Sathish Muneeswaran Wants to Change the Conversation in The Tamil Community Around Strength Training, Fitness & Healthy Eating

Personal trainer Sathish Muneeswaran has been involved with sports and athletics for most of his life. His passion for fitness grew out of an interest in enhancing performance and preventing injuries. With a Bachelors of Honours in Kinesiology, Sathish has a deep understanding of anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology. Sathish’s training approach is grounded in strength training but also incorporates structural balance, bodyweight training and metabolic conditioning.  He firmly believes we should all strive to find our true potential and to become stronger than we were yesterday. He also believes that with a smart approach, along with some good old fashion grit and hard work, anyone can reach their goals.

You don’t see that many Tamil people that have impressive physiques, and you are one of them (your lat game is crazy).  Why are you so passionate about strength training (along with eating right, etc)?  

Appreciate the kind words sir! I would love to put all the credit to Amma’s curries but that wouldn’t be 100 percent true. I believe the passion truly began when I first started playing sports. I was always one of the top players in most of my teams except when I got to my senior basketball team and was not able to hang with the rest of them. They were all much more skilled than I was. I quickly realized that I needed to either be faster or stronger than my teammates in order to make the starting line-up. 

From then, I have never stopped. I fell in love with the pursuit of improving my mind and body through strength training and nutrition. Whether it was from Tamil Movies as a kid, or influence from role models around me, I always viewed being strong as a personality trait I wanted to be associated with.

My passion then grew to how can I provide this same sense of fulfillment to others around me.  I went on to study Kinesiology and become a Personal Trainer and a Strength/Conditioning Coach. I believe strength training is for everyone, and everyone should be able to know what it feels like to be capable. 

What are some common mistakes you see people make around training?

This is a loaded question as there are many avenues to consider. I would say there are 2 common mistakes that I see people making.

1. Prioritizing Intensity over Consistency 

When most people start their fitness journey, the usual pattern starts with high motivation and excitement. This usually leads to high intense sessions and extreme nutrition restrictions, which puts too much stress on the body too quickly. Often you will see people following approaches that are rooted in quick fixes and diet trends (Keto, Paleo, etc.) instead of following science-based approaches. I understand it is much more attractive to loose 30lbs in 12-weeks instead of 30lbs in one year, but the unfortunate truth is most people who use extreme approaches often gain it back once the time frame is done. Also, training with high intensity all the time usually can potentially lead to injuries which usually stops activity all together. 

Instead, I recommend clients to start initially with creating small habitual changes in daily lifestyle. Implementing simple strategies that are easy to stick to and have lasting changes. Starting with daily walks, morning mobility, and ensuring adequate amount of nutrition is met (often suggesting more protein). Every gym session does not need to be a hard one and the same goes with your nutrition.  It does not need to be extreme. The routine and diet that provides the best results is the one you enjoy doing and the one you can stay consistent with. The goal of fitness is to be sustainable. Consistency trumps intensity, and always yields results.

2. Training Muscles not Movement

The top goals most people have when starting are usually related to aesthetic goals (building muscle, losing weight, “toning” body). However, I believe this can be problematic if it is the most important goal you have. The unfortunate truth is that most physiological changes take a long time and building muscle isn’t an easy avenue. 

Instead, a different way to approach this is to consider training movements. There are 5 movement patterns that should be a staple in everyone’s training: Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, Lunge.  As you become stronger in these movement patterns, you will notice the muscles that control it will start to grow. A perfect example would be myself – my favourite pattern to train is pulling and I perform a lot of pull ups, which is why my lats are so developed. Building your body is like building a house – before you start doing any decorating, you need to have a solid foundation. Big compound movements are your foundation. Single-joint isolation exercises are the decorations.

When I first met you playing basketball, weight training and eating right weren’t a big thing in a Tamil community.  I see this changing quickly – what do you think this is?

This is very interesting, and yes, I totally agree. I do think a big part of this has to do with being first-generation children: the struggles and priorities of our parents coming to a new country were more focused on becoming financially stable. Our parents constantly instilled in our heads, growing up, that wealth and education are the means to a successful and fulfilling life. However, as we reached these goals, (because we had no other choice haha) I believe we started to notice the decline in our well-being and also with our parents. Most Tamil parents, have many health problems, that I believe could have been easily prevented if they considered exercising more and eating better at a younger age. I do believe, we are learning from these mistakes, and much more people in the Tamil community are finding ways of making this a priority in their lives.

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