Eagle Gym in St. Louis, MO

I recently spent a month in St. Louis and I always publish a story about the homeland. I got the deal to do the Eagle Gym website. I train at Eagle when I’m in St. Louis, and it’s not just a gym. It’s a family, a following, and an artifact of American culture.

Weightlifting in Latin America aside, I don’t write much about a subject that’s been a huge part of my life for over a decade. I wrote Weightlifting in Latin America to make fun of how Colombians train, and I stand by it. But many Americans train like wimps too.

I recently read about the pussiest gym I’ve ever heard of, Planet Fitness in the United States. They don’t allow deadlifting, grunting, and they don’t have standard barbells. They give out pizza and candy. They want to create an environment that doesn’t intimidate new gym goers or the otherwise un-hardcore. Planet Fitness is not alone. 24 Hour Fitness and most big corporate operations cater to women and casual gym goers. They’re more health club than gym.

If that appeals to you at all, then Eagle is NOT for you. Eagle’s hardcore. People grunt. People scream. People get seriously injured. One guy got a staph infection after cutting off a callus (developed from years of heavy deadlifting). Eagle doesn’t have elliptical machines or treadmills. You don’t have to carry a towel. They don’t play techno. There are almost no women. Most guys have 300 lb benches under their belts. Eagle holds regular strongman and powerlifting events. On any given day you go, it could be Deadlift Wednesday when ~10 guys work on their deadlift.

One of the days I went a bunch of guys were push pressing. I hadn’t push pressed in about a year, but I jumped in with them to see where I was at. Here’s me push pressing 225 lbs (Push Press is an Overhead Press plus leg drive). The Olympic Jerk is when you split your legs to get lower. In an Eagle strongman event one guy tried that style for the Log Press and dislocated his knee under 300 lbs. I don’t do that.

That means I can Gorilla Press Slam your ass (see Ultimate Warrior finishers).

I missed 245 on the next set, but it’s respectable given how long it’d been since I practiced. The other guys went up to 305. Guys at Eagle take video of their PRs (personal record) and other feats. They share them on FB and talk shit. It’s a bona fide community.

Eagle recently held a push-pull competition at their 30 year anniversary. Here’s the push winner benching 525 lbs.

Sidenote: dudes who grow up on farm dominate strongman. Something about farm work makes strong dudes.

Eagle now offers boxing classes. The teacher’s a retired pro and friend, Mike Wood. He’s a born again Christian I interviewed in Conversations with Christians. See his boxing page on the Eagle site.

Eagle Gym website
Eagle on Facebook
Eagle equipment in pictures

There’s an Eagle Gym tattoo. I have it, on the right:

Eagle tattoo (right)

One night in STL I was drinking with some guys, but only one trained at Eagle. He mentioned the anniversary party. They would be barbecuing, drinking beer, and there was a push-pull competition. Somebody at the table laughed at how silly that sounded, how he’d never go drinking with a bunch of meathead rednecks and lift weights. I noted the stark contrast between that guy and me. I wouldn’t have missed that party for anything if I were in STL.

But I know it’s not for everybody. To help those understand us, I highly recommend watching Bigger, Faster, Stronger. It’s a documentary on steroids, but the byline is “The Side Effects of Being American,” and it really touches on something in the American male psyche. Many of us who grew up watching Arnold, Rocky, Rambo, WWF, and the rest of Team America kicking ass and taking names. This gave some of us complexes, a psychological need to be the toughest guy in a room. I have it. Sin duda. 



The growing up in America created the physical culture, but so did living in St. Louis. It’s a high crime city and it is NOT cool to be white in many parts. I waited tables downtown for years, and bartended on Delmar. Muggings are common in both areas. I learned the best defense is a strong offense. I tried to be someone the thieves would rather pass up for somebody weaker. I passed some shady niggaz in STL, but I never got mugged. This is how I live my lifestyle in Bogota as well.

