For most people choosing the right gym isn’t a decision to lose sleep or stress over. But for us who make weight training and working out a part of who we are, it’s imperative. The gym you’re looking at may have a pool, it may have racket ball courts, and it more than likely offers spin classes; but does it have what you need to build solid muscle? Are there enough free weights? How heavy do the dumbbells go up to? There’s a few things you need to consider when you’re gym shopping.
One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in regards to your weight training or bodybuilding goals is finding the right gym. This is a big deal, no pun intended, but can also be difficult. Fortunately there are many new gyms popping up all over the place especially if you live in a major city. However, if you’re on the outskirts your choices may obviously be limited. In any case you need to choose a gym that’s going to beneficial to your aspirations without compromising as much as possible. If you’re reading this I’m going to assume your goal is to get bigger, get strong or more powerful, build lean muscle mass, or all of the above. With that being said you want to make sure you get as close to a hardcore gym as possible as opposed to a fitness center. Now, I’ve actually worked out at a few fitness centers, or recreational centers that were decent for bodybuilders but most of those types of gyms cater to people who just want to get in shape and not so much build mountains of muscle. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s just not our goal. Before diving into the tips one of the attributes of a hardcore gym is that the dumbbells go beyond 100 lbs.
I’m going to cover these tips bullet point style so they’re easy to read. Here we go:
> Gym Equipment: What’s Needed, Is it Enough and Condition – I’m spending more time of this one because it’s probably the most important. You have to make sure the gym has the equipment you need for your specific weight training goals. There may be certain machines or free weight equipment that you know your body responds best to. For example: make sure there’s a squat rack and make sure they have heavy enough dumbbells. I also like most of the Hammer Strength equipment. You don’t want to not be able to do certain exercises and you also want to make sure there’s enough of certain machines (such as benches; the last thing you want to do is to walk in on chest day only to find that all the flat and incline benches are taken). The condition of the equipment is also obviously important. It’s ok if the equipment is old; just make sure it’s in stable condition, everything is tight, and that everything works properly. The gym staff should be on top of maintaining the equipment.
> Gym Location – This is important for me as I train early mornings; I don’t want a long drive to the gym. I’m fortunate enough to be only a couple miles away from my gym which appears to be one of the best hardcore gyms in my area. Of course it’s not always feasible to live close to the best gym in town but the closer, the better. Don’t set yourself up to make a long drive just to go to a gym that’s more popular or bigger. If you are closer to a smaller gym that has all the necessary equipment then you’re better off training there.
> Gym Hours – If at all possible choose a gym that grants you 24 hour access. There are numerous 24 hour gyms popping up these days. You don’t want to limit yourself and it’s nice to know that if for whatever reason you miss a workout that you can go make it up at any time. Also find out what times are the busiest (it’s generally known that gyms are super packed in the evenings during the week; this is why I train at 5AM).
> Gym Rules, Owner and/or Staff of the Gym – I’m not one of those obnoxious weightlifters but I do recall many years ago getting kicked out of a particular chain for letting my dumbbells fall to the floor after doing flat dumbbell presses (I won’t mention the name because I went to a different one within that chain after moving and they were fine). I had the 120’s and when I was done, I dropped them. This little guy came running over making me aware that their gym policy doesn’t allow loud grunting or slamming the weights. Seriously? Needless to say I didn’t go back; it’s a gym not a library. So before you join a gym make sure there are no ridiculous rules. Also, make sure the owner and staff are friendly and helpful. I’ve never really had a problem in this area with the exception of the story I mentioned.
> Gym Membership Dues and Signup Fees – I save this for last because cost really isn’t an issue for me. That’s not because I’m rich; it’s simply because this is an important aspect of my life as it is with yours. That being said, if I were broke, I’d make whatever sacrifice needed to workout somewhere. On the flip side make sure you don’t get screwed over with membership fees. I absolutely refuse to pay any first time signup fees anywhere. I don’t care for contracts either although sometimes that can’t be avoided. Just remember you can always bargain with gyms. If they want your membership they’ll work with you to get you in. The way I see it, they’re going to be getting my monthly membership dues so that should be enough.
Of course there’s other tips I could mention is finding the right gym that’s right for you but these are the basics, and in my opinion, the most important. And I’m assuming by reading this article on my site you’re goal is to build muscle. So you definitely need to make sure whatever gym you choose has the essentials that will allow you to grow. Choosing a gym isn’t a huge priority for most people, but we’re not most people.
Train with Passion,