It only takes a few seconds inside Plymouth’s 11,000-square-foot Detroit Muscle Gym to realize you’ve entered a few-of-its-kind muscle-building facility.
Giant truck tires — some weighing as much as 500 pounds — are lined along a wall that is adorned by a huge American flag and a banner that reads: LIFT ANGRY.
Laying on the floor about 10 yards from the tires are a variety of Atlas Stones — concrete training spheres that weigh as much as 300 pounds — that are made to lift and carry, not admire.
And everywhere you look in the gritty (yet clean) former warehouse are free weights — over five tons, in fact.
No, Dorothy, you’re not in Planet Fitness anymore.
The impressive — yet far from intimidating — business is owned and operated by Jen Preinitz and Bob Pensari, both of whom practice what they preach, so to speak.
Both 55 years old, the business partners have won a truckload of Strongman competitions — not hard to believe once you observe their toned, muscular physiques.
Building their own muscle and helping people get healthy doesn’t totally consume their lives, Preinitz and Pensari admit, but it does fuel their fire for a good percentage of their waking hours.
And the pride they’ve built for their training facility is as evident as the giant American flag.
“Strongman competitors and bodybuilders from all over the Midwest — all over the United States, really — stop here when they’re in the Detroit area because they’ve heard through social media and word of mouth about our gym’s reputation,” said Preinitz.
“When I lived in Wisconsin before I moved to Plymouth and bought the business with Bob, I’d drive eight hours on a pretty regular basis just to train here.”
Preinitz said her life has changed 180 degrees for the better since she started building muscle.
“I was raised in a family that loved to eat; my mom and grandma cooked huge meals,” she said.
“I was overweight, unhealthy. One thing that made me change my lifestyle was when my doctor said I may have to start taking statins for the rest of my life because my cholesterol was so high. He gave me three months to get it down.
“Once I started working out, my numbers went down.”
And her self esteem and joy level skyrocketed.
Everyone can do it
While a football injury curtailed his on-the-field career, it didn’t extinguish his passion for competition.
“I was a drug-free professional body builder for several years until I saw a posting for a Motor City Strongman competition,” Pensari said.
“I had watched Strongman competitions on TV and thought they were interesting, but I had no idea they were available for regular people. I assumed they were for those super-strong eastern-European giants.”
Once he discovered Strongman offered an abundance of classifications — factoring in competitors’ age and fitness level — he entered.
“I did terrible,” he reflected, laughing. “But at the same time, I loved it.”
Since his first Strongman go-around, he has won enough first-place hardware to fill a spacious trophy case.
“It’s an example of how you can do anything if you put in the effort and give it your all,” Pensari said. “Genetically, you don’t have to be the best in the world — you just have to try. You don’t have to be young either.”
Pensari and Preinitz both smiled at the comment.
Pensari loved his new hobby so much, he purchased hundreds of pounds of equipment and turned his garage into a gym, naming it Canton Strongman.
“The only problem was, my driveway and garage floor were getting cracked and damaged by the equipment,” he said.
“When I heard about the Strength Depot (Muscle Detroit Gym’s former name) I became a member.”
Preinitz emphasized one aspect of Strongman is the way competitors encourage one another during events.
“Yes, everybody wants to do well and win, but that doesn’t stop us from cheering each other on,” she said.
Kelly Lamb, a Ferndale firefighter, was looking for a place to develop more strength for her physically-demanding job when she learned about DMG.
Less than a year after securing a membership, she has reaped the benefits the business delivers.
“This place is amazing; I’ve met so many cool people,” said Lamb. “It’s really helped me with my job, too. The difference is like night and day.
“During rescue drills now, I can throw people out windows with relative ease because I’m so much stronger than I was before I started coming here.”
Lamb has already captured two Strongman championships in her respective classification.
DMG is hosting its inaugural U.S. Strongman competition, Motor City Monsters, on Oct. 28.
The daylong event at the facility located at 736 Junction St. in Plymouth promises to attract several of the top Strongman competitors in the Midwest — and relative beginners like Lamb.
Members receive 24/7 access to DMG. The membership age range is from high school students to people in their 70s.
The gym even offers a program for youths, who must be accompanied by an adult when working out.
“We even have people working out here who are members of Planet Fitness,” Pensari said. “They go there for the treadmills and come here for the lifting.”
So, if you’re looking to get stronger, check out Detroit Muscle Gym, where you lift angry, but leave happy.
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or email@example.com.