All posts by rnagy

2021 Strength Project & Push/Pull

Spring is almost upon us and we missed one of our favorite programs of the year so far in 2021, The Strength Project. We are bringing it back in a different way this year. We are also excited to announce our charity push/pull in just a few short weeks. Details for each event are below.


Strength Project 2021


In the past we used this with our unlimited members. In 2021 we want to open it to everyone. The way to get involved is easy.

  1. Over March/April take 30 classes or get 35 workouts on your own or… use 15 personal training sessions. To track this just sign the sheets hanging outside of the cardio lab.
  2. If you complete this you will earn a free massage and a workout with any of our staff members.
  3. We will also select a grand-prize winner for both male and female. The winners will be voted on by the staff. The winners will recieve a free unlimited month at UF and 3 PT sessions.


Push Pull 2021


We have been waiting patiently to host another push pull and the time is now upon us. We will host the 2021 Push Pull on March 21st at 10 AM. Weigh Ins will be from 7:30-9AM. The lifting will occur in the performance lab and we will have the garage door open so spectators and judges can be outside to help with social distancing. If we get lucky and have warm weather we will hold the entire event outside on our turf.


This year we will be raising money for the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation. One of our goals is to be more involved in the neighbor and this is an organization that works directly in the Northside to help less fortunate youth. We will have more information about how to give in the near future.  Visit their site here.  


For those of you unfamiliar or concerned about competing in a push pull competition, don’t fret. It is just a chance to challenge yourself in the bench press as well as the deadlift. We will have judges, spotters, loaders as well as others there to help you. If you are a competitive lifter and want to jump in as a training day great, and if you are new come on and try this event out as well.


Following the event we will (as always) share some outdoor food and libations. So make it a fun day, do some good, and move some weights!


Thanks and BE STRONG






Happy B Day to THE WIZARD

Today let’s all take a moment and wish the happiest of birthday’s to our own CeJ.


I have been working in the strength industry for over two decades now and very few people have had as much of an impact on me as CeJ (you can decide for yourself if he is a good or a bad impact).


Seriously though I want to take a few minutes today and make sure that we celebrate our one and only CeJ, The Wizard. CeJ and first became friends over a decade ago when he was just a young college student looking to cut his teeth in strength and conditioning. He has been a presence in my life ever since. When I was given the oppurtunity to take over Union Fitness as the general manager I knew we had to increase CeJ’s presence here. At the time he was running his own class. Powerful with CeJ was a different version of Powerful as CeJ does everything his own way, and it seems to work.


Now CeJ is here at UF full time and my biggest complaint is that the guy spends too much time at work. There are many days that he is here for morning classes and evening classes, he has helped grow our college training program from zero to where it is today (we train almost 100 collegiate student-athletes). In addition to what he brings to work his positive attitude is what truly makes CeJ such a special part of UF.


So today take a moment and text, DM, or just stop CeJ and sing Happy B Day to this (not so young) fella.


Member Spotlight

Union, we love our members so much it’s time we show you off and have CeJ climb the incline like King Kong, and shout your presence from atop of the highest point of Mt. Washington!


This week we’d like to shout out Josh Conroy .


Ladies & Gents, here is the what is about, Conroy in his own words.


“What’s up everyone! My name is Josh, I’m 34 and I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and currently live in Oakdale. I work for Colussy Chevrolet in Bridgeville (which is the oldest Chevy dealership in the country) where I work in the service department.


Why I started training is like most people, I found my health declining due to being extremely lazy with poor eating habits. Shortly after turning 30 I thought I had a heart attack, thankfully I didn’t but it was what I needed to light a fire and make a change.


My father was really the reason behind me getting into lifting. He was as strict as you can be with nutrition and training. He always wanted me to better myself and always looked out for my health. So I joined the gym down from his house so we could train together and I could follow his guidance, unfortunately he passed away too soon due to cancer. He always told me to find something I’m passionate about and I did that with powerlifting.


