Everyman’s Gym | The 50 Zone Magazine : Mens Information On Wellness, Health, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Women, Style And Fashion



Everyman’s Gym

by C.J. Ong, Jr.

Several years ago my wife Dr. Clar Baldus and I began a project called The Crucible here in Cedar Rapids, IA. As natural former bodybuilders we had spent a lot of time in the fitness club and were looking to return to a more natural method of strength training. In addition I still wanted to keep strength training for triathlons. The Crucible was a result of our search.

In my research I came across the work of ManTis of USA Jungle Gym. Here was a guy and his friends who were lifting rocks, bags of sand and pulling up on tree limbs and staying strong. As I thought about his work it resonated with the child in me. How often in my 30 years of involvement in the fitness industry had I heard people unhappy about having to drive to the club to slog away on an elliptical or move through the same exercises on machines as all the others. Here was a gym for everyone’s backyard!

I knew I needed a format in which to base these movements as we planned to share our gym with others in our community. I had been reading Dan John’s book Never Let Go and his description of The Big Nine, a list he created which broke down weight training into 9 movements, impressed me with the functional elegance contained within its simplicity.

The Crucible was simple in its origin. We began with some cinderblocks, lengths of cast off gas pipe and lengths of log chain. We added a striking tire and sledgehammers as funds permitted, bought a couple of different diameters of 8 foot fence posts at the farm store and hosted our first free and open workouts to the public. (My creativity was such that one regular participant had me come to his place of business and build a “crucible style gym” for the employees which I did for under $200.00! Last year we had over 30 free and open workouts either at our home or at local parks and trails).

We focus on the movements rather than the muscles in our workouts. Our workouts lasted one hour and were simple in structure, either having those taking part work through the 9 movements with the entire list or creating a workout with a selection of movements and having participants complete As Many Rounds As Possible in the hour (AMRAP).

By focusing on movements over muscles we are doing compound movements. Not only do compound or multi-joint movements require more energy they often involve movement in more than one plane of motion – offering a time crunched athlete the most bang for their buck. (For example: A biceps curl involves only flexion (the closing of an angle) of the forearm. As single joint movement involving a small muscle group it’s not much of a calorie burner. By comparison a neutral grip pull-up involves the muscles of the back, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids and the biceps, it is a multi-joint or compound movement involving ADduction, flexion and to some degree extension. The number of muscles involved greatly increases calorie use and bang for one’s buck).

Dan John’s list The Big Nine is as follows:

  1. Horizontal Push (Bench Press, Push-ups) (Pectorals, deltoids, triceps)
  2. Horizontal Pull (Rows and Variations) (Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius, Biceps, Deltoids)
  3. Vertical Push (Military Press, Overhead, Zercher Carries) (Deltoids, Trapezius, Triceps, Postural)
  4. Vertical Pull (Pull-up, Pulldown) (Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps, Deltoids, Trapezius)
  5. Explosive Full Body (Swings / Snatches / Cleans / Jerks) (Pretty much the whole shooting match)
  6. Quad Dominant Lower Body (Squats and variations; Bulgarian Split Squats, Goblet Squats) (Quads, Hamstrings, Postural)
  7. Posterior Chain (Deadlifts)
  8. Anterior Chain (Medicine Ball Ab Throw, Barbell Roll-outs, Ab Wheel)
  9. Rotational / Torque (Sledgehammer, Roman Twist, Turkish Get-ups, Woodchopper)

While space constraints don’t allow listing all the types of workouts possible as simple combination would be to grab a pair of cinderblocks and a length of pipe. Set your watch and AMRAP in 30:00 in order Horizontal Push, Horizontal Pull, Quad Dominant Lower Body, Vertical Push and Anterior Chain. Go for 12 reps with good form and keep the rest between movements to a minimum. It’s different and believe me you’ll feel it.

The combinations are endless as are the possibilities. Take your cinderblocks down the street to the playground, climb on and use the jungle gym for pull-ups, do push-ups off the end of the slide and enjoy the freedom of having your own gym 24/7. Just like when we were children playing outside.


C.J. Ong, Jr. / The Crucible / 2012 © This information is intellectual property and may not be shared by any means including electronically without express written permission of the author.

Crucible Gym at thepitbullatthecrucible@gmail.com.

Article by C.J. Ong, Jr.

The Crucible Gym





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