The words are everywhere.
Words like “ripped”, “buff”, “shredded”, “six pack”, “hard”, and jacked”. Words that either did not exist a generation ago, or were known and spoken out loud only among the fiercest of hardcore iron warriors.
The images are everywhere, especially here in South Florida
The rapper with the eighteen inch pipes flexing to an angry beat on stage; the pop star diva exposing her round deltoids, hard curvy legs, and sculpted stomach in the latest music video; even the underwear model is now an icon of symmetrical muscle mass combined with single digit body fat percentage.
What was once an obscure cult relegated to damp home basements, dusty garages, and hidden warehouse fortresses of iron and rust, is now a mainstream activity.
Bodybuilding, cardio, cross training and all the other variations of exercise, are now so deeply infused into our popular culture, it is more difficult to find someone who does not belong to a gym, or at least engage in a fitness activity of some kind. These days it seems that everyone from the latest rapper or action hero, to the neighbor down the street, is going for the look known as “buff”.
There was a point in time, in about 1979, when it was impossible to even find a commercial gym with free weights outside of Southern California. Those who were brave enough to engage in such freakish and shunned activities as bench presses and dumbbell curls were forced to train in the isolation of home basements and urban dungeons of rust known as private “barbell clubs”.
Even most athletic coaches of the day vehemently warned athletes against any type of weight training in dire fear of the athlete becoming “muscle-bound”. Mention to your doctor that you lifted weights and a stern lecture would be sure to follow.
Pumping up was a renegade and obscure activity. Those who engaged in it were shunned and ridiculed.
But then, it all changed.
Pumping Iron, the insightful and brilliantly crafted 1976 documentary began to get exposure on cable television. College football programs started to incorporate weight training. And pop culture icons such as Sylvester Stallone and Madonna fueled the mainstream explosion of muscle.
With its subtropical climate, sunshine and beaches, fitness has become deeply ingrained into the South Florida lifestyle and popular culture. One such place where the ever growing enthusiasm for the movement can be experienced is at The Athletic Factor in Pompano Beach.
IFBB Professional physique competitor, Christine Wan, runs a tight ship at the Athletic Factor. “I’ve been in and around more gyms than I can count over the last fifteen years and competed professionally since 2003. When I come to a gym, it’s to get the job at hand done, and this is the type of gym we run here. We’re not a social club with gym equipment for pretty people. Everyone likes to try and look and feel better by going to the gym, without being intimidated by other people.”
The sheer diversity of the membership at The Athletic Factor is a grand testament to how entrenched the fitness culture is in South Florida. There are people from all ages and backgrounds teeming about the gym, engaging in what Arnold once described as the “joy and fierceness” of intense exercise.
What was once a shunned, renegade, fringe, underground activity, is now a lifestyle of the masses, and forever a part of the pop culture landscape.