After about a year of weight training, I stumbled into powerlifting. I started to bench press, squat then deadlift. I really enjoyed it. I became more serious with wanting to progress and I joined a dedicated powerlifting gym in Pittsburgh at Celli’s Fitness. I learned to love training, being strong and seeing what the human body is capable of. After they closed to move to a new location I found myself looking for a place to train as I was prepping for USPA Nationals and I decided Union was the place for me. Since joining Union I feel like I found a home, everyone here welcomed me with open arms and that was greatly appreciated as I’m someone who hates change. While I love training and competing, I have met some of the best people in the gym and consider many of them family.


My favorite lift is forever changing and really depends on the day, currently I’d say deadlifts would be my favorite. Some lifts I’ll never forget are my first 3 plate bench and first 600 pound squat and deadlift. Some of my training goals would be 405 bench, 650 squat and 700 deadlift. But the main goal is to stay healthy and continue making progress so I can get back on the platform later this year.


If I were to build my ultimate celebrity training crew I think I’d definitely have Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Rock, and Hulk Hogan brother!


My friends would describe be as someone who is loyal, sarcastic, personable and selfless.


Being a bigger guy it’s obvious I like to eat. If I could eat one type of food for the rest of my life it would definitely be hibachi!


Since I’m a larger dude I’d say if I were any piece of equipment at Union I’d be the leg press, monolift or belt squat.


My PR song would be BMF by Rick Ross! This song always gets me hyped.


If you ever see me in the gym come say hi and feel free to reach out if you need a hand!”


Thank you Big Josh Conroy for being a great member of our gym community!




Shareholder Vs Stakeholder

Early in my career I would scoff at reading business books. It was a huge weakness of mine. I did not understand that most lessons come from outside of one’s industry. As I’ve aged and matured (albeit slowly), I learned the lessons that can be offered from other industries are many times more important than just listening to those within one’s own industry.


This week I was driving and listening to a podcast with Abigail Disney. Ms Disney is, as her name suggests, a member of the Disney family (you may have heard of them). Her goal is to make Disney a better place to work and visit. She was discussing Disney’s culture as well as who the stakeholders of Disney were Vs. the shareholders. This is a topic some of you may be familiar with. I want to use this blog to write about how this applies to training and a gym environment.



As people training in a gym I consider these people the ones who are focused mainly (not solely but, most of their focus) on external goals. As a lifter it could be numbers, or as one who wants to lose weight it could be the scale. The process is only as important as what outcome it gives someone in this setting. The world needs shareholders at time to be cold and make decisions based solely on outcome and no emotional connection to what’s going on.



For the people in the gym these are the ones who are there to enjoy the process and make the experience better for them all around. The stakeholder worries about the process, the outcome is important yet stakeholders live in the reality and know the outcome is not always a result of a good or bad process. There are many variables that can affect an outcome that the stakeholder can’t control.


We need both and we want to be stakeholders for you. Both of these groups are very important to our community. A good balance of both of these types of people can make everyone around us better. I do ask our staff when making decisions think like stakeholders. As a lifter spend most of your time thinking like a stakeholder. If you become to much of a shareholder then you will miss the beauty of having a great moment in the gym. Be involved in the process of helping improve yourself while you are here and also be in the process of others succeeding while you are here.


This idea reminds me of a quote, I have searched high and low and can’t find the author, “I want to come to the end of the day tired, defeated, victorious.” I remind myself of this quote daily. If I am being a true stakeholder for all of us and UF then I will be tired, beaten (due to winning some and losings some), as well as victorious for all that we have accomplished. If I (and we) do this everyday then the goals we all will reach will be well above what we could have done if all we worried about was the outcome.



Weekly Wrap Up

Another week, another snowfall. I just heard that this year is one of the ten snowiest on record in the Pittsburgh region. So enjoy the skiing, sledding, and snowboarding. Here is a quick run down off all we have going on to get you ready for your summer bodies.


  1. Mark your calendars, for the Iron City Open is back. We will follow all Covid-19 protocols and let’s hope that we are back to a more “normal’ meet this year. More info can be found here.
  2. Head over to our this link to read our member spotlight. Jessie is one of the finest humans I know and it is an honor for us to have her train at UF.
  3. This weeks Podcast we had the AD from Point Park University. Give it a listen on Spotify or Apple under Union Fitness Podcast.
  4. Finally, please read a tribute I wrote to a dear friend who was taken from this earth too soon. May Murat Rest In Peace. Click here.


