Weightlifting in Latin America

I prefer life in Latin America. However, some things are frustrating. Weightlifting culture isn’t as developed. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muscle Beach, and Pumping Iron made it mainstream in America only a generation ago. It diffuses to other countries later. Here’s the kind of stuff you see.

In Latin America, you typically see guys benching a bar with 25s on each side (95lbs), sometimes even less.

One time I was warming up to squat with 135lbs (one 45lb plate on each side). One of the gym trainers made me put clamps on it. I’ve seen guys put clamps on the bar of a Smith bench-press machine.

colombian-cupid-buttonAt a downtown Bogota gym there was a guy doing tricep kickbacks while standing in a squat rack. A lot of Americans do tricep kickbacks, but you should get slapped for doing them in a squat rack.

I saw a guy benching 245 for a couple forced reps – with four 25lb plates on each side of the bar. I’ve also seen guys do this while squatting on the Smith machine – loading it with four 25s. I assume they’re trying to make it look like more than two 45s. Geeks.

There’s this tool at a Colombian gym who loads up the leg press until it can’t fit any more 45s, then has a little Colombian guy sit on the platform. It always attracts a crowd. The guy who does all this weight doesn’t weigh more than 170lbs. I never see him squat. His entire range of motion spans less than the length of my dick, and his knees never bend to a 90 degree angle. Besides being a generally pussy exercise, the leg press is also the easiest to cheat (proof for those points, watch Pat Robertson “leg pressing” 2000 pounds).

FAKE!  (Read why, and remember leg pressing is gay.)

While deadlifting, a gym owner scolded me for how the weights hit the floor. He insisted everything be set down gently. After that day, I had to stop with the bar at my knees, and set the weight down without a sound. This is not only impossible for heavier weight, it’s dangerous. I’m worried I’m going to injure myself while trying not to make noise in this guy’s pussy ass gym.

Most gyms have third- and fourth-hand equipment from the States – stuff that was used in the 70s. There’s this one machine I’ve seen in Colombia and Peru, but never in America. I assume it’s gone extinct for being worthless. You stand on a spinning platform and hold two handles, twisting your torso side to side while holding your upper body straight. It appears to work oblique abdominals. It’s really popular. There’s always somebody on it. Dumb asses.

The worst exercise I’ve ever seen, I see often. It’s worse that mostly men do it. They get down on their knees, bending over holding on to a bench. They hold the dumbbell (little guys, 10 – 20 pounds) in between their calf and hamstring in the underside of their knee, the knee-pit if you will. Then they flex the glute to bring that leg parallel with their body and the floor. A glute isolation movement. It’s like the butt-blaster machine with a dumbbell. An American man wouldn’t be seen doing that in a public gym.

Of regular weightlifters in South America, the vast majority wear gloves. Mom’s orders?

Honorable Mention in Latin America goes to Strong Gym in Arequipa, Peru. It’s on Octavio Muñoz just east of Goyeneche. Entrance is only 1 sol ($0.30!) and it includes a huge weight room, two dancehalls, and one studio with heavy bags. There’s a group of heavy deadlifters who go there, most of whom can pick up over twice their bodyweight. There are four or five benches and half dozen squat racks, so you never have to wait. They play the rock station in AQP (no gay techno). The only gay thing about Strong Gym is how crowded the dance classes get. Hundreds of little cholos pack these studios to do dance cardio. But maybe the sheer quantity of them each paying 1 sol keeps the price low.

Eagle Gym in St. Louis, MO

This summer, I worked out at Eagle Gym, the most hardcore gym I’ve seen. The guys who work out there are all meatheads: bouncers, cops, boxers, MMA fighers, college football players, pro bodybuilders, powerlifters, and competitive strongmen. And there’s no rule to set the weight down gently.

You can drop 600 pounds or more because there’s a deadlifting platform. There’s also a Monolift for heavy squats. If you’re squatting 300 pounds or so, it’s not convenient to step back and get into place after unracking the bar. On the Monolift, a helper swings the rack back after you pick up the bar so you can go right into a deep squat. Chalk is allowed and available, as is ‘nose tork’ – smelling salts to get amped up before an intense set.

There’s not one treadmill at Eagle. Not one! For cardio, there’s boxing equipment and a sled for strongman training. And of course you can always run on the fucking street.

Eagle holds regular powerlifting and strongman competitions. There are heavy stones for picking up, weighing from 225 – 400lbs. There’s a log press, the log weighing 200lbs with plate racks for adding weight. There’s a truck with no engine block for picking up, weighing 600lbs. There are heavy tires for flipping. One weighs 700 and another weighs 1000lbs. Two guys have flipped the 1000 pounder.

Check out Eagle Gym in pictures below. It’s located at Woodson and Midland in Overland, North St. Louis County. For easier viewing of pics on this site, add me on Facebook.



