All You Need to Know About Men’s Fitness in Hong Kong


 (Note: This article originally appeared on

In a city with arguably the most literal approach to the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic, finding the time to stay in shape can be a real challenge. To help you get on top of your game, we’ve gathered together a panel of Hong Kong fitness gurus to give you the low-down on fitness trends, common workout mistakes, and top tips on how to shake up your regime.


Clearing Hong Kong’s Hurdles


Work Hard

Sedentary jobs dominate in Hong Kong, which not only reduces your daily calorie-burning count to practically nil, but also shortens your hamstrings and weakens the spine, explains Ian Wilson, head strength coach at Primal Strength. As a result, the temptation to go hard and fast with weight training, as opposed to gradually working your way up the weight scale, has the potential to do real damage.

Long hours are this city’s forte, as demonstrated by its chart-topping performance in the UBS annual Prices and Earnings 2015 study. Hong Kongers rack up over 50 hoursin the workplace every week, on average, beating 70 other global cities measured in the report by a clear mile. Without using work as an excuse, we really do have less time to dedicate to working out. “The mentality behind the work ethic definitely hinders people’s enthusiasm to exercise,” explains Max Lai, founder of Urban Active. “However, for those starting out it can be as simple as 45 minutes, three to four times a week. Many people I know work out before work so it doesn’t impact on their work.” Set your alarm clocks guys.


Play Harder

Socialising is at the heart of the Hong Kong lifestyle. Though happy hours and after work drinks may be kind on the pocket, they’re definitely not kind on your health. Alcohol has a huge amount of calories in it and can actually hinder muscular repair – hey, we’re not telling you to go teetotal, just approach socialising and fitness as equally important pastimes.

“Choose what you drink carefully – I tend to stick to Gin & Tonic, as it’s low in calories, and red wine – in small amounts it can actually assist muscle recovery as it helps open your blood vessels.” – Max Lai, founder of Urban Active.

Diet is just as much of a battle, with luxurious Hong Kong restaurants serving up uncontrolled portions, and small kitchens putting many off prepping meals at home. We hate to break it to you, but you can’t out train a bad diet. The key to healthy nutrition? Ditch the “diet”, and with it the potential to fail. Simply make conscious choices every day and soon enough it will become a way of life.


Pre-workout Tips


It doesn’t take a genius to work out that without fuel in the tank, you’ll run out of steam. Our fitness gurus all agree that a light meal an hour or two before a workout is the way to go. Some like fruit, others suggest a small amount of carbohydrate – it’s a personal choice, but eating something before your workout is definitely the key.

Lacking motivation? Take the advice of Max, founder and trainer at Urban Active, and have a pre-workout drink to get you fired up. Check out the offerings of Streamline Sports – its citrus flavoured Energy Source Xtreme will have you raring to go in just 15 minutes.


Workout Spaces


So, the gym doesn’t motivate you … don’t give up – get out! Hong Kong may be a concrete jungle, but it has plenty of outdoor workout spaces to get creative in. Plus, we have the privilege of friendly weather (raging humidity excepted) the year round, making al fresco workouts a realistic and money-saving option. To help you out, we asked our fitness friends to share their favourite, free workout spots around the city.




image4Dan Williams, head trainer, Precision Fitness: “I love basketball courts. You can get creative with the lines and add different stimulus – it’s a blank canvas to bring any equipment you want.”


image7Ian Wilson, head strength coach, Primal Strength: “I know it’s an old cliché, however one of the great pastimes in Hong Kong is hiking. A brisk walk on a cooler day when the humidity isn’t so punishing.”


image5wRuarai Farquhar, CEO, APNutrition: Sai Kung Running Track – the view is incredible, the weather is pretty great all year round, and you can’t beat a sprint workout for burning fat.”


image6eeMax Lai, founder and trainer, Urban Active: “I believe you can get fit anytime and anywhere. You can do push-ups and sit-ups in your living room, or even your bedroom. Check out my YouTube channel for regular workout videos.



The Rise of Bootcamp

The global rise of bootcamp style workouts has been quite remarkable. Increasing numbers of people are shunning the monotony of the gym in favour of this high-intensity, varied programme of exercises. So what’s all the fuss about?



It’s Functional

With emphasis on core stability, a proportional body shape, and workouts that will enhance your daily physical performance (as opposed to just looking good on camera), bootcamp workouts are fully geared towards achieving all round fitness. “People are making a change to functional fitness rather than just hitting the gym for bodybuilding style”, explains Ruarai of APNutrition. Top heavy forms are a thing of the past (hurrah), and nowadays it’s all about the whole package.

It’s Competitive 

The competitive streak which flares up during group workouts is undoubtedly a factor contributing to the popularity of bootcamps. Perhaps even more so in a career-driven city like Hong Kong. Lord knows there’s competition pumping through the veins of this place.

It’s Varied

If you’re bored with your workout regime, your motivation tends to drop, resulting in less productive sessions. The beauty of bootcamp workouts is in their variety and excitement, according to Max, founder and trainer at Urban Active, “Most people find pumping weights in the gym dull and boring so they turn to bootcamp as it’s more exciting and allows for a lot more interaction”.

It’s Sociable

Well, Hong Kongers are sociable beings after all. Not only does bootcamp open the door for new friendships, “The group mentality is really motivating for people who don’t enjoy exercising”, explains Ruarai of APNutrition, “Just make sure you have a good coach because CrossFit style workouts are famous for injuries.”

