Coming into his freshman year at American University, School of Business freshman Tommy Schupp looked forward to joining an organized lifting club. When he found out there wasn’t one, he took action.
“Everyone always says let’s do a lifting club, let’s do a powerlifting club, let’s do Olympic lifting,” said Kogod School of Business junior Vinnie Catalano. “What [Schupp] did was create something to the point where we had to see each other, we had to be in that group. Now it’s something that people go and talk about.”
American Barbell Club is an unrecognized group dedicated to forging what Schupp calls “absolute monstrosities and bulk beasts,” in the fires of the Cassell Fitness Center. The club serves as a community for students looking to do everything from general lifting to bodybuilding and even powerlifting workouts.
The Instagram account, @americanbarbellclub1, posts lifting videos, gym shenanigans and updates on the club. They also encourage student lifters to direct message lifting videos or reach out if they’re interested in going to the gym and learning the ropes.
“A lot of people want to do it but it’s so hard to start. It’s intimidating, but know that there are people here to help,” Catalano said. “If anyone walked up to me and Tommy and asked us anything, I’d be ecstatic.”
American Barbell Club was originally planned to be a powerlifting team which would’ve included registering with a federation, dues and mandatory practices. Schupp had a different vision, but said his proposal was rejected by the Department of Recreational Sports and Fitness. He wanted the club to be less practice-driven, with a heavier emphasis on community. For Schuup, a lifting club at AU should support people’s individual journeys with fitness.
According to Schupp, the guidelines proposed by RecFit were competition-focused and wouldn’t have garnered enough support given the few powerlifters on campus.
In an email to The Eagle, RecFit said that the students contacted their office to form a club, “but never followed up or submitted a request during the new club registration window.” RecFit also said clubs must successfully complete a year of “Conditional Membership” before receiving official recognition from RecFit.
“We decided to make an informal group,” Schupp said. “It’s unofficial, non-affiliated with AU, we just all happen to lift at the same time in Cassell. What I wanted was for people to get together and support each other.”
The Barbell Club Instagram account recently invited all of its members to RecFit’s annual Push/Pull contest. Taking place April 3, competitors will show off their deadlift and bench press prowess. Students looking forward to competing can register at either the Cassell or Jacobs front desks for $25.
“I’m very excited,” Schupp said. “I’m glad RecFit is putting it together. It seems like most people are gonna compete.”
Despite the upcoming competition, Schupp and Catalano are focused on creating a positive culture around the gym.
“The most supportive people in my life have been from the gym,” Schupp said. “Everyone’s there with one goal. When you walk in the gym, you’re there to better yourself right? No one can get mad at you for that.”
Walking into the Cassell Fitness Center, Catalano and Schupp can be seen greeting other students and issuing challenges to each other to get hyped. Catalano said the atmosphere at the gym has become a “tiny community,” since the advent of the club.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a statement from RecFit. This article has been corrected. A previous version of this article misspelled Schupp’s name. Catalano is a junior, not a senior.
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