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Gym from Scrap Metal

Photographs by Vladimir Pomortzeff

The very first barbell has appeared at Dolobetsky Island in the Dnieper River in the 1970s. Now there are more than one hundred handmade exercise machines at the sports ground next to the popular beach Hydropark almost in the city centre of Kiev, Ukraine. New machines are added regularly. Last year enthusiasts have built from scrap metal another ten of new exercise machines. This distinctive outdoor gym at the island is open for everyone all the year round and completely free of charge.

1. Frequent visitor of the outdoor gym at the Hydropark 25-year-old athlete Vitalik the Shrek, as he known among the gym visitors. Vitalik workouts here from the age of 19. He visits the gym almost daily in summer and three to four times a week in winter.


2. There is quite crowded at the Hydropark in summer. Many people visit the outdoor gym from the nearby beach just for the brief training. But only the strongest athletes workout here in winter.


3. Frequent visitors of the outdoor gym 22-year-old Boris Dolgov (L) and 25-year-old Yuri Trokhymenko (R) flex muscles after training. Boris Dolgov workouts at the Hydropark from the age of 16. His friend Yuri Trokhymenko visited the gym first time at the age of 20. He started with bodybuilding training two years earlier and was looking for a suitable gym for a student budget for a long time. Finally his friends led him here.


4. Masters World Champion in powerlifting Boris Zherebtsov workouts at the Hydropark only. At age of 74 Boris is able to squat 140 kilograms. He has no equal in his age category at any competition, but it's complicated for him to travel for next medals every year. Unfortunately Ukrainian sport federations finance masters sport just occasionally, so Boris should buy tickets to powerlifting championships from his own.


5. Stray dogs feel complete safety in the outdoor gym protected by the athletes.


6. Ruslan Palamarchuk, 17-year-old student of the Kiev State University of Building and Architecture, workouts here almost daily in summer.


6. The outdoor gym is open round the clock all the year round, so the visitors are here even late at night.


7. Night training.


8. Night training.


9. Night training.




11. Arm wrestling training.


12. Vitalik the Shrek lifts the barbell in the outdoor gym.


13. The founder of the outdoor gym Yuri Kuk. It was he who installed the very first handmade barbell here in the 1970s and developed the gym in the following decades. For all that Mr. Kuk never used to be a bodybuilder. By his opinion it's more important to keep yourself in a good physical condition than build a shape of a body.


14. Outdoor gym stuff Lesha builds new exercise machines and repairs the existing machines. Scrap metal for new machines were collected in some different ways for free previously, now it's necessary to buy it. All moving parts of the exercise machines are anchored with anti-theft chains, but sometimes it's not enough against hunters for scrap metal. Several months ago some of the chains were cut off and one and a half tons of metal were stolen by unknown thieves. After the incident a day-and-night security post was organized and security camera system was installed. The development of the gym as well as salary of the gym staff are paid from donations of the gym visitors.


15. Girls are also among the visitors of the outdoor gym.


16. Athletes workout with barbells in the outdoor gym.




18. Pavel Mintyan, 16-year-old schoolboy, works out o the parallel bars for gymnastic training in the outdoor gym.


20. Pavel Kochergin, 15-year-old schoolboy, works out on the horizontal bar for gymnastic training in the outdoor gym.


21. Horizontal and parallel bars for gymnastic training in the outdoor gym.


22. Gymnastic training at the horizontal bar in the outdoor gym.


The photographs of this feature story were shot in June 2011 in Kiev, Ukraine.

Copyright 2011 Vladimir Pomortzeff

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