About two hours east of Pittsburgh, right off of route 56, lies a top notch training facility. As you pull in, you notice the openness and lack of signs greeting you on your arrival. Honestly, I had to look around a little bit, until I saw a few cars, and off in the distance, a lone atlas stone, with “Area 56” painted on it, with an arrow pointing to the back of some storage units. As I walked back I came upon a door, simply marked with a suite number and, again, Area 56. It was locked but to my right was a lone doorbell. I’ve seen some out-of-the way, underground gyms in my days, but this got my attention.

After ringing the doorbell, I was quickly greeted by one of the members, who let me into the 2500 square foot facility. It was a few minutes until 10:00 am and the place was packed. Athletes from all walks of life littered the training area, greeting one another, and best of all, getting in some tough training. There was a father there with his two kids, showing them how to do a dumbbell press; a retired marine with a giant bear, covered in tattoos; and a vast array of others, all chomping at the bit to get today’s work in, together.

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Area 56 is owned and operated by Tyler Petro and his wife Sarah Connors-Petro. Both of them are strongman competitors who began a long time ago with other strongmen competitors like John Dennis and Damian Hollis. Starting out in a storage unit, with just a small amount of equipment, they slowly grew into a top notch training facility catering to strongmen, powerlifters, weightlifters, and personal training clients alike.

While I was there, I got a chance to sit down with Tyler, John, and Damian. All of them are getting ready for the Kumite Classic strongman competition in Pittsburgh, PA at the end of May. These three have been competing in the sport of strongman for years, and it was great to see such seasoned athletes working with people who were new to the sport. All of them reiterated the message I hear so often when I visit these training facilities: strongman isn’t just a sport to them, it’s a way of life, a teacher in humility, and a community that believes in strength through support of one another.

Despite Area 56’s location, many athletes from all over PA visit the facility, despite commutes sometimes over 2 hours, because it provides the equipment, motivation, and environment for greatness. You can see and feel the energy just by looking at the walls, or taking a minute to pause and see streams of strongman greats from the past being played on the only tv in the facility. If you’re ever in the Eastern PA area, and you’re looking for a place to train some events, or you’re just interested in getting your feet wet, Area 56 will welcome you with open arms.

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