All photos by Greg Merritt ©

The original Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, is the hardcore mecca. Launched by Brian Dobson in 1987, it’s adamantly anti-glamour. From the outside it looks like just another grimy repair garage at the end of a line of similar joints. Inside, it’s an assault of colors, photos, and jarring music. There’s dirt and dust and slogans painted or scribbled on walls. There’s no air-conditioning to temper the hottest hours in sweltering Texas summers. There are no fancy, modern machines. What there is is a lot of iron. And a no-bullshit, take-no-prisoners attitude. And there are men and women who embrace that attitude and lift that heavy iron again and again. Those men include bodybuilding legends Branch Warren and 8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, who have long made Metroflex their workplace.

In September of 2005, I was there to report on a pro bodybuilding show for FLEX magazine and to cover Warren and Coleman workouts. It was just a month before Ronnie Coleman (seen in the opening photo and—soaked in sweat after a leg workout—in the last photo) won his record-tying eighth Mr. Olympia. FLEX photographer Kevin Horton shot the show and the workouts, but I also wanted to capture the Metroflex flavor then. What follows are photos I took of Metroflex Gym in 2005, back when Coleman was king.

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