The New Mecca of Muscle

How Bev Francis' Powerhouse Gym became the most legendary bodybuilding center on the planet.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Matthew Acton, Kevin English, Juan Morel, Steve Weinberger, Victor Martinez, marco Rivera, Yeshaira Robles, Patty Zariello, Guy Cisternino, Angelica Nebbia, Bethany Wagner, Swann Delarosa, Jon Delarosa, Karen Morel, Dana Linn Bailey

BEV FRANCIS NEVER WON THE MS. OLYMPIA CONTEST, THE MOST COVETED TITLE IN ALL OF WOMEN’S BODYBUILDING, ALTHOUGH HER CONTROVERSIAL SECOND-PLACE FINISH TO LENDA MURRAY IN 1991, AN EVENT TELEVISED LIVE BY ESPN, MADE HER THE BIGGEST ICON IN THE SPORT. 

The rivalry between the “mainstream” physique of Murray and the highly developed body of Francis went on to further define a debate—immortalized a few years prior in Pumping Iron II: The Women, which pitted Francis against Rachel McLish—which has raged for generations. It cut to the heart of the meaning of femininity, of double standards between the sexes, of whether society was ready for the advent of strong, powerful women who refused to bow to the expectations of others. It also made Francis synonymous with strength and a hero to bodybuilding purists everywhere.

In the midst of Francis’ competitive heyday, she and her husband, IFBB judge and former competitive powerlifter Steve Weinberger, opened a small, unassuming gym in Syosset, NY, a suburban hamlet near Long Island’s North Shore. Weinberger made a fateful decision when he named the 5,000-square-foot space, purchased with the help of a home-equity loan, calling it Bev Francis Bodybuilding Gym when it opened its doors in 1986. Just like that, a hallowed lifting locale was born. 

 

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