Most Memorable Moment In The Gym
Andy: When I was younger, I did 8 reps of strict military presses at 415 pounds. Now that's not a whole lot, but I was a young kid. At the time, I just remember feeling blown away, knowing what I'd just accomplished. Later, I remember doing some big-ass leg presses of about 2100 pounds for 32 reps. After that, I had to lay down in the corner of the gym for a while.
Vinny: Yeah, leg day. I was training for the '93 USAs with my training partners Joey Caputo and Chris Barron at Strong And Shapely Gym, and no, it ain't no pussy gym. My last set of squats, 465/8 reps, drop set to 405/8 reps, drop set to 315/8 reps, drop set to 225/15 reps. Shit, I couldn't see straight. I do remember running to the toilet. I frigging threw up all over. It was a mess.
Joe: I've got tons of training moments, but for me, I'll never forget when I first joined a hardcore gym. I was 17, and being the youngest there, the big guys took me under their wings. Now when I train, I'm pretty quiet. Well, back then, the guys would get on my case about screaming before and during a set.
One night, during a set of dumbbell flyes, I tried screaming as I finished out my last two reps. Instead of sounding tough, what came of my throat sounded like a 13-year old girl who just saw a rock star. The entire gym broke out laughing. From that day on, I vowed never to scream again.
Worst Gym Memory
Schak: Without a doubt, it would have to be that day I was deadlifting. After my fourth set, around the third rep, I heard a pop and felt a sharp pain in my lower back. I didn't think much about it until the next morning when I realized I couldn't get my ass out of bed. A few tests and one MRI later, guess what, I've got two protruding disks and a pain that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. So I spent about ten days in the hospital. They put me in traction, which really sucked, and it probably made the pain worse instead of better.
Now here is the kicker. The "so-called" doctors, three of them to be exact, stood in my room right in front of me discussing my case. They couldn't agree on the treatment. They kind of argued about it. Surgery or no surgery? Medications or no medications? Manipulation or not? Now don't get me wrong but I'm lying in the bed listening to this crap and I can't help but think, "Get me the hell out of this friggin' joint cause these guys don't know what the deal is."
Well, I signed myself out against their wishes. It took eight months of inactivity before I was even able to walk again. The first place I walked to was right back into my gym. I did stay away from deadlifts for a while though. My back still hurts to this day, but I guess it's part of the hardcore game of bodybuilding.
Andy: Yeah, hardcore bodybuilding... Once, I ripped my bicep. I was cheat curling 275 for reps and it just tore. I heard a pop. It was a fibrous tear. My whole bicep turned blue and black the next day. I was out of commission for five months. The bicep hurt a lot more, but was less serious than when I tore my quad. I was doing legs, on my third exercise, squats. I was exhausted. I was on my 10th rep of 575 when I heard my quad tear. Man, it sounded like a grapefruit being ripped from the peel.
With a tear like this, the muscle rolls up. I remember seeing a huge knot at my hip, a ball of muscle. Couldn't walk. But I completed the squat with the tear. I had no choice. I don't use spotters, so I had to either dump the weight or finish. The hardest part was walking the weight back into the rack. Then, I vomited for 45 minutes uncontrollably. The doctors had to reattach the muscle surgically. They cut into my leg, rolled the muscle back down, and sutured it. I came back from that injury stronger than ever.
Look, I got a lot of injuries for a young guy. But when you put everything on the line, you know you're going to get hurt. When you handle heavy poundages, there are risks, even with strict form. That's the only way to get that heavy duty look. I could sit around and do cable pushdowns all day, but that's not what I'm after. Give a guy a choice, cable pushdowns or close-grip benches and 99 out of a 100, he'll pick the first. It's easier. You don't feel like your wrists are going to break. It's harder.
