By Bob Bonham – Strong & Shapely Gym, established in 1984 by Bob Bonham, the guy who built it the way he thought a gym should be: with passion/not profit. You may even hear it referred to as “the Disneyland of gyms” or the “original East Coast Mecca.”
Why? Vast amount of equipment, which includes 65 leg stations, 40 back machines, 100 yards of dumbbells, custom machines, the best pieces of equipment not even manufactured anymore and a CrossFit room.
The ‘who’s-who’ of bodybuilding trained and visited, including the man himself, Joe Weider, for the opening of the first Joe Weider ProShop. Once a year, they’d shut the gym down on a Saturday afternoon for a fun private party called “Champion Day.” The invite-only event was well attended by pros, national-level men and women, celebrities in the sport and, of course, the press. There is still a video floating around the web by ESPN’s American Muscle Magazine. They trained together in a hot-blooded atmosphere of hardcore sessions. All attendees received gifts, cosmetics and T-shirts, but the highlight of the event was the homemade buffet by Bonham’s wife Debby. She cooked for days before the festivities. No one left empty-handed, no one left hungry.
A frequent guest had a pair of 250 pound dumbbells named after him. On the face of one dumbbell was painted “RON” and on the other “COLEMAN.” That’s right, eight-time (consecutive) Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman. Quite a few Mr. and Ms. Olympia winners came by for workouts.
Celebrities could often be seen on the gym floor, including professional wrestlers and the main roster guys: Triple H, The Rock, Kurt Angle and John Cena. Also seen on the floor, Ken Shamrock, UFC world champion. Today’s main roster guys are still coming in, like Ryback and Darren Young.
The gym is located in East Rutherford, New Jersey and less than a mile away, MetLife Stadium and the Meadowlands complex is located so seeing professional athletes here is the norm.
Rock bands like Danzig (heavy metal) and punk rockers The Misfits were members. On any given day, you could catch a photo shoot of movie actor, singer, dancer and choreographer Gregory Hines. You could be working out next to Gregg Valentino, known as the man with the largest arms in the world, or see the Manhattan Madam, Kristin Davis, wearing a low top. You may be asked to spot Maryana Naumova, world record bench press holder from Russia, or Daniella Diesel, America’s Strongest Woman winner, or local legend Heather Darling, with a bench press over 500 pounds.
When you walk in the door, there is a high-energy atmosphere. You feel the vibe; you are there to work out hard. There are nice friendly members that keep that level up. They are not there to talk on cell phones, to hang out in cliques, or hog benches and equipment. They take training seriously and revel in the inspirational atmosphere that keeps them focused.
Bodybuilders Who Have Visited
Cast from “Pumping Iron:” Leon Brown and Bill Grant
Mr. Olympia: Ronnie Coleman, Chris Dickerson, Dexter Jackson
Ms. Olympia: Cory Everson, Andrulla Blanchette, Dayana Cadeau, Lenda Murray
Many top Mr. Americas and National Champions
List of Featured Television Coverage
- The Maury Povich show
- Ripley’s Believe it or not
- Inside Edition
- Fox Sports
- European Television,
- The Learning Channel (TLC)
- My 9 TV (used for commercials)
List of Magazines Featured in
- Muscle & Fitness
- Muscle Magazine
- Muscular Development
- Men’s Health
- Men’s Fitness
- Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness
- Iron Man
- Powerlifting USA
- Exercise – For Men Only
- Women’s Physique World
- Strong and Shapely Magazine
2014 AND THE DREAM STILL LIVES ON FOR ALL GUESTS AND MEMBERS, MANY WHO HAVE BEEN THERE ALL 30 YEARS.