Thank you for taking the time to read this and as always please give us your feedback. We are here to serve you, and make your visit here one of the best things that happens in your life each and every week.


Yours in strength.


Todd Hamer

Training Update and the Benefit of Just Showing Up

Earlier this week, our General Manager Todd Hamer wrote a blog about his good friend who recently passed away and the importance of showing up, even at times when you may not feel like it. This can help those close to you in more ways than you might know. If you haven’t read it, be sure to slide over and give it a quick read. It may be just what you need to hear right now. Today, going along with what Todd touched on, I am going to discuss the importance of showing up for yourself. More specifically, the importance of just showing up to train, even when you don’t feel motivated.


If you’ve been training for any decent amount of time, then you have certainly experienced your share of a lack of motivation. When you were new to training, motivation was something that was much easier to come by. You had this vision in your head of what you wanted to accomplish, and woke up every day just waiting to be able to walk into the gym. Over time you realized that this is a very challenging journey filled with many ups, downs, and crossroads along the way. 


In today’s world, it can be easy to believe that if you aren’t moving forward then you aren’t making progress. Well I’m here to tell you that just showing up can lead to much progress and success. As humans, we cannot be full throttle at all times. Imagine driving your car as fast as it will go at all times. It won’t last very long. We are no different. If we are constantly pushing forward without pulling back on occasion, bad things will happen, and we may inhibit our ability to see through the road ahead. This is where it can be necessary to simply “just show up”. 


Being in cruise control at times is not a bad thing. It can help you reset, refocus, gain a new perspective, and analyze your current situation. This can all provide an opportunity for growth and progression in the future. Recently, I’ve just been showing up. Part of this is to help my training partners, members, and friends at the gym, and some of it is for me and my mental health. Although my routine is a bit different from what it typically would be, it is what I need for the time being in order to reset and rebuild for future opportunities and progress. Not just with lifting, but life as well.


Sample training week:


Day 1:

Pit shark goblet squat: 5×8 w/ 2 second pause

Leg press: 7x 20, 15, 12, 10, 12, 15, 20

Bulgarian split squat: 4×10 each leg w/3 second eccentric

GHR back extension: 4×15 w/2 second pause

Hanging leg raises: 4×15 (strict)


Day 2:

Bench press: 5×5 w/2 chains per side

Incline DB press: 3×20

Barbell tricep extension: 5×10 

Single arm rows: 5×10 each arm

TRX face pulls: 4×15 (slow and controlled)


Day 3:

SSB good mornings: 5×5

Banded RDL: 4×10 w/band around hips (3 second eccentric)

Bent over barbell rows: 5×10

Hammer curls: 5×12

Ab rollouts: 4×12


Day 4: Optional

Fatbell bench press: 10×10 w/60 seconds rest

Weighted dips: 5x 20, 15, 12, 10, 8

DB OH press: 4×10

Lat pulldowns: 5×12

Lying fatbell tricep extensions: 5×10

Member Spotlight

Here at UF we love our members so much it’s time we show you off and have CJ climb the incline like King Kong, he will shout your presence from atop of the highest point of Mt. Washington!


This week we’d like to shout out Jessie Theisen.


Ladies & Gents, here is Jessie in her own words.


“I grew up in central California (where the cows overpopulate the people) in a small town called Visalia, however, I was born at Fort Bragg, NC (military brat- dad was 20 years 82nd Airborne and mom a marine). After spending the majority of my childhood in central CA, at 19 I picked up and moved to LA in 2008 where I lived there intermittently through 2016 (moved to PGH with my then boyfriend, now husband summer of 2016). Of my past lives, the most interesting is probably the opportunity I had as a professional makeup artist working in film, runway, magazines, commercials and doing everything from beauty makeup to special effects/gore (the latter was the most fun)! I was a professional makeup artist for the 8 year stint I was in LA.


For my current work, I am a team lead for a group of loan analysts at a financial tech company called LendingHome (they specialize in mortgages for people who fix and flip houses)- my team helps process that product, attempting to locate any process/design flaws and work with our engineering team to better perfect it. In short, it’s a fancy customer service job. I love the people I work with and can’t imagine being anywhere else anytime soon.