Schak: Bro, that's tough. Similar thing happened to a bud of mine who was doing squats. Both of his quad tendons detached from his knees. When a guy's tendons go, they actually tear through the quad muscles. Man, it was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. Here was this 250 pound guy screaming and crying, with both of his knees dangling at the sides of his legs. I mean, his knees were literally on the side of his legs, toward to the back.
When this happened, he couldn't even stand up. The good news is, after his operation and eight hard weeks of being bed-ridden and in a hip cast, he actually came back to the gym. He's in rehab now and walking again. Good luck, Bill.
Vinny: Alright, my story isn't as sick, but it was disgusting. Just last week, I did drop sets with squats and I threw up so hard the puke even came shooting out of my nose. That was sick. That was cool.
Best Bodybuilding Moment
Andy: The last two weeks before any show. When you diet, you see the changes that are taking place and it hits you all at once. How far you've come, how quickly. Dieting lets you take everything away and shows you all the details you fought for. It's awesome.
Vinny: I was doing a Weider photo shoot at the head office in California, and in walks Lou Ferrigno. Lou Ferrigno. "Holy shit," was all I could remember thinking. This is the "Incredible Hulk".
Joe: The moment they announced my name as the overall winner of the 1991 Mr. America. The previous year was incredibly difficult with family problems, financial issues, job issues, girlfriend problems, training problems. I got on the plane with no job and my last $50 in my pocket.
Even before the prejudging, my chief competitor's drunk brother tried to start a fight with me, and during prejudging I developed a severe stomach ailment. It culminated at that moment on-stage, where I was named Mr. America. I think if the contest was held one day later, I would have crashed both physically and mentally. The contest was held in Atlantic City, NJ, and my family was there, friends from California flew out to support me. The photo of me on-stage with my family and friends on-stage is great. There must be 100 people on the stage!
Schak: I'd have to honestly say it was meeting my current girlfriend, Dawn. She's totally supportive of what I do. She loves bodybuilding and training. She's a beautiful person. Thank you, baby! If you guys have anything to say about this, go to hell!
Andy: No way, man. A woman who supports a hardcore bodybuilder all the way is tough to find.
Joe: Amen to that.
Best Competition Moment
Vinny: I had just won the middleweight class at the USAs. I was so excited backstage, I started to cry. Up walks Paul Dillette. He smacks in hard on the back of the head. I was like, dude, Paul Dillette just smacked me. Awesome!
Joe: I know how it feels to win. My first bodybuilding show, the 1984 South Jersey Bodybuilding Championships. I'd been overweight my entire life, and even though I did well at powerlifting, that was a far cry from being on-stage in posing trunks. I remember being so nervous, I thought I'd throw up. The teen class was huge, and I was the very last to go out for my routine. I still have the video, and you can see the terrified look on my face until I hit my first pose. The audience went nuts. Then, this big, happy smile came over my face. I still remember how it felt, that very moment. It doesn't get any better than that.
Schak: No it doesn't. When I won Nationals on my first try, that was definitely cool. Winning Mr. Universe with a perfect score? Now that was friggin' incredible.
Andy: For me, the best moment is right before a show. You see what all the hard work has done, the weeks of dieting. Dieting let's you take everything away and it shows you all the details that you've fought so hard for. It's awesome.
Best Backstage Memory
Vinny: While pumping up backstage at the '93 USAs, Chris Faldo started pumping up like an hour before he needed to. We were all looking at him like he was fucking nuts. But that bastard got me all revved up and I was like a fireball by the time I got on stage.
Joe: You were definitely in the zone, my friend. At the 1991 Mr. America, after I won my class, feeling the confidence and momentum start to build inside me going into the posedown. My only thought was that I was going to go out there and show my best, and that I'd come so far, I wasn't going to go without a fight. People refer to it as being in the "zone", or in the moment. At that instant, I was. It almost seems like a dream now.
Schak: Yeah, you're right about that. One time, I was backstage at the Universe after pre-judging. I asked Jimmy Manion, who at that time was our team coach, if he thought I'd won the whole thing. He turned to me and said, "If you were to fall off the stage and break your leg in the finals, you'd still win the damn show." We still laugh about that today.
