Interview with Powerhouse Training Systems' Steve Hendriksen

TAGS: gym equipment, steve hendrickson, Canada gym, column, interview

MP: Tell the readers a little bit about yourself and your background.

SH: My name is Steve Hendriksen, and I own and operate Powerhouse Training Systems out of London, Ontario. Growing up, I competed at high levels in football, hockey and basketball and always knew that I wanted a job where I was around and involved in sports. It wasn't until I attended a university, that I realized I could make a living training athletes to help them reach their goals and spend my work days in a gym wearing shorts and a t-shirt. In my third year at the university, I contacted the strength and conditioning coach at the University of Western Ontario, Jeff Watson, and began interning with him. I learned a lot in this time and have to thank him for giving me the opportunity that continued for two-and-a-half years. After graduating, I got a job at another training facility as a strength and conditioning coach and now, here I am with my own place.

MP: Tell the readers about your training philosophy.
SH: My training style depends a lot on the client that I am working with, but the biggest influences on how I set up my programs have been Joe Defranco, Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Louie Simmons and Mark Rippetoe. Although they have different approaches, you can probably get a basic idea of what I do just knowing that. In general, it is a Westside-based template with a focus on progression, breaking PR's in the big lifts and accessory work that addresses injury prevention, weak points and balance in the body. My main focus is on trying to constantly learn. I read whenever I have a chance, I try out new things and keep the ones that work and toss the ones that don't. Being so young, I have a long ways to go and hopefully get to the top of this profession, but it's the hunger to learn from anyone who has something to teach that I think will pay off and make me successful.

MP: What made you want to start your own gym?
SH: After graduating from the university, I was working as a strength and conditioning coach at one of those multimillion dollar “athletic performance facilities” and it disgusted me how much money was spent and wasted on things that don't matter when it comes to making athletes better. Fancy lounge areas, top of the line shower facilities and locker rooms, and big screen TV's all look good and appear impressive to clueless customers, but they don't add anything to the training or the results the athletes should be getting. After seeing how much money was spent on making the place “look pretty”, it was even more frustrating when the weight area was a tiny room filled with equipment best suited for a seniors' home. Anyways, there were things that I wanted to do and ways I wanted to organize things for the teams and athletes I was training, but I was extremely limited in what I could do. This got me to thinking that if I had my own place, I could fill it with the exact equipment that I wanted, set things up exactly how I want them and do things how I want to do them.
The inspiration came from seeing others on this site following their dreams and opening their own gym. Defranco's was obviously the first that really caught my eye, Zach Even-Esh writes some really motivating things to get you inspired and at Juggernaut, Chad Smith proved you can do it and be successful at a young age. Even with all the desire to open my own gym, I still probably never would have actually gone through with it if it wasn't for my girlfriend, Chelsey, giving me the kick in the ass and encouragement to just go for it and not look back.

MP: What would you recommend to a newcomer who wants to open their own gym?
SH: If training people and being in a gym is something that you truly love to do, there is nothing better than waking up in the morning and opening the door to see how all of your hard work has paid off. You have to be willing to make sacrifices for your dreams to come true. For example, as soon as I finished at the university, I was working full-time construction during the days, and then training athletes at night and on weekends. My days were insanely long, but it was something that I had to do to put myself in the position that I'm in now. Although I probably could have picked one job and still someday opened my own gym, this allowed me to do it in under two years after graduating and at the age of 23. Working construction allowed me to make great money so I could save enough to get some of the best equipment there is. Training people in all of my free time was still obviously essential because you can't get better at something if you're not doing it. It also allowed me to make a lot of contacts with different people.
Although it's possible to open a business and do things on your own, having people behind you and supporting you was essential for me to succeed. I know how to train people, and get them stronger or better conditioned, or whatever their goal may be, but I don't have a clue when it comes to the business side of things. This is where my girlfriend, Chelsey, has made this whole thing possible, by taking care of all the business things so I can just focus on the training and make sure everyone who steps foot in here gets the results they're looking for. My parents, and all my family and friends have also all been great and extremely supportive of what I'm doing and all that positivity rubs off and gave me the mindset that failure was not an option.
Another piece of advice would be to keep an open mind when it comes to bringing in sources of revenue that you didn't initially think of. I opened with the intention of being a more “hardcore” kind of gym with athletes and powerlifters flocking in to get a piece of the action. The truth is that people are slow to make changes in what they're doing or where they train, and building a client base is a slower process (even more-so because I don't really advertise aside from client word of mouth and that can take a bit longer to build). This led us to try a new idea that I never really considered which was a women's bootcamp. My first thoughts were that this might ruin the atmosphere of the gym, or that there wouldn't be many women that would want to train in a gym with heavy weights being tossed around, loud angry music and guys yelling. It didn't take me long to soon appreciate and respect how many women were willing to overcome the initial timidness of training in a place like this and work their asses off just as hard as me or any of the athletes that I train to achieve their own personal goals. I now see that it doesn't have to just be a gym full of football players to have an intense, motivating atmosphere, but a gym full of dedicated people who have a goal and are relentless in pursuing that goal. People who don't have this attitude can suck the life out of the gym, but in general, they won't last long, as they're better suited for commercial gyms anyways because they're just happy going through the motions and never actually getting anywhere.

