Category Archives: Fitness

Rep Ranges, Do They Matter?

No matter what your goal is when you enter the gym you will always have to decide what rep range to train at. Today I want to spend a few minutes giving you an overview of rep ranges, and why they matter. A small disclaimer here is important, I will not really delve into every possible variable in training. We could spend hours reviewing rep speed, isometrics, and timed sets. Today’s goal will be to give you a basic overview of reps and why different rep ranges are important.


High Reps 15-25. 


In the realm of strength training this would be a high rep set. I have done sets of over 100 yet that is not the norm and generally 15-25 would be the highest one needs to train. I will give you a short list of pros and cons.



Increase mydocondrial density. The mydocondria (as you may remember from HS science class) is the powerhouse of the cell. When we get stronger and add to the size of muscle fiber we reduce mydocondrial density. In order to increase mydocondria we must train in higher rep ranges.

Increased vascularization of the muscle. We want more blood pumped into the tissue so adding blood vessels is an easy way to do accomplish this. Adding more reps will add more arterials to the muscle you are training.

Less stress on the joint. Due to the lighter load that you must use during high rep training the stress on the joints will be less.

Great Pump. Everyone loves a great pump



Limited strength gains. High rep training will not increase strength in a significant way over the long haul.

Adds fatigue with little benefit. When doing high rep work the first 10-15 reps will add stress without adding much else to the training session. You must be careful when using this style of training that you don’t overuse certain joints.

Hard to recover from this training. Depending on the movement high rep work can take a long time to recover from. If you are squatting or deadlifting and using high reps you will have to take many days to recover before returning to this movement. I’d generally recommend use high reps for smaller movements.


Mid Range Reps 8-12


Pick up any bodybuilding magazine and you will see a ton of work done using these reps. 3X10 is always popular.




Load is heavy enough to make some strength gains. Weight can be 60-80% of your 1 rep max. With this load and rep range you can absolutely increase overall strength.


Easier to recover from than high rep training. Due to less reps the overall stress can be less.


Easier to get more sets in. You could do 3-6 sets and build more volume with this rep range than with the higher rep ranges.




Still not heavy enough to be very specific for absolute strength work.


Not mentally challenging enough. Over the years I have met a ton of people that live in this rep range and are afraid to go for the heavy sets. Lower reps will add a little fear to your life and this can be a very good thing in training and in life.



Lower rep ranges 1-5.


This is the the rep range that you should earn in your training. What I mean by that is in order to do 1-5 reps per set you must prepare yourself by doing the work that leads you to heavy sets.




Low rep and heavy load training will increase strength. The body will only adapt to the stress you place upon it. If you wish to be stronger you must do some low rep work.


Low rep training will teach you to brace. I’ve heard all the fancy words and phrases thrown around with no context. Brace, engage your core, tighten up, and many more. If you want to learn to brace unrack a heavy weight and you’ll begin to understand all of this.


Low rep training is a challenge. Overcome fear and hit a weight you have never attempted before.




Stress! If you go the well too often you will either not make progress or get injured. Low rep training is hard on the body so shouldn’t be used more than once a month.


Low rep training is very specific to the movement. This means that some exercises are not made for low rep training. Large multi-joint movements are best, while uni-lateral, and isolation exercises don’t work well with lower rep ranges.


Chance of acute injury can increase in low rep training. Due to the extreme loads used during this style of training one must be careful. Use competent spotters (UF has a ton of these so ask), be mentally engaged with the lift, and don’t push too far beyond your current limits.


There it is a basic overview of rep ranges. Now I am going to challenge you in your own training. Do something different! It does not matter what you do different, just do something different. If you have been stuck with your 3X10 workout, try 5×5. If you have been doing singles, go for 4X8. Whatever change you make ride it out for a few weeks.





