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Modern gyms are shrines to convenience. Every effort is made to make members feel like they are doing something less taxing than exercising. Televisions are attached to treadmills. Nautilus machine seats are more comfortable than those on an airplane. There's enough hand sanitizer to supply a hospital for a year. Trainers are benevolent guides. Little wonder, then, that the man performing a mellow set of curls, then taking a five-minute break, looks the same month after month. Work has left the equation.

Gyms were once shrines to sweat and effort. Some of these hardy institutions still exist, but they are hard to find. The first gym I stumbled into when I was 17 fit this bill. It was a large room tucked into a community center that charged $15 for monthly access. Brawny bruisers brushed shoulders with elderly folk on their way to play board games.

There were no cardio machines. There were no Pilates classes. There was no air conditioning, even during a Washington, D.C. summer. There were simply weights, barbells, dumbbells, benches, and squat racks. The only extravagance was a water fountain, likely to be occupied by an escapee from a Manowar album cover. Although the weight room took up a small part of the building, the smell eclipsed the entire center.

The gym was frequented by large men who lifted larger weights. They wore construction boots and flannel shirts with no sleeves, not wicking shirts and cross trainers. At 175 pounds, I felt out of place, yet compelled to show up. I remember the clicks of 45 lb. plates lining up like cards, the slapping of hands covered with chalk, the screams of men benching 400 lbs. for reps. These lifters had little concern with aesthetics. They sported beefy chests and arms, but often had guts draped over weight belts. Strength was their mantra – pure, brute strength. I gobbled amino acid horse pills and ate as much as I could. I think I gained about 10 pounds that summer. I still looked small. But the lesson stuck for life: a workout should be work.

My schedule now keeps me out of the gym but two days a week. I hate running. The garage is now my gym. Like the old gym, it has few extravagances besides an iPod. I try to employ what I learned in the summer of '89: work hard, keep the fancy shit to a minimum, and stay focused. Hard work is more important than time spent.

My tools now are the amazingly versatile kettlebell and my own body. But I'll never forget the behemoths of that summer or the repeat plays of "More than a Feeling" on an old boombox. Here's a workout I designed to stay sharp, honor my gateway gym experience, and work strength and cardio at once.

You will need a kettlebell (cheap purchase at a sports store). This workout should take no longer than 40 minutes. At the end, you should be exhausted. If not, you are either an android or not working hard enough.

These exercises are simple but effective. Each set lasts five minutes. It will feel like a long time. Perform as many repetitions as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, and repeat. Take a minute break to breathe and drink between sets. If you hit the wall or lose your wind, take a break and continue when you are no longer winded. Aim for volume. If you are new to this, start with the first exercise and add another circuit each week for seven weeks.

— Justin M. Norton

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Exercise 1
Kettlebell swings: 5 minutes
1 minute rest

Exercise 2
Elevated pushups: 5 minutes (change hand positions to work different muscle groups)
1 minute rest

Exercise 3
Bodyweight squats: 5 minutes (add kettlebell for additional challenge)
1 minute rest

Exercise 4
Kettlebell clean and press: 5 minutes
1 minute rest

Exercise 5
Alternating row and kettlebell front raise: 5 minutes
1 minute rest

Exercise 6
Kettlebell snatches: 5 minutes
1 minute rest

Exercise 7
Kettlebell situps: 5 minutes
Stretch and breathe

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You will need a playlist. This one will work wonders. Like the exercises, the songs are short, simple, and direct They will push you to get the job done.


1. Skinless - Overlord
2. Asphyx - Vermin
3. Kreator - Violent Revolution
4. Black Sabbath - The Mob Rules
5. Darkthone - Striving for a Piece of Lucifer
6. Nachtmystium - My Vengeance
7. Circle Jerks - Letter Bomb
8. Metallica - Last Caress/Green Hell (Misfits cover)
9. Napalm Death - Silence Is Deafening
10. Obituary - Intoxicated
11. Cannibal Corpse - Meat Hook Sodomy
12. Sodom - M-16
13. Bolt Thrower - World Eater

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