Budget Bootcamps

Looking to spice up your exercise regime? Check out these urban workout sessions – checking in at around $100 a pop, they’re guaranteed to get you fired up about fitness without burning a hole in your pocket.


Urban Active
Classes: MAXHIIT, Relentless Muscle, and Morning Vinyasa
Location: Tamar Park, Causeway Bay Sports Ground, Victoria Park
How much: $20 per class plus $100 annual membership fee (free trial class too)

The November Project
Classes: Workout Wednesdays
Location: Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park (7am sharp!)
How much: Free!

Outdoor Fitness
Classes: Bootcamp, TRX, BoxFit, AquaFit
Location: Sai Kung
How much: $100 – $120 per class

Perun Fitness
Classes: Bootcamp, TRX, Boxing
Location: Lantau
How much: $100 – $120 per class

Bespoke Fitness


Ultimate Performance

Although many fitness providers on our list here offer support in a community-driven sphere, the onus is very much on you to create your own scheduling, look after your own diet etc. And let’s be honest, a lifetime of bad habits can be a daunting thing to try and undo off your own back. So, if you’re the kind of person who wants to be proverbially broken down and built back up again by someone in the know, then Ultimate Performance is surely one of the best options in the city. Their 12 Week Muscle Building program is insane, with every detail catered to your needs – nutrition, sleep, when to breath, and, of course, lots of exercise. If you have the stomach to stick it out, then you’ll see some game-changing results.

Ultimate Performance, Central – 3/F Unicorn Trade Centre, 127-131 Des Veoux Road, (+852) 2798 9000
Causeway Bay – 11/F Midtown Plaza II, 1-29 Tang Lung Street, (+852) 7989 0000


Fitness Classes


 With a greater emphasis on gymnastic-style strength and positions, calisthenics is certainly coming up on the Hong Kong  fitness radar. “Guys are loving to show what kind of strange positions they can get into on rings at the moment. It’s all I see  when I walk into a gym”, says Dan of Precision Fitness. So what’s the attraction of this practice over traditional weight  training? “No equipment is needed! Due to the price of gyms in Hong Kong, I could see this becoming an increasingly  attractive alternative”, explains Max of Urban Active.





Strong Manimage12

 The mental challenge is at the heart of bootcamp’s success in Hong Kong, according to Ian of Primal Strength – hence why he predicts Strong Man-style  workouts will come to the fore. It’s no wonder that people in highly competitive jobs find it difficult to leave that fiery attitude at the door. Ruarai of  APNutrition agrees that this style of regime will be the next big thing, pointing to the newly opened, strongman-focused Ursus Fitness gym in Sai Ying  Pun as a sign of this upcoming trend.






Favourite Workouts

Regardless of trends, everyone has a favourite workout. Looking for some inspiration? Check out what our fitness panel has to say.



Ian, Primal Strength, head strength coach: “I enjoy Primal Circuits at HKIS Sports Field (next to the Primal Strength studio) using some modified strongman equipment such as Prowler, Weighted Sleds, battle ropes, and heavy tyres to develop the energy system.

Dan, Precision Fitness head trainer: “A deadlift, bench, or squat OMEM. Stick a heavy weight on the bar for low reps, pick a nice time like 10 or 15 minutes and get going.”

Max, Urban Active founder and trainer: “It has to be HIIT – 30 to 45 minutes of intense interval training. Come check out Urban Active!”

Ruarai, APNutrition CEO: “Anything that focuses on compound movements e.g. squats, bench press, and focusing on getting stronger over time.”


Common Workout Mistakes

Rigorous fitness regimes have the potential to cause real harm if you don’t know what you’re doing. By making yourself aware of these five common mistakes, and correcting your technique in light of this knowledge, you’ll boost the efficiency of your workouts and show injury the door.



  1. Not doing a full range of motion – ditch the half-hearted approach and make every move count. Squat to a 90 degree angle, and bench press to touch your chest. Yes, every time.
  2. Ego-lifting – resist the temptation to lift heavy weights before your body is ready. Not only are you compromising your safety, you’re also training ineffectively. Strive for quality – rack up the reps at a manageable weight.
  3. Goal-orientated workouts – starting a session with a number of reps in mind makes it easy to stop before you’re reached your limit. “Don’t start counting until it hurts,” says Max, founder of Urban Active, “then count to 10, and if you can do more add an extra 5.”
  4. Unequal training – leg days and cardio sessions may not be as enjoyable in your opinion, but to achieve a proportional form training all parts of your body equally is essential.
  5. Ignoring structural imbalances – Ian, chief weight trainer at Primal Strength, points to this issue, which is particularly poignant in Hong Kong, due to the popularity of one-sided spots such as dragon boating. If one side of your body is weaker, don’t ignore it – focus and train accordingly.

Post-workout Routines

The process doesn’t end when you finish your workout – a little extra focus and effort afterwards makes the world of difference. Don’t walk away from a fitness session with the attitude that it negates everything you put into your body afterwards.


Our fitness panel agree that protein is the best source of energy post-workout. Whether it’s a high-protein food, such as almonds, or a low calorie protein shake, protein is definitely the way to go.

How crucial is meal timing? Ideally you should eat within an hour or two of your workout, but really “meal timing is blown out of proportion”, explains Ruarai of APNutrition.”Nutrition is more of a daily totals thing. Make sure you’re taking in enough protein, carbs, fats, fibre, and micro-nutrients throughout the day and you’re golden.”


Go get ’em tiger!




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