T Nation

Gyms: A Simple (But Long) Question to You


If I could gather the pioneers, visionaries, board of directors, current administration members of all of the large scale gyms in the United States, and the people that go to these gyms I would ask you one question:


"Why what?" they would ask.....

Just...... why?

I took a break from my gym. I took a break from that lifestyle, and decided to focus on other physical attributes for sports such as basketball, soccer, activities such as backpacking, kayaking, etc. You get better, faster, and more skillful at these things by doing these things over and over. Pretty simple. Pretty elegant.

I decided to get back into lifting heavily for many different reasons, none of which are important for the point of my question.


I called LA Fitness and asked about current membership rates. Instead of communicating directly to me as a human being, the (general manager) person I called to ask a simple question starting telling me about their 4 lane swimming pool, their "stadium seating" spin room, their 150 cardio machines each complete with a television and a "fan to simulate real running designed to keep you cool". He started to tell me about how many different machines they had that were designed (by leading scientists I am sure) to stimulate and grow each individual muscle to the utmost efficient level when I interrupted him to tell him I was interested in exactly 4 pieces of equipment in his entire Gym-Utopia. The only other thing I was interested in, and was interested enough to prompt me to pick up the phone to get an answer, was how much this would cost me.

I did not want to be sold on how many different ways I can simulate running, biking, hiking, climbing, or lifting weights. I am not interested in anything in that entire 2 million square foot facility with the exception of an adjustable bench, barbell bench, squat rack, and a power rack. If I want to ride a bike, I will do so. If I want to run for whatever reason, I prefer the real breeze on my face. If I wanted to make my legs bigger and stronger, I would do real squats rather than sit in a State of the Art leg press in which I hold on to handles and press as much weight above my head with my legs as possible. I prefer the more gravity friendly, and downright more effective method of doing this.

He told me it would be $120 down, and $35 a month. Normally, I probably wouldn't have thought too much about this, and would have made an appointment to sit down and finalize a membership. Today, I started asking myself why I would pay for 99% of a gym I would never use. I decided there had to be other gyms that felt the same way.... surely.

No. They all have the same pitch. "We have dedicated personal trainers..... We have STATE OF THE ART machines, and we have thousands of them..... We have the best blah blah blah...."

The worst thing is, I would imagine 75% of their paying members have not been to that gym in the past 90 days, hence the EFT ONLY membership styles. What happened to good old fashioned cash? I want to work out for a month, I pay you for a month. I dont pay, I dont work out. What is being allowed to happen is this: Greed.

Pure and simple greed. I for one have had enough of this absolute ridiculousness, and I simply will not be embarrassed to be a "member" of a "gym" that thinks playing top 40 pop hits on their STATE OF THE ART sound system while having the capacity to accomodate 325 people running on an endless line of treadmills with the cool breeze on their face, installing the latest and greatest machines designed to "Deliver results" in making your calves bigger is conducive to my goals. I bring my own music, I run IRL (OMG), and I do squats. Next?

So again, why? Why can I not find a gym that smells like a gym should smell.... that has the tried and true pulling, pushing equipment, that doesn't feel the need to blast Brittany Spears' latest hit, won't charge me automatically even if I am halfway around the world or dead?

I'll make a promise to you all right here, and right now. I would rather go to a junkyard and fling tires over my head, than pay to join one of these gyms. I will lie on my back and bench press my coffee table before I give these salespeople my credit card number.

Its a shame that any real gyms that used to exist in abundance have been eradicated and reduced to a small fraction by these unbelievable cash grabbing opportunists that have brought advertising and profit margins into a world that once was pure and free from such bullshit.

I firmly believe that a company SHOULD make money, but only if they are really able to capture the essence of the product they are selling. I blame stupid people for falling for these gimmicks more than I do the actual fitness clubs that are profiting from them, but sooner or later, something has to give. When will a real company step up and open real gyms that offer real solutions to serious people?


I have an uncle who expressed the exact same sentiment. So he got together with a bunch or his other ironheads, and they decided to build their own gym. literally.

I think it would be a great investment, if you or a fellow dedicated freind has a garage, to just turn it into a hardcore gym. The car will survive in the driveway. Some squat racks that can double as bench racks, some dumbells, maybe some mirrors and your golden. split up the price among 6 or 8 guys, and it'll pay for itself pretty soon versus gym memberships.

the best thing is, since it's just you guys using it, there's no issue with gym etiquite or anything like that, no clueless amatuers running around, and you can blast whatever music you want.

unless you're poor like me and live in an apartment. SOL on that one.


Are you questioning why a business wants to maximize revenues?

The reason there are not any gyms you described is because they don't make any money.

Most people don't give a shit about powerlifting or bodybuilding, ppl on this site are the exception.

Get a grip on reality please lol


All that time you spent typing could've been used to plan your home gym.


I would wager we both took the same amount of time typing in this thread.

I have very little evidence to back this up, but I think the odds are still in my favor.


