Category Archives: Training

Cardio for the Heart-io

There are endless opportunities to engage in cardio (aerobic) exercise in our everyday lives. You could get your heart rate up by using the stairs instead of the elevators, taking a bike ride, coming to UF and using the ellipticals, rowers, etc. By participating in regular aerobic exercise, we are encouraging our hearts to work smarter and not harder. What I mean by this is that when we perform aerobic exercise, our heart is working overtime to pump blood throughout the whole body to the places we need it the most. By conditioning the heart to pump blood more efficiently while exercising, this makes it easier for the heart to pump blood more efficiently while at rest, and as a result your blood pressure will decrease. With exercise and consistent training, the heart will be performing its essential functions while being under a lot less stress in the long run. I also want to highlight a few of the other benefits that come along with aerobic training and exercise in general:


  • Lowers the “bad” cholesterol levels – exercise works to eliminate the “bad” cholesterol also known as LDL by increasing the “good” cholesterol in the bloodstream otherwise known as HDL.


  • Decreases the risk for type 2 diabetes – exercise can increase insulin sensitivity which means that the body will require less insulin to control its blood sugar levels. The muscles also extract glucose from the blood during exercise. This helps to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high.


  • Triggers the release of “feel good” chemicals in the brain – This includes serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, and dopamine. These are some factors contributing toward what helps us to be in a good mood and feel mentally healthy in general.


  • Reduces inflammation – exercise causes muscle cells to release a protein called IL-6 which has anti-inflammatory effects


  • Decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke


There are so many other benefits to aerobic training, but I just wanted to highlight a few today to get you thinking about how important and beneficial it is to incorporate this into our daily lives.



The Smallest Changes Make the Biggest Difference

My powerlifting journey started about 3 months ago (something I never thought I’d be saying). I’ve pretty much trained like a body builder ever since I seriously got into weightlifting about 4 years ago. It wasn’t until this year, 4 months ago, that I wasn’t finding joy in my workouts, and I decided something had to change. I decided to start training full body and focus a little more heavily on gaining strength through my main lifts: squat, bench, deadlift (but mainly bench and deadlift because I hate squatting lol). 


As I was writing up a new program for myself, I asked Curtis for his input. As we all know he’s full of knowledge when it comes to powerlifting, technique, and so much more. From there, I asked if he could watch and critique my bench because at the time, I felt like I was having trouble making progress. During this session, he told me to correct one thing and IT LITERALLY CHANGED EVERYTHING. This is what he said, “as you press the bar off your chest, push backward into the bench and act like you’re trying to push your toes out of your socks.” At first I was a little bit confused and as I tried to replicate that in the next couple reps it was a little weird. Then it clicked for me. 


The next couple weeks of training were mind blowing! I remember the week after I was benching and hit 100lbs for 8 reps (something I’ve never come close to). I ran into the office and said, “CURTIS THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!” It’s crazy that all I had to do was use my legs to drive myself back into the bench in the concentric portion of my bench. Like why didn’t I think of that??


For the next month, I focused on that leg drive, worked on pin presses, and really pushed myself to add more weight on the bar during my workouts. I tested my 1 rep max last week and successfully benched 125lbs!! After, I really started to think about how far I’ve come over the past year. A year ago, my one rep max was 75lbs, I never would’ve thought I’d be pressing 50 more pounds a year later. 


Another big win I had last week when testing my maxes was my deadlift. For the most part, I’ve always enjoyed deadlifting, but I also felt like I hit a wall with making progress on them a couple months ago. When I started my new training program, I shortly realized I couldn’t keep doing what I used to if I wanted to add numbers to my deadlift. When I made the switch from body building doing 10,12,15 reps of exercises to powerlifting doing 3,4,5 reps of an exercise it was a lot harder for me to wrap my head around. I saw it as “oh well now I’m not putting in as much work as I was before because I’m doing less reps” and I would completely forget that fact that I was now lifting way heavier and therefore still putting in a substantial amount of effort and work. As soon as I was able to eliminate that voice telling me I wasn’t working hard enough is when I started working harder and pushed myself to lift heavier. I successfully deadlifted 235lbs last week when a year ago my max was probably around 170/180lbs.


Moral of the story is the littlest things can really change your life, and the sooner you can quiet those discouraging voices in your head is when you can push yourself to do things you never thought possible. Apply this to your life or to your training and just watch how far you can get.



Turkey Burn Time

What better day to get a sweat in and work hard than the upcoming turkey day?! We are excited to host UF’s biggest group workout on Thanksgiving morning. We will be closing UF down for the day to hold this Superclass for all of you. We will be using all the fitness center, strength lab, and cardio lab spaces for the workout, so there will be plenty of space to move around.


