From Taeyang’s abs, CL’s shoulder line and even Park Bom’s leg line. There’s a man who has always been by the famous YG Family’s side to give them a charming body. After starting out by working part-time in a gym, Hwang Ssabu is now YG resisdent trainer. Singers are the happiest when they sing, he teaches his working out method and when he sees them looking a healthy life through him, he says he feels happy as a trainer. As he even gave our editor advice to stay healthy during this interview, he’s been giving public lectures for two years and he’s also planning to give personal lectures in order to ensure the health of our citizens. Let’s hear from Hwang Ssabu his YG Family’s know-how diet method and his way to lead a healthy life.
Positive energy = Life’s energizer – Hwang Ssabu
Hello. Please introduce yourself.
Hello. I’m YG resident trainer Hwang Ssabu.
By any chance, do you know Cuvism magazine?
I do. You recently did an interview with Jae Jin. I work out with Jae Jin, so I read it with much interest. I went to your site. The special thing about your magazine is your focus on interviews. This gave me quite a good impression. There are many jobs that can be done by meeting people. That’s why doing many interviews allow you to know a lot about someone in and out, so your magazine is able to convey honesty.
When did you start exercising?
Since I was 4. I would exercise with my father. My father did gymnastics and when I was in college, I also majored in sports with gymnastics as my main course.
Has being a trainer always been your dream since you were a kid?
Absolutely not. I wanted to be a college teacher. When I went to teaching practice and met the students, I realized that teaching wasn’t something for me. After that, I enrolled in grad school, I went to study in the US. However, my parents’ business wasn’t doing great, so it was a difficult time for me. That’s why I started working part-time as a trainer. There was a gym specialized in boxing. This was where I met composer Kim Do Hyun and we started working out together.
So you became a trainer by coincidence. Who was the first celebrity you worked with?
Do Hyun liked me, so he introduced me to Shinhwa’s Min Woo. Min Woo had never tried to build up his body properly until then. After we talked, he said he wanted to work on his body. So I started working also with Min Woo.
I wonder how you joined YG.
At that time Do Hyun was working with YG. He heard they were preparing a complete training program. So he introduced me to Sean-hyung from Jinusean. Once we talked, I got to meet and talk with director Yang Hyun Suk. After that, I settled down at YG.
Who’s the first person you worked with in YG?
At first, they knew there was a gym center in the YG office, but no one knew there was a trainer. The head of the business department came to find me. After we started working out together, he [t/n: I assume it’s a man] losed weight and his physical appearance changed. Other employees noticed how he changed. The word-of-mouth worked and YG celebrities also started getting interested. Big Mama was the first group I got to work with. At some point, the nickname for Big Mama was “Small Mama”. This was when we were working out together. And since then, I’ve been working with all YG celebrities.
How did you get the nickname “Hwang-ssabu”?
It’s common to use English names when you work with people. My family name is Hwang, so it’s not easy to use “Hwang-ssi” in English. After thinking about which nickname would be good, I like martial arts movies and I saw Wong Fei Hung. So I was like “Hwang-ssibu, Hwang-ssibu”, I wondered if it would be a cool nickname for me. I asked Yeon Ah-nuna from Big Mama and she replied “you mean Hwang Ssabu? what’s hwangssibu?”. I also thought about it and I felt “Hwang Ssabu” had more warmth, so I decided to use it as my nickname. Once it was settled, the nickname “ssabu” establishes the hierarchy and I think it helps me when I work out. (laugh) That’s why my sessions always start and end with a 90° bow. When I work with the kids, I always think that I’m not a teacher who only teaches them sports. I think this is what gives us the opportunity to build trust. Anyway, I think that anyone who hears the nickname “Hwang Ssabu” can remember it easily, so I think it definitely stays in mind.
I think the YG celebrities must listen to you well when they call you “Ssabu-nim”.
I wish they would like me a lot. Some of them are scared, some just avoid me.
