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Iron Sport Gym

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A Gym with Balls!
Ironsport Gym: Pennsylvania's
hardcore training spot

by Bill Piche

GLENOLDEN, PA Iron Sport Gym's Steve Pulcinella hears it every time someone from out of town pays his suburban Philadelphia training facility a visit.

As soon as the guest experiences the atmosphere, takes in the interesting strongman photos and memorabilia and checks out the lifting stones and other power lifting gear available to members and quests, the former North American strongman champion is told once again, "Man, I'd love to have a gym like this where I live." People say that mainly because of the attitude of the gym," Pulcinella told Monster Muscle recently. "We allow chalk, we allow dead lifting on the floor. We allow strongman items guys lift logs and stones inside the gym. That's unheard of in almost any gym in the country." Ask Pulcinella and he will tell you the gym's location is the biggest reason Iron Sport's membership has increased every year since he and his brother Joe opened in 1995. Iron Sport is on a busy street (Chester Pike in Glenolden), is just minutes from Philadelphia Airport and the South Philly sports complex that houses the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles and Flyers. People passing through town can stop by, and for just $6 get a nice workout and a shower before continuing on his or her journey. "The main thing is the visibility of the building," Pulcinella said. "We're on a main intersection in town. We're in a highly populated area and it is easy to see the signs on the building." "The No. 2 thing is word of mouth," said 35-year-old Pulcinella, who has been lifting seriously since the age of 13. "Everybody seems to like the set up we have here; our pay structure, no frills accommodations, guys can just come in and work out and not have a hassle every time you walk in the door to buy more time or buy more stuff. Plus the price here is cheap and that helps a lot." But ask the members and people who have worked out at the 7500-square-foot venue and you'll hear the No. 1 element that makes Iron Sport such an unusual but equally pleasant place is the staff. Where else can you go where the guys behind the counter are built like heavy duty tow trucks and at times can be seen performing the functions of one literally. Steve Pulcinella is 6-foot-1 and currently weighs in at 305. Pulcinella is usually on duty in the evenings during the week and takes a day shift over the weekend. Steve won the 1993 North American Strongman championship and represented North America in the World's Strongest Man contest in 1994 in Sun City, South Africa. Steve has squatted 755 pounds, pulled in a 735 deadlift, benched 495, 410 on the power clean and 308 on the hang power snatch.

Currently, when not cleaning bathrooms or running the sweeper at the gym, Pulcinella, who is married for 14 years to KJ and has two daughters Alyssa (13), Carmen (10), can be seen flipping a 21-foot caber on ESPN as a touring pro with the Highland Games. Rich Costello, the day manager, checks in at a "slimmed-down" 6-5, 280 pounds. Costello has a long pedigree as a strongman competitor and currently competes as a Highland Games pro. Handling the overnight- Iron Sport is open 24 hours a day during the week--is Scott O'Connor. At 5-11, 300 pounds, O'Conner, is a promising young strongman competitor who has more than held his own on the amateur circuit. Joe Pulcinella, who owns the gym with Steve, handles the books and works weekend and evening crossover shifts behind the counter. Joe is an accomplished Olympic lifter with a long list of success in the sport. The pride of Iron Sport, member Walt Gogola, can be seen and heard in and around the premises grinding out 500-pound-plus squat sets, monster power cleans, pulling his truck, sweating out his grueling routine of Farmer's Walks, lifting logs and flipping a 900-pound tire over and over. The former college offensive lineman, now 28, is working to fulfill his dream of winning the World's Strongest Man contest. With sponsorship by the gym and the mentoring of the Pulcinella brothers and Costello, the 6-0, 310-pounder is emerging as one of the top pro strongman competitors in the country. Recently Gogola tied Magnus Ver Magnusson for third place in the Azealea Festival Strongman Challenge in Norfolk, Virginia. Pulcinella admits having virtually his entire staff and several members competing at a high level in some of the toughest strength sports in the world helps bring more lifting enthusiasts into the fold. "Just the fact that we're out there competing every week. Everyone knows who we are through internet venues and different magazines we get written up in."

In addition, Pulcinella, along with his brother, maintain ironsport.com and the big guy wears the gym logo on his kilt and lifting belt when competing on the Highland Games tour. Many gyms around the country bare the name of a famous athlete, but in most cases the closest a member will get to the front man of a gym is by looking at the athlete's pictures and memorabilia on the wall. At Iron Sport, you not only get to see some great pictures of Strongman and Highland Games competitors such as Magnusson, Joe Onosai, Manfred Hoeberl, Paul Ferency, Ed Coan, Ryan Vierra and Gary Taylor, you may run into one of them at the gym. Several NFL players such as former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Bob Kuberski and Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Doug Brzezinski have held memberships. And it would not be unusual to see the whose-who of the WWF working out at Iron Sport when the tour passes through Philly.

On the surface, Iron Sport could be considered a "hardcore" gym. The people who frequent the Delaware County facility are generally serious about training as evidenced by the number of top local high school and college athletes who are members. There is a powerlifting platform, a dead lift/squat station (in addition to several standard squat racks), chalk is allowed and of course there are the lifting stones placed neatly against the wall when not in use. But there are very few similarities between the look of Iron Sport and the conditions at some neighborhood weight rooms. It is certainly not universal, but some places believe it adds to the atmosphere when a locker room (if there is one at all) and the bathroom facilities are dumpy. And that bothers Pulcinella. "I think that's a bunch of crap," Pulcinella said. "They try to make up for their laziness by saying it's hardcore. If hardcore means you don't clean your toilets for a month, then anybody can be hardcore." Pulcinella credited his mentor, Dr. Ken Leistner, a long-time strength coach and powerlifting writer from Long Island, NY, with helping the Pulcinellas form good working habits, as they got more involved in the business side of the fitness business. "The very first thing he told me was I don't care what you do, what kind of gym you have or what it is, it has got to be clean. That's the No. 1 rule." Pulcinella said. "He opened a gym up there, Iron Island Gym, I saw pictures of it in different powerlifting magazines. He had exactly what I and other guys were looking for; interesting equipment. She wrote about all the stuff he had built and all the trial and tribulations of putting a gym together and he said being clean was the number-one rule." Pulcinella said he has plans to open a second Iron Sport Gym somewhere in the Delaware Valley. He will use the same formula with his new place that helped make his first gym a true Philadelphia original. "People like to say, 'Hey, the guy that owns my gym is a World's Strongest Man competitor and he's at the gym every night." Iron Sport Gym is located at 505 South Chester Pike in Glenolden, Pa. 610-237-3840. Website: ironsport.com.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.

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