Paleo Training: The Strength Project

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If you hate gyms, try training here

I’ve been training pretty consistently for the last 12 years, and the amount of effort and time I’ve wasted during this time is astonishing. I used to judge a gym by the amount of machines they had, my program stayed pretty much the same for years on end and I thought that what I was doing – long distance running and what basically amounted to bodybuilding – would help me excel in football and sport.

My workouts still had value and were far better than doing nothing, but my outlook towards exercise and health has changed pretty dramatically since then.

Looking back, the worst thing about my old routine was how boring it became. I often found myself yawning in between sets and working out became a real chore.

Now, I can honestly say that I love training and look forward to it. Everyone should. I really believe, perhaps naively, that everyone has a way of moving that they enjoy. They just might not have found it yet.

You never see a 3 year old lethargic and lazy, making excuses not to go and play or run around. Sadly, along the way somewhere we lose this natural zest for movement.

Another drawback with my old ways was that I didn’t really know what I was training for and when I did have a goal, I wasn’t really sure how my training, diet and lifestyle would impact it.

My approach to training has taken a massive u-turn since then. I still lift weights, but no more of this ‘2 seconds up, 2 seconds down’ bull. I lift, jump, twist, shift, flip and sweep in every possible plane of motion, and I make it as fun as possible. Some days I try and invent a load of movements I’ve never done before; other days I’ll focus on the big lifts.

One of my new years goals was to try new things, and I’ve recently been doing this through a series of dietary experiments. This goal, along with a couple of minor injuries in the last few months gave me the inspiration for my latest project.

For two months, I will lift no weights, and will only use my own bodyweight for exercise. I can’t get away from demonstrating exercises with light weights but all my own training will be using only my body.

I’m pretty excited about this one – it will force me to get super creative with my programs and it will prove that you can get in good shape and maintain optimum fitness levels without equipment or an expensive gym membership.

I’m currently on some well-deserved R&R in Sri Lanka, and I think there can’t be many better places in the world to start this ‘strength project’ than the beaches here.

I’ve trained every day and have had some of my most intense workouts for a long time. I’ve been beach running , done bootcamp style exercises such as burpees, lunge jumps and press ups, I’ve used palm trees as pull up bars, have climbed rocks, been stair running and have been smashed around by the violent waves of the Indian Ocean. All with a healthy dose of sunshine.

People often talk about the paleo diet but I think we can also learn a lot by thinking about how we moved and used our bodies as we evolved. Did our ancestors use a bicep curl machine or an elliptical trainer? Hell no. Many people train in a way that has no real life equivalent. Our ancestors would’ve climbed, run, pushed and pulled themselves around, squatted and lifted heavy shit. I think we should base a large chunk of our training and movement around this for top results, not in just how we look but also how we feel. It’s my belief that these kind of primal movement patterns trigger a positive hormonal response that promotes muscle growth, fat burning and optimal health. If it’s done in natural surroundings then all the better.

For my following write ups on this I’m going to refer to these natural movements as Paleo Training – use the term and I’ll get my lawyers onto you ; )

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for other types of training for specific goals, but for general health and the athletic, lean look that seems to be most desired at the moment, you can’t go far wrong with Paleo Training.

As with my diet experiments, I will let you know how I get on with my 8 week bodyweight program, and I’ll give you guys a few sample workouts for the next time you’re at the beach, or you want to make the most of a sunny day at the park.

My experiment will consist of sprints, running, jumps, pushes, pulls, calisthenics and gymnastics. If you have any training ideas or opinions about this approach versus other training methods, I’d love to hear all about it.
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Organic coconuts, or ‘coconuts’ as the locals call them

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This awesome view was my reward for hitting interval sprints up some stairs I noticed by the roadside

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This tree was my bootcamp finisher pull up bar. Tore my hands up a bit, but that was part of the fun

Not enough time to work out? Time for Tabata Training!

One of the most common excuses I hear for not having enough time to work out is lack of time to train. What this usually really means is “I’m not motivated enough” or “I can’t be bothered”. Whilst it’s everyone’s personal decision whether to train or do exercise it’s better to be honest with yourself so that these barriers can be overcome by making workouts more fun, training with friends or by taking up a sport you enjoy, to name but a few ideas.

HOWEVER, if you want to keep super fit but genuinely do not have enough time to do a solid workout and you want to keep your fitness levels high and your body challenged, Tabata Training could be for you!

In a nutshell, Tabata is a super high-intensity circuit workout that lasts 4 minutes. Now, I imagine you’re thinking that 4 minutes doesn’t sound all that bad, but it’s 4 minutes of the highest intensity possible – 10.0 on the intensity scale. This maximum intensity is coupled with the 2:1 work:rest ratio, which makes it is an EXTREME workout. Please bear in mind that this was designed for Olympic athletes competing at the top level to shock their body so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

The circuit is broken down into:

20 seconds work (maximum 10.0 on 0-10 RPE intensity scale i.e. as many reps as possible, as fast as possible)

10 seconds rest

Repeat 7 times to make a complete 8 circuits (using one exercise or a mix of different exercises)… and there’s your complete Tabata workout that Dr Izumi Tabata himself would be proud of (yes, he invented it).

