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What A Relief! AUT Fitness Centre Rocks.

By February 14, 2011December 30th, 2013Strength Training

Little by little I’m getting accustomed to New Zealand. Driving on the left side of the road is strange, as is driving from the right side of the car. What’s even trickier is that the turn signals are on the right and the shifter is on the left. I’m trying to get used to the metric system, especially kilograms (in the weight room) and celcius. If you want to convert kilograms to pounds you simply multiply by 2.2, and if you want to convert celsius to farenheit you multiple by 9/5 and add 32. The Kiwi alphabet is obviously the same since they speak English, but oddly they spell the letter Z as “zed.” They call their coolers “chilly bins”, q-tips “cotton buds,” french fries “chips”, flip flops “jandals”, auto body shops “panel beaters”, and they say “dodgy” quite often, which means strange or quirky. They like to put the word “as” at the end of a sentence and not finish it, and they say “eh” a lot like they do in Canada.

Everyone here calls me “Brit.”

Netball is really popular here especially with women, which is like basketball without a backboard. Cricket is very popular too, which is somewhat like baseball. But the most popular sport here without a doubt is rugby. Check out the All-Blacks doing the “Haka!” These guys are freakin’ warriors.

Having just spent a week lifting at a commercial gym (see my last post in case you missed it), I was a little worried about what my training options would be when I arrived in New Zealand. I wasn’t sure where I’d be lifting but I knew that there was a regular school gym right beneath my future work station (I’m on the second floor, the gym is on the first floor). AUT calls it the AUT Fitness Centre.

I assumed that the school gym would involve the same crap I saw when I attended NAU for my undergrad and ASU for my master’s degree – tons of bench press, lat pulldowns, curls, and sit ups with the occasional quarter squat in the smith machine, leg press, and lying leg curl. I firmly believe that every exercise has its place and am not bagging on these exercises; I’m bagging on the unbalanced program design. More pressing than pulling, more internal rotation than external rotation, more anterior chain than posterior chain, etc.

To say that I was in for a pleasant surprise is an extreme understatement. As soon as I walked into the AUT gym, I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Actually I felt like the Dancing Bumble Bee Girl in the video No Rain by Blind Melon. She was laughed off stage and scoffed at in life until she one day finds herself in a field surrounded by fellow Dancing Bumble Bees. Finally she was home.

This will be hard for many of my American friends to imagine, but this is what I saw as soon as I walked into the gym: To my right a guy was doing front squats ass to grass. Straight ahead a girl was doing weighted 45 degree hypers, bending solely at the hips. On the platform up and to the right, a guy was performing power snatches. Right outside in the grass one guy was doing farmer’s walks with farmers implements, while another guy was doing backwards sled drags. This was all occuring immediately as I waltzed into the gym. Bear in mind that this is not the athletes’ gym; it’s the gym for the regular students.

Perhaps the best thing about the gym is that there’s a chalk bin right next to the platform! Hallelujah. This should be the norm, not the exception. Now all they need is a deadlift lever to be complete!

What’s funniest about my experience is that several staff members knew who I was and regularly read my blog, and a couple of the lifters in the gym read my blog as well. I’ve been in New Zealand for just five days and I feel like I have half a dozen lifting buddies already.

The guy doing Olympic lifts followed up his power snatches with hip thrusts. He was super-strict; pausing at lockout for a full second or two.

The back of the gym’s glute ham developer was elevated. I asked a trainer if they learned this from my blog and he said yes indeed. Maybe SprintStrong was right and I am indeed one of the most influential strength coaches in the world…

During my hour long training session, I saw everyday lifters doing jump squats, hang cleans, rock bottom back squats, deadlifts, glute ham raises, hip thrusts, back extensions, 45 degree hypers, farmer’s walks, zercher carries, bench throws, bench rows (see the video below if you’ve never seen it), push presses, and chin ups.

