Allen has been actively involved in mixed martial arts since his late teens and has spent the past decade continually honing and bettering his skills, which has taken him all across the state.
“I couldn’t compete competitively until I was 18 in the state for mixed martial arts. I couldn’t find the training I needed here, so I moved to Nashville. Around 16 or 17 years old I began training for MMA,” Allen explained. “One of the first places I went to train was with Shawn Hammonds in Nashville. That is where I really picked up my jujitsu roots, which is kind of what I am known for in my fighting game these days. At some point in there I ended up making the transition to Memphis, to train with Memphis Judo & Jiu-Jitsu.”
His travels across the state exposed Allen to all kinds of workout philosophies, which ultimately led to his interest in becoming a personal trainer.
“I think a lot of it started with the fighting and looking to peak athletically,” Allen reflected. “It took me on a big adventure through nutrition and athletic development before I found the methodology that I portray in the gym. The fighting definitely put me in the atmosphere that I needed to be in to develop as a coach and a teacher.”
A rather serious injury forced Allen, whose pro record stands at 2-1 for V3 Fights in Memphis, to put his fighting career on hold.
The negative situation became a positive one though, and provided Allen with the time needed to establish his own gym in South Cleveland, Manifest Strength and Conditioning.
“Being from here, I definitely want to provide Cleveland with a strong community base within the fitness community. I feel that Cleveland is very active and there is a fitness community here — I want to be one of the supporting gyms that help to develop that more. People need better coaching, better training and better health.”
Manifest opened in late 2013, and as the name suggests, is based on strength and conditioning training. The gym is owned and operated by Allen and his fiancé, Caitlin Walsh.
“We’ve been open since November 2013 and our focus is on functional training. There is a lot of kettle bell work, basic gymnastics and even yoga. The goal is to get everyone involved in the strength program to develop more muscle to support the joints and such,” Allen stated. “The gym we are running now is basically a strength conditioning and MMA-based gym. Our goal is to raise money to become CrossFit affiliated and work with more schools and businesses alike that want to incorporate a healthier lifestyle for staff and youth.”
While CrossFit garners either a very positive or very negative reaction from most people, Allen feels that before an opinion can be correctly formed, one must first try it.
“The biggest thing I would say is to get out there and try it. You can try any of the local CrossFit gyms we have now,” the CrossFit Level 1 certified Allen commented. “Our approach is a lot different, so I encourage people to go out and try all the gyms to see what community they fit with the best. I’m a little bit more protective over my athletes than I feel some of the young-gun CrossFit gyms are.”
Before working with someone, Allen first finds out their injury history and then puts them through a free fitness assessment.
“When someone comes in that door we want to know their injury history, their sports background and any problematic areas so that we can use a more therapeutic approach to getting better symmetry with the anatomy. We want knees, ankles and back functioning properly and we utilize mobility and other techniques to get that out of them. It’s a science-based approach and is very evidence based,” Allen explained. “After the assessment they have the option of going through the fundamentals course, which gets them up to speed on getting in shape for the class and with the movements. I’m a fan of old-fashioned scaling. Everyone is working, but to scale with what they needed to work on [in their] movement.”
Mobility is one important aspect Allen feels is commonly overlooked by gym-goers.
“The old school way of static stretching right before the activity is dead and anyone who is still doing that needs to seek out continued education,” Allen declared. “I consider mobility a step up from physical therapy. It better prepares you for the activities to come — we are seeking full range of motion from the body, and are teaching that day in and day out.”
The 26-year-old coach and gym owner has worked with all different types of age groups, from young children to the elderly.
“I would say that the most beneficial thing is the personal relationships that you develop with your clientele. Being able to help people and see physical and even emotional changes in them are the biggest rewards you can get,” Allen explained. “I’ve worked with 3-year olds to grandparents and have had them do incredible things. We’re trying to develop a lifestyle here and are able to scale and progress just about everyone. The kind of person that I would have to say couldn’t do it would be a person who is un-coachable to the point that they are unwilling to change their circumstances outside of the gym so that we can be effective with our program here.”
While Allen keeps busy with Manifest and is in the process of getting back into the MMA circuit in August, one of his main passions in life is the ability to work with and positively impact youth in the Cleveland area.
“Going into some of the gyms earlier on and getting to see younger kids with that innocence in their training just working hard, seeing their work ethic come out and watching them develop, is really uplifting and inspirational. I definitely have a place in my heart for working with youth. Seeing that fire in such a young kid’s eyes is huge and a big step,” Allen reflected. “I definitely think that we can bring more security to (lowering) the risk of injury in sports. Everywhere you look there is another camp or something to keep kids active, but unfortunately it’s active in a sport-specific way. Sports are a great way to test athleticism, but I think we can all agree that sport-specific training has lacked good athletic development for decades. I think CrossFit and strength conditioning alike are the new evolution of fitness.”
Ultimately, the fitness and MMA enthusiast has a number of ideas as to what he would like to see Manifest Strength and Conditioning transition into.
“My roots are in MMA, so I like the idea of managing a team. I like the idea of pushing competitive athletes, whether it’s through weight lifting or MMA. I’m actually looking to start our first MMA class and I plan on putting out an invite to interview for two possible spots that Manifest would sponsor training for, for the first competitors on our MMA team. There will be tryouts for that in the near future,” Allen commented. “I look at the gym as the first of my paintings. I’m hoping to turn this into a training center that offers everything from CrossFit, strength and conditioning and also be able to run larger programs for larger facilities. It’s a lifestyle that we are teaching people. We’re not just selling them a membership.”
For more information about Manifest Strength and Conditioning, visit www.facebook.com/ManifestStrengthandConditioning or call 423-310-5647.