Hunk With A Heart: His Gym Makes Social Impact Its Core Strength
As with many fitness trainers, Razif Yusoff started off as a skinny, introverted kid.
"Growing up, I wasn’t athletic at all,” says the 35-year-old co-founder of fitness social enterprise Push Pull Give. “I didn’t really like sports; I had a gamer personality. I was on the smaller side, and my level of confidence and self esteem were very low.”
Determined to change that, Razif started working out at the age of 19 during his final year in polytechnic. His fitness journey continued through national service, where he honed not only his physical fitness but mental toughness as well.
“BMT training was tough. Back then, it was designed for the fittest among the fit. On top of that, it was mentally challenging as well. No matter how fit we all were back then, if we were not team-players, we’d all suffer together,” recalls Razif, who was part of the Zulu Coy OC Spec batch on Pulau Tekong; the rest of his NS was spent with the Military Police.
“NS was fruitful. It was tough in the beginning but when I think about it now, it was a good learning lesson for myself in terms of self-discipline, perseverance and the resilience to overcome challenges."
After completing NS in 2006, Razif would encounter two life-changing experiences, thanks to YouTube.
Firstly, he came across a new form of fitness training - calisthenics - which appealed to him because no equipment was required. Practitioners simply went out on the streets or to fitness corners and started doing the exercises.
Secondly, he stumbled on a video of a parrot doing tricks, which inspired him to get a parrot of his own.
“Because of the tricks that I had taught my parrot, I saw it as an opportunity to create a business out of it by performing at children’s birthday parties,” says Razif, who eventually co-founded Parrots Network, which provided services such as parrot grooming and training.
The "Push" to join Manhunt
We've all heard the oft-told story of someone who accompanies a friend to an audition, and gets the part instead e.g. V from BTS - true story.
The same thing happened to Razif in 2014, when he accompanied a friend to participate in Manhunt Singapore, and entered his own name just for the heck of it. Long story short, Razif made it through and, although he didn't win, was conferred the title of Mr Congeniality.
"When I joined Manhunt, I was given a lot of opportunity to do public speaking. It was a challenge for me at first because I was pretty introverted at that point in time, so I used Manhunt as a way for me to overcome that," says Razif, who through parrot training, modelling and acting, built up his self-confidence over time.
The "Pull" to start his own fitness business
Meanwhile, Razif was also a certified personal trainer. His calisthenics buddy Herzy Hosini (above, second from left) would introduce him to a German national Konrad Haedicke (above, extreme left) - the meeting of these three minds and bodies would be the starting point of Push Pull Give.
"After Manhunt, I felt as though there was something missing in my life," says Razif . "I really believe that every human being will, at some point, want to search for purpose in their life. Otherwise, life just goes on like that, and, as a result, you get depressed, you don't feel good."
In this period of soul-searching, Razif suggested using their passion for fitness to do good and give back to the community.
Through Konrad's friend, they found an opportunity in 2016 to raise $5,000 for a charity organisation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia called Tiny Toones (which uses break-dancing and the culture of hip-hop to engage, inspire and educate at-risk youth from some of Cambodia's most impoverished communities) by conducting outdoor classes and boot camps.
This amazing, inspiring and fulfillin experience prompted the trio to incorporate Push Pull Give (Razif came up with the meaningful moniker) immediately upon their return to Singapore.
The "Give" in "Push Pull Give"
As the success of Push Pull Give grew, Razif and his partners made it a point to make philanthropy an intrinsic part the gym's philosophy.
"Once we had more solid business income, we shifted our focus to employment and started hiring people through SCORE [Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises; now called Yellow Ribbon Singapore]," says Razif, adding that SCORE worked hand-in-hand with Singapore Prison to match jobs with suitable ex-offenders.
On top of mentorship, the Push Pull Give team would offer them internships and help them get qualified with fitness certification, thus empowering them with hands-on fitness-industry experience.
You know the saying "you get what you give"? If there's any organisation that proves how the universe is based on fair exchange, it would be Push Pull Give, which started off without a physical space, but now has two studios - one at Eng Hoon Street, and another in River Valley.
"We put ourselves in a position to be lucky," says Razif. "Somehow, the universe puts everything together for you - it's all about whether you want to do it or not."
Find out how you can contribute to Push Pull Give's donation drive to help migrant workers.
Debunking myths about calisthenics
❌ Calisthenics is only for the young
Razif says: "Calisthenics is really for everyone, and it's never too late to start. Some people (like retirees in their late 50s) start really late, but they end up doing amazing things that will put young people to shame. It's all about time, dedication and practice," says Razif.
❌ You need to be mobile and flexible to do calisthenics
Razif says: "Most bodies will have some level of dysfunction. For men, it's usually the shoulders - they have tight shoulders or limited range; some say they can't touch their toes. But that's why you need calisthenics. We narrow down the things you need to do so that you can touch your toes without pain. It's all about creating that body awareness."
❌ You need to be fit to do calisthenics
Razif says: "The beauty of calisthenics is that there is regression and progression - you just need to be able to identify them. Let's take pull-ups, for example. If you can't do one pull-up, it's ok. We can use a band to give you tension for a supported pull-up. Another way is to use a small stool to help you jump up to do a pull-up, so that you generate momentum and cut the range of motion. Another way is to start by standing on a stool, then come down from the pull-up slowly."