At His Style Diary, we believe that looking good and being stylish don’t necessarily have anything to do with owning an expensive wardrobe full of the latest designer collections. While understanding your body type and knowing how to dress to flatter it help, nothing beats having a fit and healthy-looking body.
Keeping fit has become an important aspect in most men’s daily routines; a gym membership, or some sort of fitness regimen is de rigueur for any self-respecting gentleman. It doesn’t matter if you are into hard-core bodybuilding, CrossFit, long-distance running, soccer, yoga or Pilates, the point is that there is no excuse for anyone not to commit to a regular fitness regime.
If you’re guilty of being a couch potato and have no idea how to make exercise a part of your life, HSD’s monthly Fitness Profile personalities will, hopefully, inspire you to do something positive, and help you kick-start your fitness journey. These role models, who have made fitness a part of their life, share personal stories and tips on their fitness achievements, and how they’ve successfully committed to it. If they can do it, so can you.
This month, we are excited to feature Benedict Koh, who is overall champion of the prestigious competition, Fitness Super Star 2018. An SMU undergraduate, Benedict has always been serious about building his fitness and carving out a strong, well-defined physique for himself.
If you want to reach fitness nirvana, read the exclusive interview he did with HSD. It’s full of practical tips on how to build up and stay on top of the fitness game. Follow him on Instagram @benthegymrat to continue being motivated.
WT: How long have you been body-building? How did you start?
BK: I started at the age of 18 – it’s been 7 years. When I was 17, I often accompanied my brother to the gym. But everything really started when I was in Ngee Ann Poly’s cheerleading squad. Our coach would force us to go to the gym, so that we could be stronger. While other cheerleaders were training to get stronger, I was trying to build a more aesthetic physique. I also started reading about fitness and bodybuilding and I’ve been hooked since. So yes, all that got me to where I am today.
WT: Have you always wanted to be in competitive bodybuilding?
BK: No, haha. I started off as a cheerleader and I really thought that I would be in the cheerleading squad till I “retired”. Competitive bodybuilding was never part of the plan when I started working out. I just had the fitness mind-set, and I’m training to look good, that’s all. As it happened, I made friends at the gym and they encouraged me to prepare for 1 competition because I had the size for it. At that time, I was at the end of my cheerleading career, so that got me thinking, why not? No harm trying!
WT: what are your current stats (height, weight, body fat content)?
BK: 174~175cm, 75kg, 7-10%.
WT: Describe your experience at the FSS Asia competition.
BK: It was a totally new experience. It’s nothing like a traditional bodybuilding competition. There are some small similarities, e.g. pre-judging in the morning before the show. But what amazed me was the night show. The way Hideki set up the stage, the lighting, music, even the backdrop, everything was insanely cool, mind-blowing. It made me feel like I was walking on a runway show. Just wow! Honestly, it didn’t feel like a competition, it was like a show. Without a doubt, it marks the dawn of a new era for fitness competitions and I believe it will only get bigger and better from here.
WT: How different is FSS from other bodybuilding/physique-styling competitions you’ve participated in?
BK: Like I said, in other competitions, the focus is on your t-walk and having the best physique – the bigger, dryer, more sculpted, the better. Fitness Super Star is different. The night show is an actual show. Like a fashion runway show. It is really different. Other fitness competitions don’t have rehearsals, and Hideki and his team organise posing workshops and photo-shoots – all these little things add up to make FSS unique and special. The show gives participants a different feeling. It makes us feel like stars.
WT: Do you have a fitness idol? Who is it?
BK: Of course I do! There will always be someone out there we look up to, someone we try to emulate. When I started bodybuilding, I really looked up to Steve Cook, who’s an icon for the fitness industry. Everyone knows him, and although he wasn’t the biggest, he was my favourite. Now, however, he’s a little too massive for me. Now I look up to fitness and lifestyle influencer, Rowan Row.
WT: What’s next for you? Do you plan to go pro?
BK: I’ve not decided. I’m just taking one step at a time and seeing what works for me. I don’t think I’ll ever go professional in the fitness industry… I don’t see myself doing it. I’ve always pictured myself working in finance after graduation. But then again, who knows, right?
WT: What is your personal fashion style?
BK: I vacillate between casual, and smart casual. I pretty much try to dress like Rowan Row. He embodies these styles of dressing best. He has a good body and he dresses really well.
WT: What size of clothing do you wear? Do you have problems shopping for clothes?
BK: Proud to say that I’m a size M. Back when I was doing competitive bodybuilding, I weighed around 90kg. Well, my weight hovered around 86-92kg. Then it was really difficult for me to find clothes that fit. My arms just wouldn’t fit properly into shirt-sleeves. As I’m not that tall, when I buy clothes in size L or XL, the arms would fit perfectly, but everywhere else would be too big for me.
WT: Where do you shop?
BK: Uniqlo, H&M, the usual high-street labels. I don’t really shop online, because I fear that without the opportunity to try them on beforehand, the clothes might not fit in the end.
WT: What’s your grooming regime like?
BK: Trust me when I say I don’t have one. I’m trying to learn how to groom properly, but I’ll usually wash my face when I wake up and before I sleep. When I go out in the day, I’ll apply sunscreen, and nothing for the night. That’s all. I recently started going for facials. It’s a start I guess.
