Tag Archives: fitness

Mission: Back To Medium

A wall decal at Fitness First, where I work out, says the following:

“Motivation is what gets you started.

Habit is what keeps you going.”

I’m sure a lot of us Big Boys can relate to this.

It’s easy to get all excited about starting a new program at the gym. You buy awesome new sneakers. You organize a new iPod playlist. You check out BodyBuilding.com for the nouveau vogue workout of the month. You meticulously research on low-fat, protein-loaded meals to help build muscle and lose fat. You download MyFitnessPal onto your phone, so you can keep a calorie log of your daily meals.

How-to-count-caloriesMonth 1 goes by. So does the first 10 pounds.

Month 2 hits. You lose another 5 pounds.

And then you hit the wall. Your once-a-week cheats devolve into once-a-day binges. You start to forget the excitement and motivation that got you started, and reason to yourself, “Hey, I’ve been a good boy… I deserve this.”

That’s called “backsliding.”

That’s where I am right now. Still loving going to the gym, but losing the first burn of excitement that hit me when I signed up. A workout that used to take me a 45 minutes now drags out to an hour and half, mainly because I stall in between sets, or drag my feet around looking for an empty Internet station or an unoccupied easy chair to read a newspaper in.

Times like this, when the passionate first spark starts to fade, there’s just one thing that can keep you going.


It’s time to order myself, “I will do this. I will make a better me. I will no longer be an XL, but a gosh darned MEDIUM.”


As the classic poem “Invictus” goes, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

I will do this.

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MDJ vs. The Man-Boobs

Those would look awful even on a chick.

Even worse than love handles, the most painful part of being an XL Dude like me are the man-boobs.

Man-boobs, or “moobs,” as they’re popularly (or unpopularly) called, are the unfortunate fat deposits that form over your pectoral muscles and inevitably lose the battle with gravity, causing a dude to look like a Baywatch star, and I’m not talking David Hasselhoff.

Sir Isaac Newton – 1, XL Dudes – 0.

Obviously, the best way to lose fat is to burn it, so part 1 of winning the Manboob Battle is to have a light salad once in a while, and do 25-40 minutes of good cardio 3-4 times a week.

But have you ever seen how a balloon looks when you let all the air out of it? It’s saggy, droopy, and all stretched out. That’s exactly what happens when you lose your pectoral fat, but don’t invest a bit of effort into shaping the underlying muscle.

That’s where lifting weights can help.

This is the chest workout I’m using to burn off my giant, gelatinous manboobs.


1. Incline Bench Press

This exercise targets the upper pectoral muscles – roughly the area between your collarbone, and halfway down to your nipple. Building this area allows you to “cheat” having a great chest, especially when you’re in a t-shirt – it creates a “cliff” for the fabric to hang off of, giving the impression of mass and shape.

Normally, people like doing these towards the middle part of the workout, but given my terrible manboob affliction, I’ve decided to put it up front, so I can work my upper pecs hard and heavy, while I’m still fresh.

I normally do a quick warm-up set of 18-25 reps with a very light weight, then do three sets of 12-10-8 reps, adding additional weight each set (or, as Joe Weider calls it, “pyramiding”), working to fatigue each time. On my last set, as my upper pecs fatigue, I quickly drop off 5-kilograms on each side to be able to pump out more reps, then keep on progressively dropping more plates as fatigue hits, until I’m sweating and grunting for my 25th repetition with a naked bar.

It gives a fabulous burn, and makes you feel like a Greek god when you pull on your Spider-Man t-shirt afterwards.

You can do this with dumbbells too – it’s a bit trickier because you have to balance both sides individually, but gives a great stretch.


2. Flat Bench Press

This is the bread and butter of any half-decent bodybuilder, and helps give overall fullness and mass to the total chest area, with a bit of impact on your front deltoids and triceps.

There really isn’t much to this exercise other than to just go for it.

I’ve seen a lot of dudes cheat on this exercise, not even letting the barbell all the way down for the sake of looking like they have a big bench. Don’t fall for that macho alpha male poser fluff – if it isn’t a weight you can’t comfortably allow to descend all the way to a finger’s width of your sternum, it’s too heavy.

One tip that helps me get through my final reps on each set, as I feel my pecs faltering is to squeeze the bar as hard I can. I read somewhere this recruits more muscles to help you keep pumping out the last few reps, and I’ve found it to be extremely effective.

I don’t do a warm-up set for this anymore, since I’m still pumped from the incline bench press, but still stick to the 12-10-8 pyramid sets.


