Ask Joe the Pro Vol. 1 - Hardcore Gyms

Joe Ohrablo talks about hardcore gyms, teens and creatine, improving the deadlift form, and the use of Olympic lifts for building muscle mass.

In volume one of Ask Joe the Pro, natural bodybuilder Joe Ohrablo rants about hardcore gyms, instructs you on proper deadlift form, discusses the value of Olympic lifts for natural bodybuilders, and answers the question - should teens take creatine?

Rant! - Hardcore Gyms

Is hardcore an excuse to not give a shit about your gym?

For about 4 months I trained at a "hardcore" gym in North Carolina. When I was about to move from NY to NC, I Googled hardcore gyms  NC, and this gym came up! Hell - on the door it says hardcore only. As I walked up the rickety staircase and started to hear the heavy metal blasting throughout the gym, and the big industrial fans blowing hot air around in the middle of July, (no working air conditioning) I thought "shit this is hardcore"!

When I reached the top of the stairs I looked around. There were plenty of flat and incline barbell stations, a dumbbell area that had 5's to 120's. I thought "120's are hardcore?" I can easily use 150's on flat bench dumbbell press and on pullovers. What I did like was all the pictures on the walls of bodybuilders from the 90's, natural bodybuilding trophies that the owner had accumulated throughout the years, and chalk stations placed at different areas in the gym.

Hardcore Gym

They also have an old fashion dip station with those huge ass chains that Branch Warren has been seen using for chest. But the leg equipment is OLD. I mean, they have a hack squat that you have to enter in the bottom position, a leg press where when you start to add weight, it becomes difficult to re-rack because it's hand made and bent up. The walls are covered in mildew and the bathrooms are just disgusting. So, there is really a fine line between hardcore and a dump.

I love a good hardcore gym. When I first started natural bodybuilding I trained at Olympic Health Spa. It was similar to this gym BUT had a lot more variety in equipment. I guess that's why I joined Gold's Gym where my wife works. VARIETY! I like hammer strength, I like heat and air conditioning, I like kettlebells and medicine balls, and yes I like cardio theatre (not the tv's attached to the screen but an actual movie theatre where you can do cardio).

This "hardcore gym" had 3 treadmills that would shut off halfway through your workout. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome to be able to scream and pace and get insane into my workouts, but let's face it - some days we like to change it up and maybe start with a machine or two. I didn't have that option here. I say if you're going to open a hardcore gym at least offer the members some variety. Hammer strength, maybe a few new leg machines, working cardio, and yeah - AC in the middle of July wouldn't hurt either. Because you put hardcore on the door doesn't mean you have to let the facility go and allow the walls to cave in.

Ask Joe the Pro

Ask Joe Ohrablo The Pro BodybuilderAre Olympic style lifts like the hang clean or push press useful for building muscle?

I think that certain lifts that are compound in nature stimulate multiple muscle groups at once, work the core, and stimulate the CNS will indeed help build muscle. My favorite Olympic style lifts are the clean and press, power cleans, push press, and cleans. Even the hang clean can be useful for a bodybuilder - or anyone for that matter - looking to build muscle. The inherent nature of Olympic style lifts is they are ballistic movements, many of which call for fast, "jerky" type motions which but the lifter at risk for injury. Those with knee, elbow and especially rotator cuff issues should be very careful when doing Olympic style lifts, and in some cases avoid all together.

Do you have any tips to help me with my deadlift form? I've been told that my deadlift looks more like a stiff leg deadlift.

Sure. It sounds like you're rounding your back out and keeping your hips and knees pushed back, which can spell disaster for your lower back. Think of a proper deadlift as a squat. Load the barbell up to a light weight at first to practice form. Seat your feet shoulder width apart and drag the bar so it is flush against your shins. Squat down until your able to grab the bar. Some lifters like to do a powerlifter's grip which is one hand under and one over. I agree with some critics who believe that this grip can cause imbalances and create a risk for injury, so I do both hands over.

Place your hands outside of your legs slightly. Keep your eyes straight ahead. Now here's the tricky part - you HAVE to keep the barbell against your shins for the entire lift. Stand straight up with some force until your back is straight (don't lean back), as you come down, do so the same EXACT way you came up, with your back straight, butt out and head straight ahead. And keep the bar against those shins! Bring the bar down to the floor for a count of one and go right into the next rep. Don't bounce!

So, the key points are:

  1. Feet shoulder width apart, hands slightly outside of legs.
  2. Choose either a double overhand, or one under one over grip.
  3. Keep the bar against your shins on both the positive and negative portion of the lift.
  4. Keep your back straight, butt out and head neutral!

Follow those tips and your will experience some awesome overall strength and mass gains!

Should teens take creatine?

It depends! If the kid is 14 and just started out I'd say no. Give him some time to develop, grow, learn the basics before we overload him with any supplements beyond a multivitamin and whey protein. I'd say the more experience the teen gets, and he has a green light from his doctor, sure why not? Creatine is safe. And when taken correctly can provide a huge wallop in lean mass and strength gain! But it is important that the teenager has permission from his or her parents, and family doctor before taking it.