At the bottom of this post is the best example of Tabata I could find on YouTube, which uses the TRX training system.

Why should I do Tabata?

Now we should be clear that Tabata training is not for beginners. The Tabata Timer app on the iPhone has a rather daunting warning that I quite like:

Tabata training is very intensive training and can lead to loss of consciousness.

So not for everyone. It is a favourite amongst combat athletes, MMA fighters, Olympic lifters and sportsmen because it hits both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, which means it improves your sprinting/explosive movements as well as your CV endurance – perfect for sportsmen and sportswomen who compete at a high level!

Other benefits include the ‘kick-start’ it gives to your metabolism, which means you burn calories for hours afterwards as your body recovers from the high levels of intensity. It’s also, as mentioned before, great for those who don’t have much free time. Even if you work 12-hour days you could still squeeze one of these into a 15 minute break.

I feel that another big benefit is that because it is such a gruelling workout it prepares weight trainers for hardcore exercise in a way that not many other types of training can’t. It really pushes you physically and psychologically and that can only be good for getting yourself to go that little bit further, to get one more rep out.

What type of exercises should I use with Tabata?

A few things to bear in mind – big compound exercises should be used and not isolation exercises that work one muscle, like bicep curls. A few examples are:

  • Squat jumps
  • Burpees
  • Clean & jerks
  • Rows
  • Press ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Pull ups
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Military shoulder press
  • Jumping jacks/star jumps

You should also be careful with the amount of weight used – after 3 or 4 sets of these you’ll be feeling it, so if you overestimate your weight you may not finish the 8 circuits or your form could be compromised which can be dangerous with movements such as deadlifts. So keep your ego in check when selecting weights at the beginning.

Last word – if you don’t work at 100% during the 20 seconds work phase and if you cheat and have more than 10 seconds rest then you’re not Tabata training. Simple as. That’s not to say that you’re workout won’t be effective because it will, but it will not be nearly as effective as Tabata performed properly.

If Tabata is a little beyond your fitness levels, a Tabata-style circuit workout with, for example, longer rest periods, can still be squeezed into a short time frame and will still be great.

Be careful, and enjoy!

List of gyms and health clubs in Bangkok and Thailand

Revised April 2017.

The fitness industry in Thailand was in its infancy when I first arrived here 10 years ago, but it has matured into a strong scene now with some first-class fitness training available to expats and locals.

Here’s my guide to the main gym and health club options in Bangkok.

BASE

The vision at BASE was to bring a fitness studio to Bangkok that would rival anything found in top international fitness cities such as New York and London.

BASE combines HIIT and strength training for the best possible results in burning fat and building muscle.

BASE uses a science and data-driven approach to your results that leaves nothing to chance. They have an industry-leading InBody machine which accurately details your body fat and muscle mass percentage. BASE also offer a monthly fitness assessment called BASELINE for all of their group class and personal training clients that shows how your cardio and strength is improving.

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With this information the coaches at BASE can accurately see how your training and nutrition is affecting your body and we can make adjustments along the way to ensure your making steps towards your goals.

For more information, check out their pages on What is BASE?, their team of fitness coaches or information on how to find the centrally located studio next to Thonglor BTS

For more information, contact BASE.

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BASE uses treadmills, rowing machines and bikes and expert coaching on HIIT – the result? Accelerated and highly efficient fat burning

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The tools of choice at BASE are TRX, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight exercise to help build muscle, improve shape and gain strength

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BASE is partnered with adidas and offers exclusive adidas x BASE apparel. Complimentary HARNN product are available in their bathrooms

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Luxe-feel bathrooms and free shower and workout towels complete the training experience

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BASE Coaches are equipped to help all levels improve. The goal at BASE is to help beginners develop a love for exercise and they’ve helped many newcomers see great results

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The team of qualified coaches are friendly, passionate and highly driven to seeing all of our clients get stronger and fitter

WE Fitness Society

This gym chain has replaced California Wow as the loud, brash player on Bangkok’s fitness market. Their marketing strategy has had them driving trucks of young models around the city dancing to pumping house music, screaming for attention. I’m all for a bit of eye candy to liven up Bangkok’s traffic so they get a thumbs up from me on this point alone.

Other than driving models round the city, they also have a network of 3 fitness centres: Esplanade Ratchada, Ekkamai near the BTS and Ratchayotin up near Chatuchak. The machines and free weights are well equipped so if you’re looking to do your own training at a budget price, check them out. They also have classes and personal training available for Powerplate, kickboxing, antigravity yoga, Pilates and Synergy 360. Membership includes access to all branches.