My training background really starts with Union Fitness. I was never the sporty or athletic type- I was a band nerd who could play Sweet Child O’ Mine on 5 different instruments while marching in a god-awful wool suit (feather and all). I would always strive to find ways to be active, though; I just never really landed on what worked for me. Took everything from cardio barre, to pilates, yoga, I just didn’t fit in any of those spaces. My drive and motivation quickly waned until I found UF, where they encouraged people of all athletic abilities to pick up a weight, and put it down, and pushed to do the same the following day/week, only heavier. THIS.WAS.MY. SHIT. Attending the #powerful classes on a regular was therapeutic for me. There were stents where I was going 5-6 days a week, sometimes two-a-days. It wasn’t even just the workouts anymore, it was the community of people who went to the same classes, continuing to build each other up and cheer each other on in their small(or big) victories. A place of misfits that I could call my own; UF is home to where I’ve made some of my closest friends. I’m grateful to the atmosphere it has cultivated and maintained from its origination until now.


The fun shit:

  1. If I could eat one food every day it’d be a cold-cut turkey sandwich (you’re free to DM me on particulars), I’m a fanatic and those close to me know it, there’s a certain consistency to the bread, color combo of the mayo and mustard together, a particular type of ground oregano- there’s an art to it, I promise; to which I must add, PITTSBURGH! Stop heating that shit up and putting fries on it…. STOP THAT SHIT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
  2. If I was a piece of equipment at Union, I’d probably be the EliteEFTS PRO, short monster mini band (yeah, the small green one) – functional, small, sturdy, pain in the ass.
  3. I’m competing in my first ever bodybuilding competition this May 8th. Signed up last March a week before Covid shut everything down- (original show meant to be last Oct). I have gone through 2 cuts now, and 2 refeeds. What was originally meant to be a 6 month prep will be 14 after all is said and done. I’m f’n jazzed to get on stage and have one of them cold-cuts mentioned under #1 right after!
  4. The most under-rated candy is Chewy Sprees.
  5. I have only ever owned pitbull dogs as pets; they’re the biggest derpsters and I love everything about them. I have a black and white named Trouble; I would die for her.
  6. Oh, fave exercise:  deadlifts.”


Thank you, Jessie for being a great member of our community!




The Value in Showing Up (Thank you Murat).

I began writing this after I had a talk with Curtis Miller about my training. Over the last year I like many others have had a hard time training. We all have struggles at times with our training, yet I can honestly say I’ve never lost the passion to train. Then last March when the lock down occurred I truly lost my passion to train. I also began to have trouble sleeping, this became a new problem for me. I would wake up for no reason at midnight. As I have preached for years, too many stressors and too many changes at once can mess you up. That is where this blog began…Until yesterday afternoon.


Monday’s I work early and yesterday I finished up at the gym in time to get some sled riding with Tenzing. Before we began I saw a picture of a good friend of mine with RIP listed over his picture. As soon as I saw this I called the person who posted this. It was true, my friend had died in a car accident. I realize that this topic is pretty heavy for our normal blog posts. Yet, it is important for me to write this and I hope it helps any and all of you who ever struggle.


Before becoming the GM at Union Fitness I was the director of strength and conditioning at The George Washington University (GW). To be completely honest I had no desire to return to living in DC when I had accepted the position. I had lost my previous job after almost 12 years of service and winning many awards, yet was still let go with zero assistance from my previous employer. So in order to make money we decided it was best for me to take this job. My wife has a good job here and my son is in a top local school district, so I would travel to DC on Sunday night and come back to my house as soon as I could on Friday. We would consider moving to DC if the job I had accepted was moving in the direction I thought it would. Clearly this was a trying time for me and my family. During this time I met some great friends in DC and many helped me as they knew how unusual my situation had become.


One day at work I asked Chris Monroe (fellow GW employee and back in his playing days 2000+ point basketball player at GW) for a recommendation to grab a beer and dinner. Chris took me to Homeslyce and introduced me to the guy who ran it (Murat). For the next year I would have dinner at Homeslyce 3x a week. Murat kept me sane during my time in DC. I would get to work between 5-6AM, work, train and do all the fun work stuff then try to make it to Homeslyce by 6 PM for dinner and sometimes a libation. The food was great but the company was what made Homeslyce a home for me.