CJ’s Funky 6

Hiya, my mobile muscle members,


As most of you already know and some will come to find out, I like to have fun with exercise, as a wise coach said, explore the corners. With this being said, I certainly have my own lingo, style and reasons for keeping exercise fresh and fun. Today I give to you my Funky 6 (pick-up sticks) most recent exercises that I have been exploring. These exercises give the user a huge bang for their buck. I say this because these exercises combine mobility, stability, coordination, balance, strength, endurance, brace, proprioception and more into an exercise.



Squat to Stretch with T-Spine Rotation Holding Light Band



How to: This classic with a twist will have you feeling good from your head to your toes. Heating up your calves, hamstrings, glutes, low back, t-spine, midsection and rear delts. You don’t need a micro-mini band but this addition will help strengthen your rear delts. Start in a standing position with your feet hip width apart. With a slight bend in the knee, reach down to your feet (with the band in your hands) from there pull your butt down, pick your chest up and position your elbows inside your knees with your feel flat to the ground (deep squat). Keep one hand down while the other rotates to the sky, switch then drop your head and raise your butt to the sky. You’ll feel a stretch from your calves to your back.



Loop Band March with Single Arm Overhead KB Hold



How to: You’ll need a small hip circle or loop band for your feet to do the marches, along with a kettlebell or weight to hold overhead in a shoulder press position. This exercise will get you sturdy from the floor and up to the sky. With the loop band on the arch of your shoe and around your shoe laces, press the kettlebell over your head and stabilize. Pressing the weight overhead will raise your center of gravity and for you to engage your midsection brace more. While you are marching you are strengthening and stabilizing at the ankles, knees, hips, midsection and shoulders. Talk about a hole in one.



Mini Band Hourglass Walks



How to: We work front & back all the time, let’s give side to side movement some love with this exercise. By working laterally we will be challenging our coordination, proprioception and working lesser used movement patterns. Take a mini band and step your feet shoulder width apart on the bottom of the band. With your hands make the band cross into an X and press overhead. You are working overhead stability, single leg strength and improving commonly weak muscles, those glutes. This one may look easy but it is a doozy.




Glider Knee Over Toe Split Squat with T-Spine Open the Book



How to: You’ll step yourself into a balanced split squat position. You can decide to elevate your front foot with a rubber mat or flat weight plate or keep both feet level on the ground. From here start to glide your knee forward, pushing your knee over your toes while keeping that front heel stapled to the ground. When you reach this position take the same arm of the knee that is forward, reach and hold that foot while the opposite arm (away from the knee) rotates and reaches open to the sky. Bring the top hand back down and now glide back into your starting split squat position. This exercise is great for ankle, knee & hip mobility and stability, while strengthening those areas. The t-spine rotation is an added perk to challenge different ranges of motions that will be beneficial to your daily activities.



Banded Isometric Spanish Squat



How to: Grab a hefty band and anchor it around a rack at knee height. Step both legs inside the band, placing the band behind your knees. Take a few steps back to build tension. From there sink into a half or quarter squat, while you externally rotate against the band. This will light your quads, glutes and abs while preparing you for any lower body activity. These puppies help build happy and healthy joints, muscles and ligaments.



1/2 Kneeling T-Spine Wall Rotation to Dip



How to: Find a flat wall and drop into a 1/2 kneeling position (inside knee up with hip to the wall, while your outside knee is down). Use your hands to earmuff your head and press your inside arm against the wall. The inside arm will drive half a circle up and over on the wall then dip down to the glute. Bring the inside arm back up and over then dip down to the up knee. This is a great movment to wake up that T-spine and prep your spine/back for various positions and ranges of motion. This is most certainly a spicy meatball.



These are my funky 6 exercises that I have been adding into my training and using with some of my athletes. If you see me in the gym and want to see any of these exercises demoed, please come up and let’s get going. Give the funky 6 a try and let me know what you think and how they feel.  Get creative and go have some fun.



Cheers my mobile muscle members,



Admirable Leadership Qualities

To build on Toria’s blog from yesterday on mentorship, I wanted to touch base on the qualities that I feel make a good leader and ultimately a good person. Although I am a Navy Veteran and have seen and done many things that some people have not, I am still very young and have much to learn. As I sit here and wish I could say that I emulate all these qualities that I will explain in this blog, these are qualities that I need to work on and I am actively working on to become a better person.


