Focus on Strength

Don’t mess! The strongest are among us


The Riverdale Strength and Fitness Club’s Strongest Man and Woman Competition was more than just a show of guts and glory.

Right before it began on Sunday, two Marines walked into the gym and said hello to the gathering of spectators and competitors. They weren’t there to show off their strength, but rather to pick up a table full of donations for the Toys for Tots Foundation, a charity which the competition would benefit.

When the games began, athletes showed support by cheering their competition instead of clapping politely or silently hoping their foes would fail.

“Legs! Legs! Legs! Push with your legs!” screamed Alexandra Dante to Andrea Nieves, who was sitting in a monster truck tire pulling a 445-pound growler — a pile of weights on a metal sled — toward her.

Ms. Nieves was trying to beat Ms. Dante’s time.

In all of the five events that four men and four women competed in on Sunday, about 15 spectators cheered wildly, but the competitors were even louder.

Local trainer Will Harris founded the Riverdale Strength and Fitness Club in 2009. It operates out of one of the Amalgamated Houses on Gale Place in Van Cortlandt Village and prides itself on being a community and not just a place to work out.

One of the competitors, Jamil Alexis, said he frequents the gym because he “wanted a non-traditional workout experience.”

“This is just an added bonus,” he said about the event.

Months ago, the gym became affiliated with the worldwide CrossFit community, which stresses overall strength fitness without the use of typical workout machines.

Sunday’s competition was anything but traditional.

During one event, male participants had to pick up 130-pound sandbags while females lifted 90-pound bags. They carried their loads 40 feet across the gym before sprinting back, picking up either 160- or 110-pound kegs filled with water, and carrying them across the gym. Finally, they sprinted back, picked up another set of sandbags and carried them to the finish.

In other events, the competitors lifted kegs and sandbags above their heads or posed in a “farmer’s hold” while they were timed to see how long they could hold two heavily weighted barbells.

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