As the Winter Olympics continue, a local strength coach who once vied for a spot in the games is watching from his new West End gym.
Bob Blanton’s Total Training Inc. reopened this month in a 10,000-square-foot space at 10616 Patterson Ave. in Canterbury Shopping Center.
The gym, which Blanton started in his garage in 1988 as he was preparing to contend for the Olympics for weightlifting, was most recently housed on Advanced Orthopedics’ campus at 7900 Shrader Road.
With 23 squat racks, a turf strip and free weights, Total Training specializes in individualized strength training for athletes.
“It’s not a fitness place,” said Blanton, who’s also the head strength coach at St. Christopher’s School. “We don’t have people coming in here and doing what they want to do. Everybody has their own workout.”
Growing up, Blanton was a multi-sport athlete, competing in baseball, football, golf and track, before getting into competitive weightlifting.
“I did a lot of everything. I felt like one thing that held me back was strength. I saw a real difference once I started and just loved it,” he said.
His preferred event was the clean and jerk, where the athlete lifts a barbell off the ground and over their head in two moves.
Blanton competed in the Olympic trials as he was trying to make it to the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, but never made it to the games. He did make it out to Muscle Beach, the part of Venice, California, that was a hub for bodybuilding in the ’60s and ’70s.
“I went out there to train and just sort of got hooked up with what was going on out there,” he said.
Blanton said he even got to work out with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno a few times.
“Oh believe me, I’ve got stories,” he joked.
Starting from his garage in the Richmond area in the late 1980s, Blanton helped train local athletes in the offseason.
“We had athletes coming by and we were packed. But the neighborhood … well the cars got a little out of hand,” he joked about the traffic rolling up to his house back then.
In the early ’90s, Blanton moved the business to a space on the St. Christopher’s campus. About six years ago, he moved it again to the Shrader Drive space. But then OrthoVirginia bought Advanced Orthopedics and Blanton said his new landlord had other plans for the 10,500-square-foot space Total Training occupied.
Blanton said there were no hard feelings over the latest move and it gave Total Training its own space for the first time since the garage.
He said he’s never advertised the business and has grown thanks to word of mouth. He has coached athletes ranging from high school to professional, including track-and-field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. And Total Training coached Cheta Emba, a Glen Allen native who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics for the U.S. women’s rugby team.
Total Training has three certified strength coaches in addition to Blanton. Monthly memberships start at $80.
Wilson Flohr of Porter Realty Co. represented Total Training in lease negotiations.
At age 69, Blanton said he chooses to keep two full time jobs – running Total Training and coaching at St. Christopher’s – because he enjoys watching his athletes get better.
“I do this as a service to others. I’m not trying to make millions of dollars,” he said. “It’s a way to give back for my athletic career and where it got me. It may sound corny but that’s why I do it.”
He even still finds time to get in a lift every now and then.
“It takes me a bit longer to recover now,” he said.