Top 20 Hardcore Gyms In America – 2016 Edition

Approximate reading time: 20 minutes

Hardcore Gyms are not judgement free zones where pizza is served every week. Hardcore Gyms dont have members that wear workout gloves for leg day while TRYING to rock a stringer and use light ass weight. What do all these things have in common? They are all pretty frequently seen at trendy “fitness clubs”!

Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t necessarily want an alarm telling me when I’m dropping my weights too hard, or have a bunch of lotion wearing, gluten free, soy milk latte drinkers telling an employee on me when they think I’ve looked at them in a judgmental way. Humans used to wrestle bears and spear mammoth for food and now they want to complain that people look at them wrong and their feelings are hurt…what a time to be alive!

A lot of hardcore gyms around have recognized that people who are serious about their fitness just want heavy weights, some hardcore music, and hardcore fitness athletes around to encourage them.

Visionary athletes wants to give credit where it’s due! Let’s look at some of these hardcore gyms and give them props!

What are we basing this off of? THESE criteria: 

  • Atmosphere – The overall feel of the place and the energy it gives off!
  • Equipment – Do they have shiny machines that go up to 50 pound max with girl handles, or do they have 200 pound dumbbells that put on massive size, with a bag of chalk for grip? You won’t find too many fancy machines or gadgets in these places unless they are an absolute necessity!
  • Members – Are the people who go here serious about their fitness level, training intensity, aesthetics, and/or strength? They better be, or they didn’t make this list son!

Let’s get it!

20. Firehouse Fitness – St. Abilene, TX


Firehouse Fitness has a little bit more variety of lifters that they cater too, in comparison with some of the other gyms we have here. However, it’s got plenty of hardcore qualities that makes it plenty worthy enough for this hardcore gyms list. The first one being the exact reason it’s named the way it is; it was renovated from an old firehouse, and they kept that theme. On top of that it’s got a 2,000-square-foot lifting space available outside, giving those who love the outdoors, an environment they can thrive in. One of the next things is the fact that they have a full kitchen for lifters to take advantage of! Talk about getting some quick protein in after your lift!

The gym is home to multiple bodybuilding and physique competitors, and it’s owners built it around passion and built it with the goal of building a gym that can create an atmosphere full of drive and motivation for anyone and everyone to succeed. Not to mention it’s just creative as hell!

Walk in the gym and you’ll see 7,000-square-feet of every piece of fitness equipment you can imagine. Equipment pertaining to powerlifting, equipment for bodybuilders, equipment for those that want to lose massive amounts of weight, and anything else. No matter who you are, or what your goals are, there is a very strong chance you will find what you need here.


19. Big Tex Gym – Austin, Tx


Big Tex Gym prides itself in being the gym for everybody. They have 60 year olds, high school kids who are tired of being skinny, and even extreme athletes who live life on the edge. If you are serious about training, no matter who you are, this gym wants you in there.

Big Tex has a separate room for power-lifters to train in, along with an outside area complete with multiple things for strength seekers to throw around, such as monster tires. On top of that they have so many bodybuilding and men’s physique competitors, that they also have a separate room full of mirrors for bodybuilders to practice their posing. Other than those rooms, the gym is 4,500-square-foot of heavy iron and every piece of fitness equipment you could imagine.

The owner of the gym, Steve Smith, is a power-lifting competitor himself, and most of their personal trainers are also competitors whether it be bodybuilding, power-lifting, etc. Meaning that they offer their members the best of advice from people who have been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt.big tex gymal-bt-3al-bt-4

18. South Carolina Barbell – Columbia, SC


South Carolina Barbell has mastered the art of combining newer equipment with hardcore, old school methods of training. Many members who leave this gym said they can’t find anything even close to it, elsewhere.

The unique feel of hardcore lifting mixed with the great feeling of anyone and everyone willing to help you out when needed, seems to be the most noted trait of this gym. Which is a good thing because that’s exactly the feel that Marc Bartley, the owner, said he was going for. With everything from high school athletes, to professional bodybuilders, there’s no way you can’t find what you need here, including any help.