One reason Latinos train like wimps is because the Spanish web is very undeveloped. Good information simply isn’t out there. So I recently had the idea to publish a strength training blog, pesasyfuerza.wordpress.com. I realized I don’t write in Spanish like I do in English. And I’m not passionate enough about training to maintain an industry-dominating blog. But the plan was to sell personal training sessions. If anybody here in Bogota wants to get big and strong, drop me a line. Only 40,000 pesos / hour, 3 days a week. After a month you won’t need me anymore because you’ll know the program. I’ve packed muscle on many other guys.

Once guys get brawny they never want to go back. People will treat you differently. Not just girls, guys too. I hear stories from others I can’t believe or imagine someone doing to me. Bartending on Delmar, many other servers were scrawny hipster types. They’d tell me how customers would disrespect them or act in some unacceptable why, and I’d always be shocked because that stuff never happens to me.

How I train always evolves. Here’s my current workout (48 hour rests between alternating workouts):

Workout A

Squat 3×5
Handstand Pushups 3 sets
1-arm Chinups 3 sets
L-sits 3 sets

Workout B

Deadlift 3×5
1-arm Pushups 3 sets
Pistol Squats 3 sets
1-arm 1-leg planks 3 sets

For squat and deadlift I go up in weight every day. So if I do 3 x 5 x 315 on Monday, I’ll throw 2.5s on each side (320) on Friday. I go up until I fail to get 3×5. I try again and again until I get it.

Lately I’m focusing on bodyweight exercises. I used to think you could never get very big and strong doing bodyweight. In 2002 I timed how many pushups I could do in a minute – 83. That’s a lot and I was fit, but I wasn’t powerful at 6’3 175 lbs. I never tried to do more difficult bodyweight exercises, only pushups and pullups.

Anybody who doesn’t think you can get big and powerful with bodyweight exercises should check out Hannibal on YouTube.

I read a few strength and conditioning blogs. StrongLifts is by far the most applicable to beginners and intermediate athletes. Until you can squat 150% of your bodyweight for 5 sets of 5, do StrongLifts. It’s what I put trainees on. Jason Ferruggia has become my favorite. He’s the best. He trains professional athletes in all major sports. But reading him is for passionate athletes. I’m starting to pay attention to Travis Stoetzel, and I like how he publishes a lot of impressive videos (check out Death by Barbell). Finally, I can’t actually do a strict rep for every bodyweight exercise I listed. For the ones I can’t do one of, I’m starting progression variations. You can find those progression tutorials on Beast Skills.

Music is important to the most guys into powerlifting or strongman. The intensity is so high you need something to pick you up. Last summer I squatted 385 lbs for 3 sets of 3. When I put that much weight on my back my face turns beet-red and veins pop out of my forehead.

At that level of intensity your nervous system becomes just as important as the muscles. Your nervous system takes longer to recover. Your body will try to talk you out of picking up that much weight. So music helps get us there mentally. 99% of workout music is metal or rap. Here are my heavy-ass-weight-training pics:


Coal Chamber – Big Truck
Pantera – Walk
Marilyn Manson – Beautiful People
White Zombie – Thunder Kiss ‘65
Rage Against The Machine – Guerilla Radio
Disturbed – Down with the Sickness
Ram Jam – Black Betty


Rick Ross – B.M.F.
2Pac – Can’t C Me
Mos Def – Life is Real
DMX – Who We Be
Common – The Corner
Black Rob – Whoa
Pharoahe Monch – Simon Says

Very honorable mention for Twista’s entire Adrenaline Rush album and Raze it Up by Onyx (not on YouTube).

Also used for intensity at Eagle – only for very intense sets – is Nose Tork or smelling salts. Take a big snort and you’re ready to pick up 500 lbs.

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  1. I am reminded of an article recently published by Slate:

    “…’muscle dysmorphia.’ The condition is limited to Western males, who suffer the delusion that they are insufficiently ripped. ‘As a result,’ write the authors, ‘they may lift weights compulsively in the gym, often gain large amounts of muscle mass, yet still perceive themselves as too small.’ Within body-building circles, in fact, muscle dysmorphia has long been recognized as a sort of reverse anorexia nervosa.”