I’ve trained there three times now and I’ve gotten a good feel for the gym. The staff there is top-notch. Many of the trainers are interested in both physiotherapy and strength training so they have an excellent feel for good mechanics. The trainers are very educated and interested in learning new methods, and they practice what they preach by training hard. This is quite rare in gyms these days.

There’s a badass lifter and student of the sport of strongman who puts on local strongman meets and makes sure the gym is equipped with plenty of strongman equipment such as a giant tire, sleds, farmer’s walk implements, an axel, a yoke, various stones and odd objects to carry. Today he did power cleans and Zercher squats while his crew did axel clean and presses and Zercher carries. Many of the female lifters use the farmers walk handles and sleds, in addition to equipment such as kettlebells and sandbags, which is great.

FYI: Here’s how real men Zercher squat:

Today I saw three of the strongest looking dudes I’ve ever seen in my life; two were training strongman and one of them is a trainer. All three of them are Pacific Islanders – one was from Tonga, one was Maori, and the other is a mixture of Somoan, Hawaiian, and more. They look like they could rip your limbs clean off of your body and eat them for a post-workout snack, but just like the rest of the New Zealanders they’re extremely polite and respectful. Some of the guys walking around here are freakish – you can tell that they’re rugby players who were put on this Earth to crack skulls. They look like they could give The Rock himself an ass-whooping.

Last Friday I actually visited AUT’s Millenenium Campus, which is the facility where the athletes’ train. It’s absolutely amazing! They’re dumping $40 million into MISH (The Millenium Institute of Sport and Health), and I will be a direct beneficiary of this upgrade next year as I conduct my research. When I toured through this facility I was blown away. I never imagined such a scientific “Disney Land” for biomechanists, physiologists, coaches, and physiotherapists. I’ll discuss this in a future blogpost, but suffice to say, AUT is without a doubt one of the premier institutes in the world for high-performance research.

Bottom Line: America – Take Some Freakin’ Notes!


  • Mohamad Kebbeh says:

    One of your best posts, thank you for sharing. It’s a pleasure to read your thoughts about everyday strength world research and life. I hope this new phase in life will bring you greater enjoyment.


  • Nick Efthimiou says:

    Living in Australia, I have a large exposure to Pacific Islanders as well, and as much as this is a gross generalisation, they have some great genetics for strength and power!

    The female Olympic champion in the shot put is kiwi, and like you said, when it comes to rugby they have few peers – in fact the World Cup is there this year and they are hot favourites.

    The gym sounds amazing. Also, you must have been quite chuffed to have seen the raised GHR and learn it was because of your writings.

  • gregory jimenez says:

    Hello brett, my name is gregory, i live in australia my mum is from new zealand Pakiha and ive been there a few times, i have cousins there and i trained at the gym in the middle of the city of auckland near the casino a few years ago with my brother. Last night i tried some, abbductions off my reverse hyper- i flexed my leg first like you say in your video and pushed abs out against the pad the did a few variations of leg abductions the i tried fully abducting both legs and externally rotating then doing bent leg reverse hypers with no weight kinda like diesel-smitty said i his hip thrust video felt really good . I have your glute book printed out and have read it often and i follow your blog, today i went to my gym rock solid in australia, i was doing trap bar deadlifts and i worked up to about 245kg tried to do a rep and half way up i head a crack kinda sound in my lower back, i panicked. now my lower back on the left side is really sore, i foamed rolled and massage the hell out of my lower back extensors and hanged upside down with gravity boots to decompress the area. im pretty worried. do you have any advice ive never injured my lower back before, please reply thank you and enjoy new zealand.
    gregory Jimenez

    • Bret says:

      Gregory, I’m sorry to hear about your injury. Here’s what I suggest. First, avoid deadlifting or squatting for the time being. Let the tissue heal and regenerate. You should be active and go to the gym and do things that don’t hurt. Gradually progress with things and work your way back into your old exercises. Now for the most important tip:

      I strongly suspect that you hurt your back because of an issue with poor mechanics. My guess is that you are rounding your back. Film yourself doing a deadlift from the side view and look at your lumbar spine biomechanics. It should be stiff and refrain from moving. If it does move, you need to learn how to hip hinge:

      Best of luck! -Bret

      • gregory jimenez says:

        Thank You for your reply Sir.
        enjoy new zealand i will be purchasing any products you release.i enjoy your blog posts very educational.

