In addition to two major Bollywood movies this year, actor Rakul Preet Singh has been enjoying her recent avatar as a fitnessentrepreneur. She has launched Fitness 45, which comprises three functional training gyms. The 27-year-old says her mantra for staying in shape is to simply “approach fitness in a manner that is sustainable and enjoyable.”
She explains, “Even today, far too many women believe that you only need to work out if you want to lose weight. However, as your body ages, you will invariably suffer from knee or joint issues, if you haven’t put in the necessary work to strengthen your muscles.”
Singh makes sure to exercise six days a week, and begins most mornings with a strenuous workout. “My brain doesn’t work until my muscles are pumped from some form of exercise. Staying active comes naturally to me. My father is in the army, which meant that as a child, I was exposed to different sports be it running, swimming, karate or lawn tennis. I was also a national-level golfer and used to play for at least four hours a day,” she says.
When she began modelling, Singh traded her golfing irons for gym barbells. “Up until then, I would listen to others’ advice — I began to read numerous books and manuals, and test out various theories to understand what worked and what didn’t. All you need is eating the right foods, at the right time, and supplementing this with the right workouts,” she says. The same understanding has also transformed her approach to fitness. “When I participated in a beauty pageant at the beginning of my career, I succumbed to the usual deprivation-oriented mantras that everyone was advocating to get in shape. When the contest ended and it was time for me to get back to more regular eating, I had no idea of how I to reintroduce everyday foods to my diet. My study of nutrition helped me dispel several misconceptions. For instance, while egg whites are a mainstay of most weight loss diets, not many know that your body can’t assimilate them without the yolk. Your body needs fats to mobilise your muscles, for optimal brain function, to maintain your hormone levels and to repair tissue damage,” she explains.
Healthy isn’t boring
Singh, who has been training with Joel Dylan Moss from Kunal Gir Fitness Solutions for the past four years, isn’t a fan of fads including the popular ketogenic diet. “I alternate between high carb and high fat days for breakfast. My focus is to follow a simple diet. However, I consciously steer clear of gluten or dairy,” she says. Like most fitness enthusiasts, Singh acknowledges the importance of cheat meals, but doesn’t believe in these comprising unhealthy foods. “I have become so obsessive about my diet that today if someone gets me chole-bature, I can’t bring myself to eat it. Instead, my cheat meals consist of larger quantities of what I usually eat. I love raagi-crust pizzas or healthy desserts made with natural sugars such as dates. Or I will switch it up with chicken biryani made in cauli rice,” she says.
Her daily plan entails:
Pre-workout: A cup of black coffee with 5g of ghee. Consuming fat at the beginning of the day stabilises your insulin levels and keeps your blood glucose from spiking. This ensures that you don’t crave sugar, through the day. Good fat also keeps your body alkaline.
Breakfast (post-workout): Eating within the first 45 minutes of your weight training aids recovery. The body is able to use the protein in the meal effectively. On a highfat day, she eats two-three whole eggs with vegetables and mushrooms. On a high-carb day, she eats a jowar roti or paratha with a simple vegetable preparation, almond or keto bread, or dosa or idli, with one whole egg and three-four whites.
Lunch and dinner: At home, her meal comprises brown rice, dal and subzi with some chicken.
Strength with flexibility
Singh’s fitness routine is focused on building lean muscle and on improving her flexibility. “When you lift heavy, your muscles tend to become tight and stiff. I back up my weight training routine with a stretching routine and aerial yoga sessions,” she says. To pack on lean muscle, Singh and her trainer train until failure which, in workoutspeak, means repeating an exercise to the point where your muscles can no longer continue the exercise. Her workouts are split into ‘push sessions’, which focus on the chest, shoulders and triceps, ‘pull sessions’ that target the back and biceps, and leg-and-abs days. An HIIT cardio session follows the weight training. The workout ends with a comprehensive stretching routine.
Seated cable rows: These strengthen your back muscles, arms and shoulders. Strong back muscles are necessary to keep your spinal column in proper alignment and to reduce the risk of injuries.
► Pull the handle and weight back toward your lower abdomen. Try not to use the momentum of the row by moving your torso backwards. Keep your back straight and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you row.
► Return the handle forward under tension to full stretch.
► Make sure you don’t round your back or use your torso to move the weight. Don’t bounce at the bottom of the lift or reduce your range of motion.
