I want you to close your eyes for a minute and think about your first experience lifting weights.
I’m willing to bet it was not at some fancy air conditioned mega gym full of shiny equipment and flat screen TVs.
Maybe it was your buddy’s basement where his dad had a bench, an olympic barbell set, and not much else. Maybe it was a grungy high school weight room that introduced you to the iron during blistering hot summer football practice.
Chances are, when the workout was finished you didn’t swing by the smoothie stand for some refreshments, you probably got some water out of the garden hose behind the garage.
These were probably some of the most competitive, intense, enjoyable workouts of your life.
So if this story is familiar to many weightlifters, why has the fitness industry moved to the opposite end of the spectrum? Corporate gyms have taken the “work” out of “workouts” (gyms banning deadlifts…seriously?!) and have sanitized fitness to the point where it becomes harder and harder to make gains in their environment.
But don’t worry my loyal Muscle & Strength lifters, there are still real gyms in this world. These small mom and pop operations manage to stay afloat in an ocean of globo-gyms by staying true to their roots and the training principles you learned and fell in love with in that dirty garage gym many years ago.
Each month I’m going to profile one of these gyms and show how their owners, equipment, and culture are a throwback to the golden era of training. What better place to start than my gym -The Old School Gym in Pataskala, Ohio.
The Old School Gym
Located 20 minutes east of downtown Columbus on a dusty stretch of US rt 40, OSG is housed in a 6000sqft 1950s era Quonset Hut that resembles an old airplane hangar. The gym was founded in 2003, but has been at its current location since 2008.
The gym is broken up into 3 main areas: a front room that houses cardio equipment (treadmills, stair masters, Rowers, Airlines, Jacobs Ladder, etc.), an Olympic Lifting area, and functional equipment such as plyo boxes, sleds, tires, kettlebells, and battle ropes. The back room is the main weight room with primarily free weights (dumbbells up to 145lbs), numerous benches, and squat racks including a MonoLift.
There is also a wrestling room complete with 4 heavy bags and a speed bag for boxing, kick boxing, and MMA training.
Inspiration to start lifting weights: “my dad would lift weights in our detached unheated garage everyday after his shift at the Steel Mill and he taught some kids from the local football team how to lift in the summer. I couldn’t wait to start.”
He began weightlifting at age 12 and has been training athletes and clients since 2000. In addition to running the gym, the 36 year old is also the strength and conditioning coach for the Ohio Regional Training Center for Olympic wrestling where he helped Ohio State wrestling team win its first ever NCAA team championship.
The former competitive powerlifter, natural bodybuilder also won a Golden Glove boxing championship in 2009. Rumor has it he once came close to eating two Chipotle burritos in one sitting.
“In life you either get tough…or you lay down. It’s that simple”.
Inspiration to start lifting weights: “My grandfather told me when I was 13 it was time to learn how to lift weights and get strong. Poppa is 89 years old and still lifts weights regularly.”
The 37 year old is the founder of CoryGFitness.com and co-founder of top supplement company Muscle Pharm. He has competed in numerous bodybuilding and powerlifting events and has appeared on 11 magazine covers as a fitness model.
Cory is the author of The Mindset Manual and does motivational speaking for universities and corporations. He has squatted heavy everyday for a running 600+ days and could possibly be the first man to circle the entire globe doing walking lunges.
“I don’t do anything special, I just don’t f%#*ing miss”.
Cory and Dustin started lifting weights together at age 15 in Dustin’s dad’s garage and their high school weight room. Their friendship initially started as a weight room rivalry when there was a dispute over which one of them won a dips contest in weightlifting class. To this day, no one knows who really won.
Claim to Fame
Despite its out of the way, non-descript location, OSG has had some big name athletes come through its doors over the years. Former Ohio State football standouts Maurice Clarett, Beanie Wells, Boom Herron, and Antonio Pittman all call OSG home.
MMA athletes such as Lance Palmer and UFC title contender Matt “The Immortal” Brown have trained here regularly in the past.
USA Wrestling stars such as 2x NCAA champ Tommy Rowlands and 3x World Team member Reece Humphrey train here regularly with Coach Myers.
Even YouTube sensation CT Fletcher came to OSG and put the Old School staff through one of his legendary arm workouts.
The gym has been featured in Sports Illustrated, Muscular Development Magazine, and UFC on Fox. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a giant 8 foot tall banner of Arnold Schwarzenegger hanging in the front room…the picture is from the time the man himself visited OSG in 2014.
During the Arnold Sports weekend, numerous top IFBB pros such as Dexter "The Blade" Jackson have trained and done photo shoots at OSG.
What Makes the Gym Hardcore
Besides the owners and the superstar athletes, OSG has an environment that encourages hard work. The music is loud, the weights are rusty, and the only air conditioning is the big giant garage door that opens in the summer.
From beginners to pros, everyone that walks in the door is expected to work hard. Effort is the real currency in this place and the only way that you can buy the respect of the veterans.
Related: 11 Hardcore Gym Rules You Must Know
One of the few “Westside Barbell Certified” gyms in the world, OSG has all of the necessary equipment for powerlifters to train and compete at an elite level.
How to experience it for yourself
Old School Gym, located at 11091a National Rd. in Pataskala, Ohio is open 365 days per year for members from 4am to 10pm. Day Passes as well as the world famous OSG clothing are available at www.joinarealgym.com (get it? Join a real gym…). Make sure your next trip to Ohio includes a pilgrimage to what is known as the “midwest mecca” of weightlifting.
Tune in next month when I introduce you to a steel city underground oasis of hardcore training - Rocky Road Gym in Steubenville, Ohio.