Category Archives: Fitness

The Adventures of Dave

Here at UF we have a diverse, sometimes strong, and interesting staff. I am very proud that we have been able to pull so many interesting people together to make us what we are today. In this blog I want to give you a better understanding of Dave Jackson. Also, you will have the opportunity to take on a new challenge with Dave.


Dave started working here back in 2020. Taking on a new job with face to face clients during a pandemic has to be a challenge, and Dave has risen to the occasion. You can see him teaching most morning powerful classes, training clients, as well as working with some of our teams. What some of you may not know is that Dave has spent time with some big time college football programs. Yes I am biased, yet I have seen that once one has spent time training in the college environment they are generally prepared for most challenges in training.


This summer Dave decided to do the Racheal Carson trail challenge. I have done this event over ten times and it is not for the faint of heart. He not only did it, he did it in a top 40 time (most people that finish that fast do nothing other than hike and jog). He then decided to do the Kabuki Open here at UF. He hit his goals there. Now he’s training to run the EQT PGH Ten Miler. This is a ten mile race in the city. So we now are going to help him training, and hopefully have some fun doing it.


Starting this Friday Dave is hosting our newest class. It is a running class. 7 AM every Friday lace up your shoes and join Dave as he leads the group on a run. As with all of our classes just sign up through our website.


Until next time let’s all tell Dave good job on reaching his goals  and please someone outrun  him this Friday so we can all go back to talking trash.


Welcome April

Hi, I’m April, the latest and greatest addition to the Union Fitness team. I am a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and on track to complete my Nutrition Coach Certification in the next couple of weeks. My goal is to get exposed to as much as I can, as early on as I can. Fitness has been a passion of mine since I was 14, but I never thought it would turn into a career for me, and to be honest, I still don’t know if that’s the end all be all. This is what I do know: making goals for yourself and crushing them feels incredible, but you know what’s even better? Facilitating others in the process of changing their habits and crushing their goals. Fitness and healthy living have changed my life in such a positive way, and my goal is to show others it can do the same for them. I’m not going to lie, the process is challenging, but once you get going, everything turns into a habit. Before you know it, your lifestyle is changing, your mindset is changing, and you’re becoming the best version of yourself. 


As funny as it may sound, I was extremely unathletic growing up, or at least that’s what I told myself. I stopped playing sports in middle school because I convinced myself I wasn’t skilled enough for anything. STUPID RIGHT?? Well, that’s what happens when you start listening to all the nonsense in your head and comparing yourself to others. However, all of that changed when I picked up the weights. I felt like I had finally found something I was “good” at. It was the only thing I didn’t look at as a competition between me and everybody else, but rather a competition between me, myself, and I. Once I became consistent with my training and the right nutrition, I saw the results of my hard work and became addicted. 


If that wasn’t enough info about myself, let me tell you a little bit more. My favorite food is sushi, and my favorite dessert is ice cream. Fun fact, I worked at an ice cream store for 3 years in high school, and yes, I overindulged on ice cream every time I had a shift. I have a massive, sweet tooth! Ironic enough though, I’ve never had a cavity (knock on wood). My favorite lift at the moment is sumo deadlifts and my least favorite is back squats. Another extremely random fact, I have met and heard the stories of three Holocaust survivors. Shoutout to Mr. Haberman at Shaler Area Highschool for opening the eyes of so many young students and offering them a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet with survivors.


Anyways, to get back on track, I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I have only been at Union Fitness for a short time and have already learned so many things and met so many cool and genuine people. I can’t wait to continue learning and growing in such a positive and supportive environment. 

Gym Etiquette

UF is very lucky as we have some of the best members and employees. Weights tend to be re-racked, the gym tends to be clean, and we have a group of people who all help one another. Now with that said here are some areas that we all need reminding at times. Let’s all be better with our gym etiquette.

  1. Respect other people while they are training. This is a broad rule, as it everyone has their own goals and reasons for training, yet this should cover most issues.
  2. Learn how to spot someone. If someone asks for a spot, then help them out. You should know how many reps they are doing, how hard the set will be and when if ever they need your assistance.
  3. Keep your space clean. This includes wiping down equipment, and also not carrying your entire suitcase to each piece of equipment.
  4. Personal hygiene. Enough said, just respect yourself and others.
  5. Allow others to focus. When someone is preparing for a big lift allow them space, and do not walk directly in front of them.
  6. Share. Try not to take up more equipment or space than is neccesary.
  7. Have fun! Realistically if all one wants to do is be healthy a gym is probably not necessary. We all do this for different reasons. Some want to set world records, some want to look better, and for others this may just be a mental break. So work to make your training (and those around you) a fun experience.


