Gym Of The Month: Big Tex Gym

This gym has a separate room for powerlifters so they can go nuts without being bothered. Choose your own tunes, and get ripped!

There are rules in place in weight rooms across the country. Most of them are aimed at customer safety, and most make perfect sense. But, to many people who lift hard, heavy, and often loud, things like lunk alarms and pop music leave sour tastes in their shaker cups.

Big Tex Gym bucks the soft trends. It stands for all the things Texas is known for, like big weights, huge tires, and the independence to change the tune. Check out this Austin enclave, try your hand at powerlifting, give a bro a spot, and learn something about yourself. This is muscle fitness. Owner Steve Smith gave us the scoop.

How did the gym start and why did you decide to begin the gym business?

I started this hardcore gym since it was my dream to own and run one. Also, I had been driven to leave my corporate finance job for a while. I was tired of looking at spreadsheets daily. I have been into lifting since I was 14 years old, when my dad first got me a bench press. I wanted to be a strength coach but decided that a gym of my own would be a better place to coach and train.

Can you give us a description on what went into opening your awesome establishment?

Well, lot of planning! I wrote a business plan, started buying gym equipment, and then eventually started looking for a space to start the gym. It has taken a lot of money to start and sustain the business; we are still growing and adding members. It has taken a lot of balls and tenacity to do this, but I love it!

What makes your gym different?

As it relates to chain gyms, we're a hardcore haven. We're here to lift weights and train hard. We don't have a cardio theater or the latest in Zumba classes. We're iron, sweat, chalk, and intensity. As it relates to other hardcore gyms, we have a neighborhood atmosphere that a lot of gyms, chain or otherwise, just don't achieve. Our members know each other, spot each other, work-in together and even hang out outside the gym. We support each other when we compete and help each other when it's needed. The building is the gym, but the membership is family.

"We're a hardcore haven. We're here to lift weights and train hard."

You have separate rooms for powerlifting, an outside area to flip tires, and you allow the members to choose music they want! How has this worked out for you?

Those are the two things that make members eyes light up the most (after seeing the weights and hardcore equipment that is). The idea that they can work out to Devildriver, Twisted Sister, Run DMC, Jay-Z and even some Basil Poledouris inspires folks to come work out. The tires, power room, and leg room seem to help our family get dialed in when working in those areas. The fact that it's away from other things keeps them focused and ready to crush it. It's a great thing for us.

What sort of people are attracted to your gym?

We have folks from all walks of life including members who are 60 years old and still compete in shows, to 16-year-olds who are tired of being skinny. We have desk jockeys who come in to release their stress and gain their full potential. We also have athletes who do extreme sports and push life to the limit at all times. If you train and are serious, this is the place to be.

"If you train and are serious, this is the place to be."

What inspires people to train at you facility?

We have an owner who competes in powerlifting and trainers who compete in bodybuilding and men's physique. That helps people feel assured that they can have questions answered appropriately.

You have a room dedicated to practicing posing for bodybuilding. How many members would you say compete out of your membership?

Including the trainers, I'd say out of 366 we have around 15-20 who compete actively or plan on competing in the near future.

Everything is Bigger at Tex

We strive to be better and be a place where folks can feel a sense of community and family, and want to hang out. Lots of folks have made friends here, so I think that is another good sign for us!

Do you have any top trainers and why are they so good?

All our trainers are excellent. I have one now who is getting ready for another bodybuilding contest.

What special services do you provide?

Personal training, diet, and free training plans.

Who are your most notable present and past members?

We have several notable members, guys who have competed in powerlifting and bodybuilding and men's physique, and other guys who have put on size and play semi-pro football. The list goes on; we all have reasons to lift.

What was the hardest part about operating your gym?

I think the hardest part is dealing with all the young folks who work out here and then have to leave or relocate due to school or work. We have to be constantly out marketing and making sure we have a lot of good reviews online to ensure new members are signing up.

What makes you competitive over the other gym chains?

I think it is a few things. People interact here versus playing on their cell phones or avoiding other members like at the chain gyms. Also, my staff and I will gladly help guys on the floor with form or technique questions for free. Finally, I think our power room and our outside training area have a big appeal to folks over a chain gym.

How have you been able to remain so successful and how do you hope to remain so?

It's the community we created, the family. People bring friends in who eventually become members and they tell even more folks. Knowing that you can come in and train, not be judged or have to worry about being watched makes this a great place to train. The fact that you can come to train heavy, ask for a spot from virtually anyone and they will jump in—even if you don't ask for a spot and someone sees you need it, that's the kind of gym we are. The people made us.

Does your gym have any special charities/community outreach organizations you raise money/volunteer for?

Yes, we reach out to support the Special Olympics and groups that help people with HIV.