Last Saturday morning, I finally went to my very first class at the Global Strongman Gym. I didn’t really know what to expect but knew that as soon as it opened in Brooklyn, I would be there to check it out. The new space is HUGE and apparently at least 3 times the size of the old Chelsea location. In the new space, they offer both individual training and a group class to dip your toe into learning the Strongman way. Hans Pirman, who started out as a body builder and personal trainer before finding his passion for Strongman and opening his dedicated gym in 2011, is like meeting a very friendly Viking in person and I knew I was going to like him immediately.
The space is filled with all of the Strongman toys you could want and I wanted to play with ALL of them. For that very first class, about 10 of us showed up…and at least 5 of us had never done it before. The class as Hans describes it is a push movement and pull movement, which makes it sounds like it’s going to be a pretty standard workout but really, it’s anything but! After a short warm up, the first up was a “log” press – the ones we used are a metal version, but in the gym there is an actual log with handles carved by Hans. The ladies were divided off into our own group and at first the log was really light for me, but on round 2, Hans added more weight and when he jumped me up again for round 3, I really started to feel it. I was so glad I didn’t ask to jump up to the next log size! Also, I pretty much learned in that class that when Hans gives you a weight to lift, you just do it. “Just pick it up” was not a statement to question from the Viking!
Next up was the pulling portion – working on the classic Strongman move of being able to lift a car. The heavy version in our class was lifting a 450lb tire that was set on a rig with handles, which most of the guys did. Then there was a bar option that the women went on. At first, I felt sort of grumpy that I wasn’t in the tire group but that bar version was heavy…and while the first round was easy(ish), once Hans added plates for that second and third round, it was super challenging. I’m going to work my way up to that damn tire group though! After a few rounds of the Farmer’s Carry, which for my group was 75lbs in each hand (a PR for me), I figured we were done. We weren’t done but it WAS the water break section!
One of the guys in class has been working out with Hans for over year and told me it was the only gym he’d ever been a member of. “The first workout I ever did was supposed to be an hour, I lasted 30 minutes before I seized up. As Hans was stretching me he said ‘you are very out of shape. Did you know that?’ I was like YES. That’s why I’m here and he told me he could fix that…and he has.” I mean, if you have to pick only one gym ever, Strongman is a very cool one and I also completely see why you’d place your trust in Hans.
Getting ready for the Atlas Stones, I heard something I’ve never heard in a workout: “Put out your arms, I need to duct tape them.” Again, I didn’t really question Hans, just stuck out my arms and he explained while he did it that it was to protect your forearms when you lifted the cement spheres. I was a little concerned that it’d hurt coming off, but my friend who’d joined me in the class and is a seasoned strongman pro, assured me I’d sweat so much it’d come right off. I was dubious but she was totally right. My stone was the lightest option, 90lbs. Basically, the goal is to just pull up the stone from the ground into your lap and then roll up your body and hoist onto a chest high platform. Then, pull it off the platform and let this big cement ball drop at your feet to start again – which was easily the only thing that truly scared me during the whole class. I was terrified I wouldn’t move my feet out of the way fast enough. It was fine and once I did it a couple of times, it seemed like the most sensible way to get the thing back to the start. We did 3 rounds of 5 and even though I stayed at the same weight, that damn ball just seemed to get heavier every round.
We capped off the class with a round of ab work and then the most awesome surprise ever…Hans pulled out a stretching table and called us over one by one to get stretched. It was amazing and the best end to a strength class ever…like Savasana for Strongman. A few days later, I made my way back to the gym to see if I could take some pictures for this post and Hans asked if I was sore after class. I laughed: “I haven’t been THAT sore after a workout in ages ..and I can’t wait to come back.” Seriously. I walked out of class feeling relaxed, strong and almost giddy at getting to really challenge myself. Plus, I really have to go back because being able to lift a car might come in handy if there ever is a zombie apocalypse…
Drop-In Group Classes are Saturday mornings, 10-11:15am at 987 Pacific Street.
Photos by Eric Stafford