3. Decline Machine Press

It’s hard to find a gym that has a decline bench, so I’m stuck doing machine presses by default. But I think that works better for me, since I’ve always felt a bit awkward and wobbly doing barbell presses on a decline bench.

This is a really delicious exercise to be doing, since the machine guides the motion, so you can really just savor the push of each rep, and getting a really amazing squeeze at the peak of your press.

I like to go really, really slow on the decline machine press – each push lasts about 2 seconds, the squeeze on top lasts about a second, and I really slow down the descent to 3 seconds, just feeling the resistance pushing against my muscles.

Most dudes ignore any movements that target the lower chest, but I strongly advise against that. A well-developed lower chest is what gives separation and fullness from your ribcage, just like a WWE wrestler.


4. Incline Chest Fly’s

This is the only sculpting exercise I do on my chest, since I feel that detailing moves like cable fly’s won’t do me much good until I’ve lost a significant enough amount of fat for the striations and veins to pop out form my chest. This particular motion gives an extra pump to the part of your chest connecting to your shoulders and armpit, and is probably my all-time favorite chest exercise.

I tend to go light with this exercise, partly because my chest is just on fire by this point, and partly because I like to get a really good spread at the bottom. I want to be able to control the weight all throughout, so I don’t tear up my rotator cuffs or anything.

I’ve seen guys struggle with this exercise, doing it completely wrong – they turn it into a press (pushing upwards motion), instead of a fly (sweeping squeezing motion). The best tip I read says that to perform this exercise properly is to imagine yourself hugging a giant tree.

I make sure not to clang the dumbbells at the top, too – that relieves your muscles of tension (which is not the point of working out!), and the momentum might cause you to go too fast on your downward motion and rip your arm off. Instead, I bring them within a millimeter of each other, and give one good squeeze before the descent.


I hope to have some decent pictures of my chest to post in a couple of months. My manboobs aren’t exactly fit for public consumption just yet.

“M” is for “Manboobs,” apparently.

Got any other anti-manboob exercises you’d like to share?

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Willpower & Weight Loss

We all know that feeling – telling yourself, by gum, I’m on a diet, I’m suffering a great amount of emotional distress, but I’m sticking to it!

Sometimes, you have to be your own watchdog.

Five minutes later, someone peeks in through the door. “Hey guys! Free pizza!”

Away goes all the discipline, and you end  up wolfing down five slices of pizza in a span of fifteen minutes.

(This is a true story, by the way, and I’m not naming names, but if anyone asks if this is an autobiographical experience from four days ago, my only answer would be a very subdued “No comment.”)

And then you spend the rest of the day wallowing in anger and remorse, chastising yourself for that one moment of weakness that completely offset the muesli you had for breakfast and the 2-hour gym session from the night before.

This is the kind of moment where I need to remind myself of the one amazing piece of advice a friend gave me when it comes to dieting:

“The only thing worse than suffering… is regret.”

Remember: “XL” is the default when you’re weak and impulsive. “Medium” only comes with discipline and self-control.

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One Pound of Fat

I admit, I get depressed when I hop onto my deluxe Conair digital weighing scale (I know, I’m overcompensating, but please cut me some slack – fat boy on a mission here!), and see that I’ve only lost one pound.

I see that a lot on Twitter or Facebook too – friends who’ve invested two months of their lives into some fancy-pants fitness routine like CrossfitPlana FORMA, or TRX, and only lost one pound.

But I saw something today that made me realize that there is nothing “only” about losing one pound of fat. Behold:

Isn’t that nasty?

Just think of that next time you’re whining about how lame it is to be losing “just” one pound at a time. It isn’t as insignificant as it seems.


I happen to be an expert on fat.

Some interesting facts on fat:

  • 1 pound of fat gained is roughly equivalent to 3,500 excess calories. A grande-sized Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream contains 400 calories. So if you have one thrice a week (and I have friends who do this), that’s over 16 pounds gained in a year! On the other hand, dropping your daily can of Coke (which is about 140 calories) means you lose over a pound a month! It’s really the small things that make a difference, so don’t get discouraged for one-time cheats on your diet!
  • 1 pound of muscle is much smaller than 1 pound of fat. Don’t believe me? Drop by the butcher’s section at your favorite supermarket, and ask them to slice you a pound’s worth of lean meat, and compare it to a pound’s worth of fat. A pound of fat is approximately the size of half a loaf of bread, while a pound of lean meat is about the size of a hamburger bun.Your scale may not be reflecting that great a drop in weight because you’re losing fat, while also gaining muscle – but visually, you’d appear to be leaner and trimmer. So don’t let the weighing scale be your guide – base your progress on how you fit into your clothes!
  • You can’t target a specific area of your body from which to reduce fat. So don’t believe that just doing endless crunches is going to give you abs, while ignoring the rest of your body covered in blubber and lard. You’ll be toning your abdominal muscles and making them pull tighter into your body, but if they’re still covered with fat, they won’t be visible. Losing fat is a full-body proposition, so don’t fall into the trap of focusing on just one area. You’re just fooling yourself with an optical illusion.