Add on top of that, the place is an absolute beast of a marketplace for anything you will need for ANY type of fitness goals, and you have yourself a recipe for a hardcore gym.


17. Gym Jones – Salt Lake City, UT


With “The art of suffering” being what they claim to practice, I’d say that there is no question as to whether this gym is hardcore. If that doesn’t do it though, how about the fact that it’s the gym that multiple celebrities go to in order to get fit quick for a role? The guys in the movie “300” being one of many examples.

The workouts are absolutely relentless and are not made for those who aren’t willing to work out until they tap out. They are made for one purpose and one purpose only: To get you fit fast as hell!

The general manager and training director is infamous fighter Bobby Maximus. With that on top of staff members combined having masters degrees in exercise physiology, military experience, mountain rescue experience, high altitude experience, and a few others, I think it’s safe to say the staff is packed full of hardcore over-achievers.

Unfortunately, this unmarked gym building is off limits except to those who get invited or get accepted. From the simple fact that most people couldn’t handle the gruesome training though, it appears that its best to keep it that way.


16. Iron Sport Gym – Glenolden, PAiron strength gym

“A gym with balls!” is what Powerlifting Magazine calls it! With 7,200-square-feet full of bodybuilding heaven & being built and ran with relentless work ethic, we can’t really argue with that statement. This gym is an absolute powerhouse and should be on your bucket list if it’s not yet!

Iron Sport welcomes anyone but caters to strength trainers, unlike anyone else around them. Atlas stones, sleds, a monolift, platforms, deadlifting bars, tires and many more things are what makes this gym so attractive to strength seekers all across the country. It’s members include high level athletes, world class strongmen, nationally ranked powerlifters, Olympic lifters, and some bodybuilders.

It was started by Steve Pulcinella, who was on a mission to start a gym that has hardcore training methods, and can offer help to anyone looking for it. At the same time though, he didn’t want it to be a private or isolated club like a lot of strength gyms are. A strength gym with hardcore tactics, but with a helping hand always available to anyone, competitive lifter or not.


15. SMG Powerlifting – Yorktown Heights, NY

az-smg-2SMG is one of the new hardcore gyms to make the list but they are making their name known in the industry, pretty quickly! It was started by a husband and wife team who are dedicated to not only strength training but helping others achieve their goals, and providing them with the tools to do so. Both of them are competitive powerlifters, and the husband (Micheal Garozzo), happens to be an elite level one.

They setup an old school style barbell gym, with a vision to make it hardcore, but also to make everyone of all levels feel at home. It seems they have done exactly that, with their number of members growing quickly!

The gym is equipped with only competition quality equipment, and a competition loving atmosphere between all powerlifters and strength athletes. On top of that, the gym has already had visits from elite level athletes who wanted to stop by and train there. Considering all this is happening within the first year, it sure seems like they are on their way to becoming one of the most hardcore!


14. Skibas Barbell Club – Carteret, NJ

ag-skibas-2Owner Henry Skiba, started this gym for one purpose and one purpose only – for people to move big weight. The gym is one of a truly dying breed, that consists of hardcore guys, lifting hardcore weight, listening to hardcore music, but always willing to lend a hardcore hand to those who walk in looking for some guidance.

Skiba’s Barbell Club is a family type of environment, and is also ran as a non profit gym. Meaning, your membership proceeds go to new equipment, gym maintenance, etc. but extra money chipped in on top is a normal thing for most members, because they know it’s going to go right back into the gym some way or another.

The gym is home to a large team of competitive lifters who travel around the northeast to compete and support one another, but also college athletes looking to gain an edge during the off season, and anyone else looking for serious strength gains and techniques. Each member is given a one week trial period to see if you like the style of the gym, and after that you become an official member.

Before walking in, there is graffiti painted on the door that reads “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” If that doesn’t give you a mental picture on what goes on in this gym, I don’t know what will.



 13. Montanari Bros Powerhouse Gym – New Haven, CT


Montanari Bros Powerhouse Gym (formerly Golds Gym) in New Haven, CT is one of the very few hardcore gyms left in Connecticut. It’s also considered one of the best gyms left in Connecticut, and for good reason.

