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Amsterdam Touch Rugby
Image from Amsterdam Touch

Bored of the gym? A guide to Amsterdam’s alternative fitness scene

It’s easy to become disillusioned by exercise because of the type of fitness images we see. But the last few years have seen an explosion in alternative types of exercise — especially in Amsterdam. From bouldering to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and padel to dancing, we’ve rounded up some of the best for you to try out in the capital.

Callum Booth
Callum Booth is a freelance journalist based in Amsterdam. He's an avid bookworm, a Fisherman's Friends addict, and resolutely unshaven.
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Beest Boulders
Image from Miguel Luis

We’re in the midst of a bouldering boom — and it’s clear to see why. For a start, this type of low-height free climbing doesn’t require much equipment. All you need is a pair of shoes (which you can rent) and you're ready to go. This is a far cry from more traditional climbing that requires ropes, harnesses, helmets, and a range of other gear. Beyond that, bouldering is also incredibly social. Because you work on routes that require short bursts of exertion, you spend a lot of time discussing the problem, encouraging one another, or just having a good old chat. Plus, places like Beest Boulders also have restaurants and bars, so you can kick back with a delicious brew (or two) after you’re done.

Beest Boulders | Transformatorweg 32

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Gracie Amsterdam Jiu Jitsu
Image from Gracie Amsterdam

If you don’t know Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (henceforth known as BJJ), it’s a type of submission grappling. Or, to put it another way, the part of an MMA match where they’re rolling around on the floor. Originating in Brazil, this martial art is one of the most effective methods of self-defence. Its core concept is using leverage and slick techniques to allow smaller individuals to defeat bigger opponents. Beyond that, it’s a physically demanding, humbling, and cerebral sport perfect for all shapes and sizes. There are several great BJJ gyms in Amsterdam, with Gracie Amsterdam, in particular, a friendly and fun environment to begin your grappling journey.

Gracie Amsterdam | Solebaystraat 75


Who doesn’t love a boogie? And, on that note, who doesn’t wish they could throw some shapes a little bit better? Well, you’re in luck because Amsterdam has a range of studios where you can either discover or rekindle that dancing spirit. Whether you want to learn ballroom or ballet, hip-hop or KPop, the Amsterdam Dance Centre just outside of the Jordaan has classes for almost any style of dancing you desire. Not only is shaking your stuff an underappreciated way of getting (and staying) in shape, but it’s also bound to make you look better when you do need to bust a move.

Amsterdam Dance Centre | Marnixstraat 342E

Touch rugby

Amsterdam Touch
Image from Amsterdam Touch

Rugby is a skilful and aesthetic sport, but it’s also gruelling. The sport is physically demanding, involves huge collisions, and requires some serious aggressiveness. For many people, this puts them off, no matter how sublime and tricksy the game can be. And the solution to this issue? Touch rugby. In this variant of the game, tackles are replaced with, well, touches. This emphasises skills and fun rather than pure physicality, which makes the game suitable for anyone, regardless of age, size, or gender. There are a couple of clubs in the Dutch capital, but Amsterdam Touch has multiple weekly events and is as welcoming to rugby amateurs as to gnarly veterans.

Amsterdam Touch | Bok de Korverweg 4


Padel Next
Image from Padel Next

This may just be the sport of the moment. Padel is a new(ish) game that combines elements of other racquet sports like tennis and squash into something fresh and exciting. Besides being heaps of fun, what really makes Padel stand out is its atmosphere. The game is more social and relaxed than most other racquet sports, making it entertaining to play, watch, and be around. If you’re keen to give it a try in Amsterdam, head over to Padel Next in West where you can either play with friends or maybe take some lessons to get up to speed.

Padel Next | Willem de Zwijgerlaan 338C


BTY CLB (pronounced Booty Club, by the way) is a high-intensity workout that does what it says on the tin: work your booty in a club setting. The classes are beat-based, with exercises synchronised to music. Combined with a light show and catwalk, and with locations on the Singel and in Oost, BTY CLB gives you the feeling that you’re on a night out. Well, apart from the fact that you’re going to be a lot sweatier in BTY CLB if the trainers have anything to say about it.

BTY CLB | Singel 250

Football skills and fitness

KicksFit football fitness
Image from KicksFit

Football is exhausting. Because the professionals make it look so easy, it’s only when you play yourself that you realise just how intense the game is. Coupled with the fact there’s often a wide skill disparity between people, this can make getting started with the game quite tough. Thankfully, there’s a better way to get up to speed: KicksFit. Developed by the Dutch Football Association, this fitness initiative combines strength and cardio conditioning with footballing skills and is perfect for people looking to start playing or improve their game. With locations in Amsterdam West, Noord and Haarlem, you’ll have no excuse for panting on the pitch after this.

KicksFit | Laan van Spartaan 1

HIIT and martial arts

For many, going to a proper martial arts gym can be daunting. Although these places are friendly and welcoming, the often run-down aesthetics and intensity can put some people off — especially if they’re taking the first steps on their journey. In these instances, a good middle ground is workout clubs that combine combat with HIIT and weights. For example, Sin City Boxing has an array of classes that mix traditional martial arts with fitness and strength training, so you can feel the burn without facing a potential beating.

Sin City Boxing | Rijnstraat 93


Mobility workouts have been the talk of the fitness world in recent years. The idea behind them is to explore the way our bodies work in motion, combining elements of yoga, callisthenics, and bodyweight training to form a holistic and natural approach to fitness. Places like Crazy Monkey in the Jordaan offer an alternative and playful way of exercise, with a focus on not only pushing your limits but also living more freely in your body. 

Crazy Monkey | Westerstraat 158

Callum Booth
Callum Booth is a freelance journalist based in Amsterdam. He's an avid bookworm, a Fisherman's Friends addict, and resolutely unshaven.
Follow Callum