MP: What type of equipment does your gym use for upper body exercises?
SH: Our main upper body movements focus on pressing variations using the Texas Power Bars, Fat Bar, Swiss Bar and Bench Log. Our accessory work involves lots of chinups (the monkey grip bars work great for this), pulldowns, row variations, pushups, medicine ball throws, dumbbell exercises and band work. The Fat Gripz have developed a love/hate relationship with most of the athletes as they hate the pain they bring, but love the arm pump they get.

MP: What type of equipment does your gym use for lower body and core exercises?
SH: Our lower body training is focused around squat and deadlift variations with different bars (safety squat bar, giant cambered bar, trap bar), and lots of glute ham raises, back extensions and jump variations.

MP: What type of GPP equipment does your gym use?
SH: The Prowler is definitely front and center when it comes to GPP here. Everything that can possibly be said about how awesome it is has been said a thousand times already, but if you don't have one (or more) you're missing out. We mainly do lots of strongman-type conditioning like tire flips, sledgehammer swings, farmer's walks, sandbag exercises, sled drags, sled rows, rope exercises and medicine ball throws.

MP: How did you measure and decide how much equipment you needed?
SH: To be honest, Defranco's was one of my inspirations to do this in the first place and I have always loved everything about his gym, so my equipment list was roughly based on what I was seeing in his gym. Obviously, I had to scale it back a bit on some things and not include certain things based on my budget. I started with essentially no client commitments at the beginning. After figuring out my budget, I basically just ranked things I wanted based on how important I felt they were. I began with the power racks and ended up deciding to get three of them and felt that the BYO (Buy Your Own) 3x3 was the best fit for me at the time. With the power racks being the focus, it was easy to add a few different options and other small things to create literally hundreds of exercise variations of all the main movement patterns. This included the selection of all the specialty bars, benches, different chin-up bars, bands, chains, blast straps, rack ropes, dip attachments etc. After this, it was just filling out the rest of the gym. Obviously weights are important, so I got a bunch of Troy plates from EliteFTS and I found a really good deal locally on a set of dumbbells. I then added the extra pieces I felt were essential like the glute ham raise, back extension, lat pulldown/low row (and attachments), platform, prowlers, dragging sleds, medicine balls, kettlebells, plyo boxes and some strongman equipment. Overall, I'm really happy with my selections and think I spent my money wisely on getting all of the essentials, while adding a few extra fun toys and avoiding useless equipment. There is nothing in my gym that doesn't get used regularly. I've had a few people now try to estimate what my equipment costs were and all of them were guessing numbers at least four times what I actually spent, so I think I did a good job in filling the gym out.

MP: Why did you choose EliteFTS equipment?
SH: EliteFTS is so much more than a company that just sells equipment. The amount of knowledge that is shared on the site is incredible and it is one of the best learning tools out there for anyone pursuing a career in the field of personal training/strength and conditioning. I looked into equipment from a couple different companies, but the only one that ever really felt right was EliteFTS. By getting my equipment from them, it felt more like I was becoming a part of a family, just like every other warehouse gym owner they helped follow their passions into making some of the most badass gyms on the planet.

I'd like to make a quick point about how many people there are that take advantage of sites like this and soak up all the information that is freely given to them and allows them to make better progress in the gym, or make more money training others and then never support the business by buying anything from them. It just didn't seem right that my initial inspiration for opening my own gym was all from this site (Defranco's, Underground, Juggernaut and different things Dave Tate has wrote about), and then turning around and not supporting the company that got things rolling. This exact reason is why I ordered my equipment from EliteFTS and continue to make smaller purchases all the time and why I order Biotest supplements (T-Nation). These companies can't survive just by shelling out free information and not getting anything in return, so if you've been one of the sponges I'm referring to, dish out a few bucks and get a damn shirt or something and at least wear it to help them advertise so that they can continue what they do.

So to summarize that little rant I broke it down like this:
EliteFTS...
Leads the industry with high quality equipment.
Inspired me to open my own gym.
They have equipment that looks awesome.
Everything imaginable in a gym can be purchased at their site in one place instead of multiple orders between different companies because they have a variety of equipment other companies don't.
Filled my brain with knowledge by giving out tons of free information that has allowed me to become better at what I do.
Their equipment is better priced/comparable in price to other major companies. And I'm not talking about the ones selling home gym quality shit products.
So, all of this made it a no-brainer for me to proudly become one of the first gyms in Canada to be completely outfitted by EliteFTS.

To set up your gym, call Matt at 888.854.8806.

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