  2. The term is “body dysmorphic disorder.” When I was in college, my buddies and I were what you would call “gym rats.” One of my best friends was actually in the book written by the Harvard professor in the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster as an example of how far the human body can be pushed without steroids.


  3. great blog, man. I wish the gym had been a bigger part of my life up to now. I am doing some things now that are good, but my NFL dreams are long gone…

    I have always been curious what life would be like if I was all ripped.



  4. Great motivation – makes me think that I should hit the barbells again…
    Back in my Judo days we almost entirely did bodyweight. – iron was just complementary. It didn`t made me that big, but I got pretty strong.

    Nowadays…there are just excuses – gotta change that!

    PS.: Talking about documentaries, or in this case docudrama = the scene where Franco Columbu lifts a car in Pumping Iron…haha


  5. Great information. Like you when I grew up I started lifting just to be more able to get into someone’s ass if I needed to. Prior to bulking up and lifting heavy, I was wrestling for years, which I was ripped and perfectly capable of handling myself (sick conditioning) but I unless I took my shirt off to show abs and ripped physique I just looked small in my day to day clothing. Bulking up and putting on around 30 lbs (not all solid of course) kept me out of more fights than actually bieng in dog shape and being able to fight.

    I stopped lifting heavy after tearing some muscles a couple of years ago so now I mainly do body weight stuff too. I picked back up the wrestling adding submissions, BJJ, boxing etc several years back and I still squat kind of heavy but other than that, just do mostly body weight, or spar for my muscular endurance and functional exlosiveness.


  6. Also I want to add places like Eagle gym unfortunately are a dying breed.

    while we do have some solid places like Eagle gym and we have many meat heads into various cool and rough sports, unfortunately we also have the vast majority of dudes who just want to look big, hence muscle beaches, and 24hr Fitness gyms with dinky machines. Most men have the big biceps to impress women but thin necks, weak legs etc. There aren’t that many countries that are as concerned with looking big w/out functionality like the US. Think Jersey shore dbags, with fake tans and big arms.

    Some observations while abroad.

    1. Eastern Europe – has some hardcore sportsmen. Like most of Europe, the dudes are usually thin. But when you see a stout one it is likely he lifts for power or was a wrestlers, boxers or some other “real” sport other than lifting to loook pretty. You wont find many guys from the Eastern Block lifting for bar muscle.

    2. England – again most guys are into soccer/football and even some of them are crazy hooligans, but when you see a stout dude, chances are he plays rugby and lifts for functionality.

    3. Scandanavia/Germany – Tend to be on the taller side and have good genes, though most don’t lift for power…but again same rule, if you see a thick guy he probably lifts as a sport or plays a contact sport maybe hockey or something.

    Just my 2 cents


  7. @ Ryan – All of DMX’s first three albums are workout playlists. Just let em play!

    @ Rawley – I didn’t get into horsepower over appearance, I guess because I thought it’d be obvious. Long story short, I spent years doing whack ass bodybuilding routines that didn’t get me anywhere. When I started whole body workouts with heavy ass weight is when I broke through plateaus.


  8. Exactly Colin – Most dudes see magazines as a kid and want to be that, but when they get around and see what’s up they know that looks are just one thing. Guys like us know that things like wide backs, traps etc, are signs of power, not veiny biceps and tiny necks.


  9. I trained at a cheap neighbourhood gym in Medellin for 3 months. Just 30k per month. It was a bit crammed and the equipment wasn’t the best but OK for the price. But they lacked olympic bars – not good. Bodytech was too expensive an far away for me. Plus, you’re right it’s too sterile and the hot girls are just a distraction from training.

    Isn’t there a real gym like Eagles in Colombia?

    I heard the facilities at universities can be good. It’s where the weighlifters and such go but didnt check it out myself.

    I like your blog. Keep up the good work!


  10. I have been at eagle off and on for 18 years.Rick is a very knowledgeable guy and is one of the coolest cats around.Eagle gym is a special place and should be a st louis landmark.


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