Walking into East Race Muscle in South Bend, is unlike entering any commercial gym in the area. Once a car factory, the gym itself has massive concrete columns supporting its ceiling, and large windows along one wall allow for plenty of natural light during the daytime. 

The facility was established in 2015, and its ethos is reflected in its mantra: “Be a Lion.” Lions are emblematic of strength and loyalty—apropos to such a place—but also, they are pack animals. The same can be said of the powerlifters and other patrons at East Race Muscle. 

Powerlifting is a thoroughly Midwestern sport, that emerged in the 1960s and 70s. In fact, the go-to barbell is known as the “Ohio barbell” (made by Rogue Fitness) and one of the first powerlifting gyms was established in Cleveland. 

A handful of Goshen College students are avid powerlifters: Adrian Delgadillo, a junior communication major, Albert Aguilar, a senior exercise science major, and Irving Matute, a junior kinesiology major. 

These three train together regularly on Saturdays and will be competing in Chicago this weekend. East Race Muscle will host the USA Weightlifting LFTD Classic Tournament on April 22. 

Powerlifting is similar to cross country or track and field in that it is an individual sport, yet teams are formed for cooperative training and mutual support. 

While East Race Muscle is best known for powerlifting, it also features CrossFit equipment, weight machines and a boxing ring. 

“I really dig the vibe,” said Samuel Gonzalez, a bodybuilder who works out at East Race Muscle. “It feels like a second home.”