What Happened To The Hardcore Gyms?
What happened to the hardcore gyms of the past? Gyms like Billy's Bodybuilding or World of Fitness? Today, guys would call those places dungeons or torture chambers with all the rusted equipment, puke buckets, chalk flying, and guys screaming. What's different today? Everything, man, everything. The atmosphere. The music. The attitude. The decor. The equipment. The warriors who trained there.
Listen, even the smell was different. Man, the smell. It's like when you buy a new car. The smell of a hardcore gym was unique. Dank water from a leaky basement. Puddles of sweat which have dried up on benches over the years. The odor of sour piss, puke and shit coming from the men's room. Just thinking about it brings me back to a place like Billy's Bodybuilding.
Billy's Bodybuilding Gym
The gym's name said it all. Short, sweet, and no bullshit. What can I say about that place? It was in an old stone factory building, maybe 5,000 square feet, with bare wood floors and a couple of rubber mats thrown down here and there. It was the first real gym that I had been to and the "place" to train in Jersey. The shithole of a place was so run down, it had cracks in the walls that you could see the daylight through.
Even the equipment was primitive. The place was just stocked with the most basic shit. As bad as this place was, this was our shrine. This was home. At Billy's, nobody gave a shit about what they wore. This was not a place for pretty boys. Nobody color-coordinated their outfits. Man, this was the real deal. The only sounds you heard were screaming, grunting, groaning and the clanking of plates and bars.
Here, you came to lift. Nothing else. Cardio machines? No, we never did cardio back in the hardcore days. We didn't know the meaning of the word, cardio. No cardio and no chicks. In the old days, there were no chicks in spandex or thongs in our gyms. We lived in a world of men and the only time we saw the fairer sex is when she'd come in to talk to her man.
World Of Fitness Gym
Another favorite hardcore gym was World of Fitness. It was a small store front, about half the size of Billy's. I had to drive 45 minutes each way, but for me, it was worth the drive because the atmosphere and the attitude there was unbelievable. The equipment wasn't much better than Billy's but I swear, the smell of sweat and testosterone and toughness was so thick, you could cut it with an axe. There was one other smell too which I remember all too well. Piss. Yellow, stinkin' piss.
For whatever reason, some of the guys who were regular fixtures at the gym didn't use the toilet. In the back of the gym, near the back door, there was a small 10' x 10' room which housed the squat rack and power rack. These guys would piss either just outside the back door by the parking lot or even right inside the doorway. Let me tell you, the floors were linoleum and rubber mats, and they soaked up the piss. In the summer, when it got hot, we'd open both the front and back doors to get some air, and man, the smell was overpowering. That's not something I'll ever forget.
Now inside the gym, the bars there were rusty and most of them were bent from all the weight guys put on them or from being dropped from an overhead press directly to the floor. Try dropping a weight in a new gym and the staff will come scream at you. And don't even grunt or sweat or you might scare some of the non-muscle heads. Go find something else to waste your time doing. Go read the Wall Street Journal or something. I gotta train man.
In These Gyms...
In these old time gyms, you didn't find any bullshit reading materials. No newspapers, no magazines, nothing. Pleasant conversation? Didn't exist. Small talk? Nope. This gym was all business. The only conversation you heard was "How much did you squat yesterday?" or "How much are you gonna squat today?" I loved this place. All the dudes were there for one reason and one reason only: To get HUGE.
Right in the middle of World of Fitness was this big sky light. Between 12 and 1pm, it pitched the right light perfect for posing. If you looked good enough, or if you had the balls, you'd strip off your pants and shirt right there with guys training around you. You knew you looked good when everyone stopped training to see how you looked.
Looking back, I remember having some of the best workouts in my life there. Why? Because these gyms had the hardcore attitude. They had soul. Every breath you took, you knew you were home. I'm telling you, you couldn't step into a place like this and not have an incredible workout. Man, I miss those days. Those were some golden times.
Truth is, you don't need all the fluff to build a great body. I would rather train in a hardcore joint any day over the glitzy gyms. But there aren't that many gyms like that around anymore. The gym I use today is pretty clean and well equipped... But the serious attitude is there, the no bullshit scent is in the air in this gym and that's exactly how I like it. The way it should be if you're serious about you're training...