Home Physiological Interviews Bodybuilding Singapore Interview – Danie Dharma

Bodybuilding Singapore Interview – Danie Dharma


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Name: Danie Dharma

Height: 1.71m

Age as of 2015: 29

Weight OFF-season: 96kg

Competition weight: Plus-minus 80kg

Years of Training: 14 years

Occupation: Navy

Contest History:

NUS Muscle War Tertiary Under-70kg: 3rd
Inter-ITE Bodybuilding Contest Above-65kg: Champion
Pesta Sukan Lightweight Category Under-70kg: 2nd
Pesta Sukan Quadrangular Lightweight (S’pore, M’sia, Indon, Thai): 4th

Singapore Poly Muscle Storm Under-70kg: Champion
NUS Muscle War Open Category: 4th
Home Team Bodybuilding Contest Open category: 3rd
Junior Nationals Lightweight Category Under-70kg: 3rd

Home Team Bodybuilding Contest Open category: 3rd
Muscle Explosion under 21 years old category: Champion
Junior Nationals Welterweight and above Category Above-70kg: 5th
Junior Nationals Classic Category: 3rd
SBBF Classic Bodybuilding Championships: 2nd

NUS Muscle War Open category: 3rd + Most Improved Bodybuilder
Muscle Explosion II below 70kg category: Champion
Home Team Bodybuilding Contest Open category: 3rd

NUS Muscle War Open Category: Champion
Nationals Lightweight Category Under-70kg 2nd
Nationals Physique Category: 2nd
WBPF SEA Championships Lightweight category Under-70kg: 6th
WBPF World Athletic Physique Category: 5th
Muscle Explosion III Jr Above 70kg category: Champion
Muscle Explosion III Classic Bodybuilding Category: Champion
Muscle Explosion III Open Category: 2nd

Nationals Welterweight Category Under-75kg: Champion
Nationals Mens Physique Category: Champion



Blessed with a small waist and broad shoulder, Danie Dharma is made for the sport of bodybuilding.

The multiple local bodybuilding champion which includes 2012 Nationals Welterweight Under-75kg and 2010 NUS Muscle War Open champion shared how weight training healed him.

He began picking up weights after being bullied when he was young. The then skinny Danie finally had enough, he began lifting weights, got bigger, got an imposing physique and it changed his life.

When he saw positive results in the mirror, he began committing more effort and focus to his workout. That physical change in him healed the scars of bullying and lifted his self-esteem.

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Below is an extract of the interview

Q) How did you get started into bodybuilding?

Well, there were so many factors! Firstly, I was amazed at Arnold’s physique when I watched his movies as a kid. I was like “when I grow up, I want to become a bodybuilder!!” I grew up to be a really skinny teen, and was a victim of school bullying for the good part of my secondary school life. With bullying came other issues, like rejection, low self esteem and anxiety. I was a total loser, I was the guy who people laughed at when I walked by, the guy who was chased away from tables during recess. I wanted to take control of my life and change all that. My success in bodybuilding helped be the stepping stone for me to overcome all my problems, and more. I had found my true passion!

Danie’s interview on Vasantham about how he overcame school bullying.

Q) What are your current training splits, or program?

For weights training, I hit 1 major muscle group per session, and follow it up with 1 or 2 related minor muscle groups (eg Back, Traps, Biceps). In this manner, I cover my entire body weekly in 3 to 4 sessions. Also I throw in 1 or 2 long runs weekly on top of my weights training routine.

Q) Has your training philosophy changed through the years?

Definitely! Training for hypertrophy is all about changing routines and trying out new stuff. I started off with a very volume based kind of workout program. As time passed, I incorporated supersets, giant sets etc. In recent years, I have been going very heavy on the compounds movements, almost like a powerlifting style of training, but with slow eccentric portions. Heavy weights, when done with strict form seem to activate the deeper muscle fibers that don’t usually get activated by conventional training methods. I’ve also been experimenting with doing high reps with heavier weight ranges. It takes some mental strength to do many reps with form when it comes to heavy weights as we tend to gas out pretty fast. But when you push through it, the results are good!

Q) How long does your training session last? Your thoughts on training duration, should it quick and quality …. or volume-based?

Honestly, my work life is rather busy. I do 9 to 10 24hour shifts a month, and most of my workouts are done after my shifts in a sleep-deprived state. In view of that, I try to keep my workouts short but intense. I keep them below 2hours on my off shift days, but train longer than 2hours on the days I’m well rested.

