Fit And Fab

Gymnastics isn't just for gymnasts

Gymnastic strength training helps fitness enthusiasts who want to increase their flexibility, says Daniel Chan. Ng Wan Ching reports

The key to improvement is consistency, says gymnastic strength training coach Daniel Chan, who makes time to exercise, even when on holiday.
The key to improvement is consistency, says gymnastic strength training coach Daniel Chan, who makes time to exercise, even when on holiday.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Gymnastics strength training push(arm) series
Gymnastics strength training push(arm) seriesST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Handstand series
Handstand seriesST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Leg strength series
Leg strength seriesST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Flexibility series
Flexibility seriesST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Q How did you get into gymnastic strength training?

A By chance. I attended a seminar on the exercises and training syllabus based on Christopher Sommer's work as a United States national gymnastics coach for 40 years.

As I could not find any gym here that teaches this, my business partners and I decided to open one.

Q Gymnasts are known to have tremendous strength, yet they are highly flexible.

A Our gym, which teaches gymnastic strength training, helps fitness enthusiasts who have lost their flexibility in pursuit of strength alone.

  • Bio Box

  • Age: 41

  • Weight: 75kg

  • Height: 1.78m

  • Mr Chan is the co-founder, creative director and gymnastic strength training (GST) coach of BodyTree GST, Singapore's first GST studio for adults. At 17, he started weight training and switched to pilates in 2000. He then progressed to gymnastic strength training in March last
    year. The bachelor constantly encourages his family and friends to lead a healthy lifestyle and work on their strength and mobility.

  • Fitness Routine


  • Gymnastic strength training
    - Push (arms) series:
    Pressing exercises to develop chest, shoulder, arm, hip and glute muscles.
    - Handstand series:
    Conditioning to build upper-body strength, total body coordination and wrist joint strength.


  • - Pull (arms) series:
    Pulling exercises to develop the latissimus dorsi ( or lats), arm, abdominal, hip and back
    extensor muscles.
    - Leg strength series:
    To strengthen legs for daily functions, and to enhance sports performance and prevent knee injuries.


  • - Push (arms) series
    - Handstand series.


  • - Pull (arms) series
    - Leg strength series


  • - Pull (arms) series
    - Handstand series


  • - Flexibility series:
    Drills focusing on joint mobility and strength for injury prevention.


  • 10km run from Boon Keng Road to
    Fort Road and back.
    * Each session usually includes five
    to six strength exercises done in five
    sets of 10 to 60 repetitions.

Q How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?

A The key to improvement is consistency. My exercise routine is part of my lifestyle and I would make time to exercise even when on vacation.

Q What is the biggest sacrifice you have made in the name of fitness or diet?

A Waking up at 5am every day to work out for 45 minutes before I start work at 7am.

Q How do your friends and family view your active lifestyle?

A My family members see me as their physical therapist or "sinseh".

If a family member complains of an ache or pain, I will assess (them) and recommend exercises to do.

Q How extensive is your collection of sports-related paraphernalia at home?

A I converted a room into a gym - installed full-length mirrors on two walls, a sound system, rubber mat flooring, gym equipment and various props and accessories.

Q What is your secret to looking so fabulous? 

A I train regularly and eat well-balanced meals. I also avoid sugar, because sugar increases insulin levels, slows down the metabolic rate and causes fat storage.

I go for facials once a month, and have bird's nest soup once a week.

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

A Yes, I was super skinny in secondary school, and was nicknamed the Stickman or the Skeleton man. It prompted me to begin weight training. Also, there was a girl I fancied in school but she liked a boy who was more well-built. After my O-level examinations, I was determined to go back to school three months later with a buff body, when we were due to collect our results.

For those three months, I worked very hard to get a buff body. I got the body, but realised that the more important thing is to be healthy for myself and not for anyone else.

Q What is your diet like?

A I have chicken or pork congee for breakfast and chicken breast and a salad for lunch. For dinner, I eat noodles or a rice dish, such as chicken rice or economy rice. I try not to eat after 9pm on weekdays. Sometimes, I have some dark chocolate - I have a freezer full of it.

But I'd eat anything on weekends.

Q What are your indulgences?

A Dark chocolate, nasi lemak, laksa and XL crispy chicken cutlet.

Q What do you do to relax?

A I like watching movies and having dinner gatherings with friends and family. I love food!

Q What are the three most important things in your life?

A Family and friends, as well as work and training. I adhere to my mentor Ron Fletcher's philosophy: Movement is life, life is movement.

Ron, who died in 2011, was a first-generation disciple of Joseph Pilates, the founder of pilates.

Most people are so busy working that they neglect their bodies. Without realising it, they slowly lose their mobility and are unable to enjoy the life that they worked so hard for.

Q Do you think you're sexy?

A I think I'm more charismatic than sexy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Gymnastics isn't just for gymnasts'. Subscribe