Fitness in Kampala: Torture Club

Torture Club Kampala

Ahhh, the “Torture Club.” The circuit-training beast of a workout hosted nearly every night in Muyenga. When a co-worker recently invited me to the “Torture Club” I thought to myself, “Well now, you’re not a very good friend after all! Sounds awful.” She laughed as she explained the concept and, out of pure curiosity, I decided to sacrifice my weak muscles to a little torture in an effort to learn more about this supposedly addicting class. Now, I enjoy cardio but have never really gotten into strength training so, as a result, I have like negative muscle mass to show for it. Any class named “Torture Club” could, in fact, be a problem for me!

First up, a little background on this fun fitness club. Ricardo Salcedo, a Peruvian expat living in Kampala, originally started by having weekly workouts with three friends who were bored with the typical gyms around town. Immediately, the craze began to grow until what started out as a few friends getting together a few times a week to work out in Ricardo’s backyard, turned into a circuit-training extravaganza with as many as 20 people joining in the fun on a daily basis, six times a week!

Essentially, the class is circuit training on steroids. A large chalkboard displays the session’s exercise sets and you’re divided into small groups who rotate together between the various sets. The goal is to push yourself to complete as many reps as possible during a set time frame. Some examples of the circuits we did were sprints, different variations of plank, reverse push-ups, resistance bands, and box-jump lunges. Hoorah! After the circuit training, everyone gathers with their mats on the lawn for 10 minutes of (very unwelcome) abs workout and a stretch session afterwards to cool down.

Whatever you do, don’t let the clever name of this fitness club scare you off! Ricardo notes, “I know the name of the club is scary, but people who work hard know perfectly well that a good workout is a fun torture! And they also know that torture works fine, because every month they see their improvements through a fitness test that I have for them. I’m very satisfied when I see changes in people’s attitude, above all those ones who’ve never worked out before. They start the program very scared, but sooner or later they know what they are capable of and now they are looking for more challenges. They are more confident with a stronger mind and body.”

The crowd is a friendly, fitness-loving group that’s very welcoming to all skill levels so don’t be shy. Absolutely everybody is capable of doing this class and, in my experience, everybody is so intent on punishing their own bodies that they have zero time to judge you in the process! Believe me– doing the reverse push-up things just about killed me, but I found myself sweating alongside the others, giving it my all, and that feels amazing!

For beginners, I would recommend going to the Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday sessions as they’re crafted more to newcomers and have a longer recovery time in between each circuit set for water (or crying) breaks! Also to note, the first Monday and Tuesday of each month are fitness test days so if you’re curious about your body fat percentage and determined to make progress, those would be the ideal days to get started.

Classes run 15,000 UGX each or you can purchase a 10-class package for 120,000 UGX, which is valid for three months. Plan to bring a water bottle, sweat towel, and yoga mat if you have one to each class. Also to note, the final portion of the session ends on your yoga mat in the yard so I would suggest brining mosquito spray so those little buggers don’t distract you from the abs session.

The Torture Club is a fantastic workout and a great way to meet cool people around Kampala. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie after each session. Look around at the sweat-soaked shirts, the flushed faces, and everyone is surprisingly smiling! We all just went through fitness hell together for the past hour and now we feel like champions after pushing our bodies to the limit. Now, who knew torture could feel so sweet?!

Times: Monday to Friday, 6 – 7:15 pm, Saturday, 10 – 11 am
Cost: 15,000 UGX per class
Location: Muyenga, Kampala
Phone: 0778 975 889

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About Lauren McBride

Hey, I’m Lauren. I’m what you’d call an “expat by marriage.” When my husband and I stepped off the plane in Entebbe in June 2012, I had no idea what I was in for: the breezy traffic on the open road, enjoyable boda rides through the heart of town, or the gentle, lingering smell of exhaust blowing in my face. I continue to be amazed by the strong community in Kampala, the arts, the delicious food, and the fun hangs around this town. I’m committed to sharing the very best of Kampala with you through this website. Contact me anytime with your ideas, feedback, or jokes at