Danie Dharma -5

Q) Where do you train? Tell us about the gym environment there.

I have been training in ActiveSg gyms in the West mostly. I wish I could take up a commercial gym membership, but most branches are out of my way. I had such memberships before, but I used the gym too infrequently, as little as once in 2 weeks during busy periods. I ended up at ActiveSg gyms on those days where I was pressed for time, and felt paying the membership fees for the commercial gyms on top of the entry for ActiveSg gyms was kind of a waste of money, so decided to just stick to ActiveSg gyms till my work schedule changed. Honestly, ActiveSg gyms have lately become a bad place to train in. They tend to be overcrowded, have very few weight plates and their maximum dumbbells are only 20kg. As I got stronger and required heavier weights, this has become a real problem for me. For now I’m trying my best to make do with the limited equipment, but I foresee myself in a better equipped gym in the near future.

Q) You’ve been taking a hiatus from competing these few years. What have you been doing since?

Frankly speaking, I have been extremely busy. I spent alot more time working as there had been a chronic manpower shortage at my work place. I just received the keys to my new place, and currently busy with the renovations, and the eventual shifting in. Also, I have been planning for my traditional Indian wedding in March next year. All this while, I didn’t know when I would compete again, but I continued training hard and bringing my own ‘bodybuilding’ food to work. However, I have made very little progress for the good part of the 3 years due to my hectic life.

Q) You’re making a comeback on the stage soon I believe. Which competition is that and how’s your preparation/progress going?

I’m going to compete in the Mr Singapore 2015 National Bodybuilding contest that will be held on 23 Aug 15. Its only a few weeks away!! As I had been semi-dieting for over a year before my full contest prep began, my progress has been fast. I appear to have gotten in shape a lot faster than I planned. I’m just hoping I don’t face any “stage-rust” from my 3 years away.

Danie teaser comeback

Q) Your opinion on the local bodybuilding scene? What can be done to improve it?

I feel that the local bodybuilding scene has become more popular than ever, with social media, and many more young guys taking it up. Also with the gaining popularity of physique competitions, which are pretty much the stepping stone for bodybuilding competitions, I feel local scene is heading in the right direction altogether.

Q) Who is and was your mentor? Did you have one, or are you self-coached?

When I started off over 14 years ago, I relied mostly on library books, the internet and was self-coached for the first few years. Thereafter when I first started competing, Singapore still had a national team for bodybuilding, and the team had their own gym and coaches. I was invited to train with the team, and coached by national coach Mr James Moorthy at that point for a few years. Thereafter, it was me myself and I again.

Q) Who are your bodybuilder idols, locally and internationally?

My 2 idols in Singapore are Mr Adrian Tan and Mr Shaifulhaq. Mr Tan has really taken his game to a whole new level, competing in international events and doing really well. He is a local bodybuilding superstar, and not everyone has what it takes to go that distance. As for Mr Shaiful, his perseverance and tenacity to compete despite all odds stacked against him has been very inspiring. Of course, not to mention, both these guys have world class physiques! Internationally, I’d have to say a more regional idol would be Mr Ade Rai. The top guys, I would have to go with Ronnie Coleman. I don’t agree with the levels the top pros have pushed the sport to over the past decade, but Mr Coleman’s crazy workouts, physique, reign and dominance was very inspiring to watch. Also, definitely, my childhood hero and idol, Arnold Schwarzenegger!!

Q) Care to share your maximum benchpress, overhead press, deadlift and squats?

I’ve got to admit, I feel I’m somewhat weak for a guy my size. My bench was 120kg x 6, OHP 100kg x 2, squats 190kg x 2, and deadlifts 210kg x 1.

Q) Your top 3 favourite exercise and why?

Bench Press, Squats and Deadlifts! The soreness and gains you get from doing them heavy, but with slow eccentric portions and good form is amazing!

Q) What’s your diet like these days?

As I’m currently preparing for a show, my diet is miserable for the lack of a better term! I’m following a carb cycling plan, so my carbs vary from day to day. I’m consuming the bulk of my protein from chicken breast meat for protein, and sweet potatoes for carbs. I also try to have plenty of veggies and occasionally other carb sources like brown rice. Otherwise its dori fillets, tuna, salmon or eggs. All of those are oven baked with no additional ingredients, you know the drill. Also to top up my protein intake, I have 2 servings of protein powder.

Q) What is your favourite CLEAN meal?

I don’t really know what to call this dish as I made it up. 6 whole eggs, mixed with 5 table spoons of oats, pan fried with a wee bit of olive oil. That would contain approximately 40grams of protein, 25grams carbs and 25grams of good fats.