The name of the gym is pretty self explanatory: it’s owned by the Montanari Bros who all have extensive experience in the fitness world. Two of them even being chairman the Connecticut NPC District Chairpeople. The gym is so large and diverse that it has 3 dumbbell racks, and not having enough free weights is nothing you will need to worry about.

The gym is filled with sounds of iron smacking together, guys grunting like gorillas, and hardcore music. Which is probably one of many reasons that the gym is home to IFBB pro Evan Centopani, along with Jamie Pinder and Jillian Reville, who are both Olympia athletes.


12. Apollon Gym – Edison, NJ


If you plan on being on your phone for half of your “workout”, or going half-ass, then this probably isn’t the gym for you! Apollon is a purely hardcore, no bs, old school gym with its own nutrition line, awesome protein shakes ( a whole menu for them!), and some members who are seriously into their fitness levels.

Around the whole gym are signed pictures from legendary pros who have come to workout in this gym. Jay Cutler, Ronnie Coleman, Markus Ruhl, and many, many more. Oh, and did I mention Dorian Yates personal trains here when he comes to the United States? Yea…if that’s not a sign that this is a hardcore gym, I don’t know what is!

Apollon trainers are no joke either! One of them being an IFBB Pro, most of them having won national or international competitions, and one of them even being a karate guru who has tons of karate and nutrition credentials, I don’t think you’d find a trainer that wouldn’t majorly benefit you, even if you tried!


11. DeFranco’s Gym – Austin, TX


DeFranco’s gym isn’t just hardcore…it’s famous. Joe DeFranco’s methods, practices, and his gym for training athletes have been featured on ESPN, NFL network, Spike TV, Men’s Health Magazine, and a lot more.

His gym is setup for exactly that…training athletes. Considering he’s trained NFL players from all 32 teams, and athletes from just about any professional sports team you can think of, I think it’s safe to say training athletes is something he can do pretty well. His credentials are pretty legendary, and his gym meets those same standards.

Whether it’s speed, power, strength, endurance, or anything else, DeFranco’s gym is setup to help you with it, he guarantees it. He also only has trainers who are specifically trained by him. Some people even move from different countries to improve their athletic career at his gym! Oh, and did I forget to say that the gym started with just a 500 square foot storage locker?

That’s the definition of hardcore…and exactly why he made the list.


10. Brute Strength Gym – Norfolk, Vabrute strength

Brute Strength Gym is absolutely no joke. It’s almost like a fitness trifecta. It’s a hardcore lifting gym, a Crossfit gym, and a competition spot for weightlifting. It’s got cars to lift (, tons of free weights to lift, plenty of racks to use, any piece of crossfit equipment you can imagine, and the list goes on. No way you can walk in this gym and not find what you need!

The gym is managed by General Manager Stella Krupinski, who was the 9th woman in history to bench 300lbs raw! On top of that she has multiple national & world records, has placed first in 5 NPC bodybuilding competitions, placed 2nd in two more of those competitions, and is a personal trainer with several specialties. The list goes on and on, but to make a long story short, she’s a beast and knows what she’s doing.

Let’s not forget the rest of the trainers as well, who include other national and world champions, former pro football players, and straight up fitness gurus. No wonder this gym makes the hardcore list!brute strength gym

9. Old School Gym – Pataskala, OH


The very name of the Old School Gym tells you what it’s all about; training the old school way with no-nonsense. The facility was built (literally) by Cory Gregory and Dustin Myers in 2008 because they saw a lack of real gyms around. However, the gym started selling equipment, workout gear, fitness apparel, and other things that have made them grow as not just a gym, but a brand.

However, with worldwide recognition as a brand, don’t let the selling of equipment and apparel fool you into thinking they’re just businessmen. The two guys have had 25 years combined of training experience, managed to get their gym Westside Barbell certified, & know their way around a weight room. Old School Gym has managed to spit out award winning bodybuilders, boxers, power-lifters, wrestlers, MMA fighters, and even college and high school athletes. Rampage Jackson & Maurice Clarett being among the few.

