State Of Fitness Singapore

Helping You Achieve that "OPTIMAL STATE"

Elite support for Elite Athletes

This was back in 2013, at the 2nd Singapore Sports Institute Symposium. I had just presented on development of strength in youths through the various maturational stages. I gave a brief interview to The New Paper.

Elite support for Elite Athletes


Coach Sofyan Sahrom explained their strategy to help these athletes get back to their peak performance after training curbed for almost two years by NS. -TNP
Sazali Abdul Aziz

Sun, Jul 14, 2013
The New Paper

National Football academy (NFA) midfielder Mahathir Azeman will be taking a leave of absence from school to play for the U-17 side of Brazil’s Boavista football club.

SINGAPORE – It’s A tough task for the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI).

But the body will work closely with coaches in an attempt to get elite male athletes under the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) programme back up to speed once they complete serving their National Service (NS).

On the sidelines of SSI’s annual symposium Thursday morning, SSI strength and conditioning coach Sofyan Sahrom explained their strategy to help these athletes get back to their peak performance after having their elite training curbed for almost two years by NS.

“The coaches and the SSI sports science team will see where the athlete is (after completing NS),” said Sofyan.

“These athletes would most likely have a sort of maintenance programme to keep themselves in a certain physical condition while they serve NS.

“So once they finish serving, the coaches and the SSI sports science team will work together to figure out the best gameplan.

“It will depend on their sport, but if the athlete has that maintenance programme during NS, the jump won’t be that great.”

More difficult

He added that a return to peak performance will be more difficult for athletes in more skill-based sports like bowling, where hours of practice have to be clocked.

But Singapore Sports School track and field head coach Ralf Iwan warned that there is a possibility some athletes would miss out.

“It is quite severe, this break for the boys,” said the German, who has more than 17 years of coaching experience and joined the Sports School last July.

“I hear coaches complaining, but this is out of their control. They’ve got to work around it.

“They’ve built up the athletes to a certain level, fair enough, and there will be a dip (in performance during NS).

“Then some of them will return, some will just vanish. That’s the reality, you know.”

Iwan gave an example of one of his former athletes, former German national pole vault junior record holder Lars Borgerling.

“Imagine… He jumped a 5.62m when he was supposed to go the army,” said Iwan.

“If I were to send him away for two years, hardly touching a pole, he would have come back with a 5.2m maybe.

“But by that time, his fellow competitiors, internationally, would have progressed from 5.60m to about 5.80m. So the gap is big.”

Iwan added that track and field athletes would need about a year of intensive training to get back up to speed, if they missed two years due to a disruption like NS.

But he agreed with Sofyan that having a basic maintenance programme during NS was key.

At last Thursday’s symposium, Singapore Sports Council (SSC) chairman Richard Seow annouced in his opening remarks that the SSI would offer academic scholarships for students interested in taking up sports-science related programmes in university.

Details on the academic scholarship and research grants are still being finalised, but the SSI, which comes under the SSC, will announce them later this year.

On Tuesday, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck and SSI executive director Fabian Lim promised that male elite athletes under the spexScholarship programme would be aided in their attempts to get back to peak performance.

The $40 million programme is set to begin in September, with about 60 athletes chosen from 218 nominations spread across 28 sports.

Hanging Tough


The Pull-Up is one of the oldest muscle-building exercises in existence. One can even go as far to say humans were born to do this exercise as the ability to pull one’s body up is definitely an asset. Swimmers, sailors and gymnasts are some athletes where their pull-up ability has a direct impact on their sports, but this does not mean it should be neglected by other athletes. Pull-Up should be a staple to any exercise routine regardless of fitness level.

P.S – Too bad the Singapore Army took out this SUPERB exercise. 

Benefits of the Pull-Up

The benefits of the pull-ups are tremendous. Pull-ups, when combined with push-ups

(which we will cover in future issues) give you a complete upper body workout. The best part is

– these two bodyweight exercises are extremely safe and require no gym equipment at all!

Pull-ups are a form of compound exercise that trains the largest muscle of the human torso —the latissimus dorsi or more commonly known as “the wings”. Compound exercises refer to exercise which involves more than one muscle group and joint. This is aptly called so as the muscle runs from the armpits and spans around the back like a large triangular fan. Apart from working “the wings”, other muscles such as the trapezes, rear deltoids (back of the shoulders), teres group muscle, rhomboids (upper back) and grip strength (forearms muscles) are also worked.

