The Sports Club/LA’s Kevin Mullins lunges for glory in ‘The Next Top Trainer’


The call went out to buff dudes across the country. Men’s Health is on the hunt for new talent — someone well versed in exercise science, instruction and motivation, and who looks good while putting it all together. In other words, the magazine hopes to find “The Next Top Trainer.”

“We want someone who’s an expert in everything,” says Adam Campbell, Men’s Health fitness director and one of three judges for the weekly Web series, which debuted Monday. (Find episodes at menshealth.com.) The reality-show-style competition dangles a coveted prize in front of its contestants: The winner will star in his own workout DVD, contribute to the magazine and score some cash.

And one of the eight guys in the running is Kevin Mullins, 25, a trainer and group exercise instructor at the District’s branch of the Sports Club/LA.

The strapping University of Maryland grad had only limited on-camera experience when he auditioned in New York two months ago. (“I had done some shirtless modeling in college — I was a favorite of art students,” he says.) But Mullins was well rehearsed, and appeared confident as he stepped in front of the panel to present his two-minute fitness challenge.

There were many ways to mess up, and many other guys did, Campbell says. If their form was off, they were dinged immediately. If their programming didn’t make sense, ditto.

“If you don’t know why you’re doing it, that’s a problem,” Campbell says.

Mullins, however, cleanly and clearly demonstrated his moves, which included a pushup with a knee tuck and a squat with a rotating press. Those compound movements are at the core of his personal fitness philosophy, so he was in his comfort zone.

The judges questioned whether he had enough years under his belt in the industry — nothing is more important than experience, Campbell says — but they were won over by his work ethic, energy level and education. In addition to having a degree in kinesiology and a personal trainer certification, Mullins is also a certified Olympic strength coach. Plus, he teaches group exercise classes, which translates well to a DVD, Campbell adds.

“I’m a student of fitness because I want to be able to handle any training situation,” Mullins says of his varied background. For his workouts, he keeps it interesting by changing things up — playing flag football on the Mall, alternating between rowing on an erg and kettle bell swings, or asking other trainers to kick his butt.

Viewers will see how that background holds up as Mullins and the other contestants take on a series of challenges. All eight episodes were filmed in New York in May over the course of a single week.

In Monday’s premiere, the guys got worked to exhaustion, and then needed to find the energy to step up and teach.

Future episodes feature equally telling tests, Campbell reveals. In one, they’re given a piece of fitness equipment and must show several ways to use it. In another, they’re tasked with completing as many variations on the pushup as possible. (Be prepared for some stunners, says Campbell, who’s still reeling from seeing one guy do a “flying pushup,” which involves pushing off so powerfully that you’re not touching the ground, and have time to spread out your arms and legs like you’re Superman before landing.)

It wasn’t easy, Mullin admits. But he wouldn’t have wanted it to be.

“Iron sharpens iron. By being around that experience, I got better,” says Mullins, who can’t reveal how he did. One trick he picked up? How to be so motivational that people “have no option but respond well to it,” he says.

Campbell wants viewers to learn a few things along the way as well. Trainers are normally seen as “meatheads,” he says, so he hopes this series, which emphasizes their knowledge base, can challenge that perception. And it’s an education for people who want to find a top trainer of their own. If you’re unsure of the person you’re working with, “Top Trainer” will provide smart questions to ask and skills to look for.

No one in D.C. needs to look too hard, however, Campbell says. He knows a guy.

Don’t Just Sit There

Anyone can watch Kevin Mullins on “The Next Top Trainer.” Members of the Sports Club/LA (1170 22nd St. NW; 202-974-6600, sportsclubla.com/dc) can also work out with him. In addition to private training, he teaches two classes: Athletic Interval (Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.) and Super Hero Workout (Fridays at 7 a.m.). Both will test your muscles and deliver results, he promises.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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