SINGAPORE - Struggling to do more than 10 inclined pull-ups in your National Physical Fitness Award (Napfa) test? Or finding it tough to jump farther than 182cm to get the maximum points for standing broad jump?
Here are some tips from Dr Muhammad Luqman Abdul Aziz, a sport biomechanist at the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI), who works with national athletes from sports such as silat, fencing and shooting, on how students can improve their performance in the Napfa test while also reducing the chances of injury.
Dr Luqman, 37, also gave these tips to 16 Secondary 3 students from National Junior College (NJC) at SSI's Sport Biomechanics Laboratory, in celebration of National Biomechanics Day 2021 on Wednesday (April 7).
These movements and concepts can also be applied to other sports or exercises, he said, adding that students should also experiment with the movements and adjust the number of sets according to their needs and abilities.
NJC student Dong Jia Yi, 14, said she enjoyed the session and found it valuable as she can also apply the techniques to her own workouts.
"I learnt that I've been doing some things wrongly. Like when I'm doing sit-ups, I used to lie all the way back down but today I learnt that I shouldn't.
"I also learnt that I should keep my body straight while doing inclined pull-ups and not lift my hips first like I have been doing," said Jia Yi, who exercises for 30 to 60 minutes on three or four days a week.
Sit and reach
One main factor of this physical test is hamstring flexibility, said Dr Luqman, so students can try specific stretches that help with that, to improve their range of motion.
One example is by placing a towel at your hamstring and stretching your leg to a point of discomfort. Then, gently push your leg against the towel while holding it firm for a few seconds. After that, pull your leg towards you again.
Standing broad jump
The key to jumping far is to focus on the take-off velocity and angle.
To improve take-off velocity or speed, Dr Luqman suggested starting with a warm-up protocol that primes the body to jump. For example, get a partner to hold a resistant band against your waist as you jump forward.
Dr Luqman compared the movement to carrying three books first, then later carrying one and finding it easier, saying the resistance band trains the muscles to prepare the body for the jump so they feel looser.
To improve the take-off angle, he suggested looking ahead instead of down at the mat.
He said: "Your gaze might change the posture of your body and that might result in a different result.
"There's no exact point as to where to look, so try experimenting with different points and looking forward."
As students approach the turn, they should start turning their body as they pick up the beanbag so that they can push off easily while changing direction. This helps to save time instead of stopping in front of the beanbag, picking it up and then changing direction.
Sit-ups and inclined pull-ups
Dr Luqman likened the movements needed in these exercises to a spring, moving up and down in a controlled manner.
"When you go down, you must immediately come back up. You can't stay there, if not, the energy will dissipate and you can't use that same energy to come up again."
You should not relax your body too much as there has to be some level of tension to keep the movement controlled, he added.
To have that required controlled movement, one needs a stronger core as it makes the body more stable.
To strengthen the core, he suggested spine biomechanics professor Stuart McGill's Big Three exercises for core stability: the curl-up, side plank and bird-dog.