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NBA Workout: Gorilla in Their Midst

The Suns' mascot may train tougher than any player on the team

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The Gorilla, mascot of the Phoenix Suns jumps through a ring of fire and makes a basket.
The Gorilla, mascot of the Phoenix Suns jumps through a ring of fire and makes a basket.
John W. McDonough/SI
"The Gorilla" pulls a hummer with a rope and belt around his waist as part of his workout
Jason Wise/SI

By Andrew Lawrence

When Gorilla isn't dunking through fiery hoops or rappelling from atop US Airways Center, the Phoenix Suns' famously acrobatic mascot -- played for 18 seasons by Bob Woolf, now 41 -- is being flogged into shape by his taskmaster and father-in-law, Andy Bauman, 64. The former Boston private investigator and martial arts expert has a regimen that strays far from convention. Gorilla's odd-looking drills (which he does in full costume, in no set order) and strange props are meant to build strength in his core and lower body while elevating his heart rate. The randomness is key. "In this job," Woolf says, "you never know what you'll need to pick up, throw over your shoulders and run up stadium stairs with." Here, a sampling of one of Gorilla's thrice-weekly workouts.


Gear A hanging, 20-foot-high cargo net, unmoored at the bottom.

Action Climb from floor to ceiling at full speed. Do two or three times. For added difficulty wear a 40-pound weight vest.

Works Arms, upper body, cardiovascular system.

Gorilla's take "It works all my body parts together. With the net loose on the bottom, it helps with your core balance too."


Gear A hanging, 80-pound bag.

Action Hang upside down, wrapping feet around the top of bag, ankles crossed behind chain. Do three sets of 12 ab crunches. For added resistance, hold a 12-pound medicine ball against chest.

Works Core, and inside and outside of legs (from squeezing the bag).

Gorilla's take "It really doesn't look like a groin exercise, but you end up working everything from your ankles to your groin just by trying to hang on to that bag."


Gear One 8,600-pound H2, a utility belt (similar to a workout belt, with a metal loop in back), three feet of inch-thick rope.

Action With Bauman behind the wheel, Gorilla hooks the rope onto the back of the belt and ties it onto the truck's front bumper. Bauman shifts into neutral. Leading with his right foot, Gorilla pumps his legs forward to pull the truck. If he gets into a rhythm, Bauman disrupts it with a gentle tap of the brake. Gorilla goes around the block, about 3/4 of a mile in 20 minutes.

Works Quads, calves, hamstrings, back.

Gorilla's take "After about 10-15 steps, your body is wiped. It wipes out your legs faster than any exercise I've ever done with Andy."


Gear A 25-pound log, four feet long, five inches in diameter.

Action Hold log on shoulders. With feet shoulder width apart, jump onto a two-foot-high box or platform. Step down backward. Three sets of 25.

Works Calves, quads and hamstrings, cardio system.

Gorilla's take "It's a standard plyometric exercise, but Andy has to throw in some bulkiness [the log]. He wants it to be uncomfortable. It tests your concentration too."


Gorilla guzzles more than six quarts of water daily to offset the five to seven pounds he loses during a Suns game. He also follows a diet, overseen by his wife, Malarie, that is light on carbs and heavy on organic fruits and vegetables. "She does the shopping," says Gorilla, "I do the eating." Here's a game-day menu.

BREAKFAST (11 a.m.) A two-egg-white burrito with cheese and salsa on a whole-wheat tortilla; one bowl of oatmeal, with steel-cut oats, which is high in fiber.

LUNCH (2 p.m.) One bowl of organic free-range grilled chicken and whole-grain rice. "I can't eat much too close to game time. I'll feel too heavy."

SNACK (afternoon) A banana and a spoon of peanut butter. "I grind the peanuts myself. Also, at the movies I'll have Milk Duds."

DINNER (midnight) Bowl of wild lettuce, spinach, albacore tuna, free-range chicken, strawberry balsamic vinaigrette and poppy seed dressing. "I eat, launder my suit and go to bed about two."

Issue date: April 10, 2006