BRIDGEPORT — The no-frills gym opened by Joel "Rock" Cox in the basement of the Bridgeport Art Center isn't much for looks.
There are subterranean brick walls, a long row of colorful steel kettlebells, a few pairs of bodyweight rings suspended from the ceiling and several rubber mats on the concrete floor.
"People here are gonna get strong, get conditioned and they're going to lose weight," said Cox, 36, who moved his Rockfit business from Bucktown to Bridgeport in April.
Casey Cora and Joel "Rock" Cox explain the classes that you can take in Bridgeport:
Cox, a career personal trainer and former rugby player, said he started training with kettlebells — orbital steel weights with top-mounted handgrips — a few years back and the training method simply got him hooked.
The hourlong workout sessions he leads are all about building strength endurance — think of it in the context of the the waning moments of a football game.
"You can make the same hard hit in the fourth quarter that you can in the first," Cox said. "You have to be able to press the bell up for a period of time. Your strength just goes up incredibly."
But the training isn't just for hardcore athletes.
Cox, of Bridgeport, said kettlebell training "benefits just about everybody," from teenagers to the elderly — two groups that happen to have their own category in the "kettlebell sport," which requires competitors to lift the bells, which max out at 32 kilograms, or 70.5 pounds, for 10 minutes straight using a variety of techniques.
Cox has participated in similar competitions before and he's training a few of the competitors at Saturday's Chicago Kettle Bell Classic, which takes place in Rosemont and is expected to draw athletes from all over the world.
That event is a labor of love for Cox and Bea Rodriguez, a personal trainer and kettlebell teacher.
"We're really trying to grow the sport," Cox said.
The sessions at Rockfit, 1200 W. 35th St., take place at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and 9 a.m. Saturdays. The cost is $120 per month for unlimited classes.