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Explore Hong Kong

Strong is the new skinny: cult Lamma fitness camp team open own gym

Ursus Fitness takes a no-nonsense approach to fitness, with strongman routines, high-intensity interval training, boxing and more. But it’s fun too. Open 3 months, half its clients are women

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 January, 2016, 7:46am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 January, 2016, 10:57am

For those who hate endless, boring treadmill sessions, there’s a new kid on the block championing dynamic, raw fitness training centred on HIIT (high-intensity interval training), strongman training, circuit training and boxing.

With Hong Kong catching up to the “strong is the new skinny” fitness trend, Ursus Fitness is an intimate gym, tucked away in a very quiet corner of Sai Ying Pun, in Western, that focuses on getting fast results using a method that’s still rare in the city. Half its clients are women.

The gym, started by Gary Manwaring and Satina ‘Bam’ Philips, opened in October 2015; before that they had run HIIT fitness outdoor ‘Bear Camps’ on Lamma Island, using military-style training and strongman lifting methods (Ursus is Latin for bear, if you don’t know).

The camps’ fun, friendly, no-nonsense style quickly attracted a dedicated following. Having trained both amateurs and professional sports teams, the pair decided to start up a permanent gym space.

On a recent visit Muay Thai expert Pele (Sarawut Rangkrathok) was training gym-goers in the ring, correcting technique and providing a tough cardiovascular workout. Outside the ring, small groups are drilled by Manwaring and Philips in circuits that can include deadlifting, biking, flipping tyres, and lifting atlas stones. The idea is to train in an effective way to improve strength and endurance skills as well as weight control.

I discovered boxing less than a year ago while doing personal training sessions with Manwaring (who is also a Muay Thai expert and previously trained Thai police and marines) and, after joining his Lamma Island Bear Camps, found my perfect combination fitness routine.

This is a space dedicated to unfettered, raw fitness – none of the selfie-taking, barely-breaking-a-sweat rubbish you see in so many big Hong Kong gyms. Most importantly, there’s a great community spirit and it’s great fun.

On March 12-13, Ursus is staging the city’s first BearCamp and Strongman/Strongwoman Championships.

Ursus Fitness is at Unit 2-4, 64-68 Pokfulam Road, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, tel: 2803 2774