Panthers pump iron across the street

School has been out for about 15 minutes. Across the street from NPHS, Fitness 19, sits grounded as it continually braces for the impact of students crowding into the facility like sardines crammed straight into an aluminum can.

A student lies flat above a bench, clutching a 130-pound metal bar, dangerously dangling over his neck. Right above that student stands the spot-bro, ready to catch the bar in case of error. The spot-bro explains the process: “When a person is about to fail their rep, you help them out but you don’t fully [pick it up], so you can push them past their limits,” Addy Saravana, sophomore, said. While Saravana explains the spotting process, the student benching interrupts, “When you see them failing a rep and the bar is falling back down,” Brayden Stewart, a sophomore, said. “Hey, he asked me, okay, he asked me!” Saravana, frustrated by Stewart’s interruption, said. Stewart re-racks the weight and towers over Saravana, “What do you even bench, huh?” Stewart said.

The gym bros stand in the corner of the gym, which is lined with artificial grass turf. “This has kind of become our area because Sean really likes the grass,” Stewart said. Stewart is referring to the absent third member of his gym bro clique, Sean Mano, sophomore. Mano is deemed the de facto leader of the clique due to his physical prowess. “This is the most masculine space; your dominance over other dudes is based on how much you can bench. Like Sean is way more dominant than me because he can bench way more,” Stewart said. Later on, another non-affiliated gym bro comes up to the clique, who are all sitting on a tire watching Instagram reels. “I always see them do anything but the workout,” Nate Pagano, senior, said.

The gym bro clique explained their aversion to powerlifters (strength trainers) and science lifters. “We freaking hate [powerlifters,] people like Anthony who are training for strength,” Stewart said. Saravana chirps in, “Cause they’re stronger than us; we also hate science lifters too.” Saravana said. “Well yeah, that’s the biggest thing, people who train with logic and with science are stupid,” Saravana said. “We lift for aesthetics,” Stewart said.

Anthony Gerolamo, sophomore, stands tall while performing a lateral pull-down exercise, “I’ve benched 250 pounds,” Gerolamo said. Gerolamo shows the process of bodybuilding and how the workout [splits] function. “[A split] is the training program that you take to hit different muscle groups on different days. [There is the] Arnold split, which is chest and back on one day, arms on another day, and then legs on the other day. There is also the [push-pull legs split], which is where you do chest, triceps, and shoulders on day one; you do back and biceps on day two; then on day three, you do legs. There are a lot of different splits, [and there is even] my own split that I created; It’s kind of funky, but it works for me,” Gerolamo said.
If any aspiring bodybuilder wants to get big, they have to eat big, Gerolamo reiterates. “When you’re trying to get bigger, you have to shove every piece of food down your throat even if you don’t want to. Bulking is eating in a calorie surplus. Everybody has their own maintenance calories based on their age, height, and weight. If you want to bulk, you have to eat above that maintenance calorie level.”

In Gerolamo’s experience with bulking, he finds there are two types: dirty bulking and lean bulking. “Dirty bulking is when you eat whatever you want. Typically you’re eating about 5000 calories a day. You’ll start gaining weight really fast; you’ll definitely get way stronger because of all those carbohydrates and fats that will give you a lot of energy, but you definitely will get fatter. In a lean bulk, when you eat clean, you just eat chicken breasts; you don’t eat whatever you want. You won’t gain weight as fast, but that also means you won’t gain a lot of fat. No matter what with both, you’re gonna gain some sort of fat, but you’ll also gain muscle,” Gerolamo said.

Stewart and Saravana, supposedly participating in leg day, were nowhere to be found near the closest leg exercise machine. “We’ve basically done, um, some abs,” Stewart said. The gym bro clique has made extensive gains since starting at the gym; Stewart claims to have gained thirty pounds of muscle within a year of dedicated training at Fitness 19. “This place is freaking wild but we’ve been able to go crazy with it; we’ve been able to get mad gains,” Stewart said. However, all three gym bros wouldn’t have been able to achieve the mad gains if they did not have each other. “We’re like the three Musketeers,” Saravana said.