Published on April 3, 2017
Story, photos and videos by Bridget Chavez
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It smells like the inside of a sweaty sock, and the blaring hum of the giant fans competing with someone’s Spotify playlist don’t exactly make you want to get your workout on. But for a lot of students at Syracuse University, getting a workout in at Archbold Gymnasium is just something you have to do.
Walking into the gym you find yourself on the basketball court and usually a few students are shooting some hoops. A giant curtain stretched from the floor to the ridiculously high ceiling shields typical gym equipment from a basketball gone astray.
As soon as you get to the other side past the curtain, you find two rows filled treadmills, ellipticals, rowing machines and bikes and in the third row weight lifting machines. Beyond this area is a profusion of benches, barbells, squat racks and an entire wall dedicated to free weights. And while the gym is typically filled with students of all shapes, weights and sizes, two in particular have been spending a large amount of their time here lately.
Once their workout is finished most students hightail it out of there as fast as possible, but Jermaine Shavers Jr. and Justin Villani can’t get enough of this place.
Have you ever seen a kid light up with excitement and eyes nearly bug out of his or her head visiting Disneyland for the first time? Well, imagine that, add about four feet and 175 pounds, some facial hair, a couple of bro tanks and you can’t miss Shavers and Villani at Archbold Gym pumping iron. And I doubt you’d miss them but just in case, their “favorite ride” in their “happiest place on earth” is the free weight section.
Villani, a 6’1” 213 lb. junior from the Philadelphia suburb of Moorestown, N.J. is a pretty big guy but Shavers, a grad student from Jacksonville, Fla. Is even bigger at 6’5” and 235.
In between sets of shoulder presses Shavers says what they’re doing isn’t just a regular fitness routine.
“To be able to build and create you know, like what you feel you should be or what you want to be is really dope,” he says.
Moving on to the bench press, Shavers spots Villani benching more than 150 pounds. “Come on, come on,” he says. Having recently committed themselves to the competitive sport of body building, the two are each other’s primary sources of support.
“I saw the results of others and I thought, ‘Hey I think I want to try that,” Villani says, finishing up a set of squats. The two say they’ve been gym goers throughout their time at SU, but never like this.
And it all began while they were on the Syracuse cheerleading squad together.
Villani spent five seasons on the team and Shavers one, but in the fall of 2016, the two decided to hang up their cheerleading uniforms so they could dedicate their time to starting the first ever body building club on campus.
It was at the National Cheerleading Championships that they decided they were going all in, but not going it alone.
“Taking a leap by yourself is kind of scary and once you do it you’re blind,” Shavers says, “But it’s better to be blind with somebody because you have somebody to fall back on and help you up if things go left.”
People Who “Just Get It.”
They call the new organization Orange Physique in hopes of attracting more students to the sport. An essential team member, Stephanie Morales, a senior from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the only certified personal trainer on the team and says it’s nice being around others who “just get it.”
A major goal of the team is to shut down misconceptions people might have about body building. Morales says she’s noticed this particularly for women.
“A lot of girls just hop on a treadmill at the gym and are afraid they’ll get too big if they life weights. And that’s just not true,” she says. Diet plays a crucial part when it comes to getting the results people want.
“People don’t really take the time to research how what you’re eating affects your lift,” Morales says, adding that the group holds each other accountable when it comes to food. The three say sometimes they’ll meal prep together so they stay on track.
With a mix of about three dozen students ranging from freshmen to graduate students, Orange Physique is gaining more momentum, while waiting to be recognized by the university as an official student organization, which Villani says should happen soon.
As they three rotate between sets of curls, they say they want to offer students support in reaching their fitness goals. Even though it falls on the individual at the end of the day it’s the backing of the team that gets people where they want to be.
“It’s a lot of behind the scenes,” said Villani, who is getting ready to compete in his first show this summer, “but you need that team to help get you there and get you to that show in my opinion.”
Shavers on the other hand says he’s not going to compete in a show until later next year but he’s doing everything he can to help and will keep training with his buddy,