SQ 1 x Yu Neng Primary School: Introduction to Strength Training

We are super honored to have given a workshop at Yu Neng Primary School just this past week. It was amazing to see that a school has a gym setup available for their staff to use, and even more amazed by the interest the participants had towards strength training. We think this is super important because access to gym facilities will certainly help more people meet their physical activity needs!

who physical activity guideline, functional training singapore
150 minutes of aerobic exercise alone may not be good enough for you! The World Health Organisation (WHO) clearly recommends at least 2 days of “muscle strengthening activity”.

I know you hear us talking about strength training a lot. The reason is simple. It’s because there are lots of benefits to working on your strength, and it is necessary to keep yourself healthy. Many people do not know that. There are also people who think we emphasised strength training because we own a gym. That is actually not true. We started a gym because we know and see firsthand the benefits of strength training. Beyond that, we also see a need for a gym space that’s catered to beginners in Singapore.

Because an one-hour workshop is not enough for us to cover all the content we would like, we have compiled the questions we received as well as our responses below for you guys to look into at your own time.

How often should I go to the gym?

At least two days a week!

You are recommended to participate in strength training for at least two days a week. This is something that both the World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health advocates for. If this is the first time you heard of this, don’t worry. You are not alone.

A study conducted in the United Kingdom last year found that most older adults did not know that they are supposed to train their muscles. In fact, a lot of older adults think that gym exercises is dangerous or harmful for them. Well, this is not true.

If you are above 65 years old, you are advised to work on your muscles for at least three times a week.

In other words, the older you are, the more you have to visit the gym!

More is better, if you can support it

A article published by American Medical Association found that people who did double to quadruple the physical activity recommendation were healthier than those who only just met it. This was based of two big studies involving 116, 221 adults. So ya, more exercise is technically better.

Those who reaped the most benefits from exercise exercise between 300 to 599 minutes per week!

Amazing huh?

We have to caveat that if you are new to exercising, it is definitely not advisable for you to jump straight into five hours of exercise every week. It’s important that you take your time to ease into regular exercise, and allow enough time for your body to adapt and condition to your workouts!I am older than most people, is it safe for me to do strength training?

Can I go to the gym if I am older?

The answer is yes you can. To be more precise, you should be going at least thrice per week.

Strength training can help with your muscle strength, bone mineral density, flexibility, joint health (yes, you heard that right), reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis, chronic pain (as good as NSAIDs and paracetamol), hypertension, and even improve your cognitive function. A study in 2019 published that exercising for six months can improve your cognitive function by up to nine years.

To a large extent, exercise can reverse effects of aging.

Do I need to warm up?

Yes, you do need to warm up. For most parts, you can use the exercise that you are planning to perform as your warm up. In fact, the closer your warm up is to the activity you do, the better it is.

For example, if you are doing chest press as your exercise for the day, you can use the chest press itself as a warm up. Simply start with a lighter weight and perform anything from six to twelve reps. If you want to get a few more reps in to make sure you are sufficiently warm, go for it! There is no hard and fast rule on how much is enough.

Another warm-up that you can do for bench press is push ups. Because the overlap in muscle utilisation between push ups and chest press, push ups do work as a warm up.

You do not have to jump on the treadmill or stationary bike to get the heart rate up before your gym workout. However, if you would like to, by all means go ahead.

What should I do for my cool downs?

This will surprise most of you but the answer is nothing. Yes, you heard that right. You don’t need to do anything for cool down after an exercise session.

There are many studies on it and I’ll leave you with one:

Most evidence indicates that active cool-downs do not significantly reduce muscle soreness, or improve the recovery of indirect markers of muscle damage, neuromuscular contractile properties, musculotendinous stiffness, range of motion, systemic hormonal concentrations, or measures of psychological recovery. It can also interfere with muscle glycogen resynthesis. In summary, based on the empirical evidence currently available, active cool-downs are largely ineffective for improving most psychophysiological markers of post-exercise recovery, but may nevertheless offer some benefits compared with a passive cool-down.

I know it’s a lot of chim language but the summary is that there is no benefit to doing a cool down. It doesn’t help with how sore you feel tomorrow. It doesn’t improve recovery. It doesn’t help with how stiff you will be.

It doesn’t even help psychologically!

Save your time, skip the cool down. But if you really really want to do it, by all means go for it!

At what age can my child go to the gym?

Children are recommended to start strength training from when they are six years old. This can be as simple as push ups or squats. The recommended frequency is thrice per week.

When it comes to weight training, yes children can also lift weights. Many studies have confirmed that weight training is safe for children. As long as the gym programme is suitable for the child and they have enough supervision, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to workout in the gym. When in doubt, seek professional help!

Do note that most gyms have their own policy when it comes to admitting children. From what we understand, ActiveSG gyms only allow children above 12 years old to enter.

How many sets or repetitions should I do for each exercise?

