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'Spandex-wearing pansies' banned

At this strength-building boot camp, big boys don't cry, even if they want to.

By Michael Maharrey, Times Staff Writer
Published February 10, 2008

David Fox flips a 600-pound tractor tire during a class Wednesday at the bare-bones, testosterone-filled gym at 3221 39th Ave. S.
[Scott Keeler | Times]
[Scott Keeler | Times]
Strength Camp instructor Elliott Hulse watches his charges do trunk rotations at the end of a one-hour session, one of five every week.

ST. PETERSBURG - In the shadow of Interstate 275, Elliott Hulse's gym sits at the end of a dead-end street surrounded by two vacant fields.

A roll-up garage door serves as an entrance. Giant tires, bags of sand and metal kegs lean against the walls.

There are no TV monitors. No treadmills or exercise bikes. No fancy fitness equipment.

There are also no women.

Hulse, 28, focuses his group fitness program exclusively on men. He calls it boot camp, and his bare- bones facility reflects his general philosophy about men's fitness.

"It's not easy and it's not fast," he said. "It's blood, sweat and tears."

Hulse, a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, shuns the emphasis on aerobics and focuses instead on basic strength training.

For $299 per month, boot camp participants work out five days a week in groups of up to 10 men. After warming up with calisthenics and stretching, they spend the rest of the one-hour sessions lifting weights, dragging sleds loaded with sandbags across the sand, and flipping giant tires.

Hulse came up with the boot camp concept about a year and a half ago when he realized that most fitness programs don't appeal to men.

He wrote on his Web site: "Like you, I have become bored out of my mind with fancy-schmancy fitness clubs and gyms that are jam packed with useless cardio equipment and spandex-wearing pansies that attend the Jazzercize and hip-hop dance classes."

Donnie Kiernan, 25, of Clearwater lifted weights for more than five years before coming to the boot camp last October. He echoes Hulse's sentiments.

"I don't want to work out with Britney Spears blaring in my ear next to a bunch of girls," he said. "It's great here, having other guys motivating and pushing you. Being in this atmosphere really brings gains."

Roger Hendricks, 51, has participated in the strength camp for about a year. A friend initially invited him;the results keep him coming back.

"There's no doubt about it, I'm a lot stronger and have more stamina," he said. "It took about 20 years off my age."

This was the second week of boot camp for David Fox, 24. He said that after the first day, he wasn't quite sure he wanted to come back.

"When I got home, I literally laid on the floor for about 20 minutes and didn't want to move. But by Wednesday, I was excited to go back," he said.

Fox said he has lost 4 pounds, 1 inch off his waist and 3 percent body fat since starting the program. "This is a lot better than going to the gym, walking on the treadmill and thinking you did something," he said.

Hulse got involved in strength training at an early age under the influence of his uncle, a gymnast, body builder, marathon runner andblack belt in kung fu.

"Needless to say, growing up around a guy who chopped bricks in half with his bare hands and could do a backflip had a huge impact on me," Hulse said.

He earned a football scholarship to St. John's University on Staten Island, N.Y., and later began a master's program in exercise physiology at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Early in his master's studies, Hulse became aware of a disconnect between what he was learning and his own experience. He said there seemed to be a bias against getting stronger.

"I was learning from bookworms. I got disillusioned. It just didn't really translate."

Hulse dropped out of the program and decided to build his fitness philosophy around his strength-training roots.

"I got back to the bottom line. Just use your body in ways that it was meant to function," he said.

Hulse's training methods are a reflection of his basic philosophical outlook. He has little tolerance for excuses and said that people have to take control if they want results.

"It's all about hard work," he said. "Just get up and do something."

For more information, visit or call 501-6811.

Michael Maharrey can be reached at or 893-8779.

[Last modified February 9, 2008, 23:03:03]

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