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How to Choose The Best Gym To Maximize Your Bodybuilding Gains

By Hugo Rivera

The first thing someone who is just getting started with bodybuilding needs to consider is whether to put together a home gym or to train at a commercial one.  I personally have both a home gym and a gym membership as in this manner I never get to miss a workout (plus I have the best of both worlds).  

If the decision is to train at a commercial gym, choosing a gym can be a very daunting task to someone who is just getting started in bodybuilding. Thus, in this article, I will give you a few guidelines that will make choosing your gym a bit easier.

1. Location:

Make sure that the gym is close to home or work.

Make sure that the gym is close to home or work. You don't want to choose a gym that requires an hour commute as this dramatically increases your chances of not going. An hour commute means that 2 hours of your day will go wasted in traffic. I don't think many of us have 2 hours to waste. And in addition, it means more expenses in terms of gas. Thus, choose a gym that is no more than 15-20 minutes away tops from either your work or your home. The closer the better.

2. Equipment Safety:

Check the equipment and make sure it is sturdy and in good condition.

While the equipment does not necessarily need to be new, it needs to be in good condition. Loose dumbbells without the proper welding can be very dangerous. The last thing you want is dumbbells falling on you. The benches need to be secure also and make sure that all of the pulley machines like the cable crossover and low pulley rows work properly. Also, see if the equipment is properly spaced out. Nothing worse than having equipment that is so close to one another that if you are not paying close attention, an accident could happen.

Take advantage of the gym tour that is offered when you first visit a gym to look for these things and ask these type of questions.

3. Equipment Variety:

Make sure that the gym carries the equipment you need.

While a lot of gyms carry a wide variety of fancy looking machines, some do not have an extensive free weights area. If you want to make the best bodybuilding gains, then the free weight area is the part of the gym that you need to use the most.

Be sure that the gym has dumbbells that go from 5-lbs to AT LEAST 100-lbs. In addition, they should have a squat rack, a pull-up and dip station, a pull-up/dip assist machine, a variety of incline, flat, decline and adjustable benches, a good cable crossover machine, a lat pull down and low pulley row stations.  On top of that, the leg press and hack squat machines need to be properly designed (and maintained) and be able to carry a lot of weight.  The same needs to be true of leg extension machines.  You can tell when any of these machines is not good when the movement is not fluid and when your knee hurts (even though you are using the right weight and proper exercise form).  I also like to have a variety of hamstrings machines at my disposal like the lying leg curl machine (which should be angled), a good standing leg curl machine and a seated leg curl as well.    

In regards to cardiovascular exercise equipment, make sure that they have elliptical machines, recumbent bikes, treadmills and stair steppers. In that way, you have a wide variety of cardiovascular exercises to choose from.   And again, make sure that the machines are well maintained and fully operational. 

I also like it when gyms have a specific area that can be used to do your abs. Just a personal preference of mine.

4. Cleanliness

Make sure that the gym is well maintained and clean. The first part you need to look is the bathrooms and showers (especially if you are planning on showering there). In a good gym, you always see somebody cleaning every hour.

5. Contracts

Before you sign anything, try the gym out for a week and see how you feel.

Most good gyms would be delighted to give you a one week trial. Do not sign up to any long term contract unless you are financially stable and are absolutely sure that you love the place. Also, be sure that you understand every single detail of the contract. Some contracts are very restrictive and even if you have to move and cannot go to the gym anymore, you still need to pay! Ensure also that you can freeze your membership in case that for whatever reason you need to stop going for an extended period of time. Read before you sign! And it goes without saying that you need to be comfortable with the price. Don't sign up to anything that will blow your budget.

6. Atmosphere/Vibe

This is something that will vary for everyone, but I just want to bring this point up so that you consider it.

How do you feel in the gym? Is the staff friendly? How about the gym members? Every gym has a different vibe and you need to make sure that you feel comfortable where you are going.  Definitely, if you are serious about bodybuilding, try to go to a gym where others have the same goals as you.  There is nothing more inspirational than to be in a gym where many others have reached the goals that you are looking to achieve.

Also, beware of gyms where they have it as a rule to kick you out if they feel you are training too hard.  There is actually a chain that will sound an alarm if they feel that you are being too noisy or extreme.  Insane sounding but true. 


I hope that these tips help you in your task of selecting a gym. I wish you the best of luck in your bodybuilding endeavors!

Until next time, take care and train hard!


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