There are a few things every serious bodybuilder has to do before he or she is able to rightfully claim being hardcore—they need to check off a "hardcore to-do list" so to speak.
I'm talking about things like getting super-shredded during a contest diet and gaining back almost 30 pounds within two days once the show is over; throwing up all over the gym floor after a super-intense set of squats or deadlifts; or watching every one of Arnold´s movies at least 15 times. You get the idea.
Everybody will have different ideas about what belongs on the list, and I'll admit that I'm far from being able to say I've been there, done that like many of our sport´s veterans. But thanks to my sponsor, Universal Nutrition, I got to scratch a big one off my bucket list recently: working out where one of my greatest heroes built his all-time best physique.
I'm talking about six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates' Temple Gym in Birmingham, England. This is the dungeon in which "The Shadow" built the incredibly massive and freaky physique that would change the standards for size and conditioning in professional bodybuilding forever. This was where he filmed Blood and Guts, the classic black-and-white training video that taught the last few generations of bodybuilders what "hardcore" really means.
A Pilgrimage To Temple Gym
Into The Underworld
We were on day three of the Universal Road Trip through the United Kingdom, and so far it had been a fun journey filled with the normal sights, a couple of solid training sessions in London's classic hardcore gyms, and eating platefuls of chicken and salad while everyone around us enjoyed fish and chips. But everybody on the team could sense that today was going to be something special.
After a great day at the BodyPower Expo, we fueled up with a good lunch and jumped in our van heading to the Birmingham city center. There, in a little backstreet just around the corner from the train station, we found it: Temple Gym.
"Dorian Yates built an incredibly massive and freaky physique at Temple Gym. Yates changed the standards for size and conditioning."
It's a basement facility with only one little sign marking the entrance. You almost have to know it's there or you'll pass by without noticing. I ran ahead of the group and saw the blood-red door open. A flight of steep, dark steps led down into Dorian's holy dungeon, and as I walked down into the yellow light, I could hear my heartbeat and the hard rock music both getting louder and faster.
The rest of the crew arrived, and before we started our workout, we thoroughly examined every dirty little corner of the gym, taking numerous pictures to document our experience. Everything was better than I had imagined it. Pictures of Dorian covered the walls along with his Olympia medals, but otherwise, it's just a concrete floor, no AC or heating unit, and no other fancy BS. Just heavy weights, the basic machines, and a hell of an atmosphere. This is the sort of place that never changes, but the athletes who train there definitely do.
Backs to The Wall
We all trained back. What else are you going to hit when you´re in Temple Gym? And we hit it hard, using the exact same routine Dorian performs in Blood and Guts. We starting with the Nautilus pull-over machine, followed by underhand grip Hammer Strength pull-downs, barbell rows, Hammer Strength seated rows, and deadlifts. I'm sure I used less weight than Dorian did almost 20 years ago, but it was still one of the best workouts of my life.
"At Temple Gym, we all trained the exact same back routine Dorian performs in Blood and Guts. And we hit it hard."
The only thing that could have made it better would have been to have Dorian himself scream at me while I was doing the last few reps on a set of bent-over rows. Sadly, he wasn't there that day, but Josh Landry, my fellow Universal athlete, was a pretty good stand-in. Luckily, it all came full circle when I met Dorian the next day at the Expo and was able to get my picture taken with him.
So, let me check what's next on the list…