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FRONTLINE: 60 Seconds

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Main Line Health & Fitness
Founder Roger Schwab

Thanksgiving marks the 30th anniversary of Main Line Health & Fitness, a success story written and performed by founder Roger Schwab. Since opening Main Line Nautilus in 1976, Schwab has become one of the most respected authorities on safe, sensible weight training. Since then, more than 100,000 people have passed through his doors.

MLT: Every kid gets asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When did you set out on the path to fitness guru?

RS: I came home from camp one summer and my mom told me I looked like I’d been at a concentration camp. I realized that if I wanted to take care of myself—make my way through life—I couldn’t do it at 80 or 90 pounds. Training became a passion for me. But then I never saw it as a career.

MLT: Thirty years ago, what was the prevailing philosophy on weight training?

RS: There wasn’t one. It was simply instinct, of which mine were not good. Outside of magazines with muscle men on the cover, there weren’t any medically sound guidelines for strengthening and conditioning.

MLT: Generally speaking, who keeps better form—men or women?

RS: What do you think?

MLT: Women.

RS: Definitely. Women are more focused. Men have a higher tendency to demonstrate strength than build it.

MLT: What’s the worst excuse you’ve heard from someone for not trying weightlifting?

RS: “I’m too busy.” Everyone should always make time for themselves.

MLT: How often do you recommend weight training?

RS: When you train hard, it tires you out and makes you less proficient; we recommend twice a week for strength training. If you want to lose weight, eat less. Most of us eat way too much.

MLT: Free weights or resistance machines? Can you settle the debate once and for all?

RS: Free weights give resistance merely in the mid-range of the exercise. Good machines give resistance throughout the entire range of motion.

MLT: Any hidden weapons in your personal regimen?

RS: We all have the same muscles that move our body and support our skeleton; the exact same workout that works for me will work for you, your kids and your parents. The only variable will be the intensity of effort.

MLT: What’s your best selling point to someone who’s never lifted?

RS: Osteoporosis. After the age of 30, the untrained person will lose a percentage of muscle yearly—there’s a direct relationship between strong muscle and strong bone. For anyone concerned with osteoporosis—especially women and seniors—strength training is not an option.

MLT: Your biggest fitness pet peeve?

RS: How much room do you have? Women who say they don’t want to build muscle—if they understood osteoporosis, they would. Parents who should know better, allowing their young athletes to train explosively. If you’re ever in doubt about the speed of motion, slow down. Number three is people who compare themselves to others. Your genetics were determined by your choice of parents. Just be the best you can be.

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