Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Does it Mean to be Hardcore?

Ever since I started dating a bodybuilder, I keep hearing the term, "hardcore." J and his friends use the word as if it's a status symbol: "Yeah, our gym is hardcore!" or "All the hardcore guys wear "hip sacks." ("Hip sacks" is a whole 'nother blog for a different day. I'm not even gonna get started here. But suffice it to say, my Grandma also owned and proudly wore one of those so-called hardcore "hip sacks.")

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.

Is this gym "hardcore"?

There are very few machines, but the dumbbells go up past 150 lbs and the weight plates may have rust on them.

Equipment is all crammed in here and doesn't look new, so this gym is hardcore.

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.)

This gym is so hardcore, it's not even in a building!

It's not a fancy, expensive gym that has brand new, shiny, matching equipment and more stability balls than dumbbells.

Is the couch there so you can rest in between sets?

The only cardio equipment in a hardcore gym is either old treadmills or jumpropes. No fancy elliptical machines, each equipped with their own TV.

No sweating allowed!

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."

AnimalPak ads are known for depicting hardcore training.

Or it means doing good, old-fashioned drills outside ... in the middle of winter ... in Russia. Like Rocky.

Rocky was the definition of hardcore!

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.

The hoodie and work boots make this guy hardcore.

These people are all hardcore.

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.


  1. I disagree. Fanny Pack is a must-have for those who want to be hardcore. I say this as an outside observer and non-bodybuilder.

  2. LOL - my trainer has one (she is an IFBB Pro), but her's is a gold sequined version, she must be REALLY hardcore ;)

    Oh and thanks for the link on the clothes .. love love love and Mr Visa is about to get a hardcore hammering :)

  3. This was fabulous.

    My uncle Gene has never worked out a day in his life, but I've never seen him without his overstuffed fanny pack. He's so hardcore!!

    I NEED that gym with the chandelier in my life! Great find!!

  4. oh! those pictures really grasped the concept of what most ppl think of when the words "hardcore" are thrown around!!!
    if you could have only sen the gym i trained at last year,you would have rolled over and laughed. totally a combo of all the pics up of what a hard core gym looks like! now that im at a "fancy" gym with real stationary bikes and nonrusted plates,and actual coushin on the benches...im like a kid in a candy store! BUT i still do the old school stuffas well,so i still get crazy looks when i do something a bit non conventional-LOL!!!

    anyways,good post-the last 3 sentences are a nice way to summerize!!!!
    (and btw,although i consider myself to be hardcore,i dont have a fanny pack-the new "fancy"gym doesnt allow it! LOL!)

  5. i really do love the 90s attire, i would love everyone in my gym to be that hardcore

  6. Oh my gosh! This post was great! So true and so funny! Thanks for posting this!

  7. training hard with intense focus. It means going to the gym to TRAIN ... not to "work out."


  8. I just started working out again a month and a half ago, but I am a lot more serious, and work out longer, and incorporate strength training with each workout. My good friend, who is an Iron Man athlete, as well as a consistent triathlete and marathlete, (I have no idea how to say that, lol,) gives me advice as to what moves work each area. She never talks about machines, either. I consider her hard-core. I work out at least 1 1/2 hours/day 5x/week. I work out until I can't do it anymore, and my time is increasing drastically.

    I was complaining that on my 'days off' I want to eat everything in sight. She suggested supplements, because working out 'hard core' requires more protein, and we can't eat 12 eggs in a day. I don't consider myself as hard core, but she mentioned it. I was very surprised to hear those words come from her mouth about me, because she used to make fun of me when she saw me exercise a year ago! LOL.

    So. I just need to know if I'm hard core, or what... only because I have no idea how to feed myself, and I don't want to over do it, either. The LAST thing I want are thunder thighs.

  9. P.S. My body is changing like crazy, too. I've seen myself transform significantly within the last month. Even the little rolls of fat on my upper back are gone, lol.

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