This Superclass is free and open to anyone and everyone who wants to attend. We do ask that you help support a good cause by please bringing a non-perishable food item to the class to be donated to a local food bank.


The fun will take place starting at 9 AM on November 24th. The class will run from 9 AM until about 10:30 AM. There will be a mixture of cardio, weightlifting bumps, and some other exciting stuff.


Join us and burn some calories prior to indulging in the biggest and best meal of the year. Let’s have some fun, lift some weights, and get ready for the rest of the holiday season.


Bring your friends, family, and/or people visiting for the holidays. Help spread the word, and let’s get strong and eat some food!


Use this link to sign up now!


UF Team

Squats: One Year of Improvement

I was scrolling instagram on Sunday after my weekend bike ride and I stumbled upon a post about squats from a good friend Lilli. She showed her improvement in squats over a 1 year period. I reached out to tell her congrats. She said it was because of my help. I responded with maybe partially, but it was because of her work. Lilli does not train full time at UF, (even though we are trying to change that) but she is someone that I have helped out when she is here. Today we are going to delve into her squat and how it can help you get into a better squat position.


First thing to think about when squatting is un-racking the bar. Too often people just set the bar on their backs. This process must begin with the feet. A term that has become popular is rooting into the ground. While I am not wild about this term, if it helps you then use it. I would rather say set your feet into the ground. When you are going to un-rack a weight, the foot must be driven into the ground with weight distributed throughout the entire foot. If you can wiggle your toes then you are not driving into the ground. Think about your toes grabbing the ground and your heel being driven down as well. Then you can begin to flex into the bar. This must be an active process. Fill your body with air and engage your lats hard. I consider the lats as important as the glutes. Just like the glutes, the lats are big muscles that run at a 45 degree angle. Glutes and lats are the ultimate stabilizers. Once all of this is set you can begin to un-rack the bar.


Once you have the bar on your back and you are tight, BE PATIENT. Let the body feel the load. Another mistake at this point is dive bombing into a squat. You must allow the body to adapt to being under this load before beginning the squat. Now to the squat. I’ve heard start with your hips, and this is decent advice. The issue is sometimes people can overcomplicate the squat with this advice. I’ll say think there is a rope pulling your butt back and simultaneously pulling your knees forward. After overthinking all of this just remember one thing. KEEP YOUR FOOT FLAT. If your foot remains flat on the ground then 90% of other things will stay in place.


Now that I have covered the lower body, let’s think about what our upper body is doing. Starting with the head, keep it back (do not look up), your head should be driven back into your traps. The easiest way to think about this is push your chin straight back. Now down to our chest, the easiest cue here is keep your sternum up. Keeping your sternum up is always a good thing and will fix many issues without too much thinking. Finally, we come to your mid section. Keep air in your entire body and do not arch your low back. This was one area that I messed up too many times in the past. Keep your hips level to the ground and you should be OK.


This was a very brief explanation on squatting. Now back to our friend Lilli. Notice in her first squat her feet aren’t stable, her hips roll under (butt wink), her head isn’t stable, and I haven’t even addressed the amount of wasted movement at her set up. Before you think I am being overly negative, I am not. Her squat was still better than most people I see squat. Now one year later each of those issues have significantly improved.


Finally, what can you do today improve? First off is lift with intent. Focus on each rep as it is a max attempt. Second, address any mobility issues you may have. Stretch, do yoga, do some dynamic warm ups, just do more. Also, final advice and stay with me, get in better shape. No, your set of ten will not get you in great shape. As the adage goes, fatigue makes cowards of all of us. If your conditioning is not up to par then your technique will break down. So get in better shape.


Here are the two videos of Lilli. Notice the differences one year can make.



Thanks Lilli for allowing me to use your squat and thanks for being you.



Discipline Over Motivation

Today, I want to take a moment to discuss the difference between discipline and motivation when it comes to our training routine and lifestyle. Which one will be the most beneficial for your long term goals. This seems to be an area that is sometimes misunderstood. By definition, the term motivation means “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” On the other hand, the definition of discipline is “train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.”


If you’ve been training for any decent amount of time, then you have certainly experienced your share of motivation. On the other hand, you have also most likely experienced 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. At that point, the motivation may have disappeared. Maybe you missed a couple of workouts, or maybe you fell out of your nutrition routine. When the motivation disappears (because it will), discipline MUST be established in order to continue towards your goals. 


