Gym Of The Month: Metroflex Gym Long Beach

There is no plasma TV, no cushy seats, no elevator music. This is a gym made of sledgehammers and iron. Come here to work.

Name Of Gym: Metroflex Gym Long Beach
Owner(s): Eddie Avakoff
Address: 3200 E 59th St.
Long Beach, CA 90805
# Of Members: 400
Sq Ft: 14,000
Hours Of Operation: Mon-Fri 5am-10pm, Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 8am-3pm
Trainers On Staff: 14
Founders/owners: Eddie Avakoff, Christopher Albert: co-founder

The only big-box feel in this weight room comes from the impact you make as you leap and come back to earth. This is where muscle reaches for its origin story. It comes from effort and focus, from perspective and guidance. No, they're not all hard-core, but their intensity can be.

Think of Long Beach … do you see palm trees and ease along the Pacific? Look closer and you'll find a toughness carried in the bloodstream of elite athletes.

They come to places like Metroflex because their grunts got them kicked out of their last gym. They come because they need to go somewhere they can be accepted and driven. They come because their future self is in need of rearrangement.

We went there. We shot film under this roof. We can attest to the determination of its staff, and we proudly feature Metroflex Long Beach as this month's Gym of the Month!

How did the gym start and why did you decide to begin (or work within) the gym business?

I decided to work within the gym business because I felt a calling for a training environment that was nonexistent at the time. I needed freedom. Real trainers are artists. As such, an artist needs specific tools and equipment to elicit the task at hand, whether on oneself or on a client.

I wanted a facility that brought freedom to the many talented, yet suppressed trainers of Southern California. Furthermore, I wanted my training staff comprised of 'specialists' in particular areas of fitness: a female who's looking to shape her body for a bathing suit will see my bikini coach and NPC competitor, Khay Rosemond. Let's say a young athlete wants to size up and add weight to his squat. He would be recommended to C.T. Fletcher, raw-natural world record bench presser (at 705 pounds).

Along with a quality training staff and soulless membership development, I wanted a gym that wouldn't just toss its members into the "lion's den." It would take an active approach to ensure that each member is A) On the right path to achieving their goals (you'd be surprised to see how many people have no sense of direction in the gym; we give them one) and B) Performing the chosen movements correctly and under the right domain (rep/set count, heavy/light, etc.) A gym that cares will have a far better reputation and fitter members than a fancy fit-club that herds members in by the masses.

Finally, I wanted an environment that was up-beat and motivating. No boring boy-band music. We blast heavy metal just as heavy as the weights we slam. We created a real fitness "Club"—a place where athletes, different and alike, share a mutual respect for each other's goals and actively help one another in an attempt to make the gym, the team better as a whole.

Can you give us a description on what went into opening your awesome establishment?

I invested more than $100,000 (most earned from a professional triathlon career and a small loan), gallons of coffee, and a lot of hard work. When Chris Albert and I entered the facility for the first time, after months of various delays, we stepped into a completely empty warehouse.

With a 16-day deadline before the opening date we were promising everyone, we had our work cut out for us. I documented the entire 16 days on our YouTube channel, MetroflexLBC, starting with Day 1 inside the facility.

Attracting members was a whole different challenge: Fliers, fairs, cross-promos, social networks, forums, even standing in front of nearby gyms assuring members that mine was better. I have done and will do whatever it takes to make my business as successful as possible.

What makes your gym different?

The attitude is different, not from member-to-member, but the attitude each member has against the weights; against their own self. You will see each and every member as focused and driven. The environment is friendly, but there's something in the air that makes you want to train ... hard! Going for a PR bench press? Random members will come up to you and cheer you on. You don't see that at conventional health clubs. Serious athletes usually are mean-mugged right out of those gyms.

All our equipment has been picked out by real athletes (not corporate fat-cats who can't pick up the damn thing in the first place): we have specialty bars, special squat racks, strongman equipment, a functional fitness corner, two sets of dumbbells that go up to 200 pounds, and even a custom-angled leg press equipped to hoist 3,000 pounds.

You will also see our athletes moving weights with a sense of purpose: Ass-to-grass squats, focus on every set, groups of bodybuilders training together for upcoming shows, women who know 45 on the treadmill doesn't cut it and aren't afraid to weight train. Our gym is different because it is a real gym.

Here's a short clip of what it's like inside our gym:

Monday Afternoon at Metroflex LBC

Watch The Video - 03:44

What sort of people do you attract into your gym?

Metroflex attracts anyone who is focused and serious about their fitness. Age, ability, and sport are simply variables that make your workout different from other members. As a whole, we tend to see bodybuilders, powerlifters, MMA athletes, military and police forces, CrossFitters, high school and college athletes, and even some incredibly fit and dedicated moms and dads.

People are attracted to this gym because it's the opposite of any gym they've been to. Metroflex is free of the tedious restrictions that can ruin weight-training conditions: our gym is not boring, members are motivating, and the equipment provided is effective. They have the freedom to train hard (grunt, yell, drop weights, and use chalk).

Our members feel invigorated after their workout; they flip tires, swing sledge hammers, and shoulder Atlas stones. Unlike machine exercises, these movements can't be "bullshitted." Free functional weights … either you pick them up or you don't.

What inspires people to train at your facility?

People want to train at Metroflex because it's where the best of the best workout. Surround yourself with the best to become the best.

When everyone around you moves big weight and breathes heavy, you better as well. Members who are new to the sport of bodybuilding are coached by our pro-athletes.

Tips on dieting, posing, and even maximizing the effect of a movement all add up to ultimate success. Learn tips and tricks that will give you the edge over other athletes who train elsewhere.

Knowledge is power, and Metroflex is an iron temple where athletes can enrich and better themselves.

Do you have any top trainers and why are they so good?

