A few years ago, Billy Mimnaugh wrote an article for elitefts™ about the South Side Gym in Stratford, Connecticut. In 2004, I got into powerlifting, and last summer, I moved to the southern Connecticut area after finishing my master’s degree at the University of Connecticut. Logically, one of the first things I did was get in with the South Side crew. I was more than happy to make the one hour drive for each training session, as I knew it would help my total. In the past eight months, I’ve gone from a 1,388 total to a 1,532 total at 165 lbs. In essence, I’m a perfect example of what a great training environment can do for someone.

A few months ago, after seeing my first article published here at elitefts™, Billy informed me that it was my duty as a South Side lifter and often published author to write a sequel to his initial masterpiece. With that being said, I put on my thinking cap, popped a few sarcasm pills, and came up with my top 35 reasons for loving South Side. Why 35? It’s very simple, really—34 wouldn’t have been enough, and 36 would have been too many. We don’t like to beat around the bush on this stuff at South Side, you know?

You just have to love South Side because…

1. The bathroom reading consists of a dozen or so issues of Playboy—two of which were released in 1990. Sure, nobody dares touch them, but it's just cool to know that something that was published when I was eight years old is still there.

2. You could get an eleven plus years of membership at South Side for what it costs to go on a four day Caribbean weekend getaway with the “fitness guru” of your choice. If you just cut it to eleven years even, you could afford an “I Drove Through Bridgeport and Lived to Tell About It” T-shirt.

3. Compared to that same seminar, you’ll learn more in a single Friday night than you would pick up from four days in the Caribbean.

4. You need shots for all sorts of tropical diseases to travel to the Caribbean. You just need a tetanus shot and a mouthful of humble pie to show up at South Side.

5. The first joke I ever took from Matt Rhodes for being a lightweight: “You’re so skinny that I could hold you up to the sunlight and see what you ate for lunch.”

6. Brent Addenbrooke (2001 total at 303) is one of the strongest 18-year-olds you’ll ever meet, and he makes killer macaroni necklaces. There’s no way that arts and crafts time at your local gym tops South Side’s.

7. Pizza and beer are on the house on Friday nights. This is probably one reason why the records board is conspicuously empty for the 148-pound weight class and everything below it. Just try to not get chalk on your pepperoni if you’re chowing down between sets.

8. Rumor has it that Billy Mimnaugh actually had a neck when he was little, but nobody has ever seen it in person or verified it with old photographs. Looking for it is kind of like playing “Where’s Waldo?” in a book with no pictures.

9. Speaking of Billy, when he had his patellar tendon rupture fixed, his kneecap actually broke the surgeon’s drill. Even more remarkably, Billy immediately awoke from his anesthesia-induced slumber, jumped from the table, and shouted at the surgeon, “How you like that, bitch?”

10. Rob Tonini has got a cool bump on his wrist that only comes out when he benches. I’m pretty sure that it’s a demon, although it might very well be a parasite knowing our crew.

11. If you’re lucky, Rhodes will offer to let you pop the zits on his back. I received this highly celebrated offer in my first month at South Side, and while I politely declined, I must say that I was pretty honored that the guys thought I was ready for that rite of passage.

12. As far as music is concerned, there is no Enrique Iglesias playing like you have at your commercial gym—that is, unless one of us decided it would be funny to kidnap him and make him play live for us as we berated him in between sets.

13. Unlike some modern supplement promoters, we won't encourage you to hydro cleanse your colon to improve absorption of whatever pills you take. However, we’d have no problem ridiculing you mercilessly if you brought the idea up.

14: We only wear tight clothing because it makes us stronger and keeps us healthy. Bodybuilders do it because they enjoy it. They get all oiled up and pose, too.

15. There’s built-in cardio on every trip to the gym. You're anxious to finish your lift as quickly as possible so that you don't get shot in the ghetto for driving home when it's too dark outside.

16. After rupturing his biceps tendon deadlifting 675, Vincent Dizenzo just knocked back a liter of Powerade, rubbed on some Blue Heat, took a snort of ammonia, and raw benched 585…SFW! Okay, not really, but it would have been a great story if he actually had done that.

17. The combination of Blue Heat, body odor, ammonia, and briefs that haven’t been washed in six months is rejuvenating in a way. And by “rejuvenating,” I mean “so disgusting that it’ll either catch your attention or put you into a coma.”

