Phnom Penh’s wild hedonism has challenged the waistlines of many a former fittie, especially when going for a run can quickly turn into a death wish. But don’t despair: if you want to avoid becoming a bar-stool-threatening, oversized-shirt-to-hide-the-love-handles Cambodian-expat cliche, the city has plenty of places to help you get in shape.
Here, we review a range of facilities, from the super-luxurious to the budget-friendly
Phokeethra Sports Club ($180 Per Month)
The recently refurbished Sofitel gym and leisure club is second to none when it comes to upmarket exercise in the city. The brand new gym has a great selection of modern equipment, including interactive treadmills guiding your entire workout. The only disappointment is the lack of a full squat rack – instead, the club has an assisted rack which makes overheard presses quite challenging.
The changing rooms, in typical Sofitel fashion, essentially smell of Channel as you walk in, and the sauna and steam room are clean, luxurious and the perfect way to finish off a workout. The two swimming pools are absolutely gorgeous and also provide ample space for swimming laps. A range of sporting options are also available in the recently revamped club, including tennis, kickboxing and yoga.
If you can afford it and are not doing serious bodybuilding training then the Sofitel really can’t be beaten.
The Place ($730-$900 Annual Cost)
The Place is a gym designed for the elite. It is a fine establishment with lovely facilities – the pool is Olympic-sized with a large lounging area around it, perfect for a swim or to relax after a big workout. Personally, I miss the bar at the side of the pool that you get with the Sofitel, but I guess this is a gym and not St. 278!
The Place is very expensive, and while it’s bigger, it’s not necessarily better than you get with the Intercontinental or Cambodiana (see below). That said, there’s more space and thus a better chance of getting on your favourite equipment at peak times.
The Intercontinental Fitness Centre (3 Month Membership Ranges from $175- $290)
Located inside the enticing four-star Intercontinental Hotel is one of the very best gyms the city has to offer. The equipment is new, top-of-the-line and in great condition. The gym may not be the biggest, but is kitted out to the max with a full range of cardio and weight machines, free weights and – a rarity for Phnom Penh gyms – two squat racks. There is a second room with a punching bag and matted area, allowing plenty of room for stretches and yoga.
The changing facilities are what you would expect from a four-star hotel and they make it quite difficult to leave. The pool is stunning and comes equipped with an impressive bar for those days when ‘getting a sweat on’ is really code for sunbathing with an espresso martini.
The Intercontinental offers all the prestige and premium quality of other luxury gyms in the city, but with a more exclusive appeal. Think of it as a smaller version of The Place with more emphasis on having an enjoyable experience than silent judging by other muscly bunnies!
Hotel Cambodiana (Day Pass: $12/ Month: $70)
The Hotel Cambodiana has a classic retro feel of GOLDS gym in 70s California. The historic hotel, which was one of the country’s first five-star hotels, was briefly turned into a military barracks, first by the Lon Nol regime and again by the Khmer Rouge – but thankfully is now restored to its former glory! The gym, much like the hotel, maintains a classic elegance but with no shortage of modern workout equipment.
The layout of the gym makes for a huge amount of natural light, with windows looking out over a beautiful swimming area, and makes you feel like Arnie or Lou could be about to jump on the bench any minute.
The Physique club, as it is known, is designed for training. It is not just a hotel gym that gives you something to do for a few hours; it really is built with a hard workout in mind. Think squat racks and ample space for calisthenics and deadlifts. There is also a full exercise class schedule and tennis courts, meaning there is something for everyone who wants to work up a sweat.
The staff are also incredibly friendly and helpful, ensuring that gym newbies won’t feel intimidated.
The Cambodiana is a great place to hang out after your pump, with a fantastic and fun swimming pool that often hosts big weekend parties to reward your weekday workouts!
Selapak ($7 per class/ Monthly deals available)
Selapak is raw. It is a true fighting gym. Also a dancing gym… But for the purpose of this article, let’s forget about the dancing for a moment. (Actually, don’t completely forget about the traditional dancing – the instructor is the legendary Ms. Sen Pich, who has more than 20 years of traditional dance experience. She is quite the legend. But the point stands, the place is a no nonsense, straight up fighting gym. This is why it is wonderful.)
This is a gym where you will be trained by some truly world-class fighters, who will give your training technique a personal touch that you won’t quite get at Prokout (see below). The gym is simple, small and full of sweat. The Place this is not. It is, however, simply one of the best places in Phnom Penh to break a serious sweat, with countless punching bags, a caged MMA ring and a selection of some basic free weights and massive tyres with sledgehammers.
We could not recommend this gym more.
Prokout ($89 for full platinum monthly membership)
Prokout is a solid fighting gym and offers a more polished version of the MMA and Kun Khmer experience than Selapak. It hosts one boxing ring and one MMA cage with an enormous area for free training with skipping ropes, battle ropes and some free weights.
The training is good (and intense… you will feel like throwing up your first few times), although it’s not quite as personal as it is in Selapak. If you want a nice, clean transition into fight training or you are a serious fighter who wants a better selection of facilities then this is the fight gym for you.
Muscle Fitness Centre ($39 per Month)
This really is the standard sensible option for a decent gym in Phnom Penh. It has a decent range of equipment and all you need for power lifting or bodybuilding workouts. It does get a little busy at peak times and the changing rooms are a far cry from the likes of the Intercontinental, but it does the job.
The protein shakes made fresh behind the counter are a great addition, and the staff are attentive, making an effort to get to know you when you become a bit of a regular.
Don’t bulk up too much on the bodybuilding and protein shakes, though, as the gym does enforce a strict 90kg weight limit on the treadmills!
Local Khmer Gyms (2000 Riel Per Session)
The city is filled with local Khmer Gyms that scrap the frills but give you all the basics you need for a workout. When I say no-frills, I mean it: the weights are often chipped, the sweat drips from the machines and the toilet tends to be a squatty with nowhere to wash your hands. Do not expect air conditioning but do expect profoundly buff Khmer men in jeans, working out. Do not expect people to put their weights back, but do expect wall to wall posters of 1980s bodybuilders flexing.
Even if you need something more polished, a trip to a Khmer gym is an experience we’d recommend at least once. It’s also great to give your money to local-run establishments like this once in a while!