“We surround ourselves with people like us. You become what surrounds you. ”- Mark Twight
The regular followers of the Blog will already know Gym Jones. This dark gym, run by the ever-charismatic Mark Twight, rose to fame after transforming actors from 300, from mere mortals into authentic superheroes, a feat that he would repeat later with Superman himself. In previous articles I talked about Spartan training and how to train like Superman.
Recently, Dani from EntrenaComoUnHeroe told me that after discovering Gym Jones she was going to be encouraged to do the initiation seminar with them. Upon his return he proposed to me to share some of the lessons learned, and I think there will be many people interested in learning about some of his “secrets”.
I leave you with Dani’s experience, there are valuable lessons for everyone.
After my training in Paleotraining and my experience as a user in Area Crossfit (both 100% recommended) I wanted to do a course more similar to this discipline but, in view of the criticism I had heard regarding Level 1 of CrossFit and that today Nowadays everyone is getting this degree, I wanted to do something different.
Thanks to @FITrebelde I met Mark Twight and Gym Jones. From the first moment I found his philosophy and his differences with respect to CrossFit interesting. As a result, I read various articles, explored their website, watched videos and even read the book «KISS OR KILL«.
All this added to the striking (why fool us) claim of films like 300 and Superman and the simple fact of leaving my comfort zone, putting my English to the test and having an experience in the USA, pushed me to decide to invest the budget of the Level 1 plus the subsequent fee for opening a Crossfit box to enjoy a seminar in Utah and, incidentally, take a mini-vacation in San Francisco.
Arrival and first impressions
I arrived the night before the course in Salt Lake City, already at dawn. The fatigue from the flight, the few hours of sleep and some discomfort in the left foot of unknown origin that practically made me limp were not enough to spoil the first day of the seminar. I guess the paracetamol in the morning plus the adrenaline and the desire to start mitigated the pain. Luckily throughout the course we did not do any high impact exercises (except box jumps) so I barely remembered the foot.
The first thing that surprised me about Gym Jones was its size, I expected it to be bigger. It consists of two rooms, very well equipped, one of them with artificial grass which I imagine is intended for more specific American football training.
It struck me that they had no showers or changing rooms. From what I have seen later it is common in the USA. Except for the large fitness centers, the rest of the boxes or neighborhood gyms do not have this service.
What’s more, many of them are at street level behind more typical shop windows. Users arrive already changed, train and leave. Another curious aspect is the tendency of some to train with street clothes (shorts, jeans, caps), I don’t know if it is a consequence of the lack of changing rooms but it seems common here.
Starting the course
We begin the course with a brief introduction and the subsequent presentation of the coaches. The host of the seminar was Rob McDonald, a “big” and charismatic ex MMA fighter who impresses at first sight and connects with people with his humor and good manners as the minutes go by.
He was accompanied by 4 other coaches who participated and helped throughout the weekend (more than enough for the 12 students that we were). The only downside in this regard was the absence of Mark Twight who we could not meet.
Immediately afterwards we got down to work, but not before making sure that the objective of the course was not to “crush” ourselves with training, but to teach us as much as possible, although without a doubt the few wods (or “training sessions” as they call it) What we did left us exhausted.
Apparently all workouts start the same, with 10-20 ′ of cardio plus several sets of different types of squats, including their well-known wall squats that focus on working on balance and stretching the muscles of the back. Then they add a specific heating depending on what they are going to work on.
Throughout the seminar we did 3 training sessions that left us breathless while entertaining so much theory.
The first part of the seminar was an extension of the article regarding Gym Jones’ work philosophy.
An athlete’s approach to planning reminded me of the GROW method of Coaching. First they determine a clear, concise and detailed objective, then they detail what their current situation is with respect to said objective and based on both aspects they design a program that they test and restructure as they advance.
Mind comes first
They give much prominence to the mind and attitude towards training. According to them you must be willing to enjoy suffering, to do what costs you the most, to do things that scare you since the practice makes the habit.
If you practice overcoming difficult challenges, you develop the habit of facing everything that comes your way and you will approach it with confidence. They affirm that self-limitations and the image we have of ourselves are the greatest barrier, that is why it is important to break it by facing uncomfortable situations since finally, you become what you do based on dedication. It is not a question of talent but of hard, intelligent and constant work.
At Gym Jones they demand a lot from their athletes. They believe more in their possibilities than they do, they push them to the limit and try to set an example for them 24/7, not just in the gym.
Train for real life
The basis of his sessions is functionality and transfer. If it is not transferable to the objective and / or real life it is not useful. And is that the brain only knows movements, not muscles, and analytical training can cause muscle imbalances.
