Category Archives: Uncategorized

Free Classes and Schedule Changes.

As we mentioned in our previous post we are now starting to introduce some free classes. The first class that will become a free class to all members is our Blitz class. The Blitz class is a 30 minute lunch time lift. The idea is that you can get a good lift in, shower and be back to work without missing your next important zoom meeting. Blitz is held in our new performance lab and Todd Hamer is the lead instructor for this class.


As we move forward with everything re-opening we will be slowly adding a few more free classes. So please keep your eyes open for this.


Schedule Changes.


We are now adjusting some class schedules. We are making these changes to better serve you the members. As with anything if you have issues please tell us as we want to make the best schedule we can for you.


Powerful evening classes will now be at 530 & 6PM. We are making this change so that each class can get to see each other and help us build a stronger community.


We are dropping our Tuesday morning bootcamp at 7 am.


We are also dropping our Monday and Wednesday 7 PM cardiolab.


If you have any issues with these changes please reach out to us and we will do the best we can to adjust our schedules.


Team UF



9/11 Our Remembrance

As most people who have lived through a terrorist attack on their county I will never forget where I was on 9/11/2001. I was a grad student sitting in a sport law course at Virginia Commonwealth University. We had a guest professor that day in class and as he discussed tort our professor walked back into the room and said, “Go home and call your families, we are under attack.” These words will never leave my head and each year that passes I remember how I felt that day.


Everyone handles situations like this differently. Most of my classmates went down to a local sandwich shop and watched the news. I am different and didn’t want to be around people so I went to the weight room and trained. I am one of the few people who caught up with everything later. I do not know if what I did was cowardice or me avoiding this horror of the moment. What I do know is 9/11/2001 always had an impact on me and I have visited each of the crash sites numerous times and every time confusion is the biggest emotion I have in that moment.


In honor as a tribute to each of the 2,996 humans who perished on that day I have been asking people here at Union Fitness to tell me what 9/11 means to them. Here are some of the words and phrases that I heard today.


“Never Forget.”


“Never take a day for granted.”









These words are a good reminder for of us as a society. The one that stands out the strongest to me is confusion. To this day what happened is still confusing to most of us and that is OK. We just hope that through all of this confusion we can help support you and each other.


Remember United We Stand.


Todd Hamer and Team UF



Meet Dave

Hello Union Fitness Family,


My name is Dave and I’d like to introduce myself as the newest member of the Union Fitness Family!  I just finished my first month and will be coaching group and personal training sessions as well as holding down the front desk at times.  My first month has been great so far and I look forward to many more.  What I love about being at Union Fitness is the people.  I personally believe you’re not going to find a more well rounded group of coaches and trainers in the area who truly care about wanting to make other people better.  The whole reason I got into strength and conditioning and more specifically coaching is to help others and it is great to be around others who share that same mission.


My strength and conditioning journey started 6 years ago as an assistant high school football and strength coach in Lexington, KY.  Since then I primarily spent time in Division I college football, twice at the University of Akron, once as an intern and as an assistant, and at the University of Maryland between being an intern and an assistant.  Last year I spent time working with Grossetti Performance out of New Castle, PA assisting with NFL Draft Prep.  I also spent time at another sports performance facility here in Pittsburgh before coming to Union Fitness where I worked with not only local athletes, youth and professional, but also coached group and personal training sessions.  I am currently finishing my Masters in Strength and Conditioning from LaGrange College and will be finished January of 2021.  


I could definitely share more but maybe I will hold off for another post if Hamer let’s me write another one.  If you see me at the gym don’t hesitate to come up and say hello and I look forward to doing what I can to help make Union Fitness the best place to train in Pittsburgh.  


All the best,



Iron City Open Update

To all of our members and friends I hope you are as excited as we are about seeing lifting again. I wanted to make sure we get an update out as the meet is now one week away.


The meet will be held Saturday August 22, 2020. Weigh ins will be Friday and Saturday (for specifics check with USPA). The meet was originally scheduled as a two day meet, yet the USPA as well as UF have decided with the reduced numbers it no longer made sense to spread it out over two days.


We will be allowing spectators. This is an outdoor event and state rules limit it to 50 total people. We are hopeful that we have a nice crowd and we are also hopeful that it stays under this number and we do not need to turn anyone away. We will be strictly following mask guidelines so please be prepared with your mask at all times. Lifters will be permitted to remove their mask for their attempts.


We are also working on food trucks as well as a beer truck to make the day more enjoyable for everyone. We ask that everyone please show extra patience this year to help us and the lifters have a great day.


