November 16, 2012

Gym Rats: 'Beast' Explains How to Get Unleashed

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

Long Island Lizards faceoff man Greg Gurenlian owns a private strength training company in New York City. Before attempting Olympic-style lifts, consult with a strength coach or trainer.
© Lee Weissman (All)

Greg Gurenlian quite literally grew into his nickname. When he was just a scrawny middle-schooler in suburban Philadelphia, his friends gave him an ironic moniker: Beast.

“People who don’t know me think I’m some meat-stick who just wanted to start being called Beast,” Gurenlian said. “But really, I’m a huge closet nerd. And actually, I got that nickname as a skinny little Armenian kid.”

Before his freshman year at Springfield (Pa.) High, Gurenlian spent the summer shoveling shingles to help his father reroof their home. When school started, those same friends noticed a change in Gurenlian’s body.

“Dude, you got bigger,” they told him.

That’s when it clicked.

“It’s simple,” Gurenlian said. “If you work out every day, you get bigger.”

Gurenlian bugged his father to buy a gym set for his basement, and he decided he wanted to be a gym teacher. After enrolling at Penn State, majoring in kinesiology and working out with the school’s trainer, Gurenlian’s path changed: He wanted to be a strength coach.

“That’s when I got really obsessed with it,” he said. “But I had always been enamored with the body itself.”

Gurenlian now owns a private training company called Brawlic Strength in New York City. He’s also one of the top faceoff midfielders in Major League Lacrosse. He won 60.2 percent (230 of 282) of draws in 2012 for the Long Island Lizards.

Gurenlian spends about 14 hours a day in the gym, but he never personally trains for more than 40 minutes at a time. When he does, he goes hard.

“People who know me catch on pretty quick. I eat, sleep and breathe strength and conditioning. I take it very seriously. Outside of this realm, I’m a goofy person. When it comes to this, it’s my job, my livelihood, my career. My fiancée gets crazy, because I have endless amounts of textbooks that I buy, because I’m a nerd and I read about it at night. I love it.” 

NOTE: Before attempting Olympic-style lifts, consult a strength coach or trainer. “Each of these exercises has prerequisite movements and motor patterns that must be learned over a period of time,” Gurenlian says. “You must be patient.”


Works on: hips, trunk, shoulders and legs

Helps with: full-body power and strength, speed, explosiveness

  • “Cleans are the gold standard,” Gurenlian says. “There’s nothing that causes your body to fire as hard as it can, from ground to chest, like a clean.”
  • Line up with a barbell on the floor in front of you, with your feet facing straight ahead under the bar. Hips higher than knees. Shoulder in front of the bar. Arms straight, elbows rotated out. Head up, eyes focused ahead.
  • Pull the bar to your hips. At lift-off, extend your legs at the knees and shift balance to your heels. Keep your shoulders over the bar and elbows out. Keep your head still.
  • After the bar passes your knees and scrapes your thighs in the power position, quickly punch your feet down against the platform. Don’t jump or hop. Extend your ankle, knees and hips. Arms straight, elbows out.
  • Actively stomp under the bar when it gets to your shoulders, pulling your arms into position.
  • Catch the bar, and ride into the bottom of a front squat position. Your feet and hands hit together. Stand up, driving through the heels.
  • Gurenlian maxes out at 320 pounds, and he recommends low numbers of repetitions.


Sotts Press

Works on: trunk of spine, shoulders, stability

Helps with: shoulder strength and mobility

  • “This is a little exercise oddity,” Gurenlian says. “It’s not a particularly popular exercise among the strength and conditioning industry.”
  • Set up by dropping into the bottom of a front squat position, with the bar across your shoulders and elbows high and inside. Chin up, butt down and back tight.
  • While staying tight in the squat, press the bar overhead, fully extending but not locking your elbows.
  • After reaching full extension, bring the bar back down to your shoulders. This completes one repetition.
  • At the conclusion of your set, finish the front squat by driving up through the heels until standing.
  • Gurenlian maxes out at 225 pounds, and he recommends low repetition totals.

Barbell Windmill

Works on: shoulders, spine

Helps with: full-body strength and flexibility

  • Place one hand on the middle of the barbell on the ground in front of you, with your elbow and shoulder locked. Chin up, with your back tight and knees in advance of the bar.
  • As you slowly raise the bar past your knees, fire your hips, extend your knees and drive your elbow toward the ceiling.
  • Actively stomp under the bar and drive your arm straight over your head.
  • Looking up at the bar, lock your lat. Rotate your opposite toe outward, and lean your weight on the active side’s hip.
  • Drive your hip outward, while keeping your eyes up. Reach down and touch your opposite toe.
  • Rotate your shoulder to maintain tension. At 90 degrees, pause. Then return to starting position.
  • Gurenlian maxes out at 133 pounds, and he recommends low repetition totals.


A version of this article appears in the November issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

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