Competitive lifters set up shop in Kent

Hannah Burkey Reporter

Kent Barbell Club, a gym owned by two competitive powerlifters, is raising the bar in Kent with a distinct, competitive and motivational style.

Kent Barbell Club opened on May 4, 2019 in the heart of downtown Kent. The owners, Phillip Roberts and Toni Tokie, said they always wanted to open a gym because they knew they could do it better than commercial gyms.

Roberts and Tokie are not new to lifting. They are both competitive powerlifters and have been in the game for a while. Tokie said she has been lifting for around five years. Roberts said he has been lifting for at least sixteen years. Roberts is a powerlifting referee on a national level, and Tokie just took her referee test.

“We wanted to create something community-based,” Roberts said, “something that’s unique to Kent.” 

Kent Barbell Club has a distinct style. “We wanted it to be a mix between a warehouse-style gym and commercial gym,” Roberts said. 

Tokie added that the gym is a mix between old school and new school. 

“We got extremely lucky when this space opened up,” Roberts said.

The gym has two levels. Each level is adorned with different types of equipment. According to the Kent Barbell website, this equipment includes free weights, five combo racks, competition bars/kilo plates, machines, a turf area and cardio equipment. 

Tokie said that they are always looking to improve and add. “We recently added a reverse hyper upstairs,” Tokie said. “We are also looking at adding a StairMaster.”

Kent Barbell Club is for both beginners and advanced lifters. The owners are happy to help members and have motivational blackboards throughout the first level of the gym. The chalkboards are covered in members’ personal lifting records and accomplishments. 

“The boards are there [to] drive our community atmosphere. We wanted to broadcast everyone’s accomplishments. We also want it to encourage new lifters and show them they have a community behind them,” Tokie said. 

“They are also there to inspire our members to move their strength numbers higher and higher,” Roberts added.

“We host sanction meets here and will take our equipment and go to different locations,” Phillips said. 

Tokie said that Barbell is the home gym for the Kent State Golden Flash Powerlifting Club. The club hosts mock meets at Barbell, and the gym has special pricing for the powerlifting team and Kent State students. 

“Everyone’s first lift is free,” Tokie said.

Brady Weber, a member at Kent Barbell Club, said that he loves the gym because of its atmosphere. 

“Everyone motivates one another and I’m happy a gym like this finally opened up in Kent,” Weber said. 

“We have been in fitness for years and we saw an opportunity and took it,” Tokie said.

Hannah Burkey is a recreation and fitness reporter. Contact her at [email protected].