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Big John's Gym opens in DL

Big John Whitaker opened his unique strongman gym on March 1.1 / 2
Retired professional boxer Chris Holt is joining forces with Big John to expand boxing and MMA interest in the Detroit Lakes area.2 / 2

Calling all "Rocky" fans...

Detroit Lakes is now home to a strongman gym that's enough to make you call out for "Adrian."

"Big John" just busted open the doors to his new training facility on March 1.

You will not see a brand new, high-tech, state of the art facility with saunas and Jacuzzis.

Big John's is a hard-core, no-pampering-here, go-cry-somewhere-else, kind of place.

"I wanted my gym to have things other gyms don't offer; you won't find another place like this north of the cities," says Big John.

Full of strongman and power lifting equipment, Big John's fits into the type of fitness regimen boxers, football players, and MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters look for.

A look around this man-cave gym and you will see nothing but primitive-looking equipment, such as arm wrestling tables, giant stones, kegs, battling ropes, dragon sleds, lifting logs, and super yokes.

If you know what any of these things are, this place is probably for you.

If you don't, Big John will teach you.

This muscle man's personality is anything but scary, as he plans on "lifting" the abilities and confidence of young people with a youth program this summer.

The strength and conditioning program will be for boys and girls 12 years old or older who want to take their bodies to the next level as they gear up for sports.

"We'll take them down to the beach for training, then back up here for a couple days," says Big John, "I already have the training plans all written up."

Big John, or John Paul Witaker, lived in Detroit Lakes as a child.

He moved away to Lisbon, N.D., when he was 9 years old.

He grew to have brute strength, which won him five Minnesota and North Dakota state titles and one national title in power lifting.

Now, at 31 years old, Whitaker is opening up his kind of gym in his kind of town.

"It was the right location (for my gym), the right sized town. I know people, and I'm comfortable here."

Loving what he does will come in handy, too, as this entrepreneur will be able to use his own business as a place to train for Strong Man Competitions.

"I've won the competitions in Fargo, one in Wisconsin, and now I am training for one in Minnesota this summer."

Big John isn't alone in his quest to train himself and others at his gym.

Born and raised in Detroit Lakes, Chris Holt, is a retired professional boxer and certified personal trainer who just happens to run his boxing program in the space above Big John's Gym.

The two friends and fellow athletes are joining forces to help each other with training programs.

"I've been down here working out, and was like, 'this is what I'm talking about,'" said Holt.

"Together I think we'll really be able to expand the sport of boxing and MMA around here. I think people have wanted to train for them, they just haven't had a place like this to do it."

But Whitaker and Holt aren't only interested in training big, burley men with their eye on a trophy.

"It's for anybody -- men, women. If you just want to switch up your routine and do something that you don't normally do, you can come here or a different kind of workout." says Holt.

The price to work out at Big John's is far below what most gyms charge, with youth rates at $13 a month, adults $22 a month, and family $32 a month (when signing up for at least two months).

"We can charge less because we don't have all the bells and whistles that drive up the price," says Big John.

"I'm not going to lie. We don't have showers," he laughs.

Whitaker also says he is willing to give a discount to people who are training for a sport.

"If you are training for a triathlon, basketball, football -- any sport, talk to me and I will work with you."

Big John's gym is located at 620 West Main Ave. Detroit Lakes.

To find out more, call Big John at 218-844-5858.