As mentioned earlier, all my training staff is extremely talented (or else they wouldn't be on staff). Every trainer has a specialty: bikini coach, powerlifting coach, women's fitness, bodybuilding, nutrition, mobility, etc. etc. (I even have the USPA women's world record holder, Liz Freel, who just teaches the squat and deadlift; her PR is more than 500 pounds in each!

An inspirational story happened to one of my trainers, Mike Rashid, who spent 20 former years chasing a professional boxing career on Team Tyson. Mike joined Metroflex as a trainer in Oct 2011 having zero bodybuilding experience. Being motivated by the dozens of bodybuilders in the gym, Mike decided to pursue his first show over the summer.

During that time, his success was so great, he won first place in his first bodybuilding show (earning a WBFF Fitness Model Pro Card) and also securing numerous sponsorships and a 7-page feature article in Muscle & Fitness Magazine. Talk about a dream-come-true, especially for an athlete who never entertained the sport of bodybuilding a year prior.

What special services do you provide?

Aside from standard gym membership, we provide 1-on-1 personal training (each package is custom-tailored to its respective client), various boot camps with their own style and focus, custom nutrition plans (our nutrition staff works directly with our training staff so diet coincides with exercise prescription), pose coaching for bodybuilders, and special seminars open to all members and staff (such as a squat or bench press seminar). The seminars can be found on our YouTube channel.

Metroflex has been successful with introductory bodybuilding packages, taking young athletes who have little to no competitive bodybuilding experience, and providing a comprehensive process from the first steps of training, to pre-contest show prep (water, carbs, tanning, posing, etc.).

So far, we have had more than two dozen athletes explore the sport of bodybuilding for the first time. More than 75 percent of these first-timers walked away with first-place trophies.

Who are your most notable present and past members?

A notable member who trains here from time-to-time is legend Tom "The Golden Eagle" Platz. Tom and I have become good friends and we often squat together (which to me, is like playing basketball with Michael Jordan).

Other notable friends of the gym are Muscle & Fitness and Flex Magazine, which use our facility as the set for many of their photo shoots. Their staff members are incredibly talented, and each shoot allows new models and fitness celebrities to meet, which is a cool experience.

We ask talent to sign our "Wall of Fame" at the end of their shoot. The wall is almost full now! [See pic attached] French actor and international model, Emmanuel Delcour featured his artistry skills with a giant drawing of Ronnie Coleman, "Yeah Buddy!"

My most-notable members are colleagues of UCSB, where I went to school. Back in college, I used to describe my dream gym to my friends. Over time and with their support I've been able to build that dream. Now, I can rage a workout alongside my best friends and crazy as it sounds, I call it "work."

A couple of close friends have even moved to Long Beach since graduating college. Under my guidance, they studied for their personal training certification and shadowed both my staff and myself. After becoming certified, I offered them a spot on my training staff and helped them build up their client base. I am adamant that all my training staff continues to advance as both a trainer and independent business owner.

What was the hardest part about operating your gym?

The hardest part about running the gym is not getting distracted with the playground in the back when I should be sitting at my desk in the front. When I began this project, I was already a personal trainer. However, my business skills were seriously lacking. So far, the greatest challenge has been addressing my managerial weaknesses. The weight-training life has taught me most of life's lessons, including the importance to improve weak areas, regardless of the task at hand.

Any gym owner needs to fulfill more than a dozen various roles (at least in the beginning): personal trainer, marketing/advertising, janitor, customer service, web designer, accountant … The list goes on.

Despite the difficulty behind wearing so many different masks, it's also something I enjoy, and something I believe I'm good at. I've always try to be good at everything, rather than forcing all my effort into one sole endeavor.

What makes you competitive over the other gym chains?

Metroflex is competitive over the other gym chains because we have progressive and effective equipment within a unique and motivating environment. Specific equipment, hand-picked by athletes and experienced trainers (and ironically enough, absent in all conventional gyms) will elicit faster and more effective results.

We had members lose as much as 80 pounds in less than six months. [see Nate's pics] Our knowledgeable training staff sets the bar for exercise safety, programming, and tips that help young athletes excel and break through their goals.

How have you been able to remain so successful and how do you hope to remain so?

Metroflex continues to remain successful by being just as true to itself as the day it opened: A hardcore, no-bullshit playground for the dedicated athlete. This 'attention to the member' is what makes Metroflex different from the rest.

My logic: 'If I had money to spend, I would buy more weights. More weights help make more fit people. And more fit people means a better reputation. A = B = C. Why would I buy plasma televisions to outfit a fancy cardio deck, like the other gyms? There are no results in that. If it doesn't produce results, it's bullshit.

Does your gym have any special charities/community outreach organizations you raise money/volunteer for?

Since it opened in May 2011, Metroflex Long Beach has made a significant impact in the community: Our facility has provided service to neighboring churches, local high schools, and even college organizations.

As owner and head trainer, I personally offer college interns an in-depth perspective of the practical skills involved in the career of fitness professionals. So far, I have graduated four interns from this program.

Metroflex also supports its training staff, which also takes an active role in community outreach. Marcus Hobbs initiated a non-profit organization that serves schools which have been forced to cut Physical Education from their curriculum due to budgetary restrictions. Once each week, he visits two different elementary schools and provides workouts and exercise-oriented games for students.

Our facility works with our local community civil service. More than 40 percent of our members are related to a police, fire, EMT, or military entity. Our gym takes an active role in honoring those who serve the community. Often, we will have barbecues and get-togethers to commemorate an event (such as the Marine Corps Birthday) and strengthen the camaraderie within the gym.

We opened the facility to local high school football teams for free football training on Saturday mornings. Los Angeles Channel 36 featured the gym and broadcast the workouts across all of Southern California.