How To Find The Right Gym

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.

How To Find The Right 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.

How To Find The Right Gym

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?
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What Is The Best Rep Speed?

Rep speed is the rate at which you move the weight in a full repetition. Rep speed is relative, as short-stroke exercises (like biceps curls) will always take less time to perform, relatively speaking, than long-stroke exercises (like squats, deadlifts and bench presses).

Taking 2 or 3 seconds to perform the descent in a barbell squat is very different from doing the same in the biceps curl. So when you experiment with different rep speeds always keep things in perspective with regards to the specific exercise that you’re about to perform. There are some exercises that can only be done with fast, explosive movements, like power cleans and the Olympic lifts (snatch and clean & jerk). You cannot perform these properly with very slow reps – other than for learning form and practicing it with no weight on the bar.

And in deadlifts it would be foolish to use a slow rep speed in the descent because that would increase the risk of lower-back injury.

Rep Tempo

Simply Shredded states a full repetition consists of three phases.

  • The concentric contraction phase (lifting the weight, positive part of the rep).
  • The isometric contraction phase (mid-point, pause).
  • The eccentric contraction phase (lowering the weight, negative part of the rep).

Strength coach Charles Poliquin popularized the concept of rep tempo by denominating the speed in each rep phase with a number. For example, a 3-2-1 rep tempo would mean that you lift the weight in three seconds, hold it for two seconds and then take one second to lower it. The idea behind this concept was that different combinations speed during each part of a rep would produce different results.

What Is The Best Rep Speed?

The problem with this method is that just changing the rep speed is not what will get you bigger and stronger. It’s a fancy (and very distracting) way to change the flavor of your workout but it’s not going to make much of a difference in your personal training progress. It’s also quite hard to measure your progress if you constantly keep changing all kinds of variables.

Apart from that it’s a very unpracticalway of working out. When you’re doing a hard set you’re already counting the number of reps. And you are focusing on lifting with correct form. The last thing you need is to add unnecessary confusion by counting the rep tempo during every rep.

So What Is The Best Rep Speed?

Much more important than rep speed per se is correct lifting form. Always educate yourself about how to perform an exercise correctly. Always aim for a controlled rep speed and always maintain good form during each rep, no matter how light or heavy you lift and no matter how many reps you aim to do in a set.

A controlled rep speed means that the lifting and lowering parts of the rep should take about 1 or 2 seconds to perform, depending on whether the exercise is short-stroke or long-stroke. Feel free to add a short pause at the mid-point or at the end of a rep but keep in mind that any additional isometric tension will consume energy that you may rather invest in increased weight on the bar or more reps instead.

If you want to build muscular size and strength you must lift weights that are challenging, but not so heavy that you would be unable to lift them with good form. Such weights will slow you down anyway due to the force of gravity. During a set of really heavy squats, it may take you up to 3 seconds to perform the ascent.

What Is The Best Rep Speed?

Always lower the bar in a smooth and controlled fashion, never drop the weight. But during the ascent, lift forcefully, explosively and aggressively while always maintaing good form. If you want to further increase intensity during a set, a simple, practical way is to slow down during the negative part of your reps, like “fighting the bar” during the descent.

You can also do static isometric holds or you can do whole sets that emphasize negative reps. Don’t do this in complex full-body lifts like squats and deadlifts though. And don’t abuse negative reps because that can lead to to overtraining and injury of the muscles involved.

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