South Side Gym, A Billy Minnaugh Article
When Dave Tate asked me to write an article for Elite Fitness Systems, I was a bit hesitant. Dave trains at the mecca of powerlifting, Westside Barbell Club. What could I possibly add to the knowledge that pours out of that holy place? Upon further thought, I decided to do my best to introduce our team to the powerlifting community and share what has worked for us as the mainstream power magazines seem to ignore what goes on outside of California.
Southside gym is located in Stratford, Connecticut and is not your average training facility. There are no fancy machines or chrome plates. There is one piece of cardio equipment, a stationary bike, that is used as a bag and coat rack. Most of the time it's a place where we fat guys lean to take the pressure off our lower backs. The floor is full of chalk and blood stained from popped zits and bloody noses. The walls are adorned with black and white photos of old time boxers. At first glance one would think that Southside is a shit hole and they might not be too far off. But it's also the home of some of the best powerlifters in the country.
The philosophy at Southside is, "Get big, get strong or get the fuck out". Southside is a strong proponent of the Westside system. Everyone box squats or they can't squat in the gym the same day as the powerlifters. We set up the %'s and movements and everyone follows the same outline. I was the first convert to the Westside system and as guys around the area saw my total rising, they would soon come to train with me. Mike Olmo and Ronny Dayton were the first ones to switch over and many more soon followed. At first I was the leader and semi-coach. But the great thing about the Westside system is, as guys learn it, they can tailor their assistance work to fit their needs. Soon these students are coaching the other converts. The relationship goes from teacher to student to competitor. When Ronny and Mike first started training with me I would crush them on every max effort movement. Some of this was due to my familiarity with the movement itself and also because my posterior chain was far more advanced than theirs was. It did not take long before the beatings became rarer and rarer and now every training day is a fight for survival as both Ronny and Mike have made astonishing gains.
One of the great things about powerlifting is how word spreads once a gym starts producing elite totals. It didn't take long before other lifters begin to migrate here. Before we knew it we had a bona fide power team with as many as 15 guys competing. I could spend this entire article describing how we train and what movements we do but both Dave and Louie Simmons are far more qualified than me to describe the
Westside system. What I want to focus on is the attitude we share at Southside and the reason we keep
When you train at Southside it is expected that you give 100%. When you walk into the gym and you are stiff and sore, don't feel like training and want to go home, you know that in the back of your mind that your training partners will be feeling great. Their mission is to make you their bitch on whatever movement we are doing that day. You had better get into the right frame of mind or you can expect to be crapped on until the next training day. To lose a max effort night is to lose your dignity, your pride and
your manhood. We group guys of equal strength and everyone basically fights to the death. Winning a max effort day is never the goal. Not losing is more important. Avoiding the verbal assault that follows a
loss takes precedent over winning. This type of competition has led to some injuries, but also some
incredible totals and lifts. There have been nights when guys will attempt weight after weight because
someone will up the weight by 5 lbs. The other guy will try to beat it and so on and so forth. By the end
it seems almost miraculous that muscles stay attached as guys have literally passed out on the way up from a movement just to avoid losing the battle. The day after a max effort night, broken blood vessels adorn the face and eyes so that those that engaged in the battle look like Mike Tyson after the Lennox Lewis fight.
Meets are obviously what all the training is for and Southside has been quite successful in their
competitions. We expect guys to compete or help out at meets unless work interferes. When you bust your ass with guys in the gym, it is awesome to see them do well at a meet .Its almost as satisfying for me to see my training partners do well as it is for me to do well. When we first started competing as a team, Southside was mainly a squat and deadlift gym. Our benches were fairly pathetic and more times than not we would be some of the worst bench pressers in our weight class. We knew this had to change if we were going to be successful. It would have been easy to just make excuses and accept the fact that our benches sucked but that is a loser's mentality. With determination and a never say die attitude, we have moved up from a pathetic benching gym to an average benching gym. Soon our numbers will be more than respectable. Vinny Dizenzo became our first 700lb bench presser and we have two others over 600,Bobby Yits [650 at super]and Matt Morgan[640 at 308].We also have 9 over 500.We chose to attack our weakness' and adopt Louie's philosophy of "train what is weak and you will become strong." Far too often people cop out and make excuses for their poor lifts. The fact is if you trained that lift with 100% intensity and intelligence, that lift will increase.