1. Empathy- In my opinion, this attribute is the most important one of all. This is the ability of being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to try and understand the way they may feel. This can happen by actively listening to someone’s problems, issues, or ideology whether you may disagree or agree with them. This means not being ignorant to what they are talking about.


2. Reliability- This is the ability of other people being able to rely on you. This means living up to your promises and doing exactly what you said you were going to do. For example, if you tell a friend that you will help them move out of their house then you better be there and not bail on them. This also means showing up to work on time or finishing work that you promised someone by a certain deadline. If no one can rely on you then how can you be a good leader?


3. Walking the Walk/ Getting in the trenches- This is what I call doing the grunt work. If you are in a leadership position then you shouldn’t put yourself above others. This means that you should work hand in hand with the people that you lead with the things that they do. For example, if you are a doctor, maybe it would be a good idea to do the work that your nurses do to get on their level and show them that you care about what they do. Using myself as an example, I cannot be the Lead Personal Trainer here at Union Fitness and not workout myself. I need to stay healthy and workout as hard as I can so that my clients can believe that they can do the same themselves.


4. Being caring- This goes hand in hand with empathy. No one wants to work for someone that does not care about their well-being. I think if people genuinely know that you care about them then that will entice them to work harder and be their best self around you!


With all these qualities being mentioned above, some people may not think that they are in a leadership role but I beg to differ. Each day that you make an interaction with someone is the opportunity to inspire someone else. Whether that is at work, at home, at the gym, or when you are out having fun with friends, someone could be looking up to you. So do your best to be the best person that you can be!



Importance of Mentorship

The world recently lost a very good friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Allan Shook. He put up a hard fight these past few years and he unfortunately lost his tough battle last week. Since he’s been gone, I’ve taken some time to reflect on how important his mentorship was to me, and how important it is to have people like him in all our lives whether it’s inside the gym or outside. Dr. Shook and his influence played a big part of why I am where I’m at today. He helped to guide me through the journey of realizing where I was in life vs. where I wanted to be. Dr. Shook was a big part of my life and one of my greatest mentors, but I am also lucky to have several other mentors and friends right here at UF that I would like to give credit to:


When I first started here as a part time front desk employee back in 2020, I had little to no knowledge on the gym business world and I wasn’t much of an avid lifter. So, I was very fortunate to work somewhere that I would get to lift with a variety of experienced individuals and learn about how to run a gym from selling memberships to coaching classes clients, and teams.


Before I started here, I honestly had no idea who Todd, CJ, or Curtis were. (Well CJ came and spoke to the Exercise Science Club I was in at Slippery Rock University, so I knew of him, but didn’t know the current CJ that we all know and love (most of the time)). I ended up just sending a random email to Curtis one day asking for a job or to shadow him, and he had asked me to come in for an interview. Since then, the three of them have become some of my biggest mentors and good friends along the way.


Curtis – Throughout my time spent with Curtis, he has helped to shape me into a better trainer and a better person. He always answers any client or exercise questions that I may have, as well as giving me a hand with my own training. Curtis took the time out of his own busy client schedule to help me prepare for my very first Powerlifting meet back in September. He would help me to program and execute my workouts effectively so that I could have a successful meet. He’s a positive role model and mentor for me and for a lot of people.


CJ – I’m not sure where to begin with CJ. I always joke about how he’s the older brother that I never wanted (even though I always did want an older brother). CJ is the reason I was able to become comfortable with coaching group classes. I used to take CJ’s Powerful classes, and after a while of shadowing and learning from both him and Curtis, he offered me a coaching spot of my own. Without him throwing me into the fire and then starting to coach on my own, I would have never been comfortable with leading classes. He was able to help me develop those leadership skills and overcome my shyness.