Some avoid you?
First, there is the Kang Hye Jung-Tablo couple. They are the evil king and queen of late-night snacks. That’s why I’m always keeping an eye on them. (laugh) I’ve been monitoring Park Bom for 7 years. Bom’s leg line is amazing, but she must work out constantly. That’s why I always try to get her to come to the gym. I always talk to the managers and to the 2NE1 members. I tell them that Bom must definitly come to the gym. Bom and I have a love-hate relationship. (laugh) We love each other, but we hate each other. There’s no bad feeling between us.
I remember the scene in 2NE1 TV where you forbad Park Bom to eat corn.
It seems that the broadcast made it look more than what it was because when I forbade her to eat corn, it hadn’t been long since their debut. When Bom is into a certain food, it’s the only thing she eats. She has always loved corn, so she kept eating only corn at that time. It was the only thing I wanted her to adjust and that’s what the scene with her shouting this corn ban until their album release was about.
How is Park Bom staying in shape these days?
Bom is quite busy these days, so it’s difficult for us to stay in touch. That’s why I contact her mother a lot. It’s hard for Bom to come to the gym, but when she’s here, she’s the one who works hard the most. (laugh) She led an American lifestyle for a long time, so working out is ingrained in her body. Her flexibility is good.
What happens if they don’t follow your rules?
I order them to do additional exercises. The thing I can’t stand the most is when people are not on time, when they lie about it. When they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, I make them climb up the stairs from the first floor to the 6th floor. Many people might misunderstand, but they think walking up or running up a stairway gives you a long waist. That’s definitely not true. It shapes your muscles moderately because of the weight shift, but that doesn’t give you a long waist.
So which member of 2NE1 did the most of the stairway exercising?
I almost never caught them, but there was this one time it happened to Chaelin because she wasn’t lucky that day. There were a few times when she hadn’t done what I had asked her to, so I told her to climb up the stairway. I told her: “If you can do it in less than an hour, I’ll let it pass. If you don’t do it, you’ll have to do it twice”. She did it in 40 minutes and came back. That day, I found out Chaelin’s true character. Even when I see her charismatic and powerful image now that makes me go “she’s really strong”, this memory comes to my mind sometimes.
The first one in YG who got noticed for his great body is Taeyang. When did you start working with Taeyang?
I’ve known Jiyong and Taeyang since their trainees days. The first time I saw them, they were already good at dancing and singing. At that time, in the midst of practicing gymnatics, they went sightseeing [?] and since I majored in gymnastics too, I showed them what it was and he started being interested in working out. At that time, Jiyong’s and Taeyang’s bodies were getting in shape. After talking with Taeyang here and there, the question if it’d be good for him to work on his body at least for his solo activities came up and he told me this was what he wanted to. So as he got prepared for his solo activities, he started working out earnestly.
Did you make plans in advance while Taeyang was preparing his solo?
I have a funny story about that. Generally, when artists are working, they take album pictures and then they start performing on stage. It was the system during the Big Mama’s days, but I didn’t know it, so I didn’t make them work out to match their album creation schedule, their program was for their comeback stage. That was a bit puzzling. This was when I found out the way to do it. Taeyang finished his body line program two weeks before his album jacket photo shoot. Our schedules didn’t match, so I couldn’t be with him the day Taeyang went to his photo shoot. He kept worrying because he was all by himself. The next day, Taeyang showed me the pictures and said “Ssabunim, did the pictures come out well?” and they were better than what I thought. After that, I talked with Taeyang. “It’s obvious that your body can be a great advantage when you’re solo. When you’re with BIGBANG, let’s keep you working out only as a member”. Taeyang agreed. Right now, he’s exercising for himself.
Kwon Ji Yong has also been doing solo activities, his body often stood out.
