Kensington’s new strength studio is a dream come true

Kensington’s new strength studio is a dream come true
Spencer Fowler Steen

For Emily Bakyew, opening a strength studio in her garage in Kensington was a no-brainer.

She wanted to create an environment she would feel comfortable exercising in; a welcoming place where locals of all abilities could gather to lift weights and banter with each other – no grunting or lycra.

And now, nine weeks after opening, her Everyday Strength Studio has far and away exceeded her expectations.

“My model is you come and see the same people every week, no surprises,” she said.


If other commercial spaces have made you feel anxious, and if you don’t know if people there are going to be nice, here, we say ‘hi’ and talk to people.


“Now I pinch myself every day when I open the garage door, it’s what I’ve been dreaming about and now it’s real.”

Ms Bakyew instructs three groups of four locals, running six sessions of strength training a week based around squats, deadlifts, and bench press.

But long before starting up the business, Ms Bakyew loved strength training. Her garage was already kitted out with gym equipment including a squat rack, bench press and bars with weights.

All she did to start up the business was duplicate each piece of existing equipment.

“The feedback I get is that it’s casual, small, friendly and that it’s welcoming and not intimidating,” she said.

“It’s not a big space, there’s no weird and wonderful machines.”

“If you’re nervous, everything starts with a six-kilo kettle bell – it’s like picking up a grocery bag. [We] get to know each other, there’s banter – it’s pretty cool!”

Ms Bakyew said her partner often heard laughter booming out from the garage when clients were over.

“It’s not meant to be just sweating, grunting and lycra, I tell people to wear whatever they’re comfortable with – it’s meant to be fun!” she said.

In the past, Ms Bakyew has had a sore back.

But since she started strength training, her pain has disappeared.

“I thought that was going to be one of those things I had to just accept, but I don’t have that anymore,” she said.

“My body feels great – it hasn’t been about aesthetics; it’s about how I feel.”

“It’s never been about hitting a certain number, it’s for my body, mind and confidence. There’s something very empowering for people to go ‘wow, I just picked 40kgs off the ground, or I just put 20kg above my head’”.

The Department of Health recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 years old exercise most days, made up of two-and-a-half hours to five hours of moderate intensity physical activity across a week and include muscle-strengthening activities as part of your daily physical activity on at least two days each week.

Ms Bakyew bases her program duration and intensity on these recommendations, also using her knowledge of powerlifting and her tertiary qualifications in sport and recreation and education to tailor programs to her client’s abilities.

She also juggles her part-time job working for a not-for-profit at CERES Environment Park looking after operations and booking excursions for school students – work she said she “loves” in combination with the strength training.

And it’s a combination which makes sense when you consider Ms Bakyew’s varied background, which includes working as a qualified secondary school teacher, ski instructor, a management consultant at a top tier accounting firm, and a powerlifting coach.

While Ms Bakyew currently runs one program, she will start up another type of training session at the start of next year for people over the age of 50, or for people recovering from injury.

It’s an idea inspired by Real Strength in Castlemaine which runs a program called “It’s Never Too Late”.

“They [Real Strength] realised there was a gap in the fitness and health industry for people who were not yet ready for strength and balance classes but didn’t feel comfortable at a commercial gym and who were told by medical professionals that they should be doing more exercise,” Ms Bakyew said.

“They’ve [Real Strength] got these incredibly strong older people, and the health benefits are incredible. [It’s helping with] everything from aches and pain, back pain and people have been saying: ‘I’ve been able to get off my blood pressure meds’”.

Ms Bakyew said they had also seen a reduction in stress from “meditation in movement”.

Halfway through the interview with this publication, a lady walking her dog stopped outside the strength studio’s open roller door to have a look inside and ask where she could find out more information about the home gym.

Ms Bakyew immediately jumped up and told the local she was welcome to come down and train and handed her a business card with a smile.

“I don’t want this to be a 12-week thing,” Ms Bakyew said.

“It’s a forever thing, it’s keep coming back, it’s part of your lifestyle.”

“I want to help the community.” •

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