Hardcore schmardcore

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andy  1 stone bw

Andy coming through for a second place finish in the heavy weights, helping our little ragtag team get three top three placings at a recent strongman/woman event.

Hardcore Schmardcore

Many years ago I met a monster. He ate punks like me for his postworkout protein snack. This beast breathed fire, killed anyone in his path, drank blood, spit acid and was kept in a cage when not breaking world records in all sorts of strength sports. He benched over 660 (the first to do so, in fact… yes, sans bench shirt), he deadlifted over 880, and was considered by many to be the strongest man in the world, a title which he, in fact, earned a handful of times.

I was watching him pin a fresh flower on a young woman’s dress. His 6 foot 3 inch frame, all 300+ pounds of brutal creature was almost bent in half to garnish this 5 foot 4 woman with his recent purchase from a sidewalk flower vendor, his massive fingers gingerly yet delicately maneuvering this brooch onto her collar.

Bill Kazmaier wasn’t going to eat me… he was, um, nice.


Flash Forward 15 years. I’m standing in the back of the vast archival room of the Stark’s Center for Physical Culture and Sport History. I have a video camera in hand and am trying not to trip over their collection of barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and other strength paraphernalia that they’ve collected from the dusty corners of strength history. I still smelled of cheap rental car and Austin humidity, since I hadn’t time to shower before being told I should be here. I was here to meet another monster, another fanged, crazed leviathan who broke a slew of American weightlifiting records before becoming a massive professional wrestler and being the first man to ever clean the Thomas Inch dumbbell (yeah, that last one doesn’t sound impressive until you actually try it). Now I was already assured he wasn’t going to render me limb from limb upon meeting me, but when Mark Henry was preceded by an entourage of his children, wife and extended family, I wasn’t prepared for the smile, the gentleness or the sheer joy that emanated from this enormous human (even dwarfing Kazmaier by probably a couple of inches and 50-100 pounds).


With increasing frequency a website, trainer or article crosses my path that describes what they do as Extreme, Insane or Hardcore. Their marketing and PR machine practically screams at ya, like a Pantera song serving as their perpetual soundtrack. There are gyms that exist solely to propagate this message… they are Hardcore. In fact, they are Harder Core than you… they’re more errr, grrr, arrrgghhh… ya now… HARDCORE. They live to bleed, they eat pain and crap dynamite, they’re so hardcore, even their women have testes. Your workout is their warmup. If ya can’t handle the heat, get out of the forge. Are you made of the right stuff or the trite stuff?


More about the truths and myths about ‘hardcore’ in this video.

 Iron. Steel. Sweat. Blood. Pain. Hardcore. Did ya know that there are gyms that require written declarations of why you think you should workout there and why they should bother excepting you? So hardcore!

not hardcore, just lucky... possibly the heaviest stone I ever lifted.

not hardcore, just lucky… possibly the heaviest stone I ever lifted.

These moments in modern advertising make me think of the monsters I’ve met. The truly “hardcore” don’t talk, don’t shout, don’t boast… they simply DO. Some of these monsters were athletes of the absolute highest caliber (being called the world’s strongest man is about as hardcore as it gets in modern lifting lexicon). Others were coaches and teachers, their word being a powerful tool that was often dispensed without a price tag. Volume wasn’t required, Pantera was nowhere around.


Bodytribe exists in a strange limbo between shouting as loud as we can and quietly vibrating in the corner. By the very nature of the intensity of the physical subculture, we scare some folks, but since we chose to do, not scream about doing, we’re often overlooked by the head smashers and nail biters out there and written off as perhaps a bit diluted for their HARDCORE nature. If antics trump ideals, then yup, we’re far from hardcore. Heck, we’re outright neighborly.


But our members, no matter what level of athleticism, do things no one else does, and in many cases, things most people can’t do. We’ve had the Hardcore come to play with us, only to be a little baffled. Um… this shit is hard. But where are the screams and violence? How is that small woman in her 50’s exploding in intense movement all around me, and somehow laughing in the process? Why can’t I keep up with her?


Colby versus Big Red Truck

Here’s the trick…

If it is fun, approachable and scalable, then anyone can do it if they are so driven, and more than ya might think will step up and give it a go despite the efforts to promote elitism. Most “hardcore” atmospheres don’t appeal to everyone, but that doesn’t mean the intensity is limited to the violent gym porn of grunts, slaps and shouting. Getting strong and enriching the relationship between you and your body needn’t be an adventure in screaming egos and misled anger management to be Hardcore.

Irma's recent 320 birthday PR.

Irma’s recent 320 birthday PR… at a bodyweight in the 120s a few years ago…

irma squat 255

And earlier this year, after warming up with this easy 255 for reps, she hit her first 300 pound squat.




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Showing 9 comments
  • Troy Angrignon

    That article on CF and P90X was written by the worst kind of “media journalist”. Most blogs are more articulate and fact-checked than that mess. That was too easy of a target for you.

    On the subject of “hardcore” marketing, it makes me think of Twight’s Gym Jones marketing. I’m sure he runs a good gym but the marketing makes me cringe.

    It’s one of the things I appreciate about the Bodytribe message – that workouts are about fun and playfulness and creativity while also working hard to get some results. Keep it up. See y’all on Saturday.

  • chip

    Ha. You’re right Troy, I shoulda picked a challenge in my article bashing.

  • Steven Rice Fitness

    Laughed out loud at your description of “hardcore.”

  • Gubernatrix

    Fab picture of Fred!

  • Allison Bojarski

    Glad you liked the link.

    Allyson’s pictures, as always, blow me away in their beauty.

    Your writing’s not bad, either… ; )

    Hugs to the Tribe!

  • Ryan Kenny

    ‘nother stellar little blog….thanks for continuing to provide me with info for the journey

  • Andy

    Haad-koah! Chowdah! My two favorite words to shout in a fake Boston accent.

    I would like to get a word in edge-wise on the grunting, growling, face-slapping, nipple twisting or other various psych-up methods:

    I make noises when I left heavy stuff. Some of them angry, some of them scary, some intentional, some accidental, all basically silly. Without dissecting the most basic of mammalian functions, I can comfortably say there is no ego in the grunt, growl or shout, for me, anyway. I’m in no way intending to draw attention to myself — I really don’t care who notices how much weight I’m about to squat, deadlift, overhead press, windmill or bench.

    For me, the pre-max-effort-lift grunt is about separating the lift from my ego. I must remind myself that I am an animal, flesh, bone and blood, and that all that fear of success/failure, economic insecurity and spiritual crisis has nothing to do with whether or not I make this lift. A draft horse doesn’t worry about whether or not he’ll be able to retire with a sustainable income when he pulls a wagon in team up a mountain road. A wolf doesn’t worry about it’s reputation as it takes down an elk 10 times its size. I’ll worry about the rest of the stuff later … when I’m squatting, squatting is all that matters. And if I manage to stick to that mentality, I will make the lift.

  • chip

    Word. I dig a ritual. Neither you or I appreciate the phony shit that seems like a requirement for certain mindsets.

  • Andy

    I want pizza.

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