At Southside, we do not accept excuses. If you say, "I have small hands and it's fucking up my deadlift" we show them my hands and tell them I pull 788. My hands are as small as a schoolgirl's and almost always smaller than the guy making excuses. There are no excuses. We will not stand for crybabies in our gym. Many have come to train with us and said "I don't like good mornings, they hurt my
back". These poor unfortunate souls usually do not last long and every year their total remains the same just because they just can't muster up enough balls to go the extra mile to get strong. We cannot be bothered with those who make excuses. We are there to get strong and we do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. If you are not willing to "die" for your goal you need to train somewhere else. Don't like goodmornings? Get the fuck out and train at a spandex club. Think we do too much volume? Then go home to your mommy. You either train hard or you train elsewhere.
This type of attitude sounds harsh but powerlifting is an unforgiving sport. If you slack in the gym, you might be fooling those around you but come the day of the meet, your effort will be shown to the world. That is why we demand that guys go 100%. When you compete for our team you are representing us [your teammates] as well as yourself. We will not allow some slacker to besmirch what the rest of us have busted our asses to achieve. Most cannot have a great meet every time out, but lack of effort should never be the reason for a shitty meet. Powerlifting is a short career. You need to take advantage of your opportunities while you are healthy. Don't look back and say, "I wish I would have trained harder." Go at this 100% or don't do it all.
Southside has tried to emulate Westside Barbell in both training philosophy and attitude. This sport is about 10% genetics and 90% attitude. If you are willing to literally put your health and well being on the line when you train then the personal rewards will be great. If you are scared, not willing to bleed, get hurt or even die then there will be no reward for you. You will be just another lifter that complains about gear, drugs and monolifts. At Southside we only care about totals. We do not care about federations or being drug free or what kind of gear you wear. We care only for numbers, and the work it takes to achieve them. We will not accept drug free guys [which make up the vast majority of our lifters] that make excuses for not getting on our gyms' record board. They are expected to get there just like our lifters that supplement. Our advice to the powerlifting world is to stop making excuses for your pathetic lifting. It is not gear or drugs or monolifts that make the lifter; it is desire, heart and balls. Anyone can bitch about feds and gear but not everyone can muster up the nads to get under 900 and squat it. Anyone can cry about bench shirts but how many have the guts to try and bench 700? When we read some of the posts on the Internet we laugh. One would think all you need to do is wear gear, take drugs and use a monolift to hit big numbers. These Internet icons would not last 5 minutes at Southside. In our gym we believe in training before posting and not making excuses for our piss poor lifting and totals.
Teammates are vital in your success as a lifter. At Southside we are fortunate to have guys that can teach you form and others that can tell you what body parts are holding your lifts back. Mike Olmo is the best squat technician I have ever seen. He can teach anyone to squat with good form [except me]. Ronny Dayton can do the same thing with the deadlift and Vinny Dizenzo with the bench. I can look at you and tell you what your weakness is. It is an effective combination and a tremendous asset to our team.
Lastly, we want to thank all the Westside guys for being the most helpful and inspirational lifters in the world. Seeing guys like Chuck Vogelpohl lift is what makes guys like me believe anything is possible. I wish everyone could train at a place like Southside. Having teammates like I do has allowed me to go places I could have only dreamed of. I would be remiss if I did not introduce our guys and give their numbers.
VINNY DIZENZO-700LB BENCH PRESS @308
750 SQT @242,1840 TOTAL [AM @242]
RONNY DAYTON-860, 501,744, 2060 TOTAL @275
MIKE OLMO-903 SQUAT 2086 TOTAL @275
BOBBY YITS-860, 650,760,2200@SUPER
MATT MORGAN-830, 640,705,2170 @308
PHIL HALLIWELL-755, 469,605,1815 @242[AM]
FRANK ARCAMONE-715 SQT, 1759 TOTAL @220[AM]
ROB WEBBER-800, 500,600,1900 @308
FRANK GOMES-535 BENCH @SUPER [AM]
GORDON BEINSTEIN-570 BENCH @242
DAVE WILCOX JR-1715 TOTAL @275[AM]
JOE SYLVIA-650 SQT AT 198[AM, MASTER]
ROB TONINI-500 BENCH AT 242[AM]
JOE SYLVIA JR-MULTI TIME TEEN STATE CHAMP
DAVE WILCOX SR-460LB BENCH @275[AM MASTER]
LOU DEUTCH-565 BENCH @308[AM] 1715 TOTAL
BILLY MIMNAUGH-942, 573,2303 @SUPER