And finally, Todd – I think we officially became friends when he tossed a beer at me at 9am one day, and I chugged it. Back when I first started at UF, he allowed me to coach some of his classes as well as shadow him to gain some other coaching skills. I knew Todd was well respected and well known in the strength and conditioning world, so I knew I could learn a lot from him while at UF. Todd has what seems like an endless network of people within the field and outside of the field as well. I think it’s mostly because he starts up a conversation with anyone within earshot of him whether he knows them personally or not, but also because he’s great at what he does. Since I’ve been at UF, he has challenged me to be better every day, and is always eager to throw out some knowledge.


I never realized how much of an impact these three would make on my life when I first met them. I am very fortunate to have found a place like UF and I think it’s important for us all to find people who we look up to and can help us grow daily. Whether it’s within your career, or within life in general.




Science Behind Variety in Cardiac Training

It is easy to become stagnant in your training. No matter your goals, there are pros and cons to everything you do inside or outside of the gym. I want to do my best today to give you some basic science to different styles and variations in training. Let’s look mainly at heart health, as this topic could go on for hours, and I am not that entertaining of a writer.


Resistance Training for Heart Health. 


Resistance training when it comes to heart health is often misunderstood. Lifting and heavy lifting can do an amazing job in helping reduce cardiovascular disease. Too often, people assume that heart health is only about cardio, and we will get into these benefits later, but it is important to understand how resistance training can also aid in cardiovascular fitness.


The science on this topic is pretty clear. We know that when one does resistance training, the left ventricle will become thicker and stronger. This means that the heart has the ability to pump harder. However, with any benefit, there is also a down side. As the ventricle becomes stronger, it does not necessarily hold more blood. This means that in strong individuals, the heart has the ability to pump more blood by emptying the left ventricle with a more powerful contraction. This results in increased stroke volume. With stroke volume being the amount of blood pumped form the left ventricle per beat.


In addition to the increase in stroke volume, resistance training can increase blood pressure to extreme levels. This may sound like a bad thing, yet in an acute sense this is a great thing. Squatting tends to show the greatest increase in blood pressure, with numbers over 300/200. This is great news for these vessels that are under this extreme acute load because it allows adaptation in many ways. Firstly, it can make the vessels more pliable. And secondly, it can help clean these vessels of the junk that creates issues. Yes, I know that last sentence was very scientific. Just trust me it’s good.


Cardio/Conditioning for Heart Health.


I am sure everyone has heard how this is important. Heart health and cardio are linked together like peanut butter and jelly. Kenneth Cooper wrote the book, “Aerobics” in 1968 and since then, the answer to all things heart related is Cardio workouts. While this book makes some great points, it is still from its time and is a bit solipsistic. What should be taken from the book is that cardio is rarely a bad thing to do. But what type?


HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is great to stress the heart. I believe that everyone should stress their heart intensely once or twice a week. This type of training is similar in its adaptations to resistance training. While HITT is great, it can be overdone and does create a lot more stress for all parts of the body.


LSD or Long Slow Distance training has been referred to as Zone 2 training. In simple terms, this is keeping your heart rate at a controlled pace for longer durations. With this tyoe of training, you can track it based on heart rate (try to stay under 140) or just try to have a conversation during exercise. For example, if you can’t talk then it’s too fast, and you should slow down.


The biggest adaptation from LSD training is an increase in stroke volume due to an increase in volume that the left ventricle can hold. This is where stretching of the left ventricle occurs to make more room for blood. This will add to stroke volume, and if you do this in conjunction with increasing the strength of the left ventricle, then you will be a blood pumping machine.


LSD training can be done with walking, biking, hiking, jogging, or an any machine. Again, the key is to just keep the heart rate elevated for 20-60 minutes and you’ll reap the benefits.


After all of that, I’ll finish with this basic set up to your cardiac output training. Do LSD training 2-3 days a week for 30-60 minutes. Do your strength training 3 days a week for an hour.  Lastly, add some HIIT training in 2 days a week, with focusing on just getting that heart rate over  or at 90-%.





