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New weightlifting studio sees early success

Wendy Clem, The Pit co-owner, provides personal coaching to the powerlifting gym's clientele, which has nearly quadrupled since moving from her garage to its 10th Avenue East location in November. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
When local facilities could not meet the needs of Dickinson's devout powerlifting group, Wendy and Dave Clem, and Jacob Thompson, opened The Pit on 10th Avenue East. Wendy Clem sets up the weights on a typical day for her incoming clients. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

Dickinson needed a place for powerlifting, and to meet that need The Pit Strength & Barbell opened in November.

The site, at 96 10th Ave. E, is the dream of owners Dave and Wendy Clem and Jacob Thompson.

"We started the Pit in our home garage as a way to get better equipment for the powerlifting we do," Wendy Clem said, "We started getting so many people we decided to open the gym."

Wendy Clem has been powerlifting for three years, and Dave Clem, a bodybuilder, for nearly eight years. Thompson started three years ago and has since beaten national records and set world records.

"Powerlifting is something that, when you set a goal, you have a reason to work hard, and we work hard to get to our next meet," Wendy Clem said. "Powerlifting, you're always working against yourself. Your next (competition), say you set 225 in one event, your next event, you want to beat 225."

The Clems started a powerlifting gym in their garage when they couldn't find the resources they needed in the community.

"The rec center didn't have the right equipment," she said. "The bars for powerlifting are different than the bars they have there and it was too crowded, so we just started training really hard in the home gym."

The group was breaking national records and needed more space.

"My husband tied the world record but there wasn't a world record judge, so it didn't count," Clem said. "We just got so large it wasn't working, so we took the plunge and went and got a loan and bought some used equipment and now we're a hardcore gym. You come in, get what you want done and get out."

Already, The Pit has grown, expanding from 25 to nearly 90 members.

"I think Dickinson just needed somewhere you can go and not be in a corporation-type thing," Clem said. "Here you can chalk...and chalk is a big thing when you get heavier, and you can't do that in the other gyms."

Powerlifting is an activity that inspires confidence, Clem said.

"The kids who work out here and see these big guys, like 275, full muscle, they can talk to them. If they can talk to them, they can talk to anybody in public," she said.

Discipline is key.

"We demand discipline in everybody we work with," Clem said. "We have people who come in and sign up that don't sign up for training, but we still help them because we don't want anybody doing anything wrong. We show them how to do it."

The Pit offers benefits unique among Dickinson gyms.

"When you sign up for a year contract, we allow you to get out of that contract with a 30-day notice," Clem said. "I think that's a reason why people come here too, because they're not sure if they like it, not sure if they're going to take a vacation or they're moving. That's been a lot of help."

Clem has most enjoyed being able to help others achieve their dreams.

"I have a broken leg and right now I'm down on working out, so coaching other people has really helped my confidence," she said. "This last week, people have said really nice things. Saying, 'You've changed my life.' And I didn't realize something like this would do that."

Being a business owner has been fun, Dave Clem said.

"You get to touch a lot of people," he said. "Especially in the fitness world, there's so many internet programs out there. It's not really hands-on. I've been doing this 20-something years, and I'm a hands-on guy. Not everybody can just grab a program. What's nice about it is you get to adapt it and change it to that individual."

Having his own place to do powerlifting has been especially rewarding, Clem said.

"When you go to these other gyms, a lot of the stereotypes we usually get are meatheads, muscle heads," he said. "We don't get to use the right equipment. Standard bars are not powerlifting bars. When you have the right equipment it makes it easier on your body. It's not toward the powerlifting side it's more toward the fitness side."

A grand opening is planned for late April, a community event that will feature a bench-only contest.

"You go and bench a certain weight for a number of reps," Wendy Clem said. "Whoever wins that will win the division. And then we're having a 'who can lift the heaviest' event."

Clem hopes to grow The Pit's offerings going into the future.

"We want to expand the back a little and get a little bigger," she said, "but we also want to add a couple of new pieces of equipment, like a belt spot and a monolift, which are high-end lifting stuff."

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