybuilding where you need the “total package”.

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A After I competed in the National Bodybuilding Championship in 2014, I had a slipped disc.

I had to stop training for some time, so all I did at home was play computer games and eat whatever I wanted.

I cut myself some slack as I was about to enlist in national service. My weight shot up to 89kg, which meant that I had gained close to 10kg in a month.

It was a low period for me– mentally and physically– so I told myself I needed to focus on my recovery and resume my usual lifestyle.

  • BRENDAN ONG

  • AGE: 21

    WEIGHT: 74kg

    HEIGHT: 1.7m

    Mr Ong has his older brother Jonathan, 26, to thank for setting him on the road to fitness.

    It was Jonathan who encouraged him to work out in secondary school, who gave him his first scoop of protein powder and who taught him how to exercise in the gym.

    Two weeks before the National Bodybuilding Championship in 2014, Jonathan signed Brendan up without his knowledge. Brendan had wanted to take part, but did not feel confident enough about his own body. He did Jonathan proud by coming up tops in the Classic Bodybuilding category and taking third spot in the Juniors Under 75kg category.

    Last month, Brendan distinguished himself in two categories at the NABBA WFF Singapore Muscle War, placing second and third.

    At first, he thought it was "weird" to stand onstage posing in a tiny piece of underwear but, later, he found himself enjoying the chance to show off the body he had worked so hard to transform.

    He wants to continue with bodybuilding for as long as he can. The bachelor lives with his parents and brother in western Singapore.

    Joan Chew

Q How has that injury affected you?

A I went back to the gym after a month of rest, but avoided exercises that would stress my lower back

. I gradually added more exercises to my workout when I felt stronger. Even up till today, I cannot do certain exercises such as deadlifts or normal barbell squats.

When I do certain rowing movements for my back, I have to find the correct angle so as not risk re-injury and I cannot use heavier weights like I used to.

I’ve seen a specialist and was told that if I injure it badly again, surgery would be needed. I still go for weekly physiotherapy.

Q What is your typical diet like?

A My diet differs on training and non-training days. I always start my day with a protein shake and eggs. On training days, I consume up to 2,400 calories, comprising mainly carbohydrates and protein, and keeping fat low.

On these days, sweet potatoes, chicken fillets, rice cakes, vegetables and cereal would cover themajority ofmymeals.

On non-training days, I consume up to 1,900 calories. I lower my carbohydrates, maintainmyprotein intake but increase my fats. I would have salmon, almonds, peanut butter, vegetablesand eggs.

I consume different supplements before and aftermyworkouts.

Q What are your indulgences?

A Zi char (Chinese home-style cuisine), hawker food and fast food.

I reward myself about once a fortnight with these cheat meals to keep my diet sustainable. Eating the same food every day can be quite difficult to maintain in the long run. Sometimes I have a McDonald’s ice cream to satisfy my sweet cravings.

Q What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your body?

A I would say that my back is my favourite part. I love training that muscle group and I see most improvement in it through training.

My calves are my least favourite body part. Not that I dislike training them, but I find it hard to make thembigger.

Q What is hardest about doing bodybuilding?

A It is to stay motivated and committed. This is a sport in which you need to be consistent with your training and nutrition.

I don’t have a coach or a team to push me to lead this lifestyle or to be this dedicated to the sport.

For example, bodybuilders like myself may take weeks to prepare for a show and we have to eat at a caloric deficit to lower body fat so that the physique looks more defined. Throughout this period, our strength and energy levels would decrease and while we may be looking our best, we are actually at our weakest. Food cravings would come up, but we have to stick to the game plan and not deviate from our goals.

Q Have you influenced others with your lifestyle?

A My family has become more health-conscious.

When we shop for groceries, I would be checking nutrition labels for my own food and it slowly becamea family habit to do so too.

We have been more active as a family by doing sports such as tennis. My brother and I also guide our mother on some exercises she pickedup watching online videos.

More of my friends have asked me how to lose body fat or what to eatand I share what I know, encouraging them to start with small changes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'Building muscles with hard work'. Print Edition | Subscribe