And that’s all I have to say about fat. I should know. I’m an expert, based on my years of extensive, intimate, personal (and occasionally tragic) experience with it.

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Memories of a 32-inch Waistline

Once upon a time, I was a sexy man.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I was once a 14, instead of the 8 that I am today.

It was amazing, liberating, and very reaffirming to be able to ask for size-32 jeans and medium-sized shirts when I’d do my shopping, and even more heartwarming to know that I could cinch my belt tight without worrying about muffin-topping over the waistband of my pants.

But that was 4 years ago.

The two years that I spent in the advertising industry were hell on my SQ (sexy-time quotient). The late nights, the sisig therapy lunches, the midnight fast-food runs – all of these things took their toll on my slim-and-trim figure, and it doesn’t help that I currently work in a place where free-flowing Oreos and Tang and Tiger Energy Biscuits and Cheez Whiz permeate practically every single meeting.

I’ve put on 48 pounds in the 4 years since then.

That’s literally a pound increase each month.

That’s the weight of 24 Christmas hams.

That’s the raw meat equivalent of almost 200 Quarter Pounders.

I really miss those days but can find neither the time, discipline, metabolic rate, nor hate for pizza that I had in my lean and mean era.

Richard Gutierrez once asked if he could have a picture taken with me in Embassy (“Hi, excuse me, are you THE legendary MDJ Superstar with the 32-inch waistline?”), and I’m 73% sure Raymond quite possibly keeps a print-out of it in his wallet.

Can you tell me how to go back?

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If You Want To Be Sexy, You Have To Sweat A Little (Not To Mention Grunt, Groan, and Cry Once In A While)

I have a new physical trainer at my new gym, Gold’s Gym Alabang. His name is Froiland.

He looks something like this, only not as pleasant.


He’s brutal, ripped, and unusually cruel – he makes me do painful, unusual things on machines with such strange names as a “treadmill” and a “stationary bike.”

He’s also brutally frank, and took my vital statistics to prove a point. I’m obviously not in the best of shape, as I’m shaped more like a Coke can than a Coke bottle. (In the meantime, let’s not debate on why a rugged, manly dude such as myself would want to shape like a Coke bottle, to begin with…)

Vital Stats

I’m extremely lopsided, based on these numbers. My right side outmeasures my left side by half an inch for most bodyparts.. no wonder my clothes fit funny.

Froiland has his heart set on turning me into the second coming of Ravishing Rick Rude. He says it’s for my health, but I think he just likes the thought of “accidentally” teabagging me as he spots me on my bench press…

My workout is divided into three days. Here’s how Day One (Shoulders & Legs) looks.

Day 1

He expects me to finish all of these in an hour-and-a-half. Right.

Day Two (Back & Biceps) is slightly easier, but is still a pain to get through. I’ve always had a strong back and biceps though, so I expect I’ll be able to just breeze through this day.

Day 2

Day 3 is for Chest & Triceps, and looks like the most fun.

Day 3

The one thing I don’t like from this program (apart from all the cardio, which I really do, but hate every step of the way!) is the little addendum he tacked on at the end. He says I have to do this too, on top of the 3-day split:

Day 4

I swear to God, it’s a joke asking MDJ Superstar to do such undignified, un-cool things as freaking abdominal crunches. I don’t think I’ve done those in years. But alas, I must obey, despite the unglamorous side effects of doing crunches, such as grunting, groaning, sobbing a little bit inside, and just overall sounding like “a cow with intestinal gas” (based on feedback heard from innocent bystanders).

I no longer want to argue with people that I am in shape – the caveat being that round certainly counts as a shape.

I no longer want to insist that I am just “big-boned” – with the caveat this time being that my stomach simply has a big tummy bone.

I want to be fit, I want to be ripped, and most importantly I want to be loved and wanted for my body more than for my mind.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what being a Superstar is really all about.

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The Manly Man Manifesto (Why Real Men Work Out, and the Cheats We Need To Get There)


This article appears in the launch issue of Manila Bulletin’s super cool new men’s magazine, Garage, coming out sometime between now and February 2017.

Everybody needs to agree on this: real men work out to look sexy.