  • allie says:

    Wow- how incredible, lucky lucky you!!

  • Taylor says:

    I’m quite envious of you Bret. I think you just described my vision of Heaven.

  • Nick Horton says:

    Great news! It blows my mind that here in the states, most of the gyms (for the general student body) at Universities are outright crap … even if the strength coaches at those universities are great and understand what is and isn’t important in a gym. You’re a lucky man.

  • Nate says:

    I share Taylor’s sentiment. As an fyi, we Canadians say “eh”, not “aye”. lol

  • WOW! Awesome stuff man! Jodie and I will have to go visit Kiwi land for sure now as we know a few trainers there.

    I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone do Zerchers in commercial gym–sweet!

    It still just blows my mind when I go places and people even know who I am, much less like my stuff-hahaha. Still seems odd (in a good way) every time. Very very glad to hear you are at home already and that Glute Guy following is World Wide. There is hope yet for the fitness world.

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • shama says:

    Hey bret, if you do get time, check out the Les Mills studio in Auckland, they are a lovely bunch & very hardworking trainers too. never been to New Zealand but have some great friends from there. have fun learning brother. we learn from you.

  • Mark says:

    Where can a person find a decent bench to do supported barbell rowing on. I think Id need a chambered style bar but I have seen 1-2 benches that didnt require those either. Cant seem to find one now days.Id appreciate any ideas. Thanks

  • Clement says:

    That’s definitely better than the smith-machine users (90% of the lifters in my gym) and the seated press machine in my gym. How’d you get so lucky?

  • Steven Head says:

    Hey Bret,
    Happy to hear things are to your liking down there. It sounds awesome. We need to import that AUT ethos!

    Steven Head
    Head In The Game, LLC

  • John says:

    Thats great man! How in the world do you think we got to the point we are at now in the states??? zercher squats in a commercial gym! I’ve never seen that…. not once!

  • Josh Grey says:

    Welcome to NZ Bret glad your enjoying your stay, Trust me, things only get better when you get out of Auckland, so heres hoping you do plenty of traveling in your time off. Let me know when you come to Wellington, I sort you out a pass for a Great gym here (4 storys high)

  • Diana says:

    Good to meet you the other day Bret. I will try not to call you “Brit” although I did spend some years in Australia and have learned to pronounce my vowels better now LOL

    AUT definitely happens to be one of the better gyms. If you make it to Les Mills it is definitely more commercial and you’ll see the regular cringe-worthy stuff. Matt and I used to work out there before Netfit.

  • Jimmy says:


    If you want to assimilate faster, one phrase you need to know is ‘sweet as, bro’. It basically means ‘no problems’ or ‘sure, that’s fine’.

  • Doug says:

    Welcome to New Zealand and the North Shore Bret. It would be great to meet you some time. I am in the gym at least three times a week at 6am (the bearded 78 year old) and my wife (the one with a moon boot) is usually with me. Come in at that time and meet the others who are there most days (before going to work in most cases) – I presume that you have already met Paul and Danny?

    Be very careful, you may find that you will not want to leave NZ. I came here from Canada 39 years ago and would not want to live anywhere else.

    How about coming to our Probus Club (an old person’s Rotary – sort of) to talk to old guys about the advantages of keeping up strength training?

    Al the best, once agin Welcome to NZ!

    • Bret says:

      Hey Doug, yes I’ve met Paul and Danny. They’re great! I’ll look for you, and if you see me first come say hi! Thanks for the comment, Bret

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