The age old adage, “they just don’t make them like they used to,” rings true on a visit to Hamburg’s Olympic Studio. Most of the machines have been here as long as the gym itself, since 1981. And despite being rusty in parts thanks to over 33 years of pumped iron and loving reupholster jobs, the well-worn weight machines are more enticing than they are uninviting. The walls are plastered with glossy photographs of champion weightlifters gone by, with accompanying trophies proudly displayed along the walls as a shrine to their achievements. Floor-to-ceiling height murals depicting Greco-Roman scenes as a nod to the 19th century wrestling style of the same name are bookended by painted-on columns, for that additional Classical touch. All bathed in a sepia glow thanks to the faux wooden panelling, which has adorned the walls for the past 33 years. At Olympic Studio, you’re more likely to find yourself engaged in conversation swapping training tips with local regulars over vying for time on a machine with some puffed-up poser, as is a more likely occurrence in most gyms.
Any place with a rich history transports that history through the fabric of the building, and here that very background of Olympic Studio is carried through the swathes of photographs that line the walls, the stories of success told from person to person, and the words of encouragement which continue this chain. It’s true that there might be better equipment available on the market today, but those words of support are completely invaluable when you’re in a position of pushing yourself physically and mentally to your limits. These attitudes were continually demonstrated and reinforced by all of the friendly attendees we spoke to. Not only were they more than happy to speak to us, they were keen to explain just exactly why they’re such loyal members of the studio. And time and time again it came back to the all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality, or as the Germans call it, “alle ziehen an einem strang.”
As a bodybuilding competitor and champion throughout the golden era of bodybuilding during the ‘80s and ‘90s, Claus Maibaum is now passing on his experience and knowledge as a trainer at Olympic Studio. The double Northern Germany Bodybuilding champion, International German Bodybuilding Championship finalist, and not to mention two-time winner of the “Best Poser Award,” Claus – quite literally – embodies Olympic Studio. His experience and know-how isn’t just passed onto the bodybuilders that he helps prepare for approaching competitions, but is personally demonstrated as you’ll find him training hard in the studio most days. Seeing familiar faces is a reason on its own to return back somewhere, and despite general misconceptions about bodybuilding gyms, the studio is full of a broad spectrum of patrons. Women, old men, young guys, and naturally plenty of impressively bulked-up seasoned veterans.
Perhaps not initially recognised as a bodybuilding mecca, Germany has had a longstanding association with the sport, and Olympic Studio not only continues the heritage but does so in its own unique way. The gym is more intimate and friendly than most gyms that we’re familiar with, yet it’s still cosmopolitan and lively. In all of these ways it shares many of the same values that Hamburg itself is known and revered for, and an atmosphere that we experienced throughout our time there. They might not make gyms like they used to, but at least some of the ones that they did make are still going strong.
Und Bodybuilding-Club Gym