Death Comes Lifting brings inclusive workouts, sick merch to Allentown's corridor of horror

click to enlarge Tattooed arms are extended near a Death Comes Lifting print in a gilded frame
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
People stretch during a yoga class at Death Comes Lifting
Pittsburgh's most metal neighborhood is now home to its most metal gym.

Death Comes Lifting opened its first physical location on Feb. 4 to a crowd of tattooed, band-shirt-wearing visitors. The dark-walled interior is a far cry from your typical CrossFit or Orangetheory location, and founder Zak Bellante says that's by design — this is a gym by and for the misfits.

"I'm a heavy metal, punk rock, [and] horror movie nerd and freak," Bellante tells Pittsburgh City Paper. "And I found myself in the fitness industry without really a place to be represented."

The "misfits" label is appropriate, as the gym's moniker was inspired by a Misfits song ("I haven't gotten a cease-and-desist from Glenn Danzig yet, so I think we're good there," Bellante laughs). Bellante says Death Comes Lifting's "Gothic" vibe is a perfect fit alongside area businesses including the Weeping Glass, Onion Maiden, and Grim Wizard coffee (formerly Black Forge), who served hot drinks at the Feb. 4 opening and with whom Bellante is planning future collaborations.

"The Allentown community is just kind of perfect for us," Bellante says. "A lot of the community that I want to serve is already up here."

The new gym is housed in a pink Victorian building on Warrington Ave., and the interior is similarly baroque, with elaborate prints on the walls, candelabras for yoga classes, and an ornate chandelier hanging over the counter. Death Comes Lifting originated as a "punk rock operation" funded by Bellante's shirt designs, and the gym retains a robust merch component available at the new storefront that includes Motörhead-inspired logos, tarot-based illustrations, and more.

"I definitely have some feelers out for custom candles for the gym and incense for yoga classes," Bellante says.
click to enlarge People in comfortable black clothes sit meditatively in a dark gym space while an instructor paces at the front of the room.
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Zak Bellante (left) gives instructions during a Death Comes Lifting yoga class
Music is the keystone to the entire vision. Bellante has paid close attention to the playlists he curates for different classes, and he says the Death Comes Lifting team has an eclectic taste that the gym shuffles through depending on the desired mood and the intensity of the workout.

"I think a lot of people would be surprised at just the diversity of our music that is not just gonna be death metal or just black metal," he says. There are several themed days — Bellante highlights Sabbath Sunday and Motörhead Monday as two staples — but there are also black metal yoga classes, doom metal workouts, and even "old school hip-hop in there, too, because you have to."

The fitness offerings are similarly diverse, with a focus on kettlebell and weight exercises, resistance training, yoga, and more. Bellante's own fitness journey began with health problems and led from self-taught nutrition and exercise to yoga instruction and personal training. Death Comes Lifting was born directly from this DIY, empowerment-focused approach, and the gym's website also includes how-tos for different exercises.

Bellante says the gym's fusion of body positivity and edgy underground art is a perfect marriage. "There's a therapeutic kind of balance to the whole thing on each side that can be brought together really well," he says. Bellante also notes Pittsburgh's history as the unofficial "zombie capital of the world" and says Death Comes Lifting "stays true to those roots."

Horror fans, metalheads, and punks interested in Satanic squats and Baphomet barbells should move quickly — limited space means limited memberships, many of which sold during the gym's grand opening. Still, Bellante says Death Comes Lifting's community-oriented approach means there should be plenty of opportunities to interface with the gym beyond deadlifting to Deicide or doing bow pose to Bathory.

"People can keep their eye on all the different kinds of classes and themes and fun stuff we have going on," he says. "We plan on doing a lot of events and cool stuff that's not just workout-related."