Sweating it out in a New Gym

May 17th, 2008 | Posted in General

It’s been some time since I’ve written about working out. Actually weightlifting and bodybuilding have been a big part of my life for over 5 years now, every since I saw how fat and out of shape I was at age 36 and decided to do something about it.

My trainer, Ryan Branson, left Lifetime Fitness a little less than two years ago and after a year or so of being part of an independent co-op sort of gym just opened his own studio in Eagan, MN. It’s a smallish space right now but there are plans to expand when another tenant next to him vacates their part of the building in a year or so. Ryan is a great trainer, who has kept me focused on my goals and kept me from injuring myself by working around my various ailments and past injuries. No mean feat as I have bad knees, a partially torn rotator cuff and I.T. band, barbed bone spurs in my AC shoulder joints and tendinitis in my wrists and biceps tendons. Despite all that, we maintain a 4 days a week rotating periodization program that changes frequently to keep the body guessing and continues to make progress.

Here are some pics of Ryan’s new studio, Renegade Personal Training and Fitness:

The equipment is necessarily a little limited right now due to space, but it’s got all the important stuff. We have to be creative in order to do some things, but that can lead to new gains as you use angles and movements that your body has not gotten used to or even attempted before. I did front squats for the first time last week, and I’ve got the bruises on my front shoulders to prove it.

Right now we are at the end of a mass building phase, one of three or four I undergo every year to bulk up and build new muscle. That usually involves heavy weights and lots of big, compound movements, as well as a lot of calories. It must be working, as I am currently weighing in at 242 lbs… my all time heaviest. I wish I could say it was all muscle, but there is always a certain amount of fat gain as well when you bulk up. I’ve got a little more muffin-top than 6 pack right now, not that I ever get cut enough to have a 6 pack anyway. I hate dieting. We will probably follow up with a short transition program of two weeks or so before doing an endurance phase where I will drop a lot of bodyfat and some muscle as well, but the net gain will be a certain amount of permanent muscle (at least as long as I continue to work out) and hopefully less bodyfat overall.

Here’s an example of a workout from my current routine that I did yesterday. This was a chest/back/triceps “push-pull” workout where we superset (doing one exercise immediately after another with almost no break) a “push” movement for chest with a “pull” movement for back. I’ve got pictures of some of the movements.

– Bench Press: 4 sets x 8 reps
– Pull Ups: 4 sets x 8-12 reps

Flat bench press

Pull up at the top of the movement

– Dumbbell Incline Press: 4 sets x 8 reps
– Lat Pulldowns: 4 sets x 8 reps

Incline Dumbbells using a decline ab bench!

Nice face, Popeye!

Lat Pulldown- top of movement

… at the bottom. Looks like I am leaning too far back.

– Dumbell Flys on Ball: 4 sets x 8 reps
– Bent Over Dumbbell Rows with twist: 4 sets x 8 reps

Dumbbell Flys on the ball… good core movement as well as for chest

Bent Over Dumbbell Rows- Bottom of movement. The “twist” is when I pull
the dumbbells up to my chest. I start with my knuckles toward the mirror,
then I twist my hands so I end up with my knuckles facing out to each side.

– Tricep Rope Extensions- 4 sets x 8 rep
– Overhead Tricep Dumbbell Presses- 4 sets x 8 reps
– Dumbbell Shrugs- 4 sets x 8 reps

I usually do deadlifts as well on back day and do some abs at the end but I had to cut out after an hour today to get some work done for a deadline. I try to never skip a workout but I do sometimes have to compromise them to limit my time spent in the gym if I am up against the Dreaded Deadline Demon.

Weightlifting is a passion and a way of life. You have to be committed to put up with the pain and soreness that is inevitable if you want to make gains. I find it both rewarding and a great stress reliever.


  1. kmcnutt says:

    Good grief… you look rather dangerous in that last one. I’ve started running again after a year and a half of deadlines keeping me in my chair. I’m hoping to get back into the neighborhood of the 152 lbs. I was at when I ran my first Grandma’s Marathon a bunch of years ago. Getting back into shape is much harder now than it was when I was 26, when I could almost just think myself into being in shape.

  2. Scottman says:

    I was thinking of buying a Bowflex system, was wondering if you had ever used one and think they work well. I just would like to have more options than my cheap weight bench I have. The biggest thing is crunches always hated laying down to do them, and I was working out at a friends place and he had one he made so you could sit in a seat with a rigged pull down cable so you could do crunches. I liked that a lot.

  3. Tom says:

    I’ve never used a bowflex, so I have no opinion of them. Any resistance training will give you results as long as you do it consistently, with enough intensity and allow yourself proper recovery time and nutrition. Where people sometimes go wrong with those fancy contraptions is they think it’s a shortcut to getting in shape. There are no shortcuts, no magic pills and no ultimate 10 minute workouts. You have to spend time, effort and sweat no matter if you use freewirghts, Bowflexes, universal gyms or rocks tied to the ends of sticks.

    BTW, I agree cable crunches are a great exercise. The weighted resistance allows you to work your abs with fewer reps, which saves wear and tear on your low back.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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