Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2013 (Bloomington, MN) with:

Strong: The Movie - A Documentary About Joe DeFranco's Gym

By Ben Nadel on

When I saw the trailer for "Strong: The Movie" by Joe DeFranco, I didn't really know what it was about, but I know that it looked like it kicked ass; the trailer had big guys lifting heavy stuff with bands and chains and 600lb tires all set to a bitchy remix of Daft Punk's, "Harder Better Faster Stronger." In short, the trailer made me want to stop what I was doing and immediatly go move weight against gravity with awesome intensity.


 
 
 

 
Strong: The Movie By Joe DeFranco.  
 
 
 

The DVD finally came after about a week and a half. Unfortunately, I've been really busy this week, so I've had to watch it in bits and pieces over the last few days. To be honest, the DVD is not what I expected it to be, and I won't lie - it was a bit disappointing. I can't say that I had a clear idea in my head of what I wanted it to be, but I can say that this was not it. As I was watching it, I kept trying to figure out what it was about - how could I summarize it to someone else? It's not really a workout video, although you see people doing some lifts. It's not really a commercial for Joe DeFranco's training system, although what Joe has made seems like a totally awesome system that has been proven to produce star athletes (Joe has trained athletes on almost every NFL team). I didn't really come away with any particular knowledge or greater understanding of fitness. So, what the heck was it all about?

I kept going over the DVD in my mind on the walk home last night, trying to nail it down, and I think I finally got it! Strong: The Movie is a sort of homage to gym culture itself. To this end, I think it is a beautiful and fascinating movie. Because I am so emotionally immerced in this world already, the point of this movie was perhaps not so immediately obvious; but, to those that are not gym goers, I think this movie would be quite enlightening.

To outsiders, the gym culture might appear to be anything from odd to narcissistic to downright distasteful; and, to be honest, there is some of that in the gym just as there is everywhere in life. But, what Joe DeFranco does in Strong: The Movie is really get into the culture and explore the people - why they are there, how the gym has helped them, and perhaps most moving, how they all help each other to succeed. When being interviewed, Joe himself nearly breaks down into tears when explaining how good it feels to know that he id changing the course of people's lives and helping them to achieve their full potential.

Keeping this context in mind, I re-read the back of the DVD jacket:

Tucked away in an industrial park in northern New Jersey, there is a gym where extraordinary people gather. Although these people come from different walks of life, they all share one common bond. Whether it's through physical demonstration or their ability to overcome adversity they are all unbelievably strong.

There's a certain romantic undertone to this and rightly so - the gym is really an idealized slice of life. It's a brotherhood of people all trying to do the same thing - improve themselves and, not surprisingly, improve those around them. It is perhaps the most positive environment that I have ever been witness to. It is this aspect of the gym culture that Joe DeFranco really does a great job of spotlighting in his documentary and is why this movie is actually quite ground-breaking.

Strong: The Movie is not what I was expecting because it didn't fall under the "meathead", "I wanna lift heavy shit" mentality that so many of us fully embrace in our respective gyms. But, it is a great movie because it reminds us what's so special about the gym and about the community that we've created. That said, Joe DeFranco's gym looks badass and I'd love to check it out some day.



Reader Comments

@Garrett,

I have not seen the gym yet - have you been there. I also have not seen the Westide workout. Can you point me towards a quality link?

I haven't watch this movie yet but I heard many great reviews about it. I think I might check it out one of these days. Thanks!