As an example he told us that he rarely used pistols since it was an atypical movement that little could be transferred. As a substitute, he proposed squats on one leg raised on top of a box, placing the support at one end of it and placing the other leg outside the box without having it stretched parallel to the ground as in pistols.
In addition to the exercises, repetitions and loads must also be transferable to the target.
Regarding nutrition, their recommendations are very similar to the Paleo diet with meat, fish, lots of vegetables and fruit, “real food” as they say and to be organic. They always distribute amounts with one goal in mind (gain / lose weight or performance).
They also talked about the benefits of Intermittent Fasting, especially as a tool to lose weight fast. They gave us an example of the actor who played Daxos in the 300 saga, who lost 13 kg in 5 weeks through Intermittent Fasting, with caloric restriction within the feeding window and 3h of training + 10h of sleep a day.
Regarding nutrition, I was curious how insistent he was emphasizing the damages of eating fast food, giving several examples of substances and bad practices that were used in different fast food chains.
I suppose that in Spain it is obvious that junk food and health do not go hand in hand, but in the USA it is so much the order of the day that it is necessary to remember it over and over again. And it is that as they said “no matter how great the effort in the gym is, it will not give you freedom to eat whatever you want without any consequence.”
Another key aspect of the Gym Jones philosophy is rest and recovery. It is so important to recover well from training, that they never rest! I explain…
They start from the idea that movement is always better than total rest, it is preferable to do light cardio without impact or take a walk than to spend all day “resting” on the sofa.
What they do repeat after each session, at least the so-called Hard Work, is a little 20-30 min light cardio to reactivate and clean circulation.
They also recommend the foam roller daily, sleeping 8-10h completely in the dark, the contrast shower, meditation and other tools such as ice baths, acupuncture, massages, etc.
They encourage scheduling breaks as well as training sessions and assure that this is the weak point of many athletes who are willing to train hard but few to rest so “hard.”
In terms of programming, they usually train every day (maximum one rest day) but only 3 a week are “Hard Work Day”, the rest are recovery through cardio without impact and auxiliary exercises, usually with body weight or very little load. Hence the importance they give to recovery or active rest.
Global Fitness & Programming
When a new athlete arrives at Gym Jones, the “Foundation” phase begins, in which all abilities work equally (strength, power, power-endurance and resistance, each HWD (Hard Workout of the Day) of the week focuses on an energy system). This period can last for months. The goal is to correct imbalances, rehabilitate injuries, learn technique, build work capacity, and balance energy systems.
After the Foundation phase, once the athlete enters the plateau state, they focus on one energy system each month, not forgetting the rest. Starting with strength and ending in resistance, each week they make two HWDs focused on the objective of the month and the third one referring to another system. Once they finish the resistance, they do a download period if necessary and if they do not go through Foundation again but this time only for a month to start again.
Programming is probably the aspect in which they differ most from CrossFit. They claim that training every day with such stressful wods it is easy to fall into injuries and discomfort, such as shoulder pain so typical of crossfiter, something normal with so many exercises in this regard that can coincide in the same week (push press, hand stand push ups, snatch …).
Regarding the controversy regarding GymJones vs Crossfit, Rob clarified that there is no confrontation, that they have many things in common and many friends within Crossfit (Glassman appears as a reference to Mark Twight in the bibliography of the dossier) just some points of different view, nothing more.
Another difference is the customization of the trainings, since they are usually individually, training in groups of maximum 5 people on time.
In its early days Gym Jones only trained armed forces until it was finally opened to the public, to some extent.
To have the privilege of training at Gym Jones you must pass a personal interview that will determine whether they agree to train you or not. As Rob clarified, it is not about how much you will be able to pay (they have clients of different economic levels) but about the objectives you have and the feelings you transmit, as they say “they only want to train good people.”
Summary and acknowledgments
In short, both the course and the experience seemed more than satisfactory, they treated me very well and I think I will take advantage of everything I learned these days (not only in the course).
I don’t know if, as my weightlifting coach «Paco» Garcia joked, Mark Twight could be considered the Steve Jobs of functional training but it is true that he represents a serious alternative to CrossFit, with its pros and cons.
And after this great experience, what less to thank all those who directly (@gymjones trainers, family, friends and @PaLHeotraining tribe) or indirectly (@regeneralife teachers, @areacrossfit trainers, «Paco» from Pirámide, Oriol from @EntrenaBCN and of course @FITrebelde) have led me to live this journey full of challenges and lessons.
Thanks to all of them and to you for paying attention to me (if you have come this far lol).
Greetings from San Francisco
Dani Garcia «Dawizard»