Andy: It was at the Metropolitan championships where I won the super heavys. I remember being in the pump up area. When the other competitors looked at me, I saw the look in their eyes. They knew it was all over. They were competing for second. I love that feeling, getting pumped up. Everything else just fades away. Just like a dream.
Andy: My favorite topic, heh heh. After the last show, I spent $85 at McDonald's. McNuggets. Multiple Filet 'O Fish sandwiches. Couple of bags of fries. I went nuts. I didn't go up the counter. I had a friend get my food. After a show, I don't want to know anybody or talk to anybody. After I'm fed, I'm a happy guy. I paced myself but I ate everything.
Vinny: A beer and Ring Dings. Oh, and throw a few Linzer tarts in there too, the round pastry with jelly in the middle and white powder on top.
Schak: You know, it's a toss up. Last year, it was ice cream. I can't tell you why because I don't really like ice cream, but I ate it for three weeks straight after my show. At one point, my training buddies thought I was pregnant, for crissakes. Go figure. Well, after my next show, I'll see what it's gonna' be.
Joe: A gigantic iced Tea and a hunk of cheesecake.
Vinny: Hardcore is a guy who works hard. He trains smart and never misses a meal. He's a guy who is absolutely dedicated. A "freak", on the other hand, is someone who eats like shit and trains like shit, and is still a freak. He looks fucking great no matter what he does.
Schak: Yeah, a freak can just look at the weights and grow. He's got the genetics. A hardcore attitude can definitely make up some ground though. Hardcore is old time, old school bodybuilding.
Andy: Hardcore is a compliment. It means you've achieved something that others can only dream about. You give up everything. Everything. You get used to pain. You train through injuries. You give up a normal life. It takes you two hours just to make your meals everyday. And there are no shortcuts. I remember one time, this one light heavy actually competed with synthol and blood oozing out of his shoulder. It was a mockery of bodybuilding.
Sure, freakiness and size is great. But if you're a bag of oil, I'm not impressed. Anyone can get a bottle of oil and shoot up. Anyone can buy size in a bottle. But let's see the guy who's big and hard, day in and day out. Achieving that consistency takes some serious training. What separates a champion from everyone else is a work ethic. You can't buy that. That's hardcore.
Joe: Hardcore is an attitude. It's not screaming in the gym. It's not wearing tank tops in forty degree weather. It's not about excuses why you can't squat. It's not being an a-hole to other guys in the gym who are smaller than you. Its not about spitting or throwing weights around. Its about intensity and dedication. It's about going into the gym and getting the job done. No excuses. It's about the way you think: iron is no match for you. It's about dreaming of the next workout when you've just finished your current one. It's staying hungry, always wanting more. It's about punishing the weights.
Favorite Hardcore Gym
Andy: Bev's on Long Island. It's got it all. Dumbbells up to 200. Hardcore training. No bullshit.
Vinny: Billy's Gym in Bayonne. One of the last true hardcore gyms. Now you got pussy gyms where you can't train. You have to keep the noise down, wipe down all the benches with disinfectant. That's fucking bullshit. At Billy's, you had a 5,000 square foot room with chalk all over the place. Powerlifters rubbed shoulders with bodybuilders. We all trained with our balls to the wall. That was heaven on earth.
Joe: Yeah, KC's Body Shop was like that. I didn't have new, fancy equipment. Every one lifted heavy, hard and strict. If you said you could bench five hundred, you'd better lay your ass down and show us.
Schak: Boys, it doesn't matter where you train. I could train in my basement. I don't give a shit. It's about attitude. But if I had to choose, there was this one place called World of Fitness. It was a little shithole of a place, but man, if you wanted a gut-bustin' workout, you came here. If you wanted to talk training, no-holds-barrred, this was the place. Wish it was still around.