I hope as you can see from this short list that respecting yourself and respecting others.

Simplifying the Warm Up

Earlier this morning, I found myself sitting in the office with Todd and Dave having a discussion on what we believe to be the “best” warm-up routine for lifting. Before I dig deeper into our consensus, let’s touch on the most common types of warm-up routines that we see performed in the gym. 


1) Static stretching: I’d venture to say that this might be the most common warm-up routine that you will see. With static stretching, a position is held for a specific length of time in order to lengthen the muscle while simultaneously promoting blood flow into the muscle being stretched. Examples of this include hamstring and quad stretches, Pigeon stretch, doorway stretch, etc. 


2) Dynamic stretching: This consists of performing repetitive movements within a particular range of motion that are closely related to the main movement of that particular training session. As with static stretching, the goal is to promote blood flow throughout the body and specifically in the area of intended use for that training session. An example of this could be PVC around the world, walking knee hugs, Spiderman hip stretch, etc. 


3) Cardiovascular based warm-up: This includes 5-10 minutes of movement on machines such as treadmills, bikes, rowers, ellipticals, etc. The goal here is to increase heart rate in order to circulate blood flow throughout the entire body while raising the internal temperature of the muscles in preparation for performing movement. 


4) Getting under the bar and getting straight to work: I see this quite often, regardless of age or experience level. An individual will walk in, place the bar in the rack, throw some weight on, and start performing their main movement.


So which one did we decide on? Well, all of them can be beneficial in their own way, and when incorporated properly. However, too much of anything can be a bad thing, and too much emphasis on any of these can directly impact the overall success of your session. What we often see is too much time spent on stretching and warming up, and not enough time and focus being placed on the specificity of the main movements. At the same time, by walking into the gym and instantly jumping under a bar, you may be missing out on getting the body best prepared to perform to the best of it’s ability once your muscles are loaded with heavy weights. At the end of the day, the warm-up best suited for you is whatever is needed for you to be able to get into the positions needed to best perform your lifts. For example, performing shoulder movements that will allow you to get under a barbell in the best position to perform your squat, or hip drills that allow you to open up your hips & properly use your glutes in order to get into the bottom portion of the squat. Unless you are performing specific rehab movements, or are working around a very specific injury, the more time that is spent on performing a warm-up, the more time that you are taking away from the most important part of the training session.


So, keep your warm-ups limited to only the things that you feel are necessary. Get your heart rate up, get a sweat going, get your muscles loose and firing, and get to work. Spend as much of the time that you have available focused on getting better at your lifts, and you’ll end up right where you want to be.

Open Mic & Bootcamps with CeJ

Team Union and friends, check out this weekend’s fun bootcamp events we have planned!


Friday August 27th at 6pm


Union Fitness & Federal Galley are hosting the very first bootcamp & open mic night. Meet us at Union at 6pm for a Friday night sweat session with your favorite Coaches and then jog on over to Federal Galley and let your talents shine. You heard that right, it’s Open Mic Night at Federal Galley. This is a free bootcamp that you can sign up for on Union Fitness’ website. We are excited ti see you and your talents!


Sunday August 29th at 10am


Wigle Whiskey’s great revenge with our 3rd bootcamp at the Strip district location. Sign up on Wigle’s website to grab your ticket that includes the bootcamp, first libation and donation to our little friend Danny (who is raising money for a kidney transplant). Danny & his parents might even stop down to say hello.


To sweeten this deal, I will include a free week of unlimited classes to any new or non-member of Union and to our current members, you can pick a time and date to train/workout alongside CJ. How freaking fun!


Let’s get together and party some more! To sign up for our next boot camp, go to Threadbare Cider’s website and grab your tickets on their event page. We can’t wait to raise a glass or two with YOU!


Wigle Events | Wigle Whiskey

Tempo Training; What, When, and How

In my most recent blog, I discussed the importance of performing paused reps and how to incorporate them into your training. Today, I’m going to go one step further and discuss tempo reps, and how you can use them within your training arsenal in order to continue progressing and knocking out your goals. The purpose of incorporating tempo work into your training is to emphasize your time in a particular portion of each lift in order to become more comfortable being in that portion, and therefore becoming stronger and more efficient within that given lift. First, let’s dive into the meaning of tempo in relation to the repetition.


In regards to performing a particular exercise, the tempo is the rate or pace that the exercise is being performed. Therefore, rep tempo is the rate at which you perform reps within a given set.