18. Dino is by far the largest human being I’ve ever encountered. He’s also the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, but I have to admit, I’m pretty sure that he could eat me in just a few bites. For those who do better with mathematical demonstrations, EC x 2.5 = Dino. (This is 801 pounds with just briefs, and not even a belt.)

19. Another skinny guy joke from Rhodes: “Blue Heat doesn’t work on skinny guys. You can’t rub it directly on to bone.”

20. Big Brent has found the ultimate way to help your training partners build stability—accidentally stand on the chains on one side while you’re spotting them as they squat.

21. TT, a huge guy who benches over 700 pounds, is living proof that it’s perfectly fine for a grown man to wear a He-Man T-shirt.

22. There are no stability balls, but plenty of the other kind of balls.

23. We’ve got a ladies’ room, yet I’ve never seen a woman—let alone a lady—actually come in to lift. I mean, honestly, would you bring or let your mother, grandmother, or worse yet, your sister check this place out?

24. Rhodes again: “You’ve got a thread hanging off your shirt. Oh, wait. Never mind. That’s your arm.”

25. The chalk bucket was once full of Bavarian Cream donuts.

26. There are no Ipods. The closest thing to advanced technology is the coffee pot, followed by the microwave, telephone, and temperamental stereo system.

27. Tony Gentilcore is the leanest guy in the gym. Rather than being rewarded for this title, he’s ridiculed for being “too veiny.” Apparently, the only cool kind of visible veins are the ones in your forehead. In honor of this title, I’m awarding him with the highly coveted horse’s ass trophy.

28. Big Frank does shrugs with over 1,200 pounds. He might even be able to curl it, too. Truthfully, I’m too impressed to ask.

29. You can find some Powerlifting USA and Monster Muscle back issues on the front desk, but you won’t find any copies of Cosmopolitan or GQ. Well, that is, of course, unless you look in the training bag of “Handsome” Carl LaRovera (also known as Conan).

30. You’ll never hear any discussions of the merits and drawbacks of the blood type diet, fasted-state cardio, or the 96X7 tempo. We do talk a lot about lifting heavy things though.

31. Dave drives a truck with flames on it. It gets about two miles per gallon, and nobody else really wants one. But it’s at least cool to say we know the guy with the big fiery truck. I suppose we’re living vicariously through him, kind of like when he gets excited watching us lift weights (just kidding, Dave).

32. Every Friday night, Billy updates Tony on the Syracuse basketball recruiting scene. These sermons always conclude with the following:

Billy: “Did you check out those recruiting websites I told you about yet? This is huge news. C’mon!”

Tony: “Uh….” (Insert the sound of crickets chirping followed by me chuckling)

Billy: “I knew it! You’re not a true fan! You’re not a true fan! We don’t need you! I can’t believe you’re riding to the gym with that UCONN guy.”

Tony typically spends the subsequent six days in therapy, only to get his confidence up enough to return to bench the following Friday, but still without checking out Billy’s Syracuse basketball websites. Billy berates him again, and the cycle continues.

33. Only at South Side can you find Gatorade, Red Bull, protein shakes, and Budweiser in the same refrigerator. When I die, I hope to be cryogenically frozen and placed on the bottom shelf so that I can remain in the “real” heaven forever.

34. Joe Silvia, gym owner. No jokes here. Joe is a great guy who has helped hundreds of lifters over the years and put a roof over their heads while they’ve trained to put up some monster numbers. He deserves all the respect in the world and then a whole lot more, especially since he’s still moving huge weights well into his 50s.

35. Over the past six years, I’ve seen thousands of ideas presented, debated, accepted, and rejected. Internet warriors vehemently argue for five sets of five and against four sets of six. Desk jockeys fret over ensuring that their time under tension is between 25 and 30 seconds—no more, no less. Keyboard champions struggle to choose between the neutral and pronated grip pull-up. Are these valid concerns? I guess so. Are most of these individuals still missing the boat? You bet.

I’m not trying to belittle anyone, nor am I attempting to discourage you from putting some thought into your programming. Hell, I spend about as much time pondering this stuff as anyone you’ll ever meet. It’s not uncommon at all for me to have training revelations as I’m in bed staring off into blackness at 3 AM. As I quickly realized last August, though, the revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. They’re the “what,” but not the “how.”

South Side is the “what,” the “how,” and everything in between. If you don’t have attitude, the right environment, and great lifters around you, you’ll never realize your potential.