Taeyang mostly does muscle exercises, but Jiyong told me he doesn’t like being too muscular. He has long arms and his body proportions are balanced. Jiyong told me that when wearing sleeveless t-shirts, he likes an athletic image better than a rugged image, so I made his program according to this. Many people will look at him during his solo activities, but the outcome was good. During the encore of his concert, he wears a black sleeveless t-shirt and the pictures the fans took of him came out really nice.
Among the artists you’ve worked with until now, who changed the most?
I can talk about Gummy. I met Gummy for the first time in 2006. We kept talking and she told me to wait a little. Honestly, motivation to exercise is something you must find within yourself. I told her I would wait and she could come to see me whenever she’d be ready. Three months later, she came to find me and we started working together. You’ll probably know if you look at her now, but her image now is quite different from her image when she released her first album. A lot of people think she didn’t do it through exercising, but her body was 100% built up through managing what she eats and exercising. If I were to choose among male celebrities, it’s Daesung. I didn’t reveal it all this time, but I revealed this “secret weapon” while they were doing “Fantastic Baby”. When working out, [body] line is the most important thing in my mind. I think his line came out quite well.
How is Daesung’s program?
It’s very easy to manage Daesung. When you say “don’t do this”, he doesn’t, when you say “do this”, he does. When he goes overseas, he calls me or texts me and I send him his program. When they’re away, I even think they’ll do less, so I send a long program. Daesung actually does everything. As people say, he really lives a disciplined life.
In 2011, you published a book called “Hwang Ssabu’s diet study”.
I had one reason. Your grade is quite different based on if you take the exam after studying seriously or if you just take the exam without doing anything, right? People think that a diet is about eating a little and exercising a lot, but it’s not. In my diet method, I never say you should only eat chicken breast. We eat everything. If you compare with other groups, you can probably see it, but it’s not about starving yourself, it’s about doing a real diet. Because discipline is about finding the right way to adjust what you eat. To be honest, dieting is easy if you understand the theorical aspect of it. I didn’t want to share this just with the kids, I wanted to share it with a lot of people, so I released this book.
So which diet method can be found in your book?
It’s an equilateral-triangle-like theory. An equilateral triangle is a triangle in which the three sides are equal. My three sides are “food”, “lifestyle” and “exercising”. If you find the balance between these three things, you’ll be able to stay healthy while you’re on a diet. Even if you fail, you can easily understand the cause and the consequence. For instance, if you care about food and working out and you don’t lose weight, that means the problem lies in your lifestyle. When you sleep well and eat well and you don’t lose weight, the way you exercise could be the cause.
So how should we adjust the way we eat?
As I mentioned theses three areas earlier, if you can’t find the right balance in one aspect, you turn the equilateral triangle upside down. In the food area, you can talk about an inverted triangle, you gradually eat less during the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a 3:2:1 basis. You must pick up the habit to control the size of your meals, so when you stop the diet, there’s no yo-yo effect. Many people think you can lose weight by working out. Working out isn’t what makes you lose weight. You must use exercising as a way to help you. If you eat 1,600kcal, even if you run on a treadmill for two hours, you’ll lose only up to 500kcal. So what do you do with the 1,100kcal left, will you work out again? That’s the reason the amount of exercising you do can’t follow the amount of food you eat. That’s why the most important thing is to adjust your total intake.
I’m sure reading your book while going on a diet would definitely help.
There’s even a DVD included to make things easier. If you watch the DVD and read the book, it will be easy.
Books aside, is there a way to find out about your exercising methods?
I’ve been giving lectures for two years. I still see people who came to my first lecture. I’m very thankful to them. That’s why I have a sense of duty and I’m working hard. If you want advice, you can contact me on Facebook, Twitter and my online community and I’ll reply as best I can.
Hwang Ssabu who lives always smiling to lead a healthy life
What’s your daily schedule?