If you have any questions, comments or concerns please contact me directly anytime. Lifters with more specific questions please see USPA Pittsburgh instagram or contact Doug directly.


Todd Hamer

What the World Needs is More Coaches

What does it mean to be a coach? On the surface a coach can be defined as someone who is helping an individual work towards achieving a goal. This is what most of us think of when we hear the term. However, as we go deeper, we will realize that coaching consists of much more. The ability to coach is within each of us, and it’s something that we need now more than ever.


I’ve spent the last 11 years of my life as a coach to athletes, kids, the elderly, and general population individuals. During that time, my focus has always been to first build a connection with each person, and then help them to unlock their full potential with the goal of being able to become their own coach in the future. With coaching, the goal should never be to want people to rely on you in order to achieve those things, but rather possess the ability to learn on their own, and then to pass on those lessons which they have learned throughout the process. In my opinion, this is the true definition of a coach. 


The more experienced I become within my career, the more I realize that these actions go far beyond working in a performance setting, but rather a universal setting. In my opinion, coaching is not confined to a certain group of trained professionals, but anyone who has learned from their life’s lessons, and is willing to pass them onto others for the greater good of humanity. Each of us has a skill that distinguishes one person from another. We can use those abilities and skills to help coach others to work towards a better, more knowledgable version of theirselves. I strongly believe that this is the ultimate goal of life. It’s what we are here to do. Today, we need quality coaches more than ever. So, ask yourself “How can I help, and what things have I learned that I can pass onto others to help them become a better version of who they are?”. If we can all do this, we will be great.

Iron City Open Update

We at UF are proud of our connection to the local powerlifting community. As the GM I was lucky to step into a position that the great relationships were already built in the lifting community. First let me thank you for being such a big part of UF.


We had to make a decision on whether it was appropriate to host the Iron City Open. At this point we are moving forward with the meet. For those of you who want us to hold the meet I am sure this is great news. For those of you unsure, we are doing all we can to keep the meet safe and hold ourselves to a high standard. What I do believe is we can do this in a safe manner. Here is a list of what we are doing to keep this meet safe and of course fun.


  1. Weigh ins will be limited to lifter and official.
  2. Masks will be required by everyone (the lifter may remove it for their attempt).
  3. The barbell will be sanitized and cleaned between each attempt.
  4. There will be no chalk bowl (bring your own chalk).
  5. No spectators inside the tent.
  6. The meet will be inside the tent with warm ups occurring in our performance lab with the garage door open.
  7. Each lifter will only be allowed one person with them at the meet (a handler)
  8. Temperature checks for each person entering.
  9. UF staff will be here all day to make sure all rules are being followed.
  10. UF has the ability to end this meet or excuse anyone from the facility who is not following the rules.


We believe with these precautions in place we can hold a safe, fun and effective meet. We look forward to working with the USPA again and anyone who has anyone questions, comments or concerns should reach out to Todd Hamer.


Thanks and BE STRONG!

A Conversation in my Head

Hamer and I were taking a break from some heated bocce ball matches after work one day and started having the old debate: low bar or high bar. Hamer stopped and asked the women next to us what they thought. They had no idea what the hell we were talking about. Something that we might think is so important and give each other a hard time about, this woman had no idea what it was and had never given it any thought. Something as simple as that stuck with me, where is my effort going? Is it going somewhere meaningful? What, in the big picture, what actually is strength, how is it shared, what the hell does it even mean? Does it actually matter? 


I was watching Neat:The Story of Bourbon last night and they dove into how the whisky is made and  its history of it. They then dove in a bit deeper, to what it means to drink bourbon, to enjoy it with the people you are with. I found it paralleled strength quite a bit in my life. Getting strong is great, getting strong with people you care about is better. Often,the most important training is just getting under the bar with a loved one or pushing some sleds with a brother/sister. Sometimes numbers aren’t always the most important unless we’re in competition. But going through the day in day out of training next to someone else gives meaning to those numbers. I still want to chase  a 700lb deadlift before I go 6ft under, but I know I’m plenty training sessions away from that. However, by saying the numbers aren’t as important I mean when you’re training, I train with a guy that isn’t as physically strong as me, but mentally is so much more. On “those days” he knows he has to step in and get me out of my head and back under a bar. 


The other thing that has added meaning to my training is this; the harder I train, the more disciplined I am, the harder I train, the more compassionate I find myself feeling. I hear this alot in the combative sports, that the more time you spend training, getting choked out, the more compassionate and peaceful you find yourself outside of training. I think the same is true for lifting. My rack is where I can be aggressive, angry, whatever the hell I want to be, push my training partners and get after it, with any and every four letter word I  want. but as soon as I step away, I’ve found a peace. 


