Tag Archives: cardio machines

Gym Reviews: Ironhouse Gym (Mason City, IA)

This product is a result of the work of the worker and not the place they are working. A true talent can create without any tools or resources because they make everything work by themselves. But some nice equipment and a great working environment can really help maximize those results sometimes! In Northern Iowa, about two hours from Des Moines and Minneapolis, lies Mason City, the home of the Music Man. It’s a large town with a small population but it has one of the best gyms in the country that no one knows about. Welcome to Ironhouse Gym.

Outside of the building

Outside of the building

It is what you would expect due to the name. A small building made of sheet metal that absorbs the extreme temperatures and weather conditions of Northern Iowa, but you would never know that while inside because of the great temperature control. I’m not one who cares how hot or cold it is where I workout but it’s nice for other people who have those needs. Another major perk is that the facility is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re a member and you have a keycard, then you can key in whenever you want. This is the kind of place I would love to have to myself at 2:00 a.m. although all of our workouts were mid-morning. The three days we were there it certainly wasn’t busy during those normally peak times, but it wasn’t empty either. All kinds of people were working out, but no one that unnecessarily threw weights and stacks around. They actually are pretty strict with behavior, which I can appreciate. If you’re deadlifting twice your body weight and need to drop it, okay I get it. Lately however, guys at our gym in Boulder (big guys) have been tossing the 35s on flat chest press like they were lifting 140s. Oh well.

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Speaking of equipment, Ironhouse has it all. I don’t want to tell you what they have because it’s like a spoiler in a good story. However, I will say that the dumbbells do not go very heavy. I think the heaviest were in the 120-140 lb range. I would expect up to 200 in such a great place but that’s fine! There are plenty of other ways to get your heavy lift on here. Full and half racks, roman chairs, captain chairs, wide chest press, elevated stand for back exercises, standing shrug machine, tons of plate loaded stuff, lots of cable and stack based machines, every bench you need, places for pullups and dips, tons of cardio equipment, and more and more and more.

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I was like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to do something on every machine because no place in Boulder has anything like this. The only gym I have found in Colorado that can compare so far is Armbrust Pro Gym where Phil Heath trains. The amount of cable based machines with stacks is ridiculous. They have nearly 5 machines just for triceps in that section alone. It’s absurd and everything is this bright firehouse red, which is awesome. I want to go back!

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The dressing rooms are modest and the lockers are on the floor. There are no showers but who needs those anyway. There is also a supplement and apparel store attached to the gym that is open during normal business hours. They have great deals on great supplements and I bought this awesome tank the second that I saw it. They also have an honor-based mini-store in the gym itself for when the store is closed. If you need a pre, intra, or post workout you can grab it out of the mini-fridge and throw some cash in the cash box if you’re an honest man or woman. You can buy belts, lifting straps and other gear too if you need it. They have everything you NEED and a ton of stuff you WANT.

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We did a push day, lower body day, and a pull day while we were there and it was a blast. Check out the website or leave a comment if you have any questions but if you need the best gym in Northern Iowa and maybe even a greater area around that, Ironhouse Gym in Mason City, Iowa is your place. Bring one to Boulder! Bring one everywhere! Very nice employees, awesome facilities, great products, and the best equipment makes Ironhouse Gym an easy place to help you stay hungry and fit!

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The Best Way to Cut Calories: Swimming

This post was inspired by an old swimming friend that has more recently gotten involved in lifting weights and trying to transform his body. He is an extremely experienced and skilled swimmer so he has a lot of tools at his disposal. He does not enjoy running or biking as a means to burn calories but he is interested in cutting for the summer.

Cutting is a term used in the fitness industry, primarily among physique based competitions, that refers to a stage after bulking where you lower your caloric intake and increase your caloric deficits in order to lose fat. Through this process of lowering body fat percentage, the muscles that a person developed and strengthened during their bulking phase will be more defined, visible and prominent. It has a certain aesthetic effect.

Not exactly your typical lap swimmer (it's Alana)

Not exactly your typical lap swimmer (it’s Alana)

Mr. M (we will keep his identity a mystery) asked me if swimming was a suitable substitute for cutting and the answer is yes. Anything that helps you achieve your caloric deficit amongst a cutting phase, with proper diet and rest, is a proper form or substitute for the classic “cardio machines.” Most professionals have ellipticals, treadmills, steppers or even bikes in their home gyms. There are a few reasons why swimming does not receive attention on the same level. Those reasons are primarily seen as a disadvantage and therefore complicate the process. However, there are certain advantages as well if you are cutting for your own reasons and not trying to be like everyone else. Here are the reasons why people do not use swimming to lose fat:

1. Most people do not know how to swim. That’s true, believe it or not. Beyond that, many people that do know how to swim don’t know how to swim properly. The number of people that can swim the four competitive strokes and various other safety strokes properly is extremely small. Many bodybuilders are among this population and are not interested in learning how to swim. However, for Mr. M, this is not a concern and with strokes such as backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle, and butterfly it is very easy to burn more calories than on a machine that plugs into the wall.

2. It is much harder to calculate burned calories while swimming. Machines that plug into walls have abilities to calculate these numbers, therefore making it extremely convenient for someone tracking these figures so strictly to hit their marks properly. This is not the case while swimming, as every stroke will burn a different amount of calories. Pacing yourself will also affect this greatly. Swimming a 100-yard freestyle on 55 seconds and following with a second 100 yard freestyle on 1 minutes and 15 seconds will result in different calculations that need to be made. If you are not extremely strict on your figures, then this is not an issue as you can estimate. You can also buy some new devices in the market that are waterproof and track your calories that are burned. Fit will be doing a post soon about these devices so keep an eye out for that.

3. It is generally more difficult to find a body of water, especially year round, that is safe. You can run and bike on land. You can run indoors in the winter no matter where you live. Finding a safe swimming spot is harder as it is a much more dangerous activity due to the medium of the water. In developing countries swimming is a luxury and something that the majority of the population does not know how to do. Overall, it is simply not as safe.

Despite these factors, I highly recommended Mr. M to swim in order to cut to achieve his goals. The best way is to use all the strokes that you know and incorporate them into a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. Switch up your strokes and change your pace consistently to challenge your body to work harder and burn more calories. Swimming for an hour at the same pace does not do much unless you somehow can maintain your full speed, or something close, for that whole time. I love to do 100 and 200 IMs (individual medley- butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle) with the 100s being all out and the 200s being at a steady pace. I will do 5-10 of each depending on how I feel with minimal rest in between. It makes me feel good, keep my skills fresh and avoids putting extra impact on my heavy flat feet.

If you are interested in specific questions related to swimming or cutting calories please leave a comment below. And look forward to more entries in the Best Way to Cut Calories series. Use this to stay hungry and fit!

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