I began my serious weight training and learning at R&J Health Studio in Brooklyn. R&J was made famous by all the athletes that would train there. My good friend Dennis Tinerino, Iron Man writer and friend Jerry Brainum, Chris Dickerson, Ray Stern, and so many others walked through the doors of this great gym owned by Julie Levine. Julie was as strong as an ox and gentle as a lamb. He could reverse grip bench press more then any man I have ever seen. I think over 450 lbs but I don’t know the exact weight.
R&J was also the home of my buddy Lou Ferrigno and was given much exposure because the movie Pumping Iron starring Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger was filmed there. Which is precisely what attracted me to this hard core dungeon of a gym. Several years after joining I ended up buying R&J. Is is a shame but the mega gyms made it hard for neighborhood gyms like R&J and many others to survive but they’re legacy still hold a place in the hearts of many and a place in body building and fitness history.
These old gyms were the laboratories for our current fitness revolution. Many don’t realize it but the bodybuilding community or as it was called back then, “The Physique Culture”, has been leading the pack with regards to developments in the wellness, weight loss and fitness arena since the beginning. If you want to know what the next diet frenzy will be, just look at what the bodybuilders are doing today. You will find it all in Iron Man Magazine which from the beginning was part of the laboratory experiment. Iron Man was founded in 1936 by Peary and Mable Rader, with the tradition still running strong under the leadership of John Balik.
Back in Brooklyn we had some of the best physiques you would ever see. All of these people had jobs so they had to make sure they were effective in the gym. They came in the gym ready to work out, found their training partner, said hello to a few people and then they trained. You didn’t see them sitting on equipment texting or making a phone call. Back then we didn’t have this technology but they didn’t even waste time with chit chat. They were there to train and that is what they did.
This video clip below is a scene from the movie Pumping Iron. It shows Lou Ferrigno getting prepared to compete against Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Mr. Olympia title in South Africa.
I had some guys that only came in once or twice a week but looked great. Others came in three or four days a week and seldom did you see someone at the gym more then four days a week. They trained hard and smart . Did what they had to do and got out of there. The mindset was the gym was for training, you lift and go home because you grow when you are at home not in the gym.
Now don’t get me wrong, they had fun, bantered with each other but only in between sets. You never saw anyone get into a deep conversation, there was no time for it. They didn’t take 5 minute rests like you see today, catch your breath and get back to the iron. They were there for a reason. Also in these old gyms you never had to go around and look for a spot, everyone looked out for everyone else, so someone was always there with a helping hand or a word of encouragement.
In gyms today I see people “living” on pieces of equipment and it is not uncommon when you ask someone if you can work in or share the equipment that they say, “I only have four sets left” (meaning no you can’t work in you will have to wait) This never happened, everyone shared the equipment and helped one another. It was an environment to train and get into shape.
What you can learn from my Brooklyn days is this. When you enter the gym you know why you are there. Do what you have to do and go home. Be focused but nice to everyone and help anyone who needs help and hopefully they will start doing the same for you and others. You don’t have to do anything fancy, just be consistent and you will get into fantastic shape.
Let me know how much time you are spending in the gym or putting into your bodybuilding/fitness regimen. The key to getting and staying in shape is to enjoy what you do and to do it consistently.
If you can’t get into shape doing this then… forgetaboutit!