It’s 38 degrees on a quiet Brooklyn morning, and the winds are gusting at ten miles per hour, but that doesn’t deter Michael Chernow, a 38-year-old restaurateur, from getting out of bed.
The co-owner of both the Meatball Shop and Seamore’s, a three-year-old sustainable-seafood chain, never misses a workout—and he’s not about to start.
He likes to arrive at Equinox by 5:30 a.m. for his workout—the one chance he has all day, he says, to be in complete control of his life. His feet get him there faster than the subway, so he throws on a long-sleeved shirt, locks his door, and then begins the same ten-minute, one-mile jog he’s done for years—rain, shine, or blizzard. “It’s the fastest way to get to the gym,” he says between breaths.
Today, it’s prelude to 90 minutes of exercises focused on his back and abs, including cable rows, pullups, hanging leg raises, and something called a “Meadows row.” They’re muscle-building moves, because Chernow’s prepping for his first bodybuilding competition, a physique show this spring. But his overall fitness goal is about more than being swole. Every workout is the ultimate way to offset an uncontrollable day with ordered reps and sets. “This is my opportunity to get in, do what I want to do,” he says. “I can go as hard as I want, or take it slow.”
His workout inoculates him against the chaos. A lack of exercise paired with his job’s dynamic nature can turn him into a “basket case,” he says. He’s constantly dealing with rapid-fire issues: Blackened fish or shrimp in next month’s tacos? Red or blue napkins? What kind of protein-packed orbs should they add to the Meatball Shop’s menu?
When he opened the Meatball Shop in 2010 and couldn’t train regularly, all the insanity frustrated him. “I once got angry and threw a trash can onto the street,” he says.
Chernow’s solution: If he couldn’t fit in a session before work, he’d bring the gym to work. He started banging out 60 to 75 pushups in the bathroom every hour or so. And he said no to a morning subway commute to instead run across the Brooklyn Bridge with his work clothes in his backpack. It was enough to get him through a few months.
That has all calmed down recently, so Chernow has his morning workouts back. But he still sneaks in slices of routine at work, eating the same kale-and-avocado salad with fish five days a week.
He doesn’t throw anything around these days, either, pouring all his focus into his morning sweat. He arrives at the gym armed with a workout he keeps in his iPhone notes, usually from a six- or eight-week training plan he got off the web. He’ll swap out programs every few months, looking for routines that “beat me into the ground, murder me,” he says.Surviving each session is a “small win,” a positive in an unpredictable day. “Working out is my way of feeling accomplished every day,” he says.
The workout ends the same way it started: with Michael Chernow in control, running home.
The Break of Brawn
Challenge your muscles and mind with Chernow’s 100-reps-per-move total-body crusher.
Do 100 total reps of each “a” move, resting as needed. Whenever you need to rest, do 15 reps of the “b” move in that pairing, and then immediately go back to the“a” move. Complete all 100 reps for each “a” move before moving on to the next. Choose weights you can handle comfortably.
1a. Dumbbell Bench Press
Lie faceup on a bench, holding dumbbells directly over your shoulders, arms straight. Bend at the elbows and shoulders, lowering the dumbbells until they’re an inch from your chest, then press back up. That’s 1 rep.
1b. Heels to Heaven
Lie faceup on the floor, legs straight, feet facing the ceiling. Tighten your core and push your hips toward the ceiling, keeping your legs perpendicular to the floor the whole time. Squeeze your abs, then return to the start. That’s 1 rep.
2a. Incline Bench Dumbbell Row
Place your chest and torso on a bench set to a 30-degree incline. Hold the dumbbells and let your arms hang naturally. This is the start. Row both dumbbells upward. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then lower both dumbbells. That’s 1 rep.
2b. Hanging Leg Raise
Hang from a pullup bar while maintaining light tension in your back muscles. This is the start.Keeping your legs straight, raise them until your thighs are parallel to the floor.Lower back to the start.That’s 1 rep. Struggling?Keep your knees bent during the set.
3a. Barbell Biceps Curl
Stand holding a barbell with an underhand grip, hands hip-width apart. Bend at the elbows, curling the barbell as high as you can; don’t let your torso rock back and forth as you do this. Lower the barbell to the start slowly. That’s 1 rep.
Lie faceup on the floor, arms straight. Plant your palms into the floor and lift your legs off the ground, trying to push your feet toward the ceiling. Lift your lower back as well; you’re trying to get as tall as possible in this position. Slowly return to the start. That’s 1 rep.
4a. Cable Woodchop
Grab the handle of a high-pulley cable machine with both hands and step away. Extend your arms. This is the start. Pull the handle toward your left knee; rotate your torso and bend your knees as you do this. Return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 50 per side.
4b. Russian Twist
Lie in a situp position, then lift your feet and lower back o the floor, hands in front of you. Without moving your legs, rotate your torso so your hands can touch the floor to the left. Rotate so your hands can touch the floor to the right. That’s 1 rep.
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