Tentative #Powerful Schedule

Hello everyone, we are sharing our tentative programming for the 1st half of 2023 for the Powerful classes we have at Union Fitness. We are doing this to keep everyone who is in class more informed about the types of workouts they will be doing so that if they have interests in other areas then they can do that as well.


• January 1st till April 16th
Plan- Prepare for UF Push-Pull Meet
Programming- Emphasis on Squat, Bench, and Deadlift with accessories to aid those movements
• April 16th till April 23rd
Plan- Prepare for UF Push-Pull Meet
Programming- Focus on tapering/pulling back on workouts to prepare for meet day
• April 24th-End of June
Plan- Change to Variations of Main Movers (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) and increase volume/capacity
Programming- Changes to different types of bars and focusing on building muscle/increasing work capacity/ heart health/body composition/overall functionality


Monday- Squat with accessories
Tuesday- Bench Press with accessories
Wednesday- Deadlift with accessories
Thursday- Pressing Movement with accessories
Friday- Conditioning with Functional Mobility accessories


Thank you for your continued attendance and support with our Powerful classes at Union Fitness. We love having each and everyone of you in our classes. We enjoy seeing the growth of you all in your general fitness as well as your growth as human beings. Thank you again for choosing Union Fitness as your gym of choice!
If you have any questions or feedback then please do not hesitate to ask or inform us. We want to do our best to create the most inclusive training environment as possible!



Meet the Interns – Gabriella Turano

Hi everyone! I am a senior student-athlete at the University of Pittsburgh. I am majoring in Exercise Science and will be continuing my career in the field of nursing. I plan on becoming a nurse anesthetist in the future. I have been playing lacrosse for 15 years, specifically goalie.



– Sport specific work

– Approachable

– Experienced Lifting


What I have learned

– Systems used such as team builder and mind/body

– Stance used when coaching

– How to cue people when teaching them specific movements

– Correct positioning when lifting


What I still want to learn

– Find my voice and feel more comfortable coaching

– Business side of the gym

– Technique/ form behind major lifts (started to learn already)

– Personal training

– Writing programs


Looking forward to meeting you all here at Union Fitness!



Why I Love Teaching Ryde

I started taking spin classes in 2018 at Cyclebar and Urban Elements. When the world shut down in 2020, I was lucky to have access to a Peloton bike and I swear that thing saved me more than once. There’s something about working my heart to the beat of the music that just ignites my soul. When I started teaching at Urban Elements in 2021, I invested in my own Peloton bike and in 2022 when UEC had to close, I was grateful we were able to bring the bikes (and the students/teachers) up the street to Union Fitness. Now-a-days, you’ll find me riding in our UF classes and on my bike home, always finding inspiration to teach my Ryde classes. 


My classes are very music driven ー the cadence (leg speed) is entirely determined by the beat of the music, which is why I put so much care into the order of songs in my playlists. I am a dancer at my core and I’m also a yoga teacher, so I absolutely love sequencing and planning out my classes based on the music. Creating playlists is like an artform for me. I’m constantly on the hunt for new and interesting tracks that take me on a journey. I’m inspired by anything that has a beat, so in my classes you’ll hear a variety of genres including Pop, R&B, EDM, Rock, Hip Hop, and we even had an Emo day! 


Ryde is awesome because it combines so many things that I love: rhythm, music, cardio, sequencing, and strength. You can truly choose your own adventure by turning the red resistance knob to your desired road weight. And the Real Ryder bikes are fun because unlike other stationary bikes (including my beloved Peloton) they simulate a real road-riding experience as they move side to side allowing for a full body workout. You’ll wonder why your core is sore after keeping these bikes stabilized for 30-45 minutes. I highly recommend SPD clips with biking shoes for the best experience. (Ask us instructors about them!) 


When I’m on that instructor bike, mic wrapped around my head and sweet beats blaring from the speakers, I get so fired up. Teaching is one of the reasons I’m here on this earth. My entire goal with these classes is to have fun working up a sweat while increasing strength and cardiovascular fitness. I teach Ryde on Fridays at 5:30 am and 7:00 am and every third Saturday at 8:30 am. I hope you’ll join me on a bike soon! 