  1. Hey Colin, its Alex from California, funny ass article…I acutally have been looking at gyms on line in Bogota, got a good thread on poor but happy and checked out some websites, I know the workout vibe has to be totally different there as you attested to…looking forward to trying one out…how about the girl factor at the gyms there, do you belong to one in Bogota?


  2. The best Gyms in Colombia are “BodyTech”. Superb Equipment, the best and newest I’ve ever seen. Plus all the beauty queens and models and drug lord girlfriends work out there. But it’s very expensive, like 80 Dollars a month or so.


  3. @ Alex – Girls in gyms are the same as in the States. I went to a few gyms in Bogota, but none I’d recommend.

    @ Mac Ten – I forgot to write about BodyTech! I went to the one at Septima and 64 after Wonder Gym closed down and one month was at least 80 dollars, maybe one hundred. Yes it’s clean, the equipment’s new, and the people are Chapinero Alto gomelos, but the facilities aren’t up to par. I always check to see if a gym has 2.5lb (1.2kg) plates, which are important for strength training. With 2’s, you can increase weight every workout by only 5lbs, which matters for lifts like Overhead Press. That BodyTech shithole’s smallest plates were 10’s, they didn’t even have 5’s!!! So every time you go up in weight, you have to go up 20lbs. That’s completely impractical even for bench. And they want that much money? A LA VERGA!!!


  4. @Colin… I am interested in gyms in Colombia, but you wouldn’t recommend any in Bogota? $80/mo at BodyTech is expensive… Looking for more like the $40-$50 range.


  5. @ Ryan – BodyTech is rape. Did you ever study marketing and prestige pricing? It’s horribly abused in Latin America. You can find MUCH cheaper. I went to a place on Carrera 13 somewhere in the 50s that cost 3000 pesos / visit. It’s a complete shithole, but only $1.50 / visit. Even if you never pay for a month or more, you can pay the daily entrance and still spend less than $40.

    Here is a good online resource for gyms in Bogota. When I move back to Chapinero, I’ll be going to Centro Medica Deportivo on Cl 63a west of Caracas. That’s the place with the leg press story from this post. Only one squat rack, but most of the guys there don’t squat and if they do they use the Smith machine. For my temporary stay in La Candelaria, I’ll go to a place not listed on that directory – “People Training” on Calle 19 at Septima. It’s on the fourth floor above a couple pool halls. 7,000 pesos / day, 20,000 / week, 70,000 / 20 entrances, 3 squat racks, 4 benches, 5 minute walk from La Candelaria. No 2.5 lb plates unfortunately.


  6. But if you think it sucks, why don’t you pay a bit more for a decent gym like BodyTech or Spinning Center instead? There are really good gyms here, they just cost more.

    (And by the way, what’s with the homofobic/sexist remarks?)


  7. @Annika – This article only appeals to hardcore gym-rat meathead guys – Americans mostly. Old equipment in dirty gyms doesn’t bother me at all. That’s how hardcore gyms are. These Latin American gyms work just fine but it’s a shock to see the things the locals do.

    BodyTech and Spinning Center are probably worse. BodyTech’s not good for getting big and strong. Those places are for people who want to keep clean and flirt and be seen as estrato 5 or 6. All apperances, no horsepower.

    I’m VERY gay tolerant. I’ve had many gay friends, some I’d call good friends. But in a gym rat meathead article, I think I can say techno and leg pressing are gay, which they are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not a part of the gym rat culture. And I have no idea what part of that article was sexist language, but thanks for reading!

    This is the THIRD TIME I’m criticizing BodyTech on this post.

    On a positive note, I’ve heard of a CrossFit gym near Park 93. Some CrossFit workouts are lame (accuracy training), but the underlying philosophy and principles are solid. Most workouts are great.


  8. Just found this blog while doing some research into my business, cool site. I am the owner of the CrossFit gym near Park 93. While we do train CrossFit generally, we also practice olympic and classic lifts daily for those interested in more traditional weightlifting. Although stuff like curls are not part of our programming or training methodology generally speaking. The spot we just opened in Cali even more so given that Colombia’s national olympic lifting coach has a training center just a few blocks away. We’ll have a spot opening in Medellin in April as I’m currently looking at locations there. Feel free to drop by anytime, expats always welcome. All my coaches and I are expats.



  9. Great blog. Going to Bogota at the end of the month for a short visit. Staying at Santa Fe Boutique Hotel on Calle 116 15 64. Recommendations for gyms in the area? Am training at Gold’s in Venice so, although not a hardcore gym per se, I’m looking for one in that is similar in Bogota. Also, looking for some quality eating establishments to support my training there. Suggestions welcome. Thanks.


  10. hey man, I was in barranquilla last year for about 6 months…and the bodytech there wasn’t so bad…they did have down to 2.5’s but you couldn’t be moreee spot on by saying it’s ONLY for people to flirt and be seen. I was about the only serious lifter in there….