WT: What product(s) are you using at the moment in terms of skincare, haircare and fragrances?
BK: I received many products from Laneige, thanks to FSS, so I’m currently using those. For my hair, just regular shampoo and conditioner. I use Joico Ice erratic hair molding clay and a Gatsby spray to style my hair. Fragrance wise, Calvin Klein.
WT: What’s your favourite body part (on you)?
BK: Thanks to good genes, my abs. They are symmetrical and thick.
WT: Bulking or cutting – which do you prefer? How long is a typical bulking and cutting cycle for you?
BK: Cutting, because everyone looks good, or better, after they cut. I prefer the lean look. In the past I used to bulk all year round and cut 16 weeks out from my competition. That’s because I wanted to be bigger on stage every year. But after FSS, my mind-set changed. I’m just staying lean, ready for shoots anytime. I prefer my current size and look, so I guess I’m never bulking again.
WT: How much weight do you gain and lose after each cycle?
BK: Honestly, I can’t remember. It depends on how much I eat throughout the year.
WT: Share with us your training routine in a typical week.
BK: In the past, I practised a 4-day split routine consisting of: chest-triceps-abs,
back-biceps-calves, shoulders-abs, legs-calves. Then I rest, and repeat. I’m trying a different routine now: push, pull, legs. On Mondays, push, Tuesdays, pull, Wednesdays, legs, Thursdays, push again, Fridays, pull again, Saturdays, legs again. I rest on Sundays.
WT: What’s your favourite exercise, and the one you hate most?
BK: Shoulders, and shoulder presses. Who doesn’t like the pump they get after a shoulders day. I don’t hate, but I tend to dread going to the gym on legs day, because legs are a whole different ball game – when they ache, they ache for days! Every step you take you feels like fresh agony. Worst of all is walking up or down stairs – the struggle is real!
WT: If there are only 5 exercises you can do, what would they be?
BK: Bench press, deadlifts, barbell rows, shoulder presses, and squats.
WT: There are so many different types of fitness trends now – what do you think works and what doesn’t?
BK: There truly is a mind-boggling array. I think anything works as long as it doesn’t put one’s health at risk. But whether or not an exercise is truly effective, I can’t say. I believe in working out in the gym and doing cardio exercises. Once in a while, I will try different things. There are many reasons why people exercise, to lose weight, tone up, or bulk up. So it depends.
WT: We all have moments at the gym when someone absolutely pisses us off. What would those moments be for you?
BK: I hate it when I share a piece of equipment with another person, and he or she hogs it, when they take their own sweet time, when they’re on their phone instead of exercising. I wish people would stop using their phones at machines, especially when they’re sharing it with another person. Second pet peeve: people who don’t wipe off their perspiration. Especially those who perspire profusely.
WT: Do you agree that you are what you eat?
BK: Certainly. It’s the basis of bodybuilding. Remember the 70/30 rule. How you look depends 70% on what you eat and 30% on how you train. Of course rest is also important. It is almost impossible to out-train a bad diet.
WT: How strict are you with your diet? What’s your secret to staying buff and lean at the same time?
BK: I think most people are still uncomfortable with my way. I recently adopted the ‘if it fits your macros’ diet philosophy. Basically, I eat anything as long as it fits my macros and calorie intake. I tried that during FSS and it worked out just fine for me. In the past, I used to only eat chicken breast, sweet potato and rice. Now I subscribe to the fact that long as I count my macros, know how much I eat, and train hard and smart, I can stay big and lean at the same time. Anyone can. You’ve just got to be patient if you want to see results.
WT: What’s in your daily diet?
BK: Oatmeal, banana, and a protein shake in the morning. 2-4 servings of cereal, especially honey and nut flavoured cereal or Quaker oatmeal squares. A few slices of raisin bread. 2 main meals: chicken breast, rice, broccoli and egg; prawns, rice and eggs. A few cups of blueberries.
WT: Do you count your calories?
BK: Yes, and I swear by it.
WT: Anything you don’t eat?
BK: All my friends know I hate vegetables. Only recently have I started eating broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kang kong and sweet potato leaves.
WT: What supplements do you swear by?
BK: ON Gold Standard Whey Protein (strawberry is my favourite), ON Creatine and
ON Glutamine. These are the 3 basic necessities. The rest depends on one’s diet. Like vitamins. In fact, if you hit your daily protein intake, you won’t even need whey protein. But most people can’t hit it, so that’s what supplements are for.
WT: Do you have a mantra that you live by?
BK: Slow progress is always better than no progress. Because it’s the little things that add up and one day it will be a big thing. So keep working, day in, day out… you will get there some day, Ben. That’s what I tell myself when I need some motivation.
WT: Advice for HSD readers: how to shape up and get 6-pack abs like yours?
BK: Knowing your macros is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to be very strict on your diet. Once you know how to count, you can always fit in some treats for yourself. But yeah, count your macros and train smart. You will get there. Just don’t give up halfway.
About Fitness Super Star 2018
Fitness Super Star 2018 is a best-physique contest that sets itself apart from traditional body-building competitions, and blends perfectly with today’s fitness- lifestyle trends. Conceptualised by renowned fashion producer-choreographer Hideki Akiyoshi, a familiar name within Asia’s fashion circles, the contest and show is designed to be a reality quest that incorporates elements of fashion and style.