Another interesting fact which few people realise is – pull-ups, when done with palms facing inwards, is also the best bicep exercise known to man. The pull-up works the biceps through two joints, the elbow and the shoulder. Not convinced? Consider this example of an

80kg man doing pull-ups. Despite his body weight, his biceps are working to assist in lifting his

full body weight through the full range of motion. Compare this to a barbell curl. Simply amazing!

Tight Shoulders

Excited to do the pull-up? Before getting started, an athlete must understand the concept of tight shoulders. Essentially, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint (which we will also cover in future issues) that not only keeps your shoulders tight and safe; it also helps to strengthen the stabilizer muscles of your shoulder, otherwise known as the rotator cuff. To

keep it tight, all you need to do is pull your shoulder socket down and lightly squeeze your armpit. (See Figure 2) The more you practice this, the longer you can keep your shoulders tight. The difference can be seen in the pictures below.

Loose Shoulders

Figure 1 – Loose Shoulders: See that shoulders are close to the ears

Tight Shoulders

Figure 2 – Tight Shoulders: Once you successfully keep your shoulders tight by “pulling your shoulders down”. You should be able to see a large gap between the ears and the shoulders.

Grip Position

The grip position, be it the overgrip(palms face forward) or the undergrip (palms face torwards you) used for pull-ups do not really matter much. Both offers different training benefits and should be mixed and used in any training program. However, it is recommended that the overgrip be used first when learning and developing the base strength for the pull-up.

Doing the Pull-Up

1)   Grab hold of the pull-up bar with a shoulder width overgrip. The width of the grip can vary slightly and it is perfectly acceptable should you need to take a slightly wider grip.

2)   Start Position: Keep the whole body straight (by tensing the body) and slightly squeeze your feet together. This helps to keep the body straight and strong. Remember to keep the shoulders tight.

3)   During the Exercise: Bend at the elbows and shoulders while keeping your head and neck straight and neutral. Keep the body and shoulders tight. Do not use momentum and resist the urge to swing.

4)   End Position: The chin has clearly passed the bar with the head and neck neutral straight and facing forwards.

What if you are unable to do the pull-up?

If you are unable to do the pull-up, it is recommended that you work backwards and spend some time developing your base strength first. Resist the urge to quickly move forward. While there are many who believe that other exercises such as the lat pulldown machine can help, the best way to develop the pull-ups is by doing pull-ups. Below are recommended exercises to help develop the base strength for pull-up.

Half Pull-Ups (Sticking Point)

If your are strong enough to hold on to the bar for at least 1 minute and bend the elbows close to 90 degrees for a minimum of 20 times, then the half-pull-up, also known as training your sticking point, will help you.

Adopt the same starting position as the pull-up. Bear in mind that you may need someone or something to help you get to the 90 degree position first. This will be your starting position. You will then pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, this is considered one repetition. Initially, you may only be able to do a few reps. However, do keep on practicing until you can perform 3 sets of 20. Resist the urge to try full pull-ups at this point. As you naturally

get stronger doing the Half-Pull-Ups, your range of motion will naturally increase and you will be able to do the full pull-ups easily.

Supported / Assisted Pull-Ups

This variation attempts to train the athlete in the full range of motion of the full pull-up but with a much lesser weight. Adopt the same starting position as described above. The difference now is to either bend the knee or have a partner hold on to your feet. If you’re training alone, keep the legs straight and place it on a box in front of you. Do not bend at the hips but use the legs as a lever to assist in your pull-up instead.

Inclined Pull-Ups

This variation is very similar to the supported pull-up but at a much lower height and at a different angle. This is the starting position. Begin the exercise by squeezing the upper back first, followed by bending the elbows until your chest is touching the bar. This is the end position.

Advanced Pull-Up exercises

Once you can successfully execute 3 sets of 15 full pull-ups, it is time to spice up your pull-up routine with more difficult variations. Try different grips – wide and close. Once you have mastered the different variations, why not try one handed pull-ups? This is where one hand holds the bar, while the other hand holds on to the wrist. You may even want to try the one arm pull-ups –where you pull the body up with only one hand.

Despite the huge potential benefits of the pull-ups, it is often overlooked. It is normal to go to a gym and see people working out on the lat pull-down machine and various back exercise machine. But now you now know better and are equipped with the knowledge of the most powerful back builder. Go forth and master the Pull-ups!



Yours in Fitness

Sofyan Sahrom

Training for the 2.4km – Decently Easy way?

2.4km is probably one of the hardest station/event in the Individual Physical Proficency Test. While passing it has become easier under the new IPPT system. It is still a tough event for most of us. Especially for those of us who are heavier (whatever the reason).