All the equipment in the gym allows them to train anyone in whatever area they would like to improve and become their best in. Benches, power racks, a monolift Squat rack, Reverse Hyper, bands, boards, chains, and anything else you can think of that comes with lifting the west side, old school method.


8. Jakked Hardcore Gym – Montgomery, IL


Jakked makes it a point to let you know you aren’t walking into a commercial gym, as soon as you walk in. They pride themselves in being a family owned gym, that’s dedicated to results, rather than fancy machines. Their vision is to bring back “the old school gym” and stop this “fitness spa” madness.

Jakked is home to multiple award winning competitors, hosts the North American Strongman (NAS) chairman, and is available for anyone to come train in. They are hardcore, but always open to motivating others no matter where they are in their fitness level. They have everything from classes to train beginners in proper equipment use, to car deadlift frames and logs for the more experienced.

Getting bored is definitely not something you need to worry about at Jakked. Their equipment includes dumbbells that go up 265lbs, sandbags, kegs, logs, stones, tires, towing harnesses, and a bunch more!


 7. Quads Gym – Chicago, IL


Quads Gym isn’t new to the idea of recognition or being on a top ranked list. It’s been on the “Top Ten Gyms” list by Muscular Development in 2007, and also on the same list put out by Muscle & Fitness in 2005! So it’s pretty clear that this gym is doing something right when it comes to getting people fit. Add onto that, that this is the lifting home for world famous powerlifter Ed Coan, and you have some pretty impressive stats, that not many get to say that they have.

At this 40,000-square-foot (that’s not a typo) beast of a facility, there are over 1,000 members, and 15 trainers. If you don’t have enough fitness equipment there to reach your goals, then you’re just lying to yourself about what it takes to accomplish them. They have more than one of almost everything you can think of.

Dave De Young started the gym for the same reason that a lot of hardcore fitness enthusiasts start gyms – he couldn’t find any other gym that was serious about fitness, in his area! Luckily for anyone who might want to just stop by to say that they have worked out here, Dave allows anything from 1 day memberships, to 1 year.


6. Diamond Gym – Maplewood, NJ


There are a lot of great gyms around the country, but very few that earn the reputation that Diamond Gym in New Jersey has. Diamond Gym, since it’s beginning,  has made it their mission to be not one of the best bodybuilding gyms, but THE best bodybuilding gym.

With plenty of bodybuilding champions coming out of this gym, and plenty of other elite body builders like Kai Greene & Ron Partlow to name a few, stopping by to workout, it’s no wonder this gym is such a hot spot and draws people in from all over the country.

The gym holds a reputation for still being one of the few true bodybuilding gyms around, with nothing but the sounds of hardcore music, grunts, and iron clanging together when you walk in. Seeing as all kinds of pros go out of their way to stop here, I’d say their reputation holds true.


5. Gold’s Gym – Venice, CA

Hardcore Gyms

We can’t forget the king of all gyms! The gym that Arnold made famous back in the day. Gold’s Gym in Venice!

Read any serious bodybuilders bucket list, and you’ll more than likely see lifting at this gym, on it. Arnold made it famous, along with dozens of other high level bodybuilders who have worked out there. Go there today, and you’ll still see some hardcore lifters in there training with the best of them.

This gym is probably one of the (if not THE) most legendary gyms in America. The birthplace of bodybuilding and its roots…the bodybuilding Mecca!

Checkout the video below to see Arnold go back to Gold’s Gym in Venice in 2014, and make a pretty unique appearance for a pretty special purpose.


 4. Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym – Syosset, New York


Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym in New York is another hardcore bucket list type of gym that doesn’t play around when it comes to fitness. Make sure you’re ready to put your phone down, and some weight up, before you walk in.

Bev Francis Powerhouse is known as “The East Coast Mecca” of bodybuilding, referring to Gold’s Gym in Venice being “The West Coast Mecca”. Not only does it have the title of The East Coast Mecca, but also gets the title of #1 hardcore gym by FLEX magazine, and called the best gym in America, by various others. If that doesn’t make it hardcore, maybe this will….

