The idea of “strongman gyms” is still relatively new. When I first started strongman in 2007, there was no such thing as a strongman gym. Most of the people training strongman had an array of homemade equipment, a garage, and trained with “crews,” much like my strongman crew, Team B.O.S.S. While strongman gyms are popping up across the country, bringing in people from all over to try their hand at one of the toughest strength sports out there, many crews are still going strong, inviting people to come in and train, with no fees other than a few bucks here and there to keep tacky in the jars and chalk in the bowls.

RECENT: Finding Strength: Team BSS Training and Fitness

One such crew is Refuge Barbell in Nortonville, KY. Founder, Derek Stone, an ASC 105kg professional strongman, started Refuge Barbell many years ago in his backyard. With nothing but an old shed, a couple of implements, and a desire to compete, he created a crew of high level athletes, and continues to grow the sport, putting on competitions in KY every year, while also bringing in new people that are interested in competing. Refuge Barbell has grown from an old shed into a fully functioning gym, littered with equipment that can help anyone reach their strongman goals.

When I visited Refuge Barbell, I arrived around 8 AM, and there were only a few people there, warming up and ready to get on with training. Derek was there, helping people warm-up, and coaching two new female athletes, looking to compete in one of his upcoming shows. World’s Strongest Disabled Man competitor John Stitt was also there, preparing to train.

John started competing in strongman several years ago, but after a bad motorcycle accident that took his leg, doctors told him he’d never be able to compete again. He came back to Refuge Barbell and with support of everyone around him, he made it back to competing, and has gone on to travel to Iceland and England to compete.

For athletes like him and everyone else that trains there, there is a mutual sentiment: Refuge Barbell isn’t just a clever name. It really is a refuge for them to come and forget about anything else that may be going on in their lives. As soon as you enter the doors and see everyone training together and cheering each other on, you really do feel the sense of community that unites strongmen all across the world.

If you are ever in Western Kentucky and you need a place to train, Derek has an open door policy. He welcomes people with open arms, and his passion shines through as he begins to coach complete strangers, looking to become better athletes. I highly recommend stopping in if you ever get the chance, and I expect good things from Refuge Barbell in the future.

Finding Strength: Durniat Strength