By Rodolfo Roman
For The Miami Herald
Jason Vega of Homestead has trained at several gyms to pump iron.
But thanks to a close friend, Vega discovered Physique World Gym, 1545 W. 40th St., in Hialeah, which has redefined his training method.
“My whole body has improved since I got here,” said Vega who just finished working out his shoulders.
On a recent Saturday, the sound of dumbbells and weight-lifting bars echoed inside the warehouse where the gym is and has served the community since 1989.
Vega is training for the South Florida bodybuilding, fitness, figure and bikini championships taking place at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, 7707 NW 103 St, on Nov. 26. The gym and Bodies by Mari sponsor the show.
Hialeah resident and bodybuilder Sergio Pacheco, 52, owns Physique World Gym. He fell in love with the sport while attending rehab for an injured knee, which put a break to his dream of pursuing a career in professional baseball. Competing in bodybuilding wasn’t friendly to him. He lost several times before winning his first show.
“The losing steered my drive,” he said. “My drive became stronger. I wanted to prove to myself I could win. Baseball came natural but this was something I had to work hard at.”
With the help of his parents, he opened the gym more than 20 years ago.
“It was always in the back of my mind if I wanted to pursue competition it was only logical to open up the gym,” Pacheco said.
At the same time, he started the bodybuilding competition to inspire his clients.
“People need goals,” he said.
As a bodybuilder, he won several competitions in the middleweight category including the NPC Championship in 1991. He was also a fitness consultant for General Nutrition Centers, GNC.
The gym and training provided, has caught the attention of several superstars in sports and entertainment. Oakland A’s pitcher Gio Gonzalez and music producer and rapper Timothy Zachery Mosley, better known as Timbaland, have been trained at the gym.
“It is not your typical gym. “This is a place where you come for real results,” he said. “You are attacked by diets and strong heavy-lifting regiments. We want people to maximize their potential.”
Situated next to a car shop and warehouses, the gym has a hardcore feel to it, unlike your ordinary fitness club, which has a basketball court, pool or a studio for cardio classes. The gym has two floors each being 1,500 square feet. Large bodybuilding trophies inundate the room. Posters of bodybuilding legends and regular members who have transformed their body to perfection are posted on the walls.
“If you see someone else’s accomplishments, it motivates you,” Pacheco said.
Weights and dumbbells are on the floor. Weight-lifting machines are close to each other. So lifters can pose, mirrors are everywhere. Both the first and second floors have dumbbells and barbells. Cardio and abdominal machines are located on the second floor, too.
“I don’t believe picking up after your set because you spend a lot of energy you can use on your next set,” he added.
Also, after each set, trainers provide lifters with a massage using a rubber mallet or roller to relax the muscle to prepare for the next lift.
Weights are picked up at night time before closing time.
Personnel also advise members about their diet. There are about 300 gym members and six trainers including Pacheco.
“This place is small and hardcore enough that we can be involved with the person,” he said.
Latin music producer Gabriel Cruz stopped by for a quick tip on his diet.
“When you walk inside all you see is pure iron,” he said. “I learned from mistakes and they have taught me to change.”
Vega said the gym is more than just an individual workout.
“It’s like a family here,” he said. “You become close to everyone. Everyone motivates you.”
The bodybuilding show pre-judging will start at 10 a.m., with the finals taking place at 6 p.m.
Musician Xylene Pacheco, Sergio’s Pacheco’s daughter, will perform.