P.S. Come early to your first class so we can get you properly set up and run through the basics. There is a bit of a learning curve with these bikes, but once you get it they are so. much. fun.


2023 Push Pull

We are excited to host another in house push pull this year. If you do not know what a push pull is I will give you a brief overview. If you have done our push pull in the past we hope to see you back again this year.


What is a push pull?


A push pull is a shorter version of a powerlifting meet. It is a bench press and deadlift competition (we remove the squat for many reasons). The meet will be run in flights, a flight is a group of lifters, normally 10-15 lifters. Lifters are arranged by first attempted weight. Bench will always be first, and each lifter will lift their opening attempt. After this attempt the lifter will tell the scorers table what their next attempt will be. Each lifter will get three attempts. Once all bench press flights are done we will move on to deadlift. The deadlift is run the same way as the bench. At the end, the winners are announced based on a Wilkes or Dots score. This takes into account bodyweight and total weight lifted.


Who should do the UF push pull?


Anyone! This meet is open to all gym members and friends of UF. We have had people use this meet as an opportunity to train for a bigger meet, dip their toe into powerlifting, or even just to set a goal and go for it.


When is the meet?


This year the meet will be held on April 23rd. Lifting will start at 10 AM. Weigh ins will be 8:30-9:30.


What is the cost?


We will be charging 25 dollars for this meet. We will donate part of the money to a local charity (working on which charity now). We have donations going out this week to the Mario Lemieux Foundation, the Urban League of Greater Pgh, as well as a local women’s shelter. We are open to suggestions on where to donate.


Why do the meet?


Because it’s there! Seriously, why not come out, have some fun, test yourself, and learn!


Todd Hamer

Take It Easy

Hello UF Team!


I don’t know about you, but January flew by in my opinion. I can’t believe there’s only 1 week until it’s February. It is that time of the year when everyone is starting to focus on hitting their 2023 goals and worry about whether they are on the right track to do so.

I’m here to tell you to take it easy on yourselves when it comes to worrying about those goals. Sure, achieving everything that you had set out for yourself is a great feeling, but so is stepping back and taking a break for yourself. Just because you decide to step back for a period of time doesn’t mean you won’t hit those goals; it just means you are slowing down and taking your time to do so.

I have learned that it’s important to take mental, physical, and emotional breaks. The benefits are endless. I have listed ways and tips for how I personally take the time to focus on these below:


Tips to take a break mentally:
1. Take some time to meditate alone, and work on some deep breathing while doing so.


2. Go outside and walk, bike, hike, skate, run, swim (maybe not in January actually). The weather may be dreary, but still try to get out and move and enjoy the beautiful outdoors!


3. Put the phone down. I have recently started to turn my phone off for a few hours at a time on the weekends (during the hours that I don’t need to be available to answer our staff here at UF). This allows me to be present and not feel like I need to be on my phone scrolling through social media.


Tips to take a break physically:
1. Sleep away – sleep is so underrated. Try to get to bed a little earlier than usual or hit that snooze button (just once, maybe twice) in the morning.


2. Take some time away from exercising. I personally took a week off from lifting recently just to have a sort of physical reset. But that’s just me… Maybe you only need a day or two off and then you’ll get right back into it.


3. Going off the point above – maybe try out a yoga class here at UF to still get you exercising, but also allow you to relax, move, and breathe.


4. Get a massage and/or have a spa day. Use this to help you feel relaxed and maybe even have your muscles feel like brand new.


Tips to take a break emotionally:
1. Read a new book or a book you have been meaning to read. Disconnect yourself from reality for a little while and enjoy by reading away.


2. Try to do absolutely nothing – even if it is just for a little bit of time. I know this is easier said than done, but you never know until you try!


3. Take some time to bring out your creativity and maybe do something like build a puzzle or paint/draw something to express yourself.



I hope that these might grow on you, too, and I also hope that you have some ways of your own that you could teach me!