No one would mistake any of them for Rocky. In this ring, there's more huffing and puffing than bobbing and weaving.
This isn't a North Philly fight club. It's the Blitz, a fitness center for men in Springfield, Delaware County, that combines strength training, boxing, martial arts and cardiovascular exercise in one 20-minute workout. In less time than it takes to scarf down nachos and a beer, the guys complete three rounds of the 16 stations.
If the blueprint sounds familiar - single-gender circuit training at a lightning-quick pace - that's because the latest trend in men's gyms borrows heavily from Curves, the women's fitness phenomenon that has expanded to 10,000 locations in 44 countries since 1992.
Facilities such as Cuts Fitness and the Blitz believe that men of a certain age are after a time-efficient workout in a supportive environment where their less-than-buff bodies aren't judged by the midriff-baring blonde at the next treadmill.
"There are no muscle-building guys hogging machines, and no women that the guys have to hold their stomachs in for," joked Mike Hayes, who opened a Cuts Fitness for Men in Medford 18 months ago.
"It's like Cheers. You walk in, and everybody knows you," Hayes said.
Such corner-gym camaraderie has spurred growth of the centers, which resemble traditional suburban women's gyms, except for a few testosterone touches like punching bags and stacked weights. Some feature the ultimate guy must-have: 100-inch projection TVs to watch while working out.
"Somebody always has a mother-in-law joke going around," said Hayes, who sold McDonald's and Manhattan Bagel franchises to open his Cuts.
The nonthreatening atmosphere appeals to men who haven't worked out since Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr. Universe . . . or ever.
Kurtz, a 55-year-old DJ with an average-Joe physique, was always intimidated by the idea of going to a gym. At the Blitz, where preening is as rare as a mirror, he said, "I felt very comfortable."
"There's no competition. Everybody is doing the exact same thing," Kurtz, of Clifton Heights, said before buckling down to the rowing machine.
He expected to work out three times a week. Instead, he goes to the Blitz almost every day and says he has never felt better. Kurtz signed up his son, and his 9-year-old daughter takes a kids' boxing class.
Express operations accounted for much of the growth in health clubs in the last 10 years and now represent about a third of the nation's 29,000 fitness facilities, said Brooke Correia, of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.
The trend is driven by gym novices - the "deconditioned," in fitness speak - who consider the facilities a nonintimidating first step, said Correia. Clients tend to be a bit older and more time-pressed than traditional gym-goers.
"It's a worry-free zone," she said.
A recent newsletter published by Harvard Medical School warned that express programs often skimp on aerobic activity and stretching. Any exercise is better than none, the authors conceded. But in the battle to prevent disease and weight gain, they wrote, "quickie workouts are shortcuts that most Americans can't afford to take."
Dedicated members who grow bored with the circuit program - which calls for the same moves each visit - or who reach a plateau may feel the need to join a full-service club, Correia said.
Cuts, based in Clark, N.J., was founded in May 2003 by a fitness-machine marketer who now has 85 franchises in five countries.
The Blitz, of Apollo Beach, Fla., was established the same year. At 250 locations worldwide, it was recently named the largest and fastest-growing men's fitness franchise by Entrepreneur 500 magazine.
Members of the compact, no-frills clubs spend 30 to 40 seconds at stations, alternating resistance training with cardiovascular work. A bell alerts them to move on and eliminates the wait for machines. The Cuts program is 10 minutes longer than the Blitz's.
An employee is always around to help out, but there are no showers or lockers. Cuts and Blitz members pay an initiation fee of about $100 and $30 to $40 a month.
With its boxing theme and martial arts, the Blitz seeks to distinguish itself from Curves, said its founder, Scott Smith, who formerly owned several women's facilities.
The reason is simple, Smith said. "Men are men."
Tom and Wendy Zebley, Springfield residents so toned they could be mistaken for trainers, opened their Blitz on Baltimore Pike last year after seeing the success that friends had had with Curves and Ladies Workout Express franchises.
Tom Zebley is a boxer, trained in martial arts. The Blitz workout, he said, is as grueling as anything he's done.
While some appreciate the vibe of the men's clubs, more members say they like how quick the workout is, said Steven Haase, managing director of Cuts. He estimated that 60 percent of Cuts' members had never worked out before.
"Most guys with tires don't feel comfortable going to a gym where there are muscle heads, and the trainers ignore you," Haase said. A lot of the exercise-phobic are encouraged by their wives or girlfriends.
Bassetti, 46, of Drexel Hill, falls into that category. His wife, who goes to Curves, "hounded" him to go to a gym, he said.
"You're getting older, putting on a little weight," he said she told him.
But time was a factor for the warehouse manager and father of three. At the Blitz, he works out three times a week after his shift.
The gyms rely so much on the nag factor that the Cuts at Pineland Plaza in Medford offers members of a nearby Curves $29.95 - one month's fee - if they get their men to sign up.
After all the nagging, the fellas say they enjoy having a gym of their own.
"No offense to women, but you can joke and say things different," said Guy Vadala, 76, of Tabernacle, who was skipping rope in the center of the gym.
And there's another benefit, said Steve Kurtz: At the Blitz, "I can come looking like a slob."
Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8123 or email@example.com.