Which brings it back to the struggle. We always usually have a struggle, and the people we go through that struggle with are the ones usually closest to us. Training fosters that as we usually choose our struggle and our training partners are crazy enough to join us in  it everyday. Struggle teaches us to enjoy the hard work  with those we care about. One of my favorite training sessions wasn’t a heavy single (although we all know those are the best) but it was a barbell and a few hundred pounds of bumpers in the middle of a dirt road before a buddies wedding while we had a couple of beers and cleaned. Strength came down to this for me: it’s not about the barbell, it’s about the lives you touch and the people you meet. Strength is just a byproduct of a good relationship and like good bourbon takes time,the hard parts can’t be skipped and it can never be rushed.


He Blinded Me With Science

Attention Attention!!


Toss on your goggles because you’re about to be blinded by science…SCIENCE!


Union….this has been hiding in the shadows for far too long. Buried deep in the sarcophagus of time, repressed from the world. Adventurers young & old, from far and wide have spent their lives in pursuit of this historical relic. Some call it the fountain of youth, others believe it’s a transcendent pilgrimage of enlightenment. Your personal Swashbuckling Nick Cage (National Treasure reference) has found the X and unearthed these dark secretes.


TEACH ME TUESDAY is coming back! The goal of TMT is to provide a wide range of knowledge and education on health, overall wellness, training and many more dope topics. If you have anything you’d like to learn about please comment below of just let CeJ know what is up. Thank you for your time and lets Get Bumpy on this exploration of endless mental wisdom.


Train your Brain and get your Mind Bumpy!





Bootcamp and Beers Review

In today’s Blog, we will be highlighting our 1st offsite UF Workout.  At UnionFitness we are striving to be a bigger influence in our community. We want to be a positive and uplifting part of Pittsburgh.  In order to be influential, we feel it’s important that we start in our own backyard, which is the Northside.  We wanted to get our faces out in the community, so we picked a local brewery to kick off our offsite workouts.


We ventured 4 blocks over to Allegheny City Brewing (ACB).  


This neighborhood gem is in the heart of Deutschtown on the Northside.  The owners of ACB, Amy and Matt welcomed the idea with open arms and allowed us to “GET BUMPY” (the words of one of UF’s prolific trainers and management staff, CJ).




With the new restrictions imposed on bars and Restaurants this past week due to Covid-19, we all were a little worried if we would still be able to have the workout.  BUT, we didn’t let the restrictions or the threat of rain stop us and we GOT IT DONE!!!  8 people came out and got sweaty before we all enjoyed the tasty suds of ACB’s Craft Beer.  There is something about struggling through a hard workout with people you know and don’t know, and then sharing a beer with them, that is good for the soul.  We want to continue to promote that feeling and meet new friends along the way.  I believe this is true outreach!  Doing things that bring people together, that can share their backgrounds with each other, is how we can promote community equity.


This was a GREAT kickoff to our offsite workouts and community outreach.  Our goal is to have one of these a month in our community to continue to show our neighbors that we are here, that we want to help, that we want to be a part of the change that is going on in our city, and that we want to continue to be a positive resource for our community.


Special Thanks to Amy and Matt of ACB and to the warriors that came out for the workout!!!


If you ever want a great place to have tasty beer and a fun atmosphere, please checkout @alleghenycitybrewing or


For our next offsite workout, check our Instagram @unionfitnesspgh.


Matt Grayson

Connor’s Lessons from Maryland

Hello Union Fam,


For those of you that don’t know me I used to be a coach here at Union Fitness up until December 2019 (recently returned). In December I had the opportunity to be an intern strength & conditioning coach at the University of Maryland. The teams I was working with include: Baseball, Field Hockey, Volleyball, Women’s Lacrosse, & Wrestling. The goal of this blog post is to reflect on my experience at Maryland, evaluate what sets some of the best athletes in the country apart & what I plan to implement in the future.


For those of you reading this who haven’t been inside the walls of a collegiate weight room and envision athletes performing super complex & specific exercises; let me stop you right there. That is not the case. The three words I heard more than anything while at Maryland were, “Keep it simple!” For the most part, 80% (some would argue higher) of what strength & conditioning coaches’ program is very similar across the country. So, the question I find myself asking is “What sets each program/department/team apart?”


