For a man who came into the public eye on a TV show that’s long been canceled, it’s interesting to see that his biggest fans are young. For every 40- or 50-something who lined up to see him make a booth appearance at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, OH, in March, there were a half dozen teenagers and 20-year-olds. The contrast is just as stark at a group training session held a few blocks away from the expo at Metro Fitness.
There, a group of seven young men and one man in his 40s are gathered around O’Hearn, who is dressed in red denim jeans, black loafers, a snow cap, and a “Titan Tour 2015” baseball T-shirt bearing his power bodybuilding logo—the letters “PB” stuffed inside a Superman crest.
Finishing up a tutorial on squatting, O’Hearn says, “OK. One at a time on the platform.” He observes each guy, pointing out flaws in technique and holding nothing back. The personalized attention comes at a price; as one guy gets his pointers, the rest wait a considerable amount of time. From the outside, it seems like a nuisance. The clients, though, each of whom plunked down $250 for the session, unanimously say it’s money well spent.
“It’s absolutely worth it,” says Jacob Pauley of Nicholasville, KY, who made the trip just to train with O’Hearn. “I trust what he says more than most other fitness icons. He’s a four-time Natural Mr. Universe, and not many guys are natural. Something’s obviously working for him if he’s in his 40s and still squatting 700 pounds.”
On this Saturday afternoon, Metro Fitness is crammed with Arnold Sports Festival attendees getting in a workout before the bodybuilding finals that night. Moving around the gym is as tough as navigating the expo floor, which is to say nearly impossible. When O’Hearn’s group commandeers a power rack for deadlifting, the two enormous meatheads who had been working in the area—and momentarily stepped away—return to find they’ve lost their spot. Their looks are grave, and they seem eager to jump in and give Titan a piece of their minds. One grabs O’Hearn by the arm.
“Hey, man, do you mind?” the guy asks—then produces a cell phone, “if I get a picture?”
The session goes on for more than three hours. Some of the guys specifically want help with their form. Others pick his brain for diet advice as they prepare for bodybuilding shows. The nuts and bolts of training, though, aren’t the main attraction. It’s clear that the group—and everyone else in the gym—just wants to spend time with him. The ever-growing fan base, O’Hearn says, is due in a big way to social media.
“Social media’s allowed people to come into my life a bit,” O’Hearn says. “With all the columns I’ve done, it was all about this barbaric dude who has no limits and attacks everything. But when my dog Bunny died, and I was unafraid to share that—and other un-alpha moments like that—people really responded. I had guys coming up to me at the expo saying they were from India, or Dubai, or all these far corners of the world—and telling me they were praying for me when that happened. They sat in line just so they could say, ‘I was crying when you were crying.’ That was pretty special.”
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