The Barbell Sports Evangelist

The barbell sports gym is on the rise, and young coaches like Jesse Irizzary are leading the charge.

Jesse Irizzary is only 31 years old but when it comes to coaching he is an old soul. He has a 3,200 square foot facility on 21st Street in New York city called JDI Barbell Gym. When he first opened the gym, he built everything by hand. He laid down the rubber mats, put in soundproofing insulation in the ceiling, and built his own lifting platforms. When he first opened the gym, he didn’t have enough equipment to run both powerlifting and weightlifting (the Olympic kind) sessions. It was simple squat stands, benches, and not enough weights to go around. Never enough weights to go around. Like most indie gym owners, Irizzary was on his own, bootstrapping his business, focusing on his coaching and hoping to build a community that could sustain his practice.

He’s come a long way since then, and he still has a long way to go. Like we said, the guy is still very young. He’s still learning, and boy, he loves to learn. You can see it on his social media pages, and if you listen to what he says in the video below, you can feel how serious he is about his coaching. It comes across in everything he does. We want Irizzary to succeed because, well, frankly, we like the guy and what he stands for. No, not because we had a beer with him or hang out, he’s on another coast, but because we believe in the future of barbell sports.

A seriously legit strength and conditioning coach with a background in college sports, Irizzary has also participated in powerlifting competitions, bench pressing an impressive 633 lbs, and now focuses on weightlifting bringing on Russian champion, Vasily Polovnikov, into his gym to coach his members as well as himself.

Barbell sports gyms are an upward trend in the fitness industry. Irizzary does both powerlifting and weightlifting, running the two groups at the same time, which may sound logical but isn’t always an orthodox option for coaches who see themselves as purists in either discipline. We’d like to see more Irizzary’s unorthodox approaches in the indie gym space because barbell sports are a more sustainable gym model than just pure weightlifting or powerlifting. In addition, Irizzary teaches foundational barbell training to beginners, as well as big compound barbell movements not focused on either powerlifting or weightlifting. We like that, too, because you need to have an on-ramp for barbell training of any kind. There are very few places where you can pick up heavy weights, and drop them. People coming from traditional globo gyms can get overwhelmed by the atmosphere of barbell gyms. Give them the tools and let them decide where they go with it, and if it isn’t powerlifting or weightlifting competition, fine, let them enjoy it for whatever it is for them.

It works for Irizzary. His membership ranges in age from people into their 20s to their mid-50s, with more female members than male. That’s exciting to see, but it’s going to take more work to get broader adoption of barbell training. Irizzary is a great example of a coach who has found a focus in strength and conditioning that is not just the usual mish-mash of CrossFit type workouts and Olympic weightlifting as an afterthought. He is constantly learning and adapting his approach so that his barbell sports gym will evolve, and drive more new adherents to the disciplines on offer. In the meantime, we hope to encourage more people to support coaches like Irizzary, who are evangelizing on the front lines and helping to shape the fitness industry by creating a really powerful, strong arena for trainees.

Fitness Influencers are picked by coaches and Breaking Muscle editors in a purely subjective manner. They are coaches who are known to Breaking Muscle through their posts on the site and or through the recommendations of their peers. We look for coaches who exhibit a dedication to their craft, who have a physical practice that is respectful of all trainees, and most of the time we err on the side of promoting coaches who are probably too shy or modest to be great self-promoters themselves. It’s about supporting the independent coaches and gyms that need our support and admiration.