I first met “Ving” through Bells of Steel. He wanted a Macebell and a Prowler sent to Singapore. After that first order we kept in touch, and while I was backpacking Asia in 2012 I had the pleasure of training at the PIT myself. I had been in SE Asia for a few months by then, and was feeling like a giant among men. Then I met Ving and it was like being back home. Built like a brick shit house and covered in tattoos, he looked like he belonged at a GPC powerlifting meet, not on the sleek streets of Singapore. We kept in touch and met up again at the Beijing Sports show. The biggest fitness trade show in the world. It was a bit of a let down, as it was mostly composed of this:

and only a few booths among hundreds had any of this:

This got me wondering about people’s attitudes towards fitness in Asia, and how and if things were changing. My friend Irving was eager to answer my question.

Getting the skinny (OUT) of Asia.

A bit about the Pit

With the Westernization of most Asian countries like my home Singapore, more and more people look at what is accepted as “fit” and healthy. Now thanks to various media, the waif look is apparently in. When the west think Asian, they think of three things:

  1. Good at math
  2. Bad drivers ( Hello. This one is not so funny ok ?)
  3. Bruce Lee

Every Asian brother looks like Bruce Lee.

Except for this Asian brother

In the past, Asians were generally pretty lean, but with the Westernization of Asia came with it its poor over processed fast food dietary habits fuelled by multi national conglomerates like Mickeydees and friends; which tore through the belt buckles of Asians like wildfire.

Yes, we eat a lot of rice. But we WERE generally more active. Look at the Asians in third world asia – Not many fat people. Why? Obesity is a FIRST WORLD PROBLEM. It’s not a problem that’s caused by Western culture. It’s a problem that’s caused by living ‘”the good life”. A bit like how many channels you get with your cable subscription.

People in first world Asia spend more time in the office, less time moving, less time working out, less time cooking their own meals etc. So they look at magazines, see a photo-shopped girl or a guy that looks “different”, and tell themselves “ I want that!”. They go on crash diets, whip out their suspension trainers and bust some moves during lunch time. Because that’s what the media tells them to do. Then they realize, they are not getting anywhere…. and what does the media tell them then? “Try this diet instead”. Great, now you have a guy on a 1,000 calories a day because he wants to fit in his sister’s jeans. Good going journalists. But things have started to change. Well, at least where we are.

When I started out as a personal trainer, people wanted to lose weight, bulk up, look good naked so to speak. Well, that hasn’t changed much. But there is a new following of people… I do some voluntary work with the Singapore weightlifting federation. I’m basically on the committee and when I first saw these boys lift I thought to myself; “Ving, you are such a pussy, THIS is strong. This is awesome”. I then got socially introduced to the guys at SG Titans, a non-profit organization in Singapore promoting Strength sports. I then knew being average is for wimps. I’m not saying that you have to be a strongman, or do Olympic lifts to be considered strong. I’m just saying that us humans are capable of doing a lot of good shit.

Ahmad Taufiq Muhammad of the SG Titans

And there are more people like myself who just don’t want to be average. When being average just doesn’t cut it anymore. They want to be awesome. So how do we convince people in our area that they actually are (deep down inside) already an athlete?

My name is Irving Henson, and I run The PIT, one of Singapore’s top fitness facilities, aiming to revolutionize the way fitness is approached in the island city.We set up in 2011 with one goal in mind, my team of dedicated and experienced trainers are focused on unleashing the athletic capabilities in every person that walks through the gym’s doors. What we do is tell people the truth that they don’t want to hear. That they are weak. That because they are weak, they are incapable of doing things that they were born to do.

We had guys come in and ask us, do you have an assisted chin up machine? A smith machine? Our reply, is always somewhat the same “Did you pack your lip gloss in your gym bag?”. Sure, not many people can take our attitude. But we explain to them that if they want to get better, they have to leave their egos at the door. They have to come in and train their hearts out. They have to put in the hours. There are no shortcuts, no easy way. We are not Shape magazine or Mens health, we are the PIT and shortcuts are a way away from the truth. We have a training system and we are strict with our training. The day you manage to flip that tyre on your own, is the same day you sold your soul to your inner demons and you won’t want to turn back. Because unlike the guy or girl who goes into their aerobics class in their color coordinated gear…YOU made progress.

We do however have fun during training. And the environment you will find here is one that is encouraging and full of camaraderie. You have the housewife training next to the MMA fighter, who is training along the Strongman. Then you have my 7-year-old son who walks in and deadlifts 75 lbs and everyone, and I mean everyone, stops to cheer him on. It’s not just a gym, it’s a family.

Like father like son

We converted people and made heroes out of zeros. Gone are the days of making an exercise easier, if you can’t do an exercise, you train for it. It’s not rocket science. Now we have girls doing chin-ups, flipping 506lb tyres, and swinging kettlebells. Why? Because they can. They thought they couldn’t, but now they know they can.

So what happened to being skinny? Do they still want to look good? Are their goals still cosmetic? Yes. But looking good doesn’t mean being waif and looking like a replica of a stick man drawing. Besides, being stick thin, also means, you can’t do all that awesome shit that you trained for.

We broke it into a simple science. Strength before conditioning. Without strength, the body cannot generate power, when you can’t generate power, you are better off sticking to your step aerobics and pump class. Because, at least it’s keeping you moving. But that’s all you are going to be doing. MOVING. You wont be training which means you won’t be progressing, and when you don’t progress, you wont be awesome.

Just average.

Like my dog Milo.

Well, Milo’s pretty awesome. He can lick his own nuts.

Bad example, but you get the picture.

We use our facebook page a lot, put up pics and videos of everyday people doing chin-ups, oly lifts, flipping tyres and what not (no we are not a crossfit box – we respect their programs, we just don’t use their protocols). At the end of the day do these girls and boy look good? Hell yeah.