When written on paper, tempo is typically shown as a 3 digit code that looks something like this: (4-1-3). Each number portrays the amount of time in seconds to perform that specific portion of the exercise. The first digit (4) is always the eccentric (‘lowering’ or ‘negative’) portion of the lift. During a squat, that would consist of the descent into the bottom for a count of 4 seconds. The second digit (1) represents the mid-point of the lift. In the squat, this would be the bottom portion where you would typically transition from the descent to the ascent, except now you would hold for 1 second before ascending, just as we discussed in the last blog on paused reps. The third digit (3) would then be the concentric (‘lifting’ or ‘positive’) portion of the lift. This would be standing up with the bar for a count of 3 seconds.


Keep in mind, you can make the tempo whatever you want depending on where you think each lift needs the most emphasis. Let’s continue to use the squat as an example. If you have a problem with staying under control and in a good stable position on the descent of the squat, then you would want the greatest tempo to be applied to that part of the lift, with 4-5 seconds usually being the sweet spot. If you lose tension in the bottom of the squat, then you would want to add a pause around 1-3 seconds. If you are typically stable on the descent and in the bottom, but lose positioning on the way up, then, you guessed it, would want to add a tempo to the ascent. For this, 3-4 seconds is ideal.


When adding them into your training program, start with around 60% of your one rep max for anywhere from 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps. As you become more familiar, you can slowly increase the weight by 2.5-5% of your one rep max. This can be done weekly, but it doesn’t have to be. If you aren’t feeling ready to progress in weight, then stay at the same as the previous week with the goal of performing each rep more efficiently. Try this for 4-6 weeks and then go back to performing standard tempo repetitions and see the difference.


We are programmed to think that every lift should be performed as fast as possible in order to develop the most amount of force, recruit the most fast twitch muscle fibers, etc. The reality is, if we cannot move efficiently within each lift, then speed becomes irrelevant. So if you find yourself struggling to keep good form and tension within a given lift, or just want to change up your training program with a new challenge, try incorporating tempos and see the benefits for yourself.


– Curtis Miller

Last Chance Bootcamp

Union Friends, Family and Fantastic Fans,


This is the last hurrah for our Summer Bootcamp Series with Threadbare Cider & Wigle Whiskey. Are you sad that you missed out on the previous two,  well well now, have no fear, here is your chance to sign-up & jump in on these boot camps. If you made it to 1 or 2 of the previous bootcamps, let’s go for that double or hat trick. I’d love to workout and party with you after.


Saturday August 21st at 10am 


We are coming back for our third and final bootcamp at Threadbare Cider House in Spring Garden. We are turning this one up to 11 with more adventures, challenges and games. This is a ticketed event that can be purchased on Threadbare’s website and will include the bootcamp, a first libation and 9.99% charitable donation to Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.


Sunday August 29th at 10am


Wigle Whiskey’s great revenge with our 3rd bootcamp at the Strip district location. Sign up on Wigle’s website to grab your ticket that includes the bootcamp, first libation and donation to our little friend Danny (who is raising money for a kidney transplant). Danny & his parents might even stop down to say hello.


To sweeten this deal, I will include a free week of unlimited classes to any new or non-member of Union and to our current members, you can pick a time and date to train/workout alongside CJ. How freaking fun!


Let’s get together and party some more! To sign up for our next boot camp, go to Threadbare Cider’s website and grab your tickets on their event page. We can’t wait to raise a glass or two with YOU!


Summer Bootcamp with Union Fitness – 8/21 – Threadbare Cider and Mead

Wigle Events | Wigle Whiskey




Vicky Zhen

I’m Vicky, one of the newest members of the UF family. I’m a student at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Dietetics and Nutrition and minoring in Exercise Science. I’m interested in being a registered dietitian and/or go into food science. My favorite food is fruit. A food that I hate is mayo (if you like mayo, you’re actually disgusting). My education plan says a lot about my interests: I like to cook/eat and exercise. I used to run cross country and long distance track events in high school. Now, I’m a 57 kg powerlifter and the social media chair for Pitt’s Powerlifting team. My best lift is squat; worst is deadlift. Fuck deadlift. Bench is chillin’. My goals are to place top 5 at Collegiate Nationals this upcoming school year and have a 1000lb+ meet total before I graduate. Some cools things you don’t need to know about me, but I’ll tell you anyway: my dream superpower would be to read people’s minds. And when I was around 6 yrs old, I voluntarily jumped out of a moving car with no suicidal motives, I swear.


My experience being a powerlifter.


