Hinds, whose career has spanned decades and dozens of people, seen here with Oscar-nominated actor Liam Neeson
Courtesy Bobby Hinds
“There’s Burt Reynolds,” Hinds points out, walking me down the hallway. “Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers. There’s Tony Dorsett presenting one of my jump ropes to Jimmy Carter. Here’s Sylvester Stallone. His brother, Frank. Hugh Hefner.” And on it goes, including a few items from stars of more recent eras, like a guitar belonging to U2’s Bono and some snapshots of Bruce Springsteen, a personal client of Hinds’ son, Jon. (Hinds and Joy, his wife of 60 years, have two sons and two daughters, all grown.) Jon Hinds runs Monkey Bar Gymnasium, a national chain that uses rubber tubing in its training. “Jon never touches weights,” Hinds says, “but he’s a super-strong guy.”

Boom! Hinds interrupts our trip down his illustrated memory lane to grab onto two foam handles that are affixed to the top of a closed door. “This is one of my newest products,” he says as he pulls himself up, and then, descending: “You can put these on any door.” Ascending again: “You don’t need to install a chin-up bar.”

This sales-pitching-and-pulling continues for a while until Hinds finally lowers himself to the floor. He’s breathing harder now, but he’s still talking. “Let me show you this other thing.” It’s the Pullup Revolution, a sort of stirrup that attaches to a chin-up bar that Hinds is using to swing until he’s almost horizontal. He jumps down and gives me a look that indicates I can give it a try too. Wary of falling and breaking a hip, I pass.

SHAPE UP! Hinds does a variety of exercises to keep fit, including pushups and shadowboxing.
Photography by David Nevala
So Hinds moves on to demonstrate a portable gym that involves some rubber tubing, a waist belt and a tiny door attachment. “With this you can do resisted lunges,” he says while doing resisted lunges, “or use it as a treadmill,” he says, jogging forward and backward and sideways, all while being pulled by the tubing. “You get concentric resistance and eccentric resistance. And it’s all small enough to carry with you anywhere or use in a small space.”

He detaches the belt and grabs a chest expander, which is composed of two plastic handles attached to a few strands of rubber tubing. Hinds pulls it apart several times, though not without some effort. Then he hands it to me. Why am I the one worried I might not be able to pull this chest expander apart? Why isn’t Hinds throwing out his back during all these incredible feats of strength? Why is he now selling a combination hardware-software product called KayO that helps people in rehabilitation facilities use rubber-tubing resistance to recover from injuries instead of suffering from them himself?

“I’ve always put in the work,” he explains. “I run the stairs in my condo building twice a week. It’s 14 floors. I go up forward, backward and sideways. And I use my products. I’m not isolating muscles like you do with weights. I’m always working my whole body. So I gain muscle, but I don’t sacrifice speed.”

Then he gets back to concentric and eccentric and hands me a pile of research he’s got in his office drawers that explains the benefits of functional fitness and body-weight training and the like. But there’s just one word in all of it that matters: Work. Bobby­ Hinds may be a showman and a salesman, but he’s not selling quick-fix, easy solutions. Yes, his products are simple and inexpensive, but they require hard work to produce results — the kind of hard work Hinds has done all his life. “Because of the way I grew up, I’ve always felt like I had to work twice as hard as the next guy to succeed,” he says. “If you told me you have to run a mile a day to get in shape, I’d run two.”

You’d think a man whose mother suffered from polio and whose father suffered from alcoholism, a man who attended 14 different schools and lived in as many houses between first grade and high school graduation, would be jaded, bitter and maybe even a little (or a lot) dysfunctional. But those who know Hinds say he’s generous and has always been full of life.

For that, Hinds credits many people, including, surprisingly, his troubled father, who died from his addiction at age 48. “My dad would just keep drinking and drinking and drinking until all the money was gone and we couldn’t pay the rent and would have to go on relief,” he says. “But he wasn’t a mean person.”

Hinds recalls a time when his father, just released from prison, saw a derelict fall in the street. His father helped the man up, walked him to a restaurant and paid the owner to feed the man using all the money he had on him — just $1. Tears well in his eyes when he’s done telling the story, and the man they once called Gabby is unable to say anything. Finally, he chokes out, “A lot of people have been very kind to me to help me get where I am. I’ve had a fantastic life.” 

JOSEPH GUINTO, a freelancer in Washington, D.C., has taken a cue from Hinds and is now climbing the three flights of stairs to his office going sideways and backward.