Choosing the right gym can greatly influence the results you achieve from your
training whatever they might be. Many factors need to be considered before
signing up for any old gym so here’s what to consider.
Two years ago I began a search looking for the best possible gym to train at
and equipment was a make or break factor for my decision.
In my eyes it is essential that the facility has at least one olympic barbel
and Squat/Power Rack. If this isn’t the case don’t bother looking for any
other features and keep searching as squats, deadlifts, benching and over head
pressing are essential to any training program. The olympic lifts and their
progressions are also formidable toos in your arsenal for the development of
the strongest and most athletic version of yourself, making the olympic
barbell your greatest friend and the piece of equipment you will be using the
Sticking to the free weights dumbells are also essential altohugh I put less
emphasis on them as a barbell will cover all the essential movements. Dumbells
will probably be used for assisstance work and corrective exercises and are
rarely not found in a gym that already has barbells anyway.
Foam roller, resistance bands, dipping belt, rings, sled and chains. These are
all bonus items most of which if you own yourself you can bring to the gym
anyway but a gym that has these items saves your the trouble. Top priority
here would be the foam roller and resistance bands both of which can be used
for mobility work during your warm up and recovery work.
Lastly resistance machines do have their place and you can get fit and strong
using them but are still a poor second choice in comparison to free weights
and have a much less of a carry over to sport.
The layout of the gym can be quite crucial. If the gym has many treadmills and
other cardio related machines but few olympic lifting stations, during the
busy hours it may be difficult to make use of the equipment when you want
especially if the gym is a popular commercial chain. On the flipside depending
on the members that actually train there you may be the only one using this
equipment anyway that day. This can also change the duration of rest periods
between exercises and sets which can have adverse effects in relation to your
Another thing to consider is if there is enough space for you to warm up
properly, foam roll and stretch. Sometimes gyms will have studio space with
mirrors used for yoga or pilates classes that may use if free.
3. General facilities
Ok so you found a gym with many olympic barbells, a great free weight section
and all the training tools you could hope for so now what.
Does the place have a decent temperature?
Yes temperature. One thing I found at certain gyms I’ve joined in the past is
that during winter it’s only slightly warmer inside the gym than outside. Good
central heating and airconditioning can be quite important as cooling down mid
rest period can limit your performance while training.
While on the topic of temperature does the gyms showers hot and cold settings
actually relate to hot and cold. Contrast temperature showers are useful for
recovery by stimulating blood flow, ice cold showers for changing increasing
testosterone and hot showers for warming up before beginning the gym session.
Are the gyms lockers secure?
At the best gym I’ve been at on two occassions the lockers were broken into
and people had their possessions stolen. This isn’t something you want to be
worring about while trying to get a new personal best on your back squat but
can be easily solved by purchasing your own padlock provided the lockers at
the gym allow for different locks.
The following aren’t essentials but are nice extras a gym may have. The best
gym I trained at had a huge range of extra classes one of them being muay thai
with one of the top trainers in London coming in twice a week to teach a class
all included in the membership. Applying for his muay thai classes seperately
cost almost the same as the gym membership itself so perks can have their
place if you do the right research and can even save you money,
I would consider any classes, a swimming pool, sauna and free sessions with
the personal trainers things to consider.
Are the people that go to the gym athletic and strong? Do they look capable?
Do they push themselves and are serious and focused on their training? Do they
promote the right atmosphere? Are the staff and personal trainers knowledgable
and capable themselves or are they just trying to sell you a membership?
The more of the questions you can answer yes to the greater the environment
will be to help you achieve your goals. Success breeds success and having
people around you focused, driving and pushing themselves will put you in the
right mindset when it comes to you own training. You should consider the gym
you choose to be a place for training first and a social club second at best,
although I’m completely in favour of talking to people that train at whichever
gym you choose especially the personal trainers as you can learn, get free
coaching and even make new friends.
If the gym is easy to get to you’re more likely to go there often. Problems
with transport will make a gym that’s far away from you extremely difficult to
get to but one that is closer in the same situation may only be a 30-45 minute
jog or cycle there and you will be turning up warm already with only mobility
and activation exercises to worry about.
If you’re ever lacking motivation to train one day a gym that is closer will
put the odds in your favour.
Membership pricing can be tricky and sometimes often have hidden fees that
aren’t advertised, hidden away in the small print of the contract you’ll be
signing. You hopefully won’t be at the gym forever and will outgrow it so be
on the look out of joining and cancellation fees. If you can I would suggest
by your own equipment as over a greater period of time you’ll be saving money
the longer you train. Here’s some math for you.
Typical gym membership per month excluding extra fees = 60
Olympic Barbell with 140kg of weight, Squat rack & bench = 360
12 months of training at the gym = 720
12 months of training at home gym = 360
Making it half the price of the gym membership over a period of a year when
buying your own equipment. Equipment you will have forever or until you sell
and the price of weightlifting equipment kept in good condition goes for
roughly about the same price as when you buy it so it’s a solid investment.
That extra money may be spent on nutrition, home gym equipment or whatever you
The final piece of advice I can give is to search for every gym local to you and
ask for a sample session or two. If you live in a large city you can even do
this at many gyms and manage to train for around a month without having to pay
anything just using sample sessions. Sample sessions are the best way to
find out if the gym is right for you or not.