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Mountain Home fitness influencer Hampton Liu knows you can do it

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It doesn’t actually matter if you’re the exercising type, or even if you’ve never heard of Hampton Liu, the Mountain Home fitness guru with a global and growing following. Once you meet him, you’re going to want to be his friend. The great news here is that he probably wants to be your friend, too. And if, as you spend internet time with your new friend Hampton, you find yourself progressing toward your goal of doing a few full pushups or even a pull-up (!), then that’s a pretty great perk, now, isn’t it?

Brian Chilson
HANGING OUT: Arkansas fitness influencer Hampton Liu is not real big on indoor gyms, but finds there are plenty of other options out there.

The 28-year-old Liu rolled into the online fitness scene only a couple of years ago, and while he’s picked up TikTok and Instagram followers by the millions, he’s still bashful about the “influencer” label. To be fair, it’s not a perfect fit. Buff but not bulky, relaxed and relatable, Liu is a fitness influencer like Mr. Rogers is a childhood influencer, or Tom Hanks is an actor influencer. “My goal is to help people cultivate long-term fitness and happiness through creating fitness content and building community,” he explains at hybridcalisthenics.com. It’s that endearing combination of expertise and warmth that prompted one YouTube follower to dub Liu “the Bob Ross of working out.”

The first thing to know about Liu’s workout program, Hybrid Calisthenics, is that you don’t have to pay for it. Anyone with an internet connection can follow along. “This routine is provided free of charge so that it may help as many people as possible,” the website says. You can buy branded T-shirts or send donations via Patreon, but no pressure. And he’s big on gravity and body weight as strength-building tools, so there’s no pressure to buy any fancy equipment, either. Most of Liu’s workout videos show him exercising on his deck, using the railing or walls as props to correct posture or perfect a backbend. He’s also prone to a parkour approach, seemingly unable to resist turning rock walls and tree limbs into fitness props from which he balances and hangs in gravity-defying ways.

The second thing to know is that Liu does not expect you to be able to do any of these gravity-defying stunts, especially not at first. He champions gradual progress, made over the course of a lifetime. Take, for example, his 3-minute YouTube video “You CAN do pushups, my friend!” Starting as all his videos do with his standard greeting, “Hello, my friends! It is your brother Hampton,” the video follows what his fans will recognize as a reliable formula: reassurance that the challenge before us is tough but achievable; a sequence of suggested variations to build up strength over time; and his signature sign-off to “Have a beautiful day.”

 

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Escalating degrees of difficulty keep plain-jane pushups from being either too off-putting for beginners or too boring for the more muscled among us, Liu explained. Start where you are and go from there. “The concept embodies a lifetime of progress.” You should absolutely jump in on this with some wall pushups, then progress to incline and knee versions and then to the real deal if you feel so called. (In fact, why not go do 25 wall pushups right now? Good job!) But it’s Liu himself, more than the nuts and bolts of his content, that draws a crowd. Here’s a sampling of viewer comments:

I trust this guy with my life without ever meeting him.

This guy is one of the most wholesome and selfless people I’ve ever heard of.

I know this means nothing to you, because you don’t know a single thing about me, but I’m 16, you give me comfort. You remind me of my older brother a lot, and he isn’t with me anymore, so your content makes me really happy and at peace. And I really hope something in your life makes you feel the same.

He’s like the most wholesome creator on here. I just love his positivity and light.

And he takes the occasional negative comment in stride. Liu has been criticized for being too skinny and not muscular enough. Some commenters said he looks like a woman, probably because of his enviably glossy shoulder-length hair. “It’s never made me upset. We need to accept these things we know to be true. Once we accept them, they no longer can be used against us,” he reasoned. “I do have long hair and slightly round features.”

Liu meets viewers’ vulnerability with his own, augmenting fitness content with podcasts and musings usually presented with his signature coffee cup in hand. A recent offering, “In the Event of My Death,” has Liu sharing some pretty deep thoughts on being at peace with his inevitable demise. He has more insight into this topic than most people his age, having recently nursed his mother after a serious stroke and through the final years of her life. She died in 2020. That experience, he said, was “a catalyst of a fundamental personality shift and a revelation about myself.” The revelation: “I wanted to be able to give to other people without any expectation of anything in return. That’s fundamental in both my content and my routine.”

Brian Chilson
ALL THE WORLD’S A GYM: Mountain Home’s Hampton Liu, having a normal one.

No doubt this experience added to the emotional intelligence and empathy that are Liu’s superpower, every bit as much as the surreal upper body strength that allows him to hang perpendicularly from light poles. Not that he’s in a rush to meet death, he said, but there will be some perks when the final moment comes. Specifically, Liu admits part of him will welcome freedom from a repetitive intrusive, irrational fear that he might step on a crawling baby. There he goes again, breaking down a topic that’s dreaded and intimidating into something relatable and a little less terrifying.

Liu earned a degree in international business from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and he earned his high energy and full-throttled interest in health from his dad. Both Liu’s parents came to the United States from Taiwan before he was born. Liu’s dad helps run an integrative medical center in Mountain Home, focused on martial arts and traditional Chinese healing.

Combining that business degree with his genetic predisposition for promoting wellness and his off-the-charts emotional intelligence makes for an unlikely but winning combination, even when he doesn’t charge a penny.

“You can give a tremendous amount of things away for free and still make a living,” Liu explained. “I have a website where I sell fitness equipment. I never push, but I let people know, if you need this, I have it.” That site generates some income, and so do the online ads that appear with his content. Add money from Patreon subscribers and a potential book deal, and Liu is doing OK.

There’s no hard sell on the business side of things, just like there’s no hard sell on the fitness side. Liu’s favorite exercise of all, walking, generates zero dollars in revenue for him. But how many pull-ups does one person really need to do? “At some point, the strength pursuit really becomes more of a hobby than a necessity,” Liu admits.

He plans to continue pursuing this hobby/livelihood hybrid in Mountain Home. He started offering his routines online around the time COVID-19 hit, fundamentally changing the way the world does business and allowing him to beam out content from anywhere, even Baxter County. Liu was born in Utah but has lived here since he was 2. “I love Arkansas,” he said. “A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’m from Arkansas.”

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