Alpha, expanded

Kathy Hankins

Photo by Josh Cozine

Kathy Hankins has long been active in the fitness world. For years, she attended classes and even helped build workout programs at other gyms. Then, in 2007, she opened Alpha Strong Gym in Chico. As if 10 years wasn’t enough of a milestone, this past April, she had to move to a larger space to accommodate increasing membership. At Alpha Strong, Hankins stresses safety and community building as much as achieving visible results. Phones get left at the door and there are no TVs or other screens to distract, facilitating conversation and helping to build relationships. That’s part of what keeps people coming back, Hankins says. She offers specialized programs based on skill level, desired intensity and personal goals, making the gym approachable to everyone. Hankins also developed her own line of gym equipment, including weight bags made of ballistic nylon and filled with sand, which were so popular they spawned Alpha Strong Equipment in 2010—now they’re sold worldwide. Hankins has been featured in several magazines, including GQ and Men’s Fitness. Find Alpha Strong at 977 East Ave., or online at

What are some of your most popular programs?

The most popular program that we have is called Warrior: Body Transformation. We have probably 200 people in that program. We have a beginner’s group, an intermediate group and an advanced group, so anyone can come, no matter what your physical fitness level is. We also have the Alpha Moms program, which is a really unique program, where the moms literally wear their babies as the weight to transform their bodies after birth, to get their strength back, be able to meet other mothers, and be able to bring their babies and not have to leave them in daycare.

Can you tell me about your specialized equipment?

It’s a “live-weight” system—basically sandbags you fill—but they have built-in handles and they’re made of a bulletproof-vest material, so they’re very durable. We sell them all over the world. I would say the risk of using our equipment is so minimal that I could count how many times somebody has been hurt in the last 12 years on my fingers—and usually those are from prior injuries. Our equipment is used in chiropractic offices [and] rehabilitation centers for sports injuries.

What is your favorite part about owning a gym in Chico?

The fact that you’re so involved with the community and really helping the community to become more fit, healthier. And just all the relationships that you make has been a huge thing for me.

What’s been your most rewarding moment or experience?

I kinda feel like every moment here is pretty rewarding. Probably just the fact that you’re changing people’s lives every day, and not just changing their lives, but [also] the way they think about living. Strength is a big deal. I feel like sometimes it’s the best job in the world—if there is such a thing, right?