Mike Knight isn't a conventional personal trainer.
After a lifetime of sloth to build his body to Herculean proportions, Knight has helped transform people's lives and bodies. He has worked with pro hockey players, movie stars and average residents at Art of Strength, 6775 Daly Rd., the gym he co-owns.
With more than 400 clients, Art of Strength has boomed since opening in December 2009.
Trainer for the stars
Who uses Knight's training? Because of a relationship with a radio personality, Knight was introduced to several Detroit Red Wings players
Knight of Walled Lake was training Mojo, host of the Channel 955 radio program, "Mojo in the Morning." Mojo told an interested Red Wing Kris Draper about Art of Strength. Draper, who Knight called “the best athlete I’ve ever trained,” brought 13 other Red Wings to Art of Strength.
"Just two weeks in, Kris is now hitting his 9-iron from 150 (yards) to 165,” Knight joked. “He said, 'I don't care about hockey, I just care about my golf game.’ "
Knight trained actor Chris Hemsworth for his role as the title character in the major motion picture Thor, released in last month.
Knight’s relationship with Hemsworth began when Knight worked as an extra for the movie Red Dawn, released last March. Knight drew attention on the set for his physique and word spread about him as a physical trainer.
"The hair and makeup girls asked, 'Would you go to talk to Chris in the trailer?' and I talk to this guy for about half an hour,” said Knight of his initial conversation with the Australian-born Hemsworth. “At the end he says, 'Mate, do you mind if I have my trainer from LA call you?' and I said sure.”
"On December the 17th, (shooting for Red Dawn) ends and Chris looks at me and asks, 'What do you do for the holidays?' " Knight said. "(Hemsworth) says, 'What do you think about going to Australia? I want you to finish training me for the movie Thor.' "
Certified to train with kettlebells
What sets Knight apart? His workout doesn't need rows of treadmills or weight machines. Instead, kettlebells, black nylon ropes, tires and barbells line the gym walls.
All simple items when combined in a workout designed by Knight, leave even the most athletic of individuals gasping for breath in minutes.
"The kettlebell is probably one of the oldest, most powerful tools on the planet earth," Knight said. "You can see it in (historical) pictures and (modern) America doesn't justify it. It's the one tool — the heavier the weight, the safer it is. The only thing that compares to it is running a six minute mile or skiing uphill into a brisk wind."
While other gyms and trainers have worked with kettlebells, Knight is certified by trainer Anthony DiLuglio. Clients learn new things about the familiar tool.
A three-time All-American wrestler at the University of Michigan and a hopeful for the 2012 Olympic team, Josh Churella had some experience with kettlebells and circuit training. But before he starting working out at Art of Strength, he never realized the full potential of the kettlebell.
"I kind of knew what to expect, so what it was wasn't that eye opening," Churella said. "The most eye-opening experience was how bad my form was — he had a girl show me up. That was more eye opening, the proper form and technique required for the kettlebells."
‘Been to hell and back’
A former basketball player at Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prepatory, Knight wasn't always a fiend in the weight room. He was fined in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons for not lifting.
And while he started coaching and training after his basketball career, Knight got caught up in bad eating habits and poor lifestyle decisions, ending up more than 100 pounds overweight at 36-years-old.
But, Knight, now 50, conquered his problem. The transformation helps Knight connect with his clients, he said, turning the getting-into-shape experience into a more fun, fulfilling experience.
"How many trainers have been to hell and back?," Knight asked. "That's what most trainers will never have on me. So when I have a heavy person come into my gym, I show them my picture, and that's the first conversation we have. Unless you've been in those shoes emotionally, you have no idea what that person is going through."
For rates, class information, and more on Knight and Art of Strength, visit aoskettlebells.com.