If anyone’s qualified to say, “Do you even lift, bro?”, it’s Eric Smulders. The half-Thai, half-Dutch personal trainer is currently the national powerlifting champion in Thailand and national record holder in the 66kg Open Squat (212kg), Bench Press (145kg) , Deadlift (225kg) and Total (612kg).
We first met Eric at one of our favourite fitness holiday retreats, Phuket Cleanse, where we became addicted to his daily strength workouts that were no-BS, straight-forward and mostly importantly, effective.
Luckily for us, Eric’s currently in Hong Kong due to the ongoing pandemic, where he’s been keeping busy training clients in the local gyms and parks. We took the opportunity to get to know more about him below:
Hello! What do you do?
Hi, I’m Eric—born and raised in Holland but working out of Asia for the past six years. I manage a weight loss and fitness retreat in Phuket, Thailand. Next to that, I’m also a personal trainer, nutrition consultant and health coach. Due to the uncertain times in the region, I’m currently based in Hong Kong.
What’s something not many people know about you?
I eat ice cream almost every day…in moderation of course.
How and when did your fitness journey begin?
It all started with a personal conflict between me and myself. At the age of 14, I was (and still am) short (165cm). I thought, “If I wasn’t going to be tall, at least I could be big,” so I started hitting the gym in the pursuit of a well-built physique.
Fast forward 16 years later, and I’m now the national champion and record-holding powerlifter in the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) in Thailand.
What was your very first workout?
My first workout ever was hockey training back in Holland 25 years ago. In my younger years, I loved (and still love) team sports. I played many different sports as a kid. My dad was on the Dutch national hockey team so I played that a lot. Besides that, I played a lot of football, basketball, tennis and skating.
How many times do you work out a week now?
Currently, I train four times a week as a powerlifter. But I’m active every day, whether it’s walking, mobility work, cardio or high-intensity training.
Why do you work out?
Health has always been a top priority but at the moment, the sport of powerlifting is a huge part of my life and wanting to the successful on both the national and international level is a goal that gets me motivated to do my very best every time I hit the gym.
What’s your favourite exercise/workout and why?
I love squatting—low bar back squat, to be specific, but any squat will do. There is just something about unracking a heavy bar, standing there, knowing the weight you’re holding on your back could crush you, but instead you crush it by executing all the cues you have learnt over the years correctly.
I still haven’t perfected it and probably never will. But I’ll have fun trying to get better and stronger as I get older and more experienced.
In all honesty, I don’t think I have a least favorite exercise because I genuinely love all kinds of movement. Having said that, personally, I would stay away from long-distance running because I’m just not good at it and it has gotten me injured in the past.
Something you have yet to try in the fitness/wellness space?
Cryotherapy. I love cold therapy but never tried the cryo chamber. I have done a lot of ice bathing and even followed a 10 week “Wim Hof” course with lots of cold showers. There is a love/hate relationship here that always ends in feeling great.
Favourite treat day meal?
I’m a sucker for burgers and pizza. Hong Kong has shown me some good burgers so far but I haven’t come across great pizza yet…so, I’m open to all suggestions!
Any athletic brands/products you swear by?
SBD for all your lifting equipment. World class quality.
And finally… what’s your personal definition of healthy?
Without wanting to sound cliche, it’s about balance. It’s not just about diet and exercise—a healthy mind is part of the equation. In my opinion, finding your own balance between these three components is crucial for a healthy lifestyle.
Follow Eric Smulders on Instagram @trainedbyeric