WE Fitness Society Website

True Fitness

True Fitness boast 2 clubs in prime locations in Bangkok – one at Asoke in Exchange Tower, the other at CentralWorld. True Fitness looks and feels like another chain gym – machines, treadmills, free weights, spin classes etc. If this is what you’re looking for then True is a good option. They’ve made an attempt at adding some more progressive pieces of kit such as TRX and Vipr but they are usually left unused.

True Fitness Website

Virgin Active

virgin active bangkokThis fitness chain powerhouse from the UK touched down in Asia with a Singapore branch recently and have just opened their first club in Bangkok at Empire Tower, Sathorn. They have quite a health club vibe with salt rooms, sleep pods (I could do with one of these) and fancy showers. They also have all the latest, expensive machines that even count your reps. This kind of thing isn’t for me but if you want a smart, plush gym where you can chill as well as train then this is definitely worth visiting. The coolest thing I haven’t mentioned? They have a climbing wall!

Virgin Active Thailand Website

Fitness First

The world’s biggest fitness chain have a network of 25 fitness clubs throughout Bangkok. Some of their branches are older gyms with all your standard, traditional gear, whereas the newer gyms such as the one at Siam Paragon and Terminal 21 have a lot of newer equipment and kit such as TRX, kettlebells etc.

Fitness First offer a broad range of high-quality gym equipment imported from abroad. You can also use your international membership (Singapore and UK, to name a few other countries where they have a presence) to access their gyms. They offer a 3-day free pass at reception on enquiry or through their website.

Fitness First Thailand Website

Clark Hatch

On my last update they had 9 branches, now they only have one branch near Silom. You can get a free pass on their website so check them out if you’re round that way.

Clark Hatch Thailand Website

Crossfit

There are now 4 Crossfit boxes in Bangkok: Crossfit Arena, Crossfit BK, Crossfit 10500 and Training Ground.

I would class Training Ground as the premier Crossfit in Bangkok – they’ve a big warehouse walking distance from Phra Khanong BTS.

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Olympic lifts make up a big part of Crossfit

A few years ago I completed my Level 1 Crossfit Certification in Seoul, at BASE we implement some Crossfit techniques into our coaching, such as gymnastics, calisthenics, barbell lifting and high intensity interval training with recorded, measured progress. I have mixed feelings about Crossfit overall but I think there are some great things about it. I incorporate the parts of Crossfit that I feel have the most value and would most benefit my suitable clients. Contact BASE for more information on this.

Royal Bangkok Sports Club  (RBSC)

Royal Bangkok Sports Club

Royal Bangkok Sports Club

Spacious, well located and with a retro vibe, RBSC offers a huge array of sports. They have a 50 metre Olympic pool, 16 tennis courts, driving range with golf course and an indoor sports hall with basketball court, to name a few.

RBSC Website

Twist Conditioning

twist bangkokPeter Twist not only has a cool name, but he’s an innovator of the functional fitness scene and founder of Twist Conditioning. This Canada based brand opened their Bangkok branch in October ’13 and offers personal and group training. Their aim is to build ‘Smart Muscle’ using unstable surfaces, BOSU, balance boards, Viprs as well as some more traditional strength equipment such as dumbbells and barbells. They were originally located in Silom but have relocated to Activ Parc, next to Chidlom BTS.

Twist Conditioning Bangkok Facebook

Fitness Innovations Thailand (FIT Thai)

Not a gym, but worth a mention as FIT offer personal training qualifications for fitness professionals in Bangkok. They offer ACE certified courses to be a fitness trainer as well as numerous other courses covering all aspects of fitness.

They also offer group class training at their premises neat Ploenchit BTS. Check their website or contact them for more info on this.

FIT Thai Website

New Moves

Described as an ‘exercise exploration centre’, New Moves is centrally located right next to Chidlom BTS and is more of an open training space for personal and group training, rather than a traditional gym. Their approach aims to break free from restrictive and dated methods of exercise with more experimental and progressive training methods that yield enhanced movement and better results.

Hotel and Apartment Gyms

There are countless, perhaps 100-200+, health clubs and gyms in Bangkok’s hotels, apartments and condos. They are usually quite expensive and not well equipped in terms of fitness equipment, but they are usually quieter and often come with luxury extras such as swimming pools, jacuzzis, saunas etc. Every one of the many 5-star hotels in Bangkok would offer a health club/gym of some kind and will take memberships from outside clients.

Gym at the Radisson Hotel, Bangkok

Other gyms and health clubs worth a mention

The Racquet Club Sukhumvit soi 49

Balance Health Club Sukhumvit soi 30/1

All the gyms and fitness centres detailed here can be viewed on our Bangkok Fitness Map