Once upon a time, being buff served a practical purpose. Buff cavemen slaughtered more stegosaurus for steak-and-bowling nights than scrawny ones. Buff religious figures (see: Samson, 88 Old Testament Road, Rome) put up bigger fights than their daintier counterparts (see: Jesus Christ, 3 Salvation Way, Bethlehem) before dying at the hands of pagans.


But these days, being buff satisfies a less pragmatic but infinitely more pleasurable cause than securing dinosaur steaks or conquering infidel hordes: bagging babes. I’ve learned one thing from the ones I’ve dated. All else being equal, they would rather make out with a sleek, nicely-toned dude than a pudgy man-boobed one.


Sadly, muscles don’t come easily. It’s not uncommon to see a skinny nerd complaining how six months of workouts have failed to produce the slightest change in his physique, except for a mildly uncomfortable hernia. Neither is it unusual to see a chunky slob moaning how despite a daily 8-kilometer jog, he still can’t see his toes without an intricate system of perfectly aligned hand mirrors and a miniature forklift.


Here’s the tragic reality. Just like on our LTO tests, we sometimes need to cheat to get babe-baggingly sexy. This is where fitness supplements come in.


Supplements falls broadly into two categories: mass-builders (which make us Really Big), and mass-reducers (which make us Really Ripped). There is, of course, the third category of anabolic steroids, which make us Really Dead, but seeing how dead men don’t get to bag quite as many babes as live ones do, we will artfully ignore them for now.


First Sexiness Postulate: to get Really Big, muscles need protein to reconstruct themselves. Chicken breasts, tuna, and lean pork seem to be favorites among the monsters I’ve lifted weights with. The problem is that these natural protein-packed choices come with excess baggage like sodium and calories.


Here’s where protein shakes come in. Concentrated protein in powder form with minimal nasties. Brilliant. If Bruce Banner had heard of them, he’d never gone lounging in front of a gamma ray to mutate himself into a permanently roid-raged, green freak.


They don’t taste particularly great though.


Imagine a tall, cold glass filled with a rich, creamy, chocolate froth. Sounds nice? Now imagine accidentally tipping a muddy-tasting ladleful of munggo guisado into it. (That fluttering you hear is the sound of bodybuilders all over the country nodding sadly in agreement.)


Second Sexiness Postulate: getting Really Ripped means burning more calories than are consumed. Since it’s impossible to convince us real men to swear off pizza and sisig, fitness manufacturers instead sell us products called thermogenics, whose function is to throw our metabolic systems into overdrive the Whole Freaking Day.


Here’s how they make you feel.


You’re in an incessant sweat. Your pulse is racing the whole day. I am told that your body is operating two degrees above normal. No wonder bodybuilders are cranky. Their armpits are perpetually damp. Imagine having to walk into a swank Serendra date with wet armpits. There is no way you would be sweetly pleasant in this state.


I suppose that what I am looking for is compassion for bodybuilders, despite their general appearance as a conceited, temperamental bunch.


I ask you this – if you ate nothing but munggo milkshakes, and had persistently wet underarms, wouldn’t you be in a foul mood too? Around us are men who have sacrificed worldly wonders like deep-dish pizzas and frappucinos for a simple, noble vision: to be sexy enough to bag a babe. I say that vision is worth respecting. We have no stegosaurus left to slaughter, no barbarian heretics to slay. A man of muscle needs assurance that he remains relevant and useful to this world.


And what better reassurance is there than being loved?

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Another Testosterone Explosion Worthy of Jestoni Alarcon

I punished myself with a hardcore chest-and-shoulder 2-hour session at the gym tonight – first time I’d touched those two bodyparts in almost three weeks, and the first time I’d had the stamina to do a back-to-back at the gym this year.

(You’re getting old, MDJ – you used to rip out 4-hour marathons when you were a strapping young buck of 22. Now you’re 27 and fat.)

I confess that I have been getting lazy. Lately, I find myself using machines whenever I can, instead of free weights. And so as punishment, I forced myself to do my whole chest routine using dumbbells, which technically is the most difficult way to work out. You need to balance and stabilize using just your body, you see, no levers and pulleys to help cheat your way through.

I amazed myself. I pulled off a final set of  dumbbell bench presses using a pair of 95-pounders.  That’s the heaviest I’ve ever lifted on dumbbells.

But it’s all good.

Summer is coming up, and I do need to get into slim, trim, pumped up shape. Much like this man, the true mecca of manhood, the shaman of sexy, the Thursday night delight, Jestoni Alarcon.

MDJ Superstar is confident that by the time summer comes around, he will look exactly like his good friend Jestoni.


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