Gym plans to bring fitness for the misfits, featuring morbid design

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia editor | Death Comes Lifting, the newest inclusive edition to the Pittsburgh gym scene, sells matching morbid merch for the dark at heart. They will be open for business Feb. 4.

Ember Duke | Staff Writer

A mural of green ghoulish creatures with yellow eyes climbs the side of a building on Warrington Avenue in Allentown. Above these monsters are the words: Death Come Lifting Crypt.

Inside, the black walls decorated with original art and classic horror movie posters loom over a slew of lifting equipment. From squat racks, to kettlebells shaped like monster faces and movable equipment for “Black Sabbath Sunday” yoga classes, the gym is designed to have something for everyone.

Opening on Feb. 4, Death Comes Lifting gym intends to encourage community through creativity, fitness and inclusivity.

Founder Zak Bellante believes the company is an art form and has always appreciated creativity that feels authentic. Feeling overlooked by traditional gym culture, Bellante created the brand as an outlet to combine the art, horror movies, metal music and, of course, fitness – which he loves.

“I am a heavy metal weirdo before all that … My upbringing, my roots, I was always a weird kid. I still am a weird kid,” Bellante said. “Working in gyms and just coming up as a personal trainer, I quickly realized there was no place for me, or no place that I felt super comfortable like I could be myself.”

Bellante noticed unhealthy lifestyles in the artistic communities he loved and unhealthy patterns in his own approach to fitness. So, he decided to do something about it. Bellante began the brand by creating t-shirts with gothic graphics. He then expanded his idea into the inclusive fitness gym.

“A good community around you, unfortunately is not very common these days. A lot of people don’t even have that in their own friends and family and if we can provide that in a safe place in a gym setting or a yoga studio setting, my work here is done,” he said.

Despite their dark visual appeal, he hopes anyone wishing to be healthier feels comfortable in the space.

“I would like all walks of life to come into the gym, I want it to be a safe place for everyone … It’s a safe judgment-free place,” he said.

Until now, the bulk of the brand’s interaction has been through streaming content and subscriptions to its “Lifting Dead Army” on Patreon, which will still be available when the gym opens. The brand also has a large media library of podcasts and writing that cover all principles of the brand’s image from fitness to horror movies.

Over the past several years, Bellante has integrated his brand into the community which he is now taking residence in. Teaching yoga classes at local coffee shops and getting to know people with shared interests has already given Death Comes Lifting some local recognition.

“I am excited to be a positive force in a community that I objectively feel like needs a little more health and wellness,” he said.

In the back of the gym a broken skateboard which reads “Deadlift Dungeon” hangs above the basement door. The basement deadlift room is an homage to some of the trainers, whose lifting roots rested in their garages. It also serves as a solution to soundproofing.

Trainer and record-holding powerlifter, John Simmons, aka “Franken Jahn,” feels that what sets them apart from conventional gyms is their commitment to removing any fear or intimidation that stops people from being consistent with working out. The gym will offer personal training, group classes, yoga classes and regular memberships.

“There’s something for everyone so you don’t have to be into powerlifting necessarily, but if you are, then we have you covered,” Simmons said. “Nobody is ever going to judge you for how you look, or dress, or the music you listen to. Definitely just wanted to make a spot where everyone feels welcome and the folks that might not feel welcome or a little intimidated elsewhere.”

Trainer and athlete, Jeremy Chambers, said providing expert knowledge and an intimate space will make fitness less overwhelming for guests.

“I think even broadly when you think about the way that Zak has gone about building this brand as well a lot of it comes from that punk DIY ethos … build your community and foster that group of people that are able to support one another and build that kind of synchronicity with one another,” Chambers said.

Music is one way the brand expresses this individuality. In its lounge area is a record player hooked up to the speaker system atop a big purple shelf of vinyl. Guests and staff are welcome to choose the playlist for their workout.

Carving space for people to be uniquely themselves while embracing mental, physical and spiritual health is at the heart of Death Comes Lifting, Bellante said. After visiting gyms across the world he said he feels confident, his is unique because of the broadness of the community they designed the gym to serve.

“We’re very blessed, the kind freaks of Pittsburgh have taken a nice liking to us, and we have lots of great local support,” Bellante said.