Barbell squats: This exercise works your entire body. Your legs bend and straighten to move your weight. Your abs and lower back muscles stabilise your trunk. Your upper back, shoulders and arms balance the bar on your back.
► Stand with the bar on your upper back, and your feet shoulderwidth apart.
► Squat down by pushing your knees to the side, while moving hips back. Squat until your hips are lower than your knees.
► Squat back up while keeping your knees out and chest up. Make sure you don’t round your back or do half reps.
Smith machine shoulder presses: As compared to freeweight shoulder presses, this machine variation keeps your muscles under constant tension by employing a fixed plane of movement.
► Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder width.
► Unlock the bar and slowly lower it bar to your chin.
► Press it overhead till you fully extend your arms.
Landmine rows with V bar: These are effective for building muscle and strength. They reduce joint stress while maximising the tension and stabilising patterns of the back. This translates into optimal back and spinal health, along with improved athletic performance.
► Load one side of a barbell with weight. Place the other end of the bar on the floor and secure it in a corner of the gym.
► Straddle the bar near the plateloaded side with a V-shaped bar as a handle. Your feet should be spaced shoulder-width apart. Bend over and close-grip under the plate. Keep your back straight and tight, your head in a neutral position and your knees bent. This is your starting position.
► Keeping your abs tight, pull the bar toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Hold for a brief count, then slowly lower the bar along the same path until you feel a good stretch in your back muscles and your arms are near full extension. Stop just short of allowing the weight to touch the floor.
Leg press: The leg press machine develops the gluteus maximus, hamstrings and calves. By changing your foot position, you can emphasise different muscles. It builds strength in these muscles, and helps you to overcome imbalances that may arise from having developed hamstrings than quadriceps.
► Place your feet on the footplate about hip-width apart while ensuring that your heels are flat. Your bottom should be flat against the seat rather than raised. Your legs should form an angle of about 90 degrees at the knees. If your feet are too high on the plate, it will stress your glutes; too low and it puts unnecessary pressure on your knees.
► While exhaling, extend your legs and keep your head and back flat against the seat pad. Do not lock out your knees and make sure that they are not bowing out or in.
► While inhaling, return to the starting position by gradually bending the knees.
► Keep your feet and back flat throughout. Avoid adding too much weight, lifting your butt of the seat and placing your hands on your knees.
Hack squats: Since your upper body and core muscles are not involved in the movement, all the possible weaknesses that could affect the squat depth are removed. You can reduce muscle imbalances by training each leg separately. You can also change the desired outcome by altering your foot position — a lower foot position targets the quads, while a higher position targets your glutes. The hack squat machine provides more stability than other lower-body exercises since you can perform the movement by taking a narrower stance.
► Place your feet on the foot plate about hip-width apart. Unlock the safety bar and squat down until your hips are lower than your knees. Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the foot plate. Breathe in as you squat down, and exhale as you squat back up.
Lunge chest press: Hybrid exercises integrate the upper and lower body. As a result, they engage your core more and also challenge your body’s flexibility, balance and control. This also results in a greater cardiovascular effect.
► Step forward and lunge, bending the back knee to maintain balance. As soon as you feel grounded, press the handles forwards to complete the movement.
► Return, while maintaining control and balance.
Lat pulldowns: This exercise targets the latissimus dorsi, which is the muscle located just under the armpits and across your back. By isolating the back muscles, this exercise lets you focus specifically on them without tiring the biceps. It’s important to target your back muscles to help with proper posture and to ease pulling movements.
► Grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip. Pull the bar down until it is level with your chin. Exhale as you do so. Leaning slightly backward is okay; aim to keep your upper body stationary and your feet flat on the floor. Engage your abs as you pull downwards. Pull until your elbows can’t move down any further without moving backwards. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
► With the bar close to your chin, slowly return the bar to the starting position. Don’t let the bar crash into the weight plates.
Hanging obliques knee-raise: This exercise develops your abdominal muscles and obliques. It improves your core strength.
► Hang from a pull-up bar with your body straight, using an overhand grip.
► Bend your knees and use your obliques to raise your knees to the sides.
► Lower under control.
► Aim for high-rep sets to fully fatigue the obliques. The slower you perform each rep — under complete control — the better the results will be.