by Chris Annino and Roger Zotti
photos by Christopher Annino
Joe Mugovero, 61, owner and trainer, the Breakfastclub Gym, has an impressive strongman resume. For instance, in various strength sports over the years, he has won more than 200 awards. In 2008, the Diesel Crew website, generally regarded as the world’s leading instructional grip strength website, recognized him as Athlete of the Month. Joe has lifted for 38 years and holds three age group CT records in the bench press.
When Joe was 58, he challenged the famous Thomas Inch Dumbbell. If you’re wondering what’s so special about this dumbbell, consider this: “It weighs 172 lbs and has a very thick handle and two big bells on each side, making it nearly impossible to lift,” said Joe. Guess what? Since age 58 Joe has lifted it 97 times, all verified! “I am the only person over 60 years of age known to have lifted it in CT.”
About 20 years ago, Joe said, “at the Sports Complex in New London, an onlooker observed me training every Sunday morning. I was in serious competition at the time and benching fairly well for this area.” After a while, “others interested in competing in power-lifting started to train with me.” Before long someone nicknamed the group the Breakfastclub. “We trained and competed under that banner.”
Several years passed and Joe opened his cellar to trainees: “We branched out into strongman and grip strength training. Our present site is located in New London, near Ocean Beach, and we specialize in strength, not necessarily fitness.” The small private club has been in existence for 13 years, and right now there are about 12 members, from ages 17 to 68.
The gym is unique. “You can go in most of the gyms around here, and you won’t find hundred-pound-plates,” Joe said. “I have, for example, eight-hundred-pound plates and 42 45-pound plates. It’s heavy duty stuff because we specialize in strong man implements, like you see on television. It’s frowned upon in regular gyms because they don’t want people doing that stuff.”
As for women, “We had a woman who drove in from Waterbury, in the warm weather, so she could train here.” She has competed and “wants to again. She’s in her early thirties. Her husband also competes and he’s very good.”
Joe speaks with pride – quite rightly – about “some recent results in competition and general training.” For instance, Mystic’s Chris Annino, photographer/writer for “The Resident,” set a record in the dead-lift competition; teenager Sal Gromolini won second place in an arm wrestling contest in Providence; Mike Richards emerged victorious, in a New Hampshire strongman camp, lightweight division; and several weeks ago, two members carried 600-pounds for 100 feet.
Joe added, “We have one guy, John Retkowski, who did a feat of bending done by only 58 people – ever. It’s called bending a Red Nail. John McGuire just lifted 485-pounds, five times in a row. John’s 68 years old. We’re all friends with each other. Everybody pushes everybody. It’s all about camaraderie.”