Mitchell Hooper’s Tips for How to Train Heavy at Planet Fitness

It isn’t always easy to train heavy in a franchise commercial gym. The 2023 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion Mitchell Hooper recently tested his heavy-training luck at Planet Fitness on May 28, 2024.

Hooper strategized a strength-focused push routine with a few caveats. Planet Fitness does not have standard plate-loaded barbells or dumbbells heavier than 75 pounds (Dumbbell weights may vary by location) for safety reasons.

[I’m going to] show you how you can get strong at Planet Fitness.

The 28-year-old is fresh off a second-place finish at the 2024 World’s Strongest Man contest. Hooper’s Planet Fitness workout was part of his prep for the upcoming 2024 Strongest Man On Earth competition at the 2024 Shaw Classic set for Aug. 16-18, 2024, in Loveland, CO. Check out Hooper’s heavy training attempt at Planet Fitness in the video below:

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Seated Smith Machine Strict Press 

Hooper typically starts his push days with strict shoulder presses. However, with no free weight bars in sight, the Smith machine version offers him similar benefits; a straight bar and sufficient resistance.

I’m going to strict press and get the exact same stimulus aside from some stability.

While Hooper prefers free weights, research shows machines produce similar muscle and strength gains. (1)  Hooper’s programming called for three sets of two, four, and six reps, working up to 125 kilograms (275 pounds). 

Machine Chest Press

Sitting on the pin-loaded chest press machine, Hooper questioned whether it’d offer him enough resistance. A 240-pound weight stack is hardly enough for one of the world’s strongest humans. 

“There are many ways to make things more difficult,” Hooper explains. The kinesiologist utilized slower reps and time under tension to compensate for the inadequate resistance. This reduces momentum, which forces the target muscles to work harder.

“You should get a really potent response for muscle-building,” says Hooper. A 2012 study found that slow reps with lighter weight loads result in better protein synthesis and muscle-building potential 24 hours post-workout. (2)

Hooper was happy with the result. He recommends six to 10 slow reps for the first set, then 16-20 normal-paced reps for the second. 

Strongman Cable Flyes

A technique not often seen is how Hooper crouches low during cable chest flyes to simulate squeezing Atlas stones. He believes this training technique was key to his successful 232-kilogram (512-pound) Atlas stone Australian record lift.

“I never trained Atlas stones. All I did was zercher squats, back squats, deadlifts, and cable flyes”, Hooper exclaims. The elite strongman knocked out three sets of 12 reps, moving through his full range of motion.

Lateral Raise Drop Set & Cable Triceps Pressdown

Hooper moved to the dumbbell rack to train side delts with lateral raise drop sets. He avoided burning out to maintain strict form when transitioning to lighter weights.

Hooper focuses on feeling the muscles, rather than lifting heavy, when training accessory movements. Thirty and 25-pound dumbbells were paired in a single set for three rounds of 12-15 reps. 

Hooper performed cable triceps pressdowns facing away from the machine. He was humbled by how heavy 50 pounds felt with strict form and a rope attachment. He got a solid pump via three sets of 12-15 reps. 

You can say this [Planet Fitness doesn’t cater to strong people but I don’t know who on Earth is going down to the bottom of that stack.

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Face-Pulls & Single-Arm Tricep Extension

Hooper reinforced his scapula and traps with standing rope face pulls. He also added one-arm cable press downs to focus on his triceps individually.

“Planet Fitness is not that bad [nor] that scary,” Hooper admits. He felt the gym was nicer than he thought it would be, and the people were normal.

Featured image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram

The post Mitchell Hooper’s Tips for How to Train Heavy at Planet Fitness appeared first on BarBend.


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