Hardcore gyms. Things such as the internet, YouTube, and other forms of social media are known to get lots of flack, sometimes for very good reasons. Heck, before I made the decision to become a personal trainer I had shunned social media alone for more than two years! But upon my return to it, along with the start of my Instagram account, I remembered just how easy it was to search for non-commercial, no nonsense, serious gyms run by and for serious lifters who actually want to be strong and even work as hard as it takes to get there. That’s the problem with hardcore gyms; it’s not that they just don’t exist anymore, you just have to dig deep to find them.
It was around the beginning this year that I was first contacted by Savage City Strength, if memory serves me correct. I received a comment on one of my pictures and I was told this new gym was opening up soon and I should come see it. Based on the pictures I saw at that time I was able to see three squat racks and a squat stand under construction. I looked forward to seeing how things progressed based on that alone.
Over time I saw through Instagram all the gear that came in as the gym opened up, including atlas stones, tires for flipping, kegs, as well as several videos of some really strong deadlifts. Just a few weeks ago I knew I desperately needed help with my deadlift form so I contacted Shawn, the owner of Savage City Strength, and I finally made the near hour drive to Hillsborough this past Monday for help, as well as to take a tour.
Upon walking in I finally saw exactly just how much work Shawn put in to the gym.
Walking in I not only saw powerlifting related equipment; I came across a 350lb tire, various kegs and even a sledgehammer for all of your Strongman and conditioning needs. For those of you unaware, what you see in the bottom picture is a yoke. You place either your traps or your scapula under the top bar as if you were preparing to perform a squat, lift it up as if you were lifting a bar off a rack, a walk with it. This is a staple of Strongman competitions as well as a great option for conditioning work.
What you see on the top right is called a Reverse Hyper Extension. Invented decades ago by Westside Barbell’s own Louie Simmons, he created it as a therapeutic means of opening up the muscles in the lower back after an injury he sustained. It has since become a staple for most powerlifters alone, as a means of active recovery and can pretty much be found in most specialty gyms. The top part of the station is bigger than it looks, since you rest your entire upper body on it and hold on to the handles. I look forward to the day I can finally pull off Tire Deadlifts. In fact I’ve made a few sketches inspired by the main picture to this site and the plates on the bar are usually replaced by two monster truck size tires per side. Benni Magnusson style!
Also, available for members is an in-house Brazilian Jujitsu dojo, run by Mike Lazarte who also makes a cameo in my video. One things that was brought up, that most of the general public no longer seems to understand is that strength and sports skills actually go hand in hand. In sports, especially one that involves fighting, the overall goal is longevity. If you don’t take care of your body in the right way to maintain your strength, your shelf life will most likely be about five years before you’re forced to give it up because of an injury that could’ve been avoided.
In our conversation, which I’ll leave the link to at the end of this, Shawn and I spoke about a lot a things before working on my Sumo Deadlift, including his love of all things strength sports, having competed in five Strongman competitions, a few Powerlifting meets and revealed to me his intentions to competed in the Highland Games next year. He calls himself a “strength enthusiast”, and it’s easy to see. He has used the gym a base to hold multiple Strongman events for charity over the last few months, including one for the Wounded Warriors Project. The gym will also host the Strongman Summer Blowout on August 27th, with the proceeds going to benefit the Special Olympics.
Upon beginning my workout Shawn told me that the main problem he saw in the video I tagged him in was that I wasn’t sitting low enough, which actually might explain why my hip flexors were in so much pain afterwards. So we started off light, with reps of 5, then to triples, then to singles, until I completely burned out at 365lbs for a single. Very disappointing, being that the goal was to get me into the 400’s. The next move was to lower the weight to 200lbs and Shawn placed 60lb resistance bands on both sides of the platform to work on my explosiveness and hip mobility. This assistance work that followed was 3 sets of 40lb Kettlebell Swings for ten reps, which were surprisingly easy for me.
The Sumo Deadlift workout:
135lbs – 1 x 5
185lbs – 1 x 5
225lbs – 1 x 3
275lbs – 1 x 3
315lbs – 1 x 3
335lbs – single
365lbs – a failed attempt, followed by a single, followed by one last failed attempt
200lbs + resistance bands – ten singles
40bs – 3 x 10, 10, 10
The Swings will most likely replaced Hanging Knee Raises as my assistance exercise from here on in.
Savage City Strength is everything you’d want in a serious, hardcore gym. It caters to all serious styles of strength related sports, holds enough diversity to branch outside and introduce the community to a fantastic, cerebral style of self defense. If you live anywhere in Central Jersey, and want all of this, run by someone with a passion and understanding of what we stand for, and all at an alarmingly low price, do yourself a favor and visit Savage City Strength today.
Here’s the interview:
Savage City Strength:
216 Highway 206 Hillsborough, NJ 08844
On Instagram: @savagecitystrength
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