By Christopher Hadley
THIS IS THE SECOND OF A MULTI-PART SERIES on Chris Hine’s recent trip to Utah for his Level 3 Gym Jones Certification. At the end of episode one, we left Chris drowning in his own body fluids (some sweat, floods of tears and about a pint of cerebro-spinal fluid) after failing to row a obligatory sub seven minute 2km. In part two we find out how the madness first began.
Chris’s road to Gym Jones began some two-and-a-half-thousand years ago in a narrow mountain pass in Northern Greece, when 300 very buff Spartan warriors faced down the Persian empire at the Battle of Thermopylae. Admittedly, Chris’s involvement on that occasion was minimal, but jump forward to 2007 and he was in the thick of the action, deftly wielding the remote control to rewind to the bit where Gerard Butler kicks a Persian envoy into a big hole. Still very cool. Back in those days, when he was not watching action movies, Chris was working in the gym at the Manor of Groves, well acquainted with physical culture and already straying from the way of the bodybuilder to do MMA style workouts with his mate Anton. But the movie 300, with its cast of actors who were all in incredible physical shape, was a turning point for young Hines. “That film showed me that you could get a certain physicality, the kind that most guys want, but without sacrificing functional movement.”
The impressive thing was not that the guys on screen looked so hench – from early Tarzan films to Conan the Barbarian there had always been movies where actors were packing muscle – but because they actually looked like they might be warriors from the ancient world. Let’s face it Arnie might have been built like an oak tree, but he wasn’t all that athletic and King Leonidas was never going to take down one of the Immortals with a mere Front Double Biceps followed by a Lat Spread — he needed to be able to hurl a spear, scale a rock face and go the distance in an all-day bout of hand-to-hand combat. What’s more, the reason those actors looked the part was because they pretty much were the part, they hadn’t trained like body builders, they had trained like warriors, and rumour had it that they had done it at some joint called Gym Jones.
The publicity around the film thrust the founder of Gym Jones — a very reluctant Mark Twight — into the spotlight, along with the now famous 300 workout, which was soon in all the fitness magazines. Enter armies of gym rats to rival the Persian hordes, all claiming to be able to easily get through the 300 reps in record breaking times. To be fair, standing in 2016 and looking back to the original 2007 workout, it doesn’t look that hard, but as the home movies flooded into Gym Jones, Mark Twight was horrified that hardly anyone was doing the movements properly. From the outset Gym Jones wasn’t just about functional movement it was about functional movement done correctly. Twight’s riposte to the pretenders was classy: he released a revised 300 workout, 300FY. It was a workout you couldn’t cheat on. 300 calories in 10 mins on an Airdyne. Simple. (Don’t even be tempted!)
What’s the FY stand for? Well you’ve got to work it out for yourself. That’s part of the challenge. Whilst the rest of the world was still watching the movie or trying to finish the 300 reps, Chris Hines was immersing himself in the world of Gym Jones, which largely meant logging onto the website and trying to figure out what all those abbreviations meant. There was no key, because Mark Twight didn’t really care whether you understood the workouts or not – he hadn’t written them for you; he had written them for the handful of invitation-only members of Gym Jones who were much fitter than you.
Chris recalls his very first Gym Jones workout, which he did with Anton at Manor of Groves: “It was I go, you go, 5 rounds of 10 power cleans and presses, 10 burpees, 10 push ups on the bar.” By round three, Chris was an addict. He’d done similar training before, but never with so much weight (by which I mean he was lifting about 20kg as opposed to 2.5kg back then). After the addiction came the evangelism: he was soon preaching the virtues of Gym Jones to all his clients, including the unfortunate Paul Heywood who was also to become an addict and founder member of Huntsman. Poor Paul still trains here today, unable to kick the habit.
Chris was loving his new training regime; right up until he did Tailpipe. Google ‘Superman’ and you’ll see images of Gym Jones-trained Henry Cavill looking unwell whilst racking two kettlebells. That’s what tail pipe looks like in the first few seconds. Trust me, they wouldn’t use shots from the end of it in publicity material. It’s not pretty. What’s Tailpipe? You lucky boys and girls if you haven’t yet had the pleasure! For time. Three rounds. Person one rows 250m, whilst person two racks 2x24kg KBs. If the bells go down, the rowing stops. They might well have called it crucified, but Tailpipe’s a good name because the workout really is like sucking on the end of an exhaust pipe, only worse. On the first attempt it took Chris and partner half an hour – well, it felt like half an hour, but was more like nine very long and uncomfortable minutes “It was the first really memorable Gym Jones workout for me.” Says Chris. “ It was just the sheer amount of stress it caused. On the website it was there as a finisher so we did it at the end of a session. I felt my lips go numbs. I got really sick, and started panicking. It was the first time that I felt completely out of control. I’d got very fit working with Anton, or at least that’s what I thought. Tailpipe was when I realised I wasn’t fit. “
Following the workouts on the Gym Jones website, Chris’s training, goals and priorities shifted entirely. Largely because his new regime showed up the weaknesses he hadn’t known he had. “On the website, there was a black and white photo of someone doing overhead squats and looking totally badass. It was an inspirational shot, but it was also a move I couldn’t do. I picked up an empty 20kg bar and couldn’t do it. I had no idea how to do it. I couldn’t get the bar behind my head.”
Most people might have left it at that, or like many of the legions who took on the 300 workout, settled for a half-arsed version of the movement. Chris signed up to train with Giles Greenwood, the Commonwealth Gold Medalist lifter, who was running classes at a spit and sawdust gym in Bethnal Green. “12 weeks, 2 hours a week for just £40. It was subsidised as part of the Commonwealth Games programme. Most people dropped out and in the end there were only three of us doing it,” says Chris. “It was amazing.”
OHS – overhead squat – was soon Chris’s favourite thing. “It still is,” he says. “It’s got so many functional elements: strength, balance, flexibility, co-ordination. I love it.” And he can now OHS 100kg for 2 reps.
Chris was now well and truly on the road to Gym Jones and shifting gears, determined to get ever closer to Mark Twight’s ideal of no-compromises functional fitness and perfect form. To do that he would need to keep learning from the best. After the Giles Greenwood course, he signed up to train with BJ Rule in Lewisham, making the three hour round trip every week to learn how to master kettlebells. He was sitting in his flat one evening when he got a text from BJ. Gym Jones were going to be running the first ever Level 1 certification in the UK at the gym in Lewisham.
Why are we not surprise that Chris was the first to sign up.
Watch this space for the next episode soon (well, soonish)