It started out as a 5,000-square-foot facility when legendary female bodybuilder Bev Francis, and her husband, Steven Weinberger, started it up. What started out as small though, soon took on a life of its own and grew into a 30,000-square-foot bodybuilders heaven. Walk around the facility and you’ll see dumbbells that go up to 220, a full boxing ring, a field of cardio machines, rooms for conducted classes, mma classes, and an endless amount of racks, benches, and other free weight machines to perform your art on.

It’s been the gym choice for all kinds of fitness icons. Jay Cutler, Kai Greene, Dorian Yates, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), and WWE’s Triple H, just to name a few of them. It’s also the gym that Ronnie Coleman walked into, grabbed 125lb dumbbells, and lunged his way to the street with them, which was almost a whole football field away, and then returned without ever breaking lunges.

With all that being said, Bev Francis Powerhouse gym has absolutely earned their reputation as one of the countries most hardcore gyms, and earned their way onto this list. af-bev-francis-2af-bev-francis-3

 3. MetroFlex Gym – Arlington, Tx


Just the raw number of elite athletes that this gym has spit out, is enough to put it on the map. Over 100 bodybuilding, power-lifting, and even MMA champions have come from this place. Ronnie Coleman & Branch Warren both call this gym home, and for good reason. This is a no games, get focused, lift heavy bodybuilders gym that is relentless on even the best bodybuilders and leaves you having a hard time climbing in your car, you’re so sore afterward.

Metroflex caters to athletes who are interested in actually competing in their sport whether it be bodybuilding, power-lifting, etc. They offer FREE help of all aspects when it comes to competing. That includes diet plans, posing positions & techniques, etc.

Brian Dobson started Metroflex in 1986 because he saw a real lack of “real” gyms left out there. It is a 24 hour gym that, he states, “encourages yelling, aggressiveness, using chalk, and dropping heavy weight, where most gyms frown upon it.”


Metroflex Arlington is the original Metroflex Gym. This string of gyms is now an international chain catering to hardcore bodybuilding training. The original, however hasn’t changed since it opened in 1985. It is home to Ronnie Coleman, winner of 8 concecutive Mr. Olympias. The owner Brian Dobson a born agian christian, tours around the country spreading his ministry.

2. Super Training Gym – Sacramento, CA

ai-st-gym-4The Super Training Gym was built a little later than most others on this list, but don’t let that fool you. It was formed in 2006 by Mark Bell aka “smelly” in the very popular bodybuilding documentary “Bigger, stronger, faster”. He himself competes in lifting competitions which allows him to best setup for success and train people the way they need to be trained to reach goals. Oh yea, and he holds multiple lifting records in both America and the entire world.

The gym is built purely for competition lifters and was named one of the 30 best gyms in America by Mens Health, and voted #2 gym in America by the members of TheActiveLife website. On top of that, Super Training Gym is Westside Barbell certified. Pretty impressive track record.

Super Training is not a gym that you can just walk into and start training. It’s home to the Super Training Team, which travel around and support each other while all competing and lifting their way to success. In other words, this is a private gym that allows competitive power-lifters to train together, become part of the team, and support each other in an environment that allows them to reach full potential. You must call ahead of time before trying to become a member, and you will need to be approved.


We saved the best for last!!

1. Westside Barbell – Columbus, OH


You will probably never find a gym as iconic as Westside Barbell. It’s considered the most hardcore gym that exist. It’s an elite athlete, invitation only, strength gym, run & started by one of the most legendary lifters of all time – Louie Simmons. Louie is one of only 5 guys in the world to total elite in 5 different powerlifting weight classes, has broken countless amounts of records, wrote books, and a TON more things that all add up to what is probably the most knowledge that any single human being has on strength and lifting.

Westside Barbell is considered the standard for what strength and powerlifting gyms should be. Everyone strives to even be compared to Westside Barbell. Anything that you can think of that has to do with strength, Westside Barbell has mastered it, and has learned the best way to teach it.

With title winning UFC fighters, athletes who deadlift over 800 lbs, 2 olympic gold medalist, and many more athletes being trained at the gym, I don’t think there’s any doubting – this IS the most hardcore gym in America.


what other gyms do you think could have made the list? leave a comment below!