Motivation is great for short term progress. Listening to motivational podcasts, seeing great progress within your body and your mind, pre workout and energy drinks, and simply the excitement of a new stimulus will all have short term benefit that will wear off at some point over time. What will continue to propel yourself along the road when all of the motivation fades away will be discipline. The same discipline that wakes us up each morning, brushes our teeth and makes our bed, and takes us to our job so we can support ourselves and live the life that we want. That same mindset MUST be applied to our training if we truly want to accomplish everything that we tell ourselves that we do.


Often times, it’s simply about showing up. Not every day will be a spectacular training session. Not every week will be a new personal record with our lifts. And not every month will we see the change in our body that we want. However, if we keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other, especially on those days that we just want to give up, then I promise you great things will happen. Discipline yourself to do the hard things. Make them become second nature, just like that bed, those teeth, and that career. Ride the wave of motivation when it’s present, but when times get tough and you aren’t sure what to do, the discipline to succeed will always guide you down the road to your goals.


Curtis Miller

How Your Environment Can Affect Your Training and Your Mental Health

In the last 6 years I have moved 10 times. So, when talking about changing your environment, I have gone through it for sure. All of these changes have taught me one thing, that my environment is the biggest factor on not just my training, but my mental health as well. When we are not happy in our environment, you can start to feel yourself losing discipline. As your training starts to fall apart, so can your overall health.


Before my most recent move to Pittsburgh, I was training at a gym that I considered home. I would drive 30 minutes to train at Unrivaled Strength and 30 minutes back every day. A lot of people asked me why I wouldn’t just go to the L.A. Fitness down the block from my apartment and my response was that I needed to train in an environment that matched my goals for myself. I was happy, my lifts and my mental health were thriving. Amid your busiest work or school day, I hope you can look forward to training hard at whatever gym it is you feel your best at.


When I moved to Pittsburgh, I knew I had to find a gym like the one I was going to prior to the move, and the owner of that gym, Justin Oliver, recommended Union Fitness. So, not only did I begin training at this gym, but working here as a strength coach and trainer as well. I found myself back in an environment where I am surrounded by individuals with similar goals and a similar mindset to mine. I have mentors who I can train with and learn from every day. This is a gym that allows individuals to be authentic, learn from one another, and most importantly be strong every day.


Your gym should always feel like home, so when people ask me how I stay motivated or how I stay disciplined my answer is always the same: find the best environment for yourself. It isn’t always the same for everybody, and it may take months or years to find. But when you find it, everything will start to fall into place.


After all, a fish can only grow as large as the tank they live in.



UF Blitz Class

Hello everyone!


If you are new to the community or even if you are a veteran UF member, I wanted to let you know (or remind you) about our free class that we offer here three days a week at lunchtime.


On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12-12:30pm, we offer a class called “Blitz.” Blitz is a quick 30-minute class that you can hop in during your lunch hour or if you have a free 30-minutes during your afternoon. The class is taught by myself, our GM, Todd, and one of our awesome trainers, April. Todd created this class about 2 years ago, and it is open to anyone and everyone. This means that you don’t have to be a UF member to be able to join in on the fun. Although this class may inspire you to join us. 🙂


On Mondays, the class focuses mainly on squats and lower body movements.

On Wednesdays, the focus is mainly upper body pressing and other accessories.

And on Fridays we have a total body circuit training party.

It’s a great way to get up and moving and learn some basic lifting movements in the middle of your day!


Come join the fun, bring a friend, and head on over to Blitz class.


P.S If you are unable to make it here on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday afternoon and are looking for a longer cardio based class, be sure to check out our Cardio Lab classes offered at 12pm on Tuesday/Thursday’s as well.


See you there!


CeJ’s Spooky Halloween Workout Playlist

A spooky greeting to all you Witches, Warlocks & Werewolves out there in Halloween Town.  


The best way to get into the spooky season spirit is to toss in your vampire teeth, grab your gym bag and crank up the Halloween jams. Too suspended by fear to create your own collaboration of horrifying horror bangers, well don’t fear the reaper. I have fed Frankenstein, boogied with the Boogey man and barked at the Moon to come up with a terrifyingly creepy Halloween playlist for you. Now hurry and examine this skin crawling playlist before I put a spell on you! 


The Warm-up: These 10 songs will ease you into the spirit of Halloween.  

I Put A Spell On You- Screaming Jay Hawkins / Creedence Clearwater Revival  

Ghost Riders In The Sky- Johnny Cash  

People Are Strange- The Doors 

Psycho Killer- Talking Heads 

Season Of The Witch- Donovan  

Werewolves Of London- Warren Zevon  

Boris The Spider- The Who  

Black Magic Woman- Santana / Fleetwood Mac  

Poison– Alice Cooper 

Runnin’ With The Devil – Van Halen (not Hagar) 


The Workout: Let these ghoulish tunes heat up that Halloween fire inside.  