I wake up at 5AM. I turn on my computer and I answer to any message left through my online community. At 7AM, I’ll upload the first round of good famous sayings. If you wonder why I upload those sayings, it’s because if you lead a busy life, reading a saying can help you going through it. Anyone reading the sayings I upload online can find something to help them. When you read them again, you get this feeling of awareness. And after that, I upload the Hwang Ssabu rules.
What is your favorite saying?
“Anything in this world comes with a price” [or something like “you must work hard to get what you want”]. It’s something a veteran told me when I was in the army. I didn’t forget it because it was in the army, I realized that it was true in any situation.
What is the Hwang Ssabu rule you talked about?
Theses are basic rules to be healthy and how to do a diet in your own way. First of all, drink a cup of lukewarm water right after getting up. There are many things we do in a sitting position, so stand up and do some stretching for your blood circulation, clap 30 times with enthusiasm. The sensation you get in the palms of your hands will depend from the stimulation and you’ll be able to feel the effect. And last, laugh big. I mean show a big smile to others, I think we must create the occasions for us to smile. If you smile/laugh big, even if you’re by yourself, it puts you in a good mood and the people working next to you will be in a good mood too. Having a healthy body is about having a healthy heart, having a positive mind.
I’m curious to see if you’re interested in other fields besides sports.
I love reading. Books about self-improvement are my favorite. Before I got married, I went to the bookstore every weekend. Because I’m mainly interested in sports, I read books in this field first. I guess I didn’t even notice that exercising makes me enjoy the idea of challenging myself and achieving something. I also want to read almost every interesting autobiography. There was a time when my wife and I had a date in a bookstore, she said she didn’t know we’d spend so much time in the bookstore. (laugh)
Which kind of father are you?
I haven’t gotten a good grade yet. (laugh) To be honest, my father was family-oriented, so the table always had to come to where he would sit. My mom is from the Jeolla-do, so she thought it was natural to do things for us this way. Growing up like this, it was fair to me that I did sports after I got married like my father did. However, my wife got mad at me. I’m much older now, but I don’t think I’m an attentive husband yet. I’m a Busan guy, so some things are a bit difficult for me. I work hard to be a good husband, but I don’t know which grade I would get. I’m good to my baby. I want to spend as much time as I can with him.
I want to know your goal for 2013.
In 2012, I worked with a mall cultural center and I gave many classes about diet theories. I also gave open lectures once a month. In 2013, I want to favor practice. I want to meet many people and help them find more freedom in their lives by exercising together. If I get the opportunity, be it through group lectures or through exercising, I definitely want to do it.
It seems that you really want to share the methods you know.
Because I definitely want people to know there are also diet methods different from what they know.
What does “self-discipline” mean to you?
I want to say that “self-discipline” is like eating. You eat three times a day. You eat regularly because this is what keeps you alive. Self-discipline is exactly the same. I think the most important is to do it on a regular basis. Don’t think “I’m fine because I’m healthy”. When you’re healthy, you must take care of yourself. People always say they don’t exercise because they don’t have time. Of course we’re always running after time. That’s why you must make time to exercise. That’s why I think self-discipline is like eating.
Talking to you yesterday, I realized how leading a healthy life is something you must create for yourself. I’ll try my best to keep your Hwang Ssabu rules in mind and also try to live a better life. Please say a final word to the Cuvism readers.
Just like this magazine’s name is Cuvism, I hope you get to see many images through what we talked about. And, even if it’s just one story, I hope it can help you. There are many ways to do a diet. I hope you see my way as one of them and I hope you’ll find a method that is good foor you. I hope any thing you work hard for on a regular basis will come true. You’re not lacking, so just live and smile to lead a healthy life.
t/n: so just like the Lee Sung Kyung’s itw, I hadn’t saved the full original interview. Cuvism is down for now, so I couldn’t go back and check my first draft which I had tried to work on all through summer 2014… But I think everything makes sense and if I’m off about some stuff, it can’t be THAT off. Thanks for understanding.
Translation: @onesunnylady – thesunnytown.wordpress.com