1.) Mind the Gap
“When the truth is blurred, perception becomes reality whether you like it or not.” This lesson is based around being aware of the gap between how you are perceived by others and your reality. You can be as self-aware and conscious as you want, but there is some value in objectively hearing how others perceive you. What people perceive is usually what they believe, and this is based on what they consistently hear, see, & think. I am and most people are guilty of creating perceptions before obtaining full information. This can also lead to a valuable and tough conversation on bridging the gap of how you and others are perceived. Going forward, notice those perceptions but don’t allow them to grow. Instead be intentional and put your best self on display.


2.) What does it mean to be tough?
When you think of tough, you probably imagine a scene from Rocky where he goes round after round, with a bloody face, eyes swollen, broken nose, & still somehow manages to come away victorious. True toughness to me is a characteristic many talk about but few execute.


The best example I have of this comes while one of my teams at Maryland was running shuttles. After already lifting for about 45 minutes we headed down to the basketball court to run our 3rd week of shuttles. The shuttles were 15 yards and back and every rep had to be completed in a certain amount of time. Your foot has to be behind the line at the start of every rep and you have to touch the opposite line every time. I was positioned at the baseline/start line, blowing the whistle to start, checking to make sure everyone was behind the line, & calling out times. First set no problem. Second set no problem. Halfway through the third set the female DIRECTLY in front of me says, “Connor my foot wasn’t behind the line. We owe an extra rep.” I missed the person two feet in front of me and instead of just cruising past it she held herself and the team accountable. Over the course of all of my strength and conditioning experiences, I can count this type of event on one hand. Speaking up, holding the individual and team accountable, knowing the result will make your teammates suffer more. The funny thing is after we finished the shuttles and debriefed; no one held a grudge or had any ill feelings towards her. So why doesn’t everyone hold themselves and others accountable?


To me the answer is habits. If you don’t not have the daily habits built in of doing things correctly and completely you will surely not hold yourself or others accountable when it will receive blow back. In the future I will look into team building activities specifically designed to get athletes to speak up and hold each other accountable. Secondly, I think debriefing is crucial. This is an opportunity for a coach to give honest objective feedback, but also an opportunity for your athletes to give feedback. Not just to you, but to each other. These micro events will be my attempt to get them to engrain and establish these habits and create an environment that is player led.  I would much rather have them remind each other to pause their reps than me. 


3.) Slow Cook
For someone who enjoys training hard, this is tough for me personally but is always in the back of my mind when coaching & training others. Harder is not always better. With Olympic sport athletes, coaches typically have them for 4 years. With that being said don’t try to throw everything at them their first year. This is also true for a private gym. It may feel like a big accomplishment to barely walk out of the gym but is it unnecessary. Yes, there are times to push the envelope but not all the time. It is our responsibility as coaches to regress you when you do not have the proper movement literacy to perform an exercise and progress you when you are crushing it. Remember, slow is smooth and smooth is strong. Put your ego aside and remember that one step back & two steps forward still get you ahead. 


In the words of Cej, “Just be a dood!” Now what does this mean? To me it means: be authentic, be vulnerable, support & praise others without expecting anything in return, & know when to listen. At the end of the day strength & conditioning, personal training, & the fitness industry is a relationship industry.  Knowing your audience and what they respond to will build a client faster than any “perfect program”. I have seen some coaches and interns do this really well and others not so well. Do they always need you in their ear or do they just need an occasional cue? Do they like picking apart every detail or are they going to do anything written down? Do they need you hyping them up for every set or do they just need feedback?


An example I am reminded of takes me back to my time interning with Pitt’s Strength & Conditioning Department. It was a 6:00AM summer lift. A few of the wrestlers had to train early before heading to their summer internships/jobs. They had squats as one of their main lifts. One of my fellow interns was not typically loud but was trying to get them ready for their working sets. As he is spotting one of the wrestlers, he starts yelling & cueing the things that look like they need improvement, “UP, CHEST UP, KNEES OUT”. Finally, the wrestler finishes his set, racks his weight, and my fellow intern goes to help the next athlete. At this point I am still by the wrestler’s rack when he turns and says to me (in a little different language) “Why was intern X yelling. It’s just squats.” LIGHT BULB MOMENT. This particular wrestler didn’t need any external motivation or encouragement. He just wanted to be coached up without the yelling. He was going to give his best effort regardless.


The importance of conversation is nothing new, but often overlooked. A training session is much more enjoyable for a coach and client when everyone is on the same wavelength! Having some feel comes down to keeping in mind that the conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship. And if you can’t hold a conversation what does that say?


Connor Keenan