This is a widely discussed topic and there is a lot of literature on what is ideal. What we recommend is to focus on what feels most natural or comfortable for you. Most of us would have our own preferences to if we prefer to lift heavier weight or if we prefer to lift more repetitions.

As long as you performed enough repetitions to reach a certain level of exertion, you will be okay! When it comes to exertion, it is best if you familiarise yourself with RPE aka rate of perceived exertion.

In simpler terms, it means how tired you are from completing the set.

RPE, rate of perceived exertion

A RPE of 10 refers to that you cannot perform anymore reps. In other words, buay sai liao. If you still can do more, it’s probably anything from a 8 to 9.

When training alone, especially with free weights, pushing yourself to a 10/10 may seem scary. This is perfectly normal. In this case, you will aim to reach a RPE of between 7 to 9 for each exercise.

If you are unable to achieve that, you will be looking at either increasing your weight or increasing the number of repetitions you perform to get there.

When it comes to how many sets or reps you should do, as a healthy regular adult, the biggest limitation is time. If you are time tight, you would want to lift on the heavier side because this means you can finish your workout faster. If you do have the luxury of time, then you can go for a lot more repetitions (also known as high volume workout).

The most popular set/reps combinations are:

  • 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps
  • 5 sets of 5 reps, made popular by StrongLifts
  • 5 sets of 3 reps

If you are new to exercising, 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps is definitely the way to go.

If you would like to push for strength (i.e., increase how much load you can carry), go for 5 sets of 3 reps. Do note that at such a low rep range, the amount of weight you will be lifting would be considerably high. Therefore, good technique and also good programming becomes imperative.

Is Zumba or strength training better for weight loss?

In the long run, strength training. This is because muscle burns more calorie than fat. With strength training, you are increasing the amount of muscle tissue in your body, which will increase how many calories you burn day to day by simply existing!

metabolism, basal metabolic rateThe calories you burn by simply existing is known as basal metabolic rate. It refers to how much calories you burn at rest and it a big part of your daily energy expenditure. This is why strength training is the preferred exercise for weight loss.

You can burn calories with Zumba of course but physical activity only accounts for 15 to 30% of all your energy expenditure. In other words, to burn calories through exercise is extremely inefficient!

With this in mind, the fastest way to get your body to burn existing fats is to achieve a calorie-deficit diet. This means to eat less than what your body needs to function. By doing so, you are forcing your body to tap into existing reserves (e.g., fat), which eventually lead to weight loss.

It may sound simple but weight loss is an extremely complex process. It is always advisable to work with a professional dietitian or evidence-based personal trainer to ensure you get the best results.

How much protein do I need to take for best results?

More is better. The latest research shows that you should consume up to 1.5 grammes of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

Let’s say I am 70kg. Then I’ll be getting the best strength gains if I consume 105g of protein per day. This protein can come from any source. It could be meat, eggs, tofu, protein shakes, it doesn’t matter!

If you are 50kg, then you will be looking at consuming about 75g of protein for best strength gains. Anything more than that will not benefit you. Anything less will mean you will get less optimal gains but still can gain strength!

Do note that the industry standard recommendation is 1 gramme of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. So if you think 1.5 grammes is too much of a hassle, aim for just 1g for a start.

What should I do if I am injured?

Seek professional help!

You would have probably heard of RICE or RICER — rest, ice, compress, elevate, referral (aka professional help). However, this is outdated as most of the latest studies do not support icing and (excessive) rest.

sports injuries, icing, rice

What you want to do is PEACE and LOVE. Yes, it’s important that you should “rest” for the first couple of days. However, excessive rest has been shown to delay recovery. This is why rest is replaced with protect.

The PEACE and LOVE approach is more holistic because it covers return to sport. This means getting people from injured state back to recovered state. This can be achieved through loading and exercise. Again, when in doubt, seek professional help!

I have spinal osteoarthritis, can I exercise?

Yes you can! We mentioned earlier that exercise helps with chronic pain and is better than NSAIDs and paracetamol for both hip and knee osteoarthritis. Beyond just helping with pain, exercise can help delaying cartilage damage. Did you also know that there are pain medications that mimic the effects of exercise to provide relief?

Exercise is in itself indeed medicine.

Specific to spinal osteoarthritis, a study in 2020 found individuals who are sedentary have more degeneration in their thoracic and lumbar disc compared to people who are active. What is amazing about this study was that it tracked participants over 14 years. Simply put, we know that being inactive leads to more degeneration in the long term.

Moral of the story? Exercise is good for you. Exercise can help you reduce the effects of degeneration in your spine!

If you have further questions or you find any of the above explanations unclear, please do reach out to us via the form below. We promise we will get back to you!

For those with existing pain or injury, we also have a recovery guide that we are happy to send you. Just reach out to us and we’ll send one across to you.

Thank you!


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.