Bark At The Moon- Ozzy  

Paranoid- Ozzy 

Hellraiser- Ozzy & Lemmy 

This Is Halloween- Marilyn Manson 

The Number Of The Beast- Iron Maiden  

Fear Of The Dark- Iron Maiden 

Phantom Of The Opera- Iron Madien 

Pet Sematary– Ramones  

Dance Macabre- Ghost 

Year Zero- Ghost 

Dig Up Her Bones- Misfits 

Ghouls Night Out- Misfits 

I’m Your Boogieman- White Zombie 

Feed My Frankenstein- Alice Cooper 

I’m Your Witch Doctor- Motorhead 

Thank You For The Venom- My Chemical Romance 

Mama- My Chemical Romance  

Creeping Death- Metallica 

Escape From Hellview– CKY 

No One Survives- Nekrogoblikon 

I Don’t Wanna Be Me- Type O Negative (Basically Vampire Rock N Roll) 

Devil’s Child- Judas Priest  

Screams In The Night- Night Demon 

Halloween- King Diamond 


Dance Party: To keep the evil spirits happy and at bay, you must now dance the night away.  

The Time Warp- The Rocky Horror Picture Show 

Dead Man’s Party- Oingo Boingo 

The Crypt Jam- The Crypt Keeper 

Monster Mash- Boris Pickett/ Misfits 

Superstitious– Stevie Wonder 

The Monster Hop- Bert Convy 


Cool Down: Don’t pull any haunted hamstrings, so please cool down with some of these honorable mentions.  


Goodby Horses- Q Lazzarus (Silence of The Lambs) 

Cry Little Sister- Marilyn Manson   

I Still Believe- Timmy Cappello 

Vampire Heart- HIM 

The Skeleton In The Closet- Louis Armstrong 


I hope this spices up your spooky season. If you have any favorite Halloween songs, go ahead and toss them on the list.  


Stay Spooky my Ghouls & Goblins 


Friday Powerful Class Update

Beginning the first week of November, our Friday Powerful class will be taking a slightly different approach. If you are someone who trains throughout the week, whether it be at our classes here at Union Fitness, or your own workouts, you know first hand how the body and mind can feel by the end of the week. Taking this into account, our Friday class will now be a combination of bodyweight training with a focus on movement and mobility, followed by a cool-down period with an emphasis on stretching. Our goal here is to help you recover from a long week of work, those grueling training sessions, and anything else that life has thrown at you, while also preparing your body for any tasks that the weekend has in store.


Don’t get it twisted, this will still be a great and challenging workout, just as we always aim to provide for our members. However, we will be introducing you to a slightly different approach to training that will yield you the same results as our previous class, but with the addition of getting your body exposed to different movements and positions that will have a long list of benefits. Whether you sit at a desk or are on your feet all day, this workout will have an increased benefit on not only your day to day function, but also your long-term function and strength down the road.


For added benefits, we recommend combining this class with one of our amazing Yoga classes throughout the week. The combination of the two will have your body and mind prepared to take on any challenge that is thrown at it. I can promise you that by investing in these workouts, you will see an increase in movement quality, joint & muscular function and strength, and an increase in overall well-being. For more details or any questions, be sure to grab me at the gym and I’ll be more than happy to help. 


– Curtis Miller 

Tell Me “Why”

Hello UF Community!


I was training one of my clients yesterday, and we were listening to classic throwbacks by the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, etc. As we all know, one of the Backstreet Boys most famous songs is “I Want It That Way” from the year 1999. The chorus of that song goes a little something like “Tell me why (ain’t nothin but a heartache)… Tell me why…”


I have some food for thought for you today. I want you to think about your reasons “why.” What I mean by that is not necessarily just to think about why you might have a heartache or even why you may have joined the gym, but to reflect on why you do certain things in your everyday lives. Take some time to think about your true passions and your daily personal values. Examples could be why you chose your current job, why do you love or hate what you do for a living, why did you decide to get up and out of bed this morning, why did you choose your current 2022 goals, why did you do that extra set of deadlifts last night or eat that extra donut for breakfast.


I’m challenging you to dig a little bit deeper into your thoughts today, because why not reflect on why it is we do what we do and feel the ways that we do daily.


I kept this one short and sweet, but I hope that it gets those brain wheels turning and you discover some deeper knowledge within yourselves.