My name is Andrew Pong, and I’m an actor, martial artist and professional stuntman. I run a stunt team, and we mostly work on movies. Physical fitness has always been a big part of my life. When I was younger, I was very inspired by action movies and even martial arts moves portrayed within cartoons on TV. As a kid, I daydreamed about being a superhero or a ninja. I got in trouble with the principal quite often, for doing parkour at school. They thought I was overly hyperactive, but I just loved performing physical stunts.
Both my mother and father are actors, so it’s possible that acting is in my genes. I started training in martial arts at the age of two, so I’ve always been physically active. I was scouted in Los Angeles when I was in University. They wanted me to participate in “Korean Idol” and train to become a k-pop star.
Training to be a K-Pop Star
You have to be physically fit to perform your best as a k-pop star. I found that it was easier to slim down when I ate smaller meals much more frequently throughout the day. This also tends to lead to a higher metabolism, when you eat frequent, small meals that are healthy. I was on a dairy, oatmeal breakfast with a lot of fruits. For lunch, I often had grilled chicken breast with some broccoli, diced onions, and other vegetables. Eating this for lunch almost every day for two years was tough, but this is the diet we were on. Sometimes we’d have steak, too. We were told that eating chicken helps with muscle definition, and steak helps build muscle.
We were very strict in terms of watching our liquid calories. No sugary drinks, no milkshakes, and we’d drink our coffee black. Eventually, you get used to the taste of bitter, plain black coffee. You even start to like it. When you’re very strict like this, to the point where you don’t even put a bit of milk or sugar in your coffee, you see results a lot faster.
We still got to eat dessert. The way we ate dessert was to have a homemade bowl of ice cream (or a smoothie) made with greek yoghurt, fresh berries, ice and honey. Greek yoghurt is very filling and contains a lot of protein. You get very full and it tastes good. If you don’t blend it all the way to liquid form, it feels like you’re eating ice cream. It’s definitely a much healthier ice cream substitute.
K-Pop Star Fitness Routine
I had to swim 30 laps per day, then we would hit the gym for weight training. We were taught that lifting heavier weights in the morning would help us build hypertrophy, and would boost our metabolism until the end of the day. I find it’s best to do weightlifting in the morning, and cardio in the evening.
Muscle hypertrophy can be a desired side effect of weight training, as it’s an increase in the size of muscle cells. Muscular hypertrophy often occurs as a result of consistent workouts and weightlifting, but genetics play a role as well. Myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy involves a significant reduction in body fat and an increase in muscle size of up to twice the normal amount of muscle mass. Though rare, some people can achieve this, especially if their genetics allow for a greater speed and growth of muscle mass.
How to Train Your Diaphragm
Singers need to do a lot of diaphragm strengthening. Many people are unaware of how many health benefits there are of strengthening your diaphragm which leads to better breathing, improved digestion and better health – whether you’re a singer or not. Diaphragmatic breathing techniques are great for reducing stress as well.
During k-pop training, we worked on strengthening our diaphragms a lot. Our trainers would have us lie on a mat on the floor, and learn to breathe using the diaphragm. We were taught to visualize trying to touch our belly buttons to the ceiling during our breathing while trying not to move our chests. We’d progress to putting weight or book on our belly while practising diaphragmatic breathing. In training, we knew we had to breathe with our bellies which means your belly moves up and down, in and out – but your chest does not. We would put one hand on our chest, and one hand on the belly. The hand on the chest was not meant to move, while the hand on the belly would rise and fall. This is how we practised diaphragmatic breathing.
The Importance of Diaphragm Training
This taught us to be able to sing using our diaphragms while running on a treadmill. This particular technique is used by many pop stars and celebrity singers. While you’re running on a treadmill, you’re forcing your diaphragm to be very strong and engaged. This helps you learn how to sing with your diaphragm and become a better, stronger singer.
The diaphragm is a very underrated muscle group that is not often focused on or trained in a gym. Located below the lungs, the diaphragm is a major respiratory muscle that if strengthened, can help you breathe so much better.
In turn, this helps you get a better air supply to your vocal cords and sing better.
Diaphragm strengthening and diaphragmatic breathing also can improve heart health by lowering your heart rate and regulating blood pressure. This breathing style even helps with digestion and aids your body in its healthy bowel movements.
Callisthenics is a form of strength training exercise that only requires a person’s own bodyweight to perform. No equipment is required, for the most part. You just use your body. Jump squats, sit-ups, push-ups and lunges are some examples of callisthenics.
Some people refer to callisthenics as a “street workout”. In martial arts, callisthenics training is important, which is one of the reasons I’ve always trained using callisthenics.
It’s amazing what you can train your body to do using callisthenics. For example, let’s say you cannot do a push-up. If you start by doing a push-up from your knees or try doing one against a wall, eventually you’ll probably be able to do real push-ups. Some people even progress further from there, performing exercises such as one-handed push-ups, for example.
Burpees are high-intensity callisthenics exercise that I (and most people) don’t really enjoy doing, but they yield good results.
My Diet Tips
I’m a firm believer that a healthy diet should include foods that give your body all the vitamins and minerals it needs. Incorporate supplements into your diet if you’re genetically prone to certain vitamin deficiencies, or based on your genetics, you have a higher need for certain vitamins. Vitamin supplements are never a bad idea, in my opinion.
When it comes to weight loss, a caloric deficit is achieved by consuming fewer calories per day than the number of calories you burn per day. The average adult male my age, for example, naturally burns at least 2,000 calories per day, so eating fewer calories than this per day automatically means you’re on a caloric deficit diet.
I am diligent about eating a healthy, balanced diet. However, it helps me to give myself some cheat days. It’s not mentally healthy to force yourself into a caloric deficit every day, or count calories every day. Most of us need those cheat days. You earn them when you’re eating healthy most of the week, so don’t feel guilty about giving yourself a break.