There are two basic options: You will train at a public gym or you set up your own home gym. Public gyms are either commercial (big gym chains or individual ones) or institutional (college, university, YMCA). If you live in a small town there may only be one or two gyms around. If they are good enough then use them. If they are not, you may consider investing into your own little home gym. A home gym doesn’t have to be expensive at all and will be extremely convenient.
If you live in any city that is mid-sized or bigger it should not be too difficult to find a public gym that is at least decent. You may think: “What’s the matter, a gym is gym!” Not true. Many modern public gyms will surprisingly not be your best choice. However, most can still be put to good use. Many commercial gyms are sort of “hybrid” facilities, designed to make the mainstream happy: Men, women, recreational lifters, the fitness crowd and cardio/aerobic enthusiasts and those looking for wellness and relaxation. Here is a guide to find your local gym.
From a commercial point of view, this is completely understandable, as they have to be profitable in order to operate. Therefore they may offer many additional things that you don’t really need like aerobic and dancing classes, saunas, pilates & yoga and juice bars. Ask if you can get a limited membership if you don’t plan on using all those extras.
The opposite of mainstream gyms are small, specialized “hardcore” gyms where powerlifters, competitive bodybuilders, bouncers, MMAs and other athletes hang out. These may be your best choice in terms of equipment and motivation. However, drug use and attitude may or may not be an issue those places.
Necessary Gym Equipment
Olympic Barbell, Plates, Power Rack, Kettlebells
At the bare-bones minimum, your gym should have a squat rack and Olympic bars as well as an ample supply of heavy plates, dumbbells and barbells. Machines are optional. You can have a great workout without machines but you can’t make serious progress without heavy-duty barbells and free weights. If there are only machines and no barbells at all – turn around and walk out immediately.
The best gym to train at will have power racks (power cages), squat racks, benches, Olympic barbells, lifting platforms, a large selection of dumbbells, bars for pullups and dips and a few other things. The free weights should be in good state. Bars should not be bent or rusty. You will need high-quality Olympic barbells with good knurling and revolving sleeves. If the gym has top-name brands like York, Ivanko and Eleiko then look no further.
Machines should be clean and well-maintained, too. It’s a very good sign if you can spot brand names like Hammer Strength, Cybex, MedX and Nautilus. These are the best of the best. Here’s a little secret: Universities and institutional sports centers often have the best equipped gyms for your needs. Their equipment is usually superior and intended for heavy-duty, professional use.
They often also have the most competent coaches and trainers around, many of whom may even have a scientific background. You may even find a few professional athletes hanging out there which can serve as a motivational booster for you. All these facts combined can make a huge difference for your training progress.
Other Factors To Consider
- Are you free to train in any way you want?
- Is the place clean and well-maintained?
- Do they have clean and tidy locker rooms and bath rooms?
- Do you like the crowd that is hanging out there?
- Do you like the atmosphere?
- Do people go there to train seriously or do they just want to “see and be seen”?
- Is the staff friendly, knowledgeable and helpful?
- Is the price they charge justified?