Barbell Brigade founder Bart Kwan shares his experiences of both building muscle and building a thriving business. Bri Chew/HIGHLANDER

On Monday, Jan. 30 at the UCR SRC, ASPB hosted “Get Pumped with Barbell Brigade.” The event was widely anticipated because it featured prominent Brigade members Bart and Geo Kwan, who have made their reputation by cultivating their own fitness business and brand, all with the help of social media.

Immediately upon entering the scene, there was a bulky line of eager and long-time fans of their web series that almost stretched out onto the street. As Bart and Geo made their entrance, fans cheered in excitement and began to call out various signature phrases that the group is known for, one in particular being “Dominate Humbly,” which is their official fitness tagline.

Once the ASPB staff managed to effectively seat all 500 admiring fans in the gym, the event began with a ticket raffle for the upcoming Winter SOULstice. ASPB wanted to make sure the crowd’s energy started on a high note, so they revealed the lineup for the Feb. 17 event. Afterward, the moment that many were waiting for arrived. The lead coordinator called out the Brigade team of Bart and Geo, including two additional members of their team, Lu Galvez and Serro Park. The room’s energy shifted from optimistically excited to a wild roar of cheers. People stood from their seats and clapped, while others opted to stay seated and woo their hearts out. After waving to the audience, each of the members sat on a platform stage, mics in hand, ready to partake in the Q-and-A session.

Co-founder Serro Park reveals how the camaraderie and positivity enveloped within fouding Barbell Brigade helped him cope through personal troubles such as a painful breakup.

Before answering any questions, the two wanted to show a video to chronicle their progress from a humble beginning to giving large-scale speeches in college gyms. The clip featured Bart and Geo working with a series of movers and staff members of the Brigade gym in order to enhance their now renowned location in Los Angeles. What was once a barren room with dim light became a brightly lit room featuring a dense collection of powerlifting machines and other exercising equipment.

… its formation was the result of him wanting to have a coalition of trainers who were all serious about their fitness yet exuded a camaraderie that felt wholesome to the spirit.

After the video, the Q-and-A session finally began. Bart, speaking on the conceptualization process of Barbell Brigade, said that its formation was the result of him wanting to have a coalition of trainers who were all serious about their fitness yet exuded a camaraderie that felt wholesome to the spirit.

After taking subtle yet innocent jabs at commercial gyms, he continued to say that the bond that was forged in the Brigade is something that is unprecedented in commercial gyms because the community and staff are irrevocably linked. Continuing off those sentiments, Galvez and Park talked about their experiences meeting Bart and joining the team. Both of them had troubles with heartbreak and were fresh out of a relationship. Needing a sense of unity and positive outlets, they viewed the Brigade as a necessary tool for them to work on themselves and improve their lives. Geo commented that her relationship with Bart, which began when they were in high school, was one of the main reasons for her involvement with the group.

That conversation naturally segued into how the name “Barbell Brigade” was concocted. One day, when Geo and Bart were eating out at a restaurant, they were throwing names back and forth and eventually decided on “Barbell Brigade” because it was short and efficient. Bart revealed, “If I’m not crawling out of the gym, I didn’t push myself enough. I wanted to call it “Hell” but she (Geo) didn’t want to.”

Speaking on future plans for their gym, Bart told the audience that he really wanted to expand the location and add more exercising disciplines. However, he cautioned that he only wanted to do it if it felt natural, because he fears that the Brigade would become commercialized if they bought new equipment simply out of spite.


The interview then took a step back in the group’s timeline to discuss what attracted them to powerlifting in particular. Galvez noted how the gym was both a sanctuary and a stress-reliever for him. Park joked and said that he initially did it for more notoriety with girls but soon found that he only became more attractive to his guy friends. Geo then took the time to break down a personal stigma that annoyed her about how women can’t be seen as both “sexy” and “strong.” She referred to herself as a cardio bunny and took her inspiration from a girl who she once saw lift and became amazed her with her physical strength. Bart ended the answers by saying that he was already working out seven days a week in garages and reading fitness magazines, so powerlifting for him came easily.

“If you can put your mind to changing your body, you can then begin changing your life,” revealed Bart as a motivation tool for those who want to invest in a fitness journey.

The last section of the Q-and-A asked how each of the members stay loyal to themselves and adhere to their fitness schedules. Galvez mentioned that it’s important for people to look after themselves and praise their efforts when they’ve done good work. Park, in accordance with Galvez, added that who you surround yourself with is pivotal for keeping a positive outlook on life. “Should you need to cut toxic people out, don’t hesitate,” asserted Park. Geo remarked that she has family and friends to keep her in line, so she constantly has a reminder of what she needs to do to stay on track. Adding to this, Bart also revealed that his mother endowed him with the mentality to embody every role you take on with passion, because in doing so, you’ll become a consistent person.

At the end of their interview, people were signalled to disperse from their seats to flock around the Brigade members for a picture. The Brigade crew thanked everyone for coming out and being a part of their journey, sharing that it was a pleasure to talk to students who are working hard.

Long-time fan and avid follower, Li-Ming Yeong, a first-year mechanical engineer major, had fond words for their visit. “Hearing their personal stories and how they stay true to themselves was really inspiring,” proclaimed Yeong.

With this being their first trip to a campus to give a lecture, the Barbell Brigade team made each spectator bear witness to their success stories. They are the personification of humble beginnings turning into huge avenues of success.