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A Place to Grow

In seeking a suitable gym, look for dumbbells at least to 120 pounds and plenty of free weights.

There was a time in America when people stayed in one town and worked at the same job for virtually their entire lives. Well, those days are long gone. We move around in our own states and across state lines more than ever, which means that those of us living the iron life frequently have to search for a new place to train. Recently, I spoke with three-time pro champion Branch Warren about Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas. That’s where he’s been hitting the weights since he was 17 years old, and it’s also where Ronnie Coleman trained for eight Mr. Olympia titles and 18 other IFBB wins. Clearly, Metroflex has the right formula for bringing out the best in a bodybuilder. 

Equipment. A lot of the corporate chain health clubs, like Bally’s, Planet Fitness and Work Out World, discourage those of us who are bigger and stronger than your average person by limiting the resistance available. Often the dumbbells go up to only 75s or maybe 95s if you’re lucky. Machines like the leg press have been modified so they hold only a few hundred pounds at most. “The dumbbells at Metro go up to 250, not that many of us are able to use those,” Branch says. Owner Brian Dobson has altered the Nebula leg press to accommodate more than 2,500 pounds—literally, more than a ton! In seeking a suitable gym, look for dumbbells at least to 120 pounds and plenty of free weights.

Music. Top-40 radio these days is full of wimpy fare like Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey and Maroon 5. That’s what you hear wafting over the speakers in most gyms and health clubs. “You can hear the music at Metroflex when you pull up in the parking lot,” Warren tells us. “It gets you pumped up—stuff like Godsmack, Rammstein, Disturbed, old Metallica and AC/DC, even hardcore gangsta rap like DMX and Dr. Dre.” You may luck out and find a gym that cranks the types of tunes that make you want to blast more iron than ever, but if not, we all have iPods these days.

Clientele. We tend to train harder surrounded by others who share the passion. Trying to hit a new personal record on the bench press or put an inch on your arms isn’t quite as exciting when the workout floor is full of retired guys with pants pulled up to their chests and soccer moms who can’t walk two steps without sipping iced coffee. Metroflex is home to dozens of huge, powerful men—and some big gals too. Look for a gym where you see at least a few other serious trainees. 

Atmosphere. A perfect air temperature and a spotless facility are all well and good, but think back to some of the very best workouts of your life. I’d wager they were back when you were a kid, pumping iron in your basement, attic or garage. It was probably always too hot, too cold or not too neat and clean—but you loved it! Metroflex is a lot like that. “It’s hot as hell in the summer and freezing in the winter, and you don’t want to hang out in the bathrooms any longer than absolutely necessary,” notes Branch. Obviously you shouldn’t intentionally seek out a gym that’s uncomfortable and filthy, but don’t reject a place simply on the grounds that you wouldn’t want to eat off the floor. IM

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