lift for life gym logo



Our mission is about so much more than physical fitness. The gym offers a positive, nurturing after-school environment for St. Louis youth to grow—physically, mentally, socially and even spiritually.

Our Story

In 1988, Marshall Cohen started Lift for Life Gym, then a youth weightlifting team in the basement of Globes Drugs in downtown St. Louis. The purpose of the Gym was to offer impoverished youth constructive recreational opportunities as an alternative to idleness, crime, drugs and violence.

What began as a simple weightlifting program grew over the next 35 years into a youth fitness training center offering services designed to alleviate the burden of poverty and build a sense of resiliency that helps its member’s achieve success personally, physically and professionally. Lift for Life Gym is located at 1415 Cass Avenue, providing free fitness programs including Olympic style weightlifting, powerlifting, and CrossFit training along with comprehensive mentoring and career and college readiness programming. The Gym supports over 450 youth aged 8-18 year-round.

group of young girls on workout equipment

What We do

We provide comprehensive programs and services to support the youth in St. Louis city with free round-trip transportation, in a safe environment at no cost.

Movement: We offer daily sports and fitness programming, including Olympic style weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, Basketball Training Program in partnership with Larry Hughes Basketball Academy and strength and conditioning serving 50 members each day. The Gym’s weightlifting team has received numerous local, national, and international awards.

Mentoring: Teen members are paired with a mentor who helps them explore their goals and develop actionable plans. A summer College and Career Readiness Camp prepares members for life after the Gym.

Meals: Our Evening Café serves 250 nutritious meals each week.

Our signature fitness program is the Olympic-Style Youth weightlifting. The individuals on our weightlifting team practice three-to-five times a week, totaling over 4,500 hours each year. Lift For Life Gym’s weightlifting program has led to the crowning of numerous National Youth Champions as well as a member of USA’s Youth Olympic Team in 2016.

young boy deadlifting in gym

Our Team

Lift for Life is a labor of love. And for our key team members, the Gym is part of who they are. The passionate dedication of our team—from coaches, to coordinators, to board members—is essential in making a better future for our youth members.

Our Program Partners

Our partners help us to provide fitness, nutrition and education to St. Louis youth each year. We couldn’t do it without the support of great organizations like these!