Before I discovered powerlifting, a big insecurity of mine was that I’d never find that thing that I’m passionate about. You always hear online of people chasing after their dreams and pursuing their passion(s). I could never empathize with those people until I became a part of this sport. Almost every time I get ready to train, I feel excited to grow, to be better than my last training day. And through training, I’ve learned so much about the sport and about myself. But the one thing I love the most about this sport is the community. Everyone supports each other. Whether it’s a quick spot, a ride to the gym, a handle, an extra lever for your broken lever belt, technique advice, some words of encouragement on a rough lifting day, someone is there to offer help always. The seemingly small acts of kindness are what drive me in this sport.


When I officially joined the Pitt Powerlifting team in January 2020, I knew close to nothing (and I still have a lot to learn) but I wanted to get stronger like my more experienced teammates. But the more I became a part of the sport, the more I realized that lifting heavy is actually a fraction of the whole picture. For instance, at the first meet that I spotted and loaded, my senior took charge in shouting plate colors and rack heights for each lifter. I admire her strength in the weight room, but her leadership at that meet made a lasting impact on me. I want to be someone like her. I want to be someone who can impact other lifters and make meets a better experience, make powerlifting a better sport. This is the one thing I’d advise new lifters: find your place in this community. Powerlifting isn’t just about the PRs or the number on the bar. What are you contributing to this sport?

Happy Training Hour and Open Mic

One of our goals at UF is to be the most unique and diverse gym in the world. It appears as though we are doing a decent job with this, when you consider what we have done in the last few years. Here is a short list:


  1. Hosted “Bike Ride for Black Lives” fundraiser for Urban League of Greater PGH.
  2. Donated from our last meet to Veterans Place.
  3. Hosted two comedy shows (one was a fundraiser for OUT Athletics).
  4. Hosted a workout fundraiser for a friend and member who had cancer.
  5. Hosted two USPA sanctioned powerlifting meets.
  6. Hosted an in house push pull.
  7. Hosted workouts at Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare.
  8. Hosted Pittsburgh’s first ever metal, whiskey, and yoga event.
  9. Hosted outdoor workouts with our friends at Allegheny City Brewing.
  10. Hosted outdoor workouts with our friends at CommonPlace Coffee.


This is a short list of some of the things we have done. In addition to these things, you can come to UF anytime and see some of the strongest people around training and helping each other achieve their goals.


Now onto what our next event will be, on Friday Aug 27th at 6 PM, we are going to host a workout in our performance lab. This workout will be free to anyone and we invite you to bring friends. Following the workout we will head over to see our friends at Federal Galley for an open mic night. This is a free event yet we are asking people who want to pay to please just donate directly to our friends DanileStrong. I cannot promise that Curtis will sing a duet with CeJ, but who knows?



The Benefits of Paused Reps

In the world of strength training, we understand that progress is not always linear. There will be times of consistent progress, and there will be times where we feel like we’ve hit a wall, whether physically or mentally. Sometimes, getting through these periods can be as simple as changing exercises, adjusting sets and reps, or even our sleep habits, stress management, and nutrition. On the other hand, sometimes it takes a more challenging approach. When it comes to building strength and muscle, there aren’t too many techniques that can do the trick as well as performing paused reps. If you’re a regular in our Powerful class, then you’ve witnessed paused reps first hand. If you haven’t performed paused reps, then here’s your 101. 


The hardest part of most lifts is when the primary muscles that are performing the movement are in the lengthened position and when the weight being moved is at the bottom portion of the range of motion. For example, the bottom of the squat when the range of motion is the greatest and the quads and glutes are at their greatest stretch. The greater the range of motion, the harder it becomes for those muscles to produce the maximal force needed to complete the movement. One of the best ways to overcome this obstacle is to spend more time in that position, also known as paused reps. When performing a paused rep, the goal is to perform a 1-3 second pause in the bottom portion of the lift. As mentioned earlier, with squats, this is around parallel. With bench, this is on your chest, and with the deadlift, this is as soon as the bar breaks the floor. As you get better at performing these type of repetitions, you will become stronger in the hardest part of the range of motion, ultimately leading to greater muscle recruitment and force production.


When incorporating paused reps into your program, start with 60% of your one rep max for 3 sets of 3-5 reps. Progress as needed each week based off of how it feels. If it’s very challenging, then stay there for the next workout with the goal of performing higher quality reps. If 60% is relatively easy, then increase by 2.5%-5% the following workout. After 4-6 weeks, go back to performing standard repetitions. Use what you’ve learned over the previous 4-6 weeks and apply it to your standard repetitions. You will find that the weights move easier, you feel more confident when performing the lifts, and you will break through those training plateaus.