Iron Core Gym offers alternative for those serious about getting strong

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  • | 6:59 a.m. March 5, 2015
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Iron Core Gym

ADDRESS: 11167 W. Colonial Drive, Ocoee


FACEBOOK: iCardio’s Iron Core Gym

COST $29.99 per month, month-to-month (no contract)

Displayed prominently along the eastern-facing wall of the Iron Core Gym in Ocoee is a sign with the facility’s rules.

Except, if you read through the 10 rules, you might come to see that owner Dave Knepper intends them less as rules in a traditional sense and more as a philosophy for his new gym.

With rules including “use chalk,” “work hard or go home,” “do not lower dead lifts quietly” and “watch out for each other,” the essence of the facility, which opened 12 weeks ago in the space formerly occupied by VI Levels MMA (since relocated to Winter Garden), becomes clear.

Iron Core is meant to be an alternative to the Planet Fitness and other “big-box” gyms and health clubs that are popping up throughout West Orange and Central Florida.

Knepper, a Gotha resident, envisions his facility as a throwback to the neighborhood gyms of old. 

With less frills, it is a place where he hopes those interested in strength training, powerlifting and bodybuilding can go to get a good workout. 

The keypad-access facility, which is open 24 hours, is intended to be a limited-membership club (to be capped between 200 and 250 members) to create an environment where paying members do not have to wait to use a desired piece of equipment or machine.

And, most importantly, Knepper, a Kissimmee firefighter/paramedic with more than two decades of experience, hopes to create a true club, where the men and women who train at Iron Core see themselves as parts of a whole.

“It’s a camaraderie thing,” Knepper said, recalling training sessions with his fellow paramedics. “I kind of built this place to hopefully foster the same thing among the people who work out here.”

Glancing around the facility, located in the Old Time Pottery shopping center at the intersection of Maguire Road and West Colonial Drive, it is at once purposefully simplistic and yet deceptively thorough in its offerings. There is a free-weight area, several Hammer Strength machines, a TRX suspension training area, a space set aside for dead-lifting, cable training, squat racks, punching bags, cardiovascular training equipment, including treadmills and more.

“The one common thing I think that brings people here is the theme is this is a place where you’re going to find other people who have the same interests,” Knepper said. “We would like to know that the folks that come are committed to their sport of their endeavor.”

Iron Core is a place geared toward powerlifters and bodybuilders, but it is not exclusively for them. Knepper said people from all walks of life — from police officers to high school sports coaches — have joined the gym since its opening in December.

Knepper, 50, particularly would like to create a place where an older crowd of lifters feels comfortable coming to lift. Older men, in particular, could benefit from a strength-training regimen, he says.

“I have a good idea of what’s going on with the guys in my age group, health-wise, especially as a paramedic,” Knepper said. “I try to talk to the (older) guys … I say, ‘Look, if you want to keep testosterone levels up, resistance training is the No. 1 way to do it outside of medication.’ That’s the hormone that’s released when you’re working hard.”

Although many members of his gym will inevitably have a somewhat intimidating look associated with the kind of strength training the facility specializes in, Knepper hopes anyone who is serious about working hard and getting strong — even if they have no formal interest in powerlifting or bodybuilding — will feel welcome.

“There’s such a stigma around bodybuilding and weightlifting … (but if) you talk to some of these guys, they’ve got college degrees and great professions,” Knepper said. “Usually they’re the nicest guys on Earth. (But) I understand how, sometimes, that look can be a little intimidating to people — especially in the gym setting.

“They’d be happy to lend you a spot,” he said. “That’s kind of our thing here, we’d love to help each other out.”

Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].


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