During my last week at GW Murat threw a party in my honor at Homeslyce. He had a custom cake, food for everyone and drinks flowed like… well drinks. The dude truly cared. Since I  left DC I have kept in contact with Murat. Murat was sending food to the hospital and feeding the troops during the past month. He was a guy trying to help out and for that I respect the hell out of him.


The biggest thing Murat did for me is show up. This took me back to where I am now in my life. Lifting hasn’t been perfect but each day we get the opportunity to show up. So to quote Jason Isbell.


“Last year was a son of a bitch
For nearly everyone we know
But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch
I’ll meet you up here on the road.”


What I asks of each and every one of you is to show up for yourself, for your family and for your friends. Just showing up at times will be all we need and all we can do. I can promise you I will continue to show up for you and hopefully I can help one of you in the time when you need someone to lean on. None of us are self made and we can all support one another if we are willing to help out. If I ever feel down or not ready to show up I will remember how Murat showing up for me was all I ever needed and he did that, so I’ll show up for you.


Todd Hamer

Weekly Wrap Up

Another week and some more snow. While not everyone loves snow, I do enjoy sled riding with Tenzing so it has been good for us as we have had 3 sled ride sessions this week. So let’s hope for more on Monday’s storm. As for the gym we are happy to be open, clean, and safe. Here is a quick run down of what we’ve done this week and what’s to come.


  1. Podcast this week with Curtis and Jared is a good one about many issue lifters have from finding training partners to just training in general.
  2. Check out this weeks blog on relatively healthy desserts.
  3. We are preparing for what should be a great spring and this includes preparing for our in house push pull at the end of march. If you want to have some fun and challenge yourself then give us a heads up and we will add you to the list.
  4. My personal favorite blog of the year was from Curtis and can be read here. 


With a lot going on and some exciting things in the works for the near future we hope to be able to keep offering you a clean, healthy, and safe place to train. As always any issues can be sent directly to me Todd Hamer (


Be Strong!


Curt’s Corner

As many of you are aware, we recently brought two interns on board to work with us here at Union Fitness for their final semester of College. As much as I enjoy giving them a hard time and testing their knowledge, they are both great and are willing to learn anything and everything they can.


Last week, I decided to quiz them and asked if they knew why the steel plates were flat on one side and grooved on the other. Naturally, they weren’t sure. Although the answer is very simple and something that everyone should know, it’s understandable why someone might not.


This got me thinking about some potential other areas regarding the weight room that may be overlooked, misunderstood, or even under appreciated.


  1. Putting plates on the correct way: The answer to this is simply so you can grab and load/unload the weights easier. This isn’t just for your own safety, but also those other members who need to use the weights after you. So be sure to put the weights on the bar facing inward, and put them back on the rack the same way.
  2. Proper warm-up: Your warm ups should always be done with purpose and intent. Do not take them for granted. The way you perform your warm-up will directly dictate how well you are able to perform your training session, along with the overall success of your session. If you are just putting a band around your knees and walking around for 1-2 minutes, I can assure you that you are not doing enough to prepare yourself for your training session. Select exercises that are directly related to the goal of your session and perform them with intent.
  3. Performing the full range of motion with your exercises: In the words of Thee Dave Jackson, “if the weight is dictating your ROM, then it’s too much weight”. Unless you are performing an exercise designed to be used with a shorter range of motion such as a floor press, or have a specific injury that you are working around, you should always be moving the weight throughout the entire range. Doing so will keep you safe, healthy, and strong.   
  4. Being aware of those around you: Little known fact, you are actually not the only person who is attempting to perform a workout in the gym. Be aware of how long you are on a piece of equipment in case someone else needs to use it as well. When you are walking around or carrying equipment, respect the space of those around you, especially if they are in the middle of performing a movement. The gym is one of the only places where we can all go to escape the challenges of everyday life. So respect everyone and share like your momma taught you.
  5. Ask for a spot: Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t make you less cool if you ask another member or employee to spot you during your lift. In doing this, you may actually get some helpful tips or pointers that you were not aware of previously. On top of that, it will keep you safe and accident free so you can lift for years to come.