Being an English major, I often investigate the etymology (origins) of words. So the more I started hearing the word, "hardcore," the more I started questioning what it really means and how to use the word in its proper context.
What makes a gym hardcore?
Let's first discuss what makes a gym "hardcore." My understanding of a hardcore gym is one that is dirty with broken equipment, and is often either in a decrepit, run-down building with spray paint on the exterior, or is located in a basement. It must be dank, dark, and may have exposed light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.
There are very few machines, but the dumbbells go up past 150 lbs and the weight plates may have rust on them.
Only "serious" bodybuilders train in these gyms; other people are too intimidated. (Or they just don't like cracked benches with perma-sweat stains on them.)
It's not a fancy, expensive gym that has brand new, shiny, matching equipment and more stability balls than dumbbells.
The only cardio equipment in a hardcore gym is either old treadmills or jumpropes. No fancy elliptical machines, each equipped with their own TV.
What does it mean to be "hardcore"?
Now that we've taken a look at the elements that make a gym hardcore, let's think about what it actually means to BE hardcore. My basic understanding is that being hardcore means training hard with intense focus. It means going to the gym to TRAIN ... not to "work out."
Or it means doing good, old-fashioned drills outside ... in the middle of winter ... in Russia. Like Rocky.
To most of the bodybuilders I've talked with about this, being hardcore doesn't only mean training hard; it also means looking the part. Hardcore involves hoodies, string tank tops, work boots, clown pants, fanny packs, and oversize t-shirts a la Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.
I'm not trying to poke fun of people's wardrobes, or what elements make someone hardcore. It's my understanding that most modern bodybuilders think of the 1990's as the age of true hardcore bodybuilders. Which, in turn, means that they associate the fashion of the '90's as the definition of hardcore.
Bodybuilding fashion is starting to finally evolve, and GASP clothing is now very popular among bodybuilders. Not only is it nice quality, it's cut for bodybuilders.
What's the fascination with being hardcore?
Being hardcore is a status symbol of sorts. Not everyone can or wants to be hardcore. To be hardcore, you must be focused, determined, intense, and driven. The work boots and fanny pack are optional.