Bangkok’s insane full-body workouts turn your legs to jelly and make your glutes beg for mercy

Are you tired of jazzercising with the ladies in Lumpini Park? Bored with slogging miles on the treadmill? Whether you’re over your current exercise routine or looking for a way to spice things up, you happen to be in a city filled with world-class workout opportunities guaranteed to leave you on the ground gasping for breath in a pool of your own sweat.

Here are some of Bangkok’s best full-body workouts.

Altitude Training at Virgin Active Empire Tower

Virgin Active may be one of Bangkok’s sexiest gyms with its colorful lighting and swanky atmosphere. The lululemon-wearing goddesses walking around the place are enough to inspire you to work out harder, and the gym has plenty of classes available so you can make that happen.

Although Virgin Active has multiple locations, you need to go to the Empire Tower outpost if you’re looking to get high — high altitude, that is. The Altitude Training class is a high intensity interval training session that’s done on the next level — a level of 3000 meters. A locked chamber in the gym simulates high altitudes to push your body harder without the possible danger of actually exercising at high altitudes.

Your Virgin Active trainer checks your blood pressure and gauges your health before you’re allowed inside the high altitude room. Next, he or she will lead you through a warm-up and introduce you to the various parts of your workout circuit. Some moves may be simple, like spinning on a stationary bike or doing squat jumps. Others get more complex, like strapping into a harness and climbing across the floor. The 30-minute class moves quickly, you perform each exercise in short, intense bursts with a few seconds for rest in between.

There are lots of ways to chill out at the gym after the class ends. Open up your pores in the steam room, pamper yourself with Pañpuri toiletries in the shower or nap in the futuristic sleep pods or swanky salt room. Word on the street is that the glowing Himalayan salt wall is therapeutic.   

Beginner Muay Thai at RSM Muay Thai Academy

If you live in Bangkok and haven’t taken a Muay Thai class yet, first of all I hope you have a good excuse, and second, you’re missing out on one hell of a workout. RSM is a good place to start your Muay Thai journey.

It can feel a little intimidating at first to walk into the high-energy space with its punch-throwing, kick-landing pros. Have no fear, just take the receipt given to you by the front desk host and hand it to the first trainer to walk up to you asking for your ticket. Then, get ready to sweat.

The workout starts with a warmup of stretching, jumping jacks and lunges. This is followed by a five minute run around the gym. Workouts can vary from trainer to trainer. Sometimes, you may jump rope for five minutes (which is much harder than it sounds) or go straight into some strength training (think planks, pushups, and situps). At some point, you will line up in front of a mirror to practice combinations. Your Muay Thai master will demonstrate the moves, and you repeat — simple.

In the last portion of the 90-minute session, Muay Thai students will put their moves (and their endurance) to the test by going two rounds with a Muay Thai master. Don’t worry, they’re not throwing punches back at you. The master will call out a move and you respond by kicking, punching, jabbing, or elbowing into the pads he’s wearing. A much-needed cool down ends the knockout workout.

Body Transformation at Pushing Limitz

Pushing Limitz has a neighborhood gym feel to it. There’s nothing luxurious about the space, but it’s clean and the workouts will, as the name suggests, push your body to its limit. Owner Leigh Brown keeps things fun at this full-body, strength-building gym, which balances out the (welcomed) misery of the workout.

As soon as you walk through the Pushing Limitz door, your fate is set in stone — well, chalk. The daily Body Transformation workout is scrawled on the chalkboard walls of the gym. Reps of burpees, jump squats and medicine ball tosses are mixed in with sprints up the gym’s three flights of stairs, which feels like an almost cruel task after some weighted lunges. You’re going to love and hate Leigh for timing your rounds. Being held accountable for every second of your workout keeps you from cheating yourself, which is great but painful. Thanks, Leigh.

An added bonus: Pushing Limitz is home to Popcorn, a tiny, friendly dog who barks at strangers without fail, but warms up to people quickly. When the sweat is pouring into your eyes and you feel like your legs are going to fall off, seeing Popcorn lazily watching you in the corner is just the distraction you need to keep on, keepin’ on.

Physique 57

Before you write off barre exercise as a ladies game, let me stop you. Having endured Muay Thai, CrossFit, Tabata, personal training, boxing, and HIIT sessions galore, I can personally tell you that the burn from a Physique 57 class is the real deal. Okay, yes the classroom is padded with plush baby blue carpet and your classmates are probably going to be women, but that’s only because the exercise has really only been marketed to women.

Barre workouts know no gender. Barre workouts employ all of the tiny little connector muscles that you never knew you had. Physique 57 instructors lead you through a warm up (alright the warm up may be a little feminine, but men, don’t dismiss it just yet), then get to the torturous, butt-burning extravaganza. Your glutes are going to be sore — consider this to be your warning. While your butt is definitely a target, your full body is in for a treat. Light weights, plastic balls and resistance bands ensure an effective 57 minute workout.

After my first Physique 57 workout, it was extremely difficult to descend the BTS stairs. I worried that I might actually fall down as my legs had turned to jelly, a testament to the potent exercises. I made it down the stairs, my muscles recovered, and I signed up for another class like every good masochist would.

Kettlebell Strength at The Lab

You can’t talk about any of Bangkok’s best workouts without mentioning The Lab. Walk in, take your shoes off, and prepare to make your muscles burn with the gym’s Kettlebell Strength class.

While many high-intensity interval training classes opt for or high-reps using low weights, The Lab’s Kettlebell Strength class pushes you to work with challengingly heavy weights. On one hand, you may worry that you won’t be able to make it through the intervals. On the other hand, you’ll be flattered that your expert instructor thinks you’re strong enough to handle it. Since the class is only 30 minutes long, you’re going to be fine. Sweaty, but fine.  

This full-body mayhem isn’t only about lifting and swinging heavy weights around. You’re hit with other activities like planks and sit-ups, too. By the end of the half-hour, you’re going to feel a full-body exhaustion that confirms your hard work.

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