Loud death metal blares through the speakers. The air smells of iron. A giant one-eyed bulldog stares at me. The largest people I have ever seen are lifting barbells loaded up with what looks like the weight of a small car or a full grown cow. The entire floor is literally shaking from people on the weightlifting and deadlift platforms. This is Total Performance Sports, the baddest gym I have ever seen with my own eyes.
Despite looking and being as badass as it is, it isn’t intimidating at all. All the coaches are incredibly nice and are very approachable.
The first day, we showed up with no real agenda, hoping to get a fly-on-the-wall experience of a powerlifting gym, but what we got was so much more. We watched the coaches get in their workouts post lunch. It is lower body day.
All preconceptions of ‘heavy’ and ‘hard’ are shattered.
After that, Coach Russ Smith (the nicest man I’ve ever met) spends all afternoon with us. He explains his workout to us and walks us through some of the awesome equipment at TPS. The gym is stocked with top-end equipment from Westside Barbell and EliteFTS. We try out the belt squat machine (best-machine-evarr!), the reverse hyper machine and the sleds.
He also changes my life by cueing me on maintaining a neutral spine. And later that day, he runs their ‘Gutts and Butts’ class for just one person – me. Due to the crazy weather outside, no one else showed up.
The next day, I get to workout with coach Kevin Cann, the only person at TPS who doesn’t seem to weigh over 200 pounds or make the floor tremble as he walks. The workout is power cleans and squats (never say back squats). We finish up with some single leg circuits. That evening, I get to watch the TPS Method class, a semi-personal training class aimed at regular folks who want to get in awesome shape. The class is pretty packed, and about 20 people show up early and start warming up. The pace of the class is tight, quick and controlled. The culture at TPS is reflected in every aspect of this class. All trainees have their own workout logs, everybody watches everyone else’s sets and while there is enough time to rest, there is no real down time.
The next day is our last day there, and we show up early to sit down with coach Kevin. He patiently answers all our questions about programming, nutrition and the running of a gym like TPS. We then watch the coaches get in their afternoon workout. Later, coach Russ takes the time to coach us again, me on the OH press and Prashanti on the
back squat. Coach Russ is an amazing coach and teaches us everything we need to know to adapt these moves to the population that we’re going to work with.
That evening we watch their 5-3-1 group class coached by coaches Russ and Chuck. It’s a packed class, and it’s awesome to see that there are more women than men.
The few days that we spent at TPS have made such an indelible mark on us and have definitely set a tone for this trip. The culture is so thick in the air here that it’s impossible to miss it. From the signs on the walls to the cold, well-used barbells and plates, everything screams purpose and function in the service of strength. If you want to get stronger, TPS will embrace you. This is definitely a big part of what we’re going to take back with us.
And it’s convinced Prashanti to compete in powerlifting when we go back home.
A big thanks to coaches Murph, Russ, Kevin and Phil, Jane (who Prashanti will introduce in the next post), Tarik and Anthony at the front desk and everyone else that we ran into!