Q) What is your favourite CHEAT meal?

MEE GORENG WITH EXTRA EGG!!! This is my scheduled dinner on 23rd Aug night!!!!!

Q) Do you believe in staying lean all year round or are you into bulk/cut?

I believe in and prefer staying lean all year around, and I have done so for several years in the past. Due to my genetic limitations, I decided to do a bulk/cut for my upcoming show though.

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Q) Your thoughts on cardio? How to achieve the right balance with muscle building.

I personally believe that it is utter nonsense that you will lose muscle by doing ‘excessive’ cardio. Firstly, what most people consider as ‘excessive’ cardio, is actually not excessive at all! If you are talking about something like a marathon, then muscle loss could occur. 1 hour or less cardio doesn’t burn any muscle. The real issue is that if your protein consumption is too low, you will sacrifice muscle when doing alot of cardio. Otherwise it should not be an issue. I think cardio, on top of preventing a jacked up bodybuilder from looking like a total wuss when climbing a flight of steps, has a much more significant role to play. It’s not about stamina or fat loss, cardio must be done to keep the heart strong and healthy. I feel that weights training alone is not sufficient for this. Doing cardio regularly is great insurance for when you reach old age. As I was formerly a long distance runner, my preferred cardio is long distance running. Ironically, I found that as I got alot heavier, running started becoming more and more anabolic for my calves. It works so well that I’m completely off weights training for my calves, and they look bigger and more rounded now.

Q) What supplements do you use and recommend?

I usually take a mass/weight gainer for my protein during the off season as I’m a small eater. I find that mass/weight gainers help to squeeze in more carbs and calories into my intake. My preferred one is BSN True Mass (http://www.nutri-forefront.com/men/protein-powder/bsn-true-mass-5-82lb.html). Otherwise, I take Synthrax Nectar for my post workout drink all year around. This is very tasty and tastes like real fruit juice (http://www.nutri-forefront.com/men/protein-powder/syntrax-nectar-2lb.html). Besides protein supplements, I take pre-workout supplements every now and then to boost my performance in the gym.

I take another group of supplements, but these are not really bodybuilding related, but as an insurance for the body.

  • Fish oil (for a healthy heart)
  • Saw Palmetto (prostate health)
  • Glucosamine (for joint repair)
  • Milk thistle or dandelion extract (for a healthy liver)
  • Hawthorn extracts (for the kidneys)
  • A Multi-vitamin supplement (For obvious reasons haha)

(Do check out www.nfft.net for top notch supplements. Do key in my athlete code DANIED to get a 5% discount for purchases above $70)

Q) What advice would you give for someone who is new to bodybuilding?

I would say that first and foremost, do some background research and get a rough idea of what needs to be done. I see many newcomers coming into the gym, and putting into practice stuff that they assumed would build muscles. Also, to be patient as results from bodybuilding are very very slow. Most importantly, make sure you work out a good diet plan, because working out alone will give little or no results. 80% of the results come from following the right kind of diet.

Q) How do you stay motivated?

I watch motivational training videos online. Also I set goals like bodyweight goals, personal records in lifting etc and work towards them. That aside, I just can’t stay away from the gym or not eat right for too long. My body and mind just craves for it, and I only feel satisfied once I get those things done. I guess it is a healthy addiction.

Q) Aside from bodybuilding, do you have any other hobbies?

I like humour. I watch lots of funny videos and comedies, because laughter is the best medicine! This other hobby of mine might be surprising to many, I like reading science related stuff and expanding my knowledge. I’ve always been into science since I was a kid, be it biological or mechanical aspects. I just look at things (e.g. a vacuum cleaner) and have the tendency to ask myself, how does that work? That leads to me reading up about it and finding out. I like watching documentaries on real life stories, animals, history etc. I’m a movie buff too, and like to catch lots of movies. Otherwise I love to travel, and I wish to check as much of the earth as possible within this lifetime.

Q) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

There will be big changes in my life these coming years. I will be leaving the Navy after 10 years in service this coming March. Thereafter, I plan to work in the fitness industry. In 5 years, I see myself as a well established fitness professional. After so many years as a sportsperson, and all the studies on nutrition, I feel it is the right path for me to share my knowledge and help other people accomplish their dream bodies. More importantly, I see myself as a loving husband to my amazing wife, and perhaps become a Daddy!


Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the image.

Photos published courtesy and with permission from Danie Dharma.

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