    That being said, it could be worse for you…. I’m in korea now, and I regularly see people deadlifting with 10’s on each side (whopping total of 65 lbs) and using straps…hahahaha.


  11. Dude, so I go to a gym around the corner from the house. I walk in, it’s 8,000COP for a day. Fine. the “instructor” comes over to me and asks me if I need help. I told him that I was ok, and I’ll ask if i need anything. He leaves, for the time being. There’s two other 20-somethings doing bench press. One is on the flat bench, the other on an incline. Apparently the kid on the incline is a real beast, because he’s benching 110lbs. The kid on the flat bench is maxing out at 95lbs, doing 6 half reps. I put on 135lbs to warm up on the other bench. Back comes the instructor. He asks me if I need help, and if I need a spot because it’s pretty heavy. Again, I told him I was ok.

    I get down on the bench, and he starts pacing behind me. At this point I’m a little freaked out, because this is not a lot of weight and people are literally stopping their workouts to watch me warm up. I bang out 20 reps and put the bar back. One dude’s mouth was open (literally), and the instructor looked at me like I was Jesus Christ himself. When I put on 225 I thought their heads were going to explode. Two of them were standing about a foot away from the end of the bench just staring at me. I didn’t want to be rude so I didn’t say anything. I guess it’s just a lot different here.

    In related news, one guy was actually sipping on a Pony Malta during his workout. Pretty sweet work out cocktail.

    In related news, one kid was sipping on a Pony Malta


  12. Got all sorts of problem trying to get back to lifting, at 36 – I think I made my body plateau somehow – but looking at the photos of Eagle Gym? I WANT ONE!!! Sweet looking place.


  13. The gym scene in Colombia sounds just like the scene in Mexico. I went to a gold’s gym in Monterrey. It was beautiful, all modern and new looking but they didn’t even have a decline bench or a hyperextension. They were probably missing alot of other stuff I didn’t notice the one and only time I went there. And it was 900 pesos mx ($80usd) a month! I go to fitness connection here in Texas and they have ever piece of equipment you can think of and I only pay $10 bucks a month!!


  14. I’ve been here in Bogotá for a couple months, and I’m a typical American meathead from Louisiana. I dig hardcore gyms where you can spit and grunt, and you sure as hell can’t do that at Bodytech… I did like the attention I got from all the broads when I was putting up big weight, though. Can’t lie. The only place I’ve found that’s inexpensive and liberal with deadlifting is Club Las Américas off of Av. Américas. I will warn you that the equipment is extremely limited (no olympic bars, mismatched plates, etc.) and fourth rate, but it gets the job done if you’re only in town for a couple months. If you’re staying longer then spring for Bodytech because it really is the best gym (equipment) in the city. Be warned that nobody here has respect for basic gym etiquette, i.e. putting dumbbells back in their proper place, getting outta the way when doing flys, etc.


  15. Thats very interesting! Thanks for sharing.
    Here in Denmark, in the mainstream gyms, it is actually much of the same.
    People squat 100lbs partial squats and stare when you do 300. Gym owners tell me and my friend to “relax and keep quiet” when we push each other and work out hard.
    WTF is wrong with fitness gyms. I go there to GET RIPPED not to RELAX AND TALK ON THE PHONE.
    Its ridiculous.
    That Eagly Gym place sounds good though!


  16. Hi Colin, i’ve only just discovered this blog and loving how you really hit some subjects right on the head about life in S.A.

    If your an ironhead you just can’t explain to people here why the gyms are so rubbish here! It’s not about modern equipment (in fact modern gym equipment is getting worse by the year!) It’s about having loads of heavy free weights, power cages and good leverage machines. The roid head warehouse gyms are always the best!

    I had to laugh when i was checking out a Golds gym in San Isidro, even the bars on the leverage machines only have enough room for 4 plates! seriously wtf is the point of getting leverage equipment if you limit how much weight you can put on it. The plus point about leverage machines is you load it to as much as you can lift, but the leveragemachine still laughs in your face as it still has space for 3 more plates!

    People just train to look good on the beach here is thing, it’s all about the 6 pack! being able to train for things like bodybuilding, power lifting etc just doesn’t exist as no one is looking to do it.

    Also the price of gym memberships is insane! seriously all crooks in peru, if you want to steal peoples money open a gym as unlike robbery it is totally legal to take everyones money with a over the top gym price. Protein shakes some how manage to have a higher street value than cocaine whats that all about as well!

    also you have to wear gloves god forbit you end up with hard skinned man hands!

    ok rant over! lol
    nice page colin!


  17. ooh actually the rant isn’t over! lol
    100 kilo max weight stacks someone explain this please, does peru have a tax on weight stacks over 100 kilos? The gym back home would have 450 kg on the fly and about 800kg stack on the calf raise, now that was a proper gym!
    ok rant over now….er…i hope! lol


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s