Below is a training system to help tackle the IPPT. It is intended to be a progressive and relatively easy to moderate (in difficulty) and intended to be done over a period of 8 to 10 weeks. If you have less than that, you might have to make changes to the program.

The program is based on 3 stages and very specific benchmarks or goals. You aim is to reach the goals of each stage before progressing to the next stage. The whole objective is for you to slowly adapt to it and slowly improve over the 8 to 10 weeks. It is designed to not take more than 30 minutes per session (about 3 times a week).



Know your own health: – Are you ready to train. Go and get a medical clearance if you need to

Know where you stand: – Find out how long it takes for you to run 3km (NON-STOP). Speed is NOT important. Slow Jog or Walk if you need to, as long as you do NOT stop and complete the 3km. If it takes your 21 minutes to complete the 3km so be it. Also try to be consistent throughout that 3km. Once you have your time, divide it by 3. That is your average time per kilometre and per. It indicates your current speed and capability
Example: It took me 21 minutes and 30 seconds to run 3 km at a moderately hard pace (absolutely no stopping). I could probably run faster but might need to stop or slow down if I do. So my pace is 7:10 per km.

Find out the passing mark for your IPPT. Then find out the pace you need to run per kilometre.

Example: To pass (or whatever your goal is) I need to run at a pace of 5:00 per km to achieve 12 minute timing for 2.4km.


The objective of this phase is to build the base endurance. I encourage you to run about 3 times a week for about 20 to 30 minutes. During each of the 3 sessions, select one of the following to do (you cannot repeat for more than 2 consecutive session). Option 1 and 2 must be done at least once a week.

Option 1 (LSD): Run 3 km and try to beat your previous time. Aim to improve by 10 (minimum) to 20 seconds (very good). The idea here is to be consistent throughout the whole 3 km.

Option 2: Run 3 sets of 1km. Take your current pace and reduce it by 25% (rounded down to the nearest 5 seconds). This will be your target. Your rest period will be half of that time (rounded down).

Examples: Your current pace is 7:10 per km. Therefore your target is 5:20 per km. After every 1km you are allowed a rest period of 2:40 before you have to start your next set. This is probably be more painful than Option 1 and more time consuming

Option 3: Burpees: Find out how many burpees you can do in 1 minute. Divide that by 3 and minus 3-5 burpees. Perform that amount of burpees for 20 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest. This will be one set. Perform at least 12 sets up to 30 sets.

Example: I can perform 39 burpees in 1 minute. That means I can execute about 13 burpees in 20 seconds. However I reduce it by 3 to make it 10. There I will perform 10 burpees in  20 seconds, rest for 20 seconds before repeating it for at least 12 sets.

STAGE 1 should take between 6 to 15 sessions (depends on your fitness). STAGE 1 ends once you are able to run at a pace that is about 40 to 50 seconds slower than your passing pace.


The objective of this phase is to improve the speed and more important your lactate tolerance. Similar to Stage 1, you should dedicate about 3 sessions a week, each about 20 to 30 minutes.

Option 1 (LSD): Similar to Stage 1, you should try to run 2.5km (yes 2.5) and 3 km at a constant pace, try to improve your pace by 5 (minimums) to 15 seconds each time.

Option 2 (Interval): Run 4 sets of 600m OR 6 sets of 400m. Find out what is the pace you need to run the 400m and 600m and then do it. You are allowed half that time for your rest period. For example assuming that I need a pace of 5:00 per km,that means I will need to run 400m is 2:00 with a 1:00 rest and 600m in 3:00 with a 1:30 rest.

Option 3: Run 3 sets of 1km. Take your current pace and reduce it by 25% (rounded down to the nearest 5 seconds). This will be your target. Your rest period will be half of that time (rounded down).

STAGE 2 should take between 6 to 10 sessions (depends on your fitness). STAGE 2 ends once you are able to run at a pace that is about 5 to 10 seconds slower than your passing pace.


This will be the shortest phase and should take you a max of 4 to 5 sessions. Basically this stage consist mainly of performing the 2.4km test or 2 sets of 1.2 km with a max rest period of 1:30 to 2:!0 minutes of rest.

Keep performing it until you reach your target timing.


Hope the training program above helps you. Remember it is not meant to be a shock intensive short term program (it can be, but it will be very painful). Try to allocate 8 weeks for it and plan ahead.


All the best.


Yours in Fitness

Sofyan Sahrom

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