Yep, apartment dweller here as well. There are a few variables preventing us from buying a home quite yet.

That's not a bad idea though. At least it's something to plan for. What to do in the meantime?


I admit it's a long post to read through, and I apologize for that.

I am not questioning WHY a business wants to maximize revenues as much as I am commenting on HOW.

HOW is because there is no contrast to the current fitness model. It's moved into the realm of ideas, and almost nothing concrete. In other words, Sales. Any good salesman will tell you its the ideas that sell. The feature, what it does, and how it benefits you. This model has NO place in my decision to move weights.

This can be proven by picking up your phone, and calling any gym in your area for prices. If you can call a gym and get a solid price in under 30 seconds, I will move to your city and go there, or you reached a new 'sales associate' who lost his script before the phone rang.

The question WHY is 100% directed to people in position to change this, but do not. The question is really directed at the people who got suckered into this, and have paid a grand total of $1,273 to carry around a cool "UBER-UTOPTIA" keychain membership card.

That's about all the have to show for it.

So WHY are they still in business?

If we're doomed to have all companies in this country go the Wal-Mart route because it's "profitable", WHY can't a decent chain open? Why do you need me to sign a 10 page contract in order for me to use some of your weights?

Do you get what I am saying?


i get it, and i would think about it as much as you have if i gave a shit


I really don't care too much about the little tid bits. It annoys me when my membership gets jacked up because a few members like using the sauna, receive complementary massages, pay for air conditioning that is used at the most inappropriate times (blowing cold in winter, switched off in summer), can't fix their equipment for 3 months when something breaks, can't put a power rack together properly, have to subsidize their PT revenue so their trainers don't go broke, make promises on upgrades that take 15 months to be implemented, try and charge you on sign up for PT classes with the most moronic trainers.


My coffee table is really light and would be awkward to press. Just sayin.

If you can't find a gym to suit your needs, and you are adamant about not paying for a gym that has 99% more stuff than you will ever need, you aren't left with many choices. You can always improvise: a sled, some weights, an oly bar, hell you can deadlift and clean in a parking lot if it comes down to it, make some sandbags and squat those until you can find a place to set-up rack, the possibilities are endless really. I'm sure you know all that stuff.

People like big gyms with lots of bells and whistles. They eagerly buy up memberships. The owner makes a buck or two. If you think there is a market in your area for a bare-bones basic gym with flexible membership, then seriously think about opening one. My friend did it and has been fairly successful so far.


my gym is great. you pay in cash, no contract and no fancy machines or gimmicks.


This is a good point. If you get second hand equipment, you can realistically set up your own gym with everything you want for <$1500, which is about two and a half years of membership at the gym you're describing, except you wont have to drive there, put up with the atmosphere you hate, and it will be there for free after those two years.

I get to use a very nice college gym for free right now, but when that's over with, I'm going this route.


Gyms mold to the demands of the customer, not the other way around.

Most people are not like you and me who are self-motivated and will work out in a gym with no music, dirty iron and old (but good)equipment. They want fancy, new equipment and bikes with TV screens in front of them that show them riding down a mountain. Would we prefer if they do it our way? Yeah. But a business is going to cater to what the customer wants, and generally people don't like or don't know what we do.


Just wondering, what is the appeal of "dirty iron"? I don't want to get tetanus from a rusty, dirty bar and what is old (but good) equipment? All the old equipment I run across is mostly stuff like crappy cables that don't slide well and bent oly bars that are impossible to seat well on my back.
Everytime I read threads like this one it makes me wonder how there can't be a "normal" gym out there for people. This city is full of what I'd call the average, not top of the line, but well equipped gyms with the basics. Memberships run from 350$-450$ yearly at one of these types of facilities. Even in the small town I grew up in on the west coast of this country I was able to find an average-equipped gym that ran in this price range, by googling "gyms in town X".
I'd say if the choice is so limited to over-priced, over-equipped gyms in your area, then there is an rather large untapped market out there.


I was just trying to add some poetic flair in there and failed; I didn't mean rusty bars with no grip or anything haha. I more meant chalk and blood sweat tears etc, etc. And old equipment as in not the latest state of the art hamstring curl made of pure chrome, nor rusted broken equipment that is hazardous at best. But just basic equipment that gets the job done.


I don't like being dirty, I don't like loud music, and I don't like people raging. You're lifting weights, not fighting for your life. And if you are fearing for your life, you should get some spotters.

The prices at the chain gyms are negotiable and often lower than anywhere else. They're counting on volume. My LA Fitness membership was $20 initiation, $25/month fixed for life. Option to use any gym in the nation (outside of NYC, I think). It's good when I'm not in town, or I want to go at an odd hour. I don't get the hate. Some people like the pool, that egg-walker thing, or same-gendered-sweaty ass in a wooden room.


OK, well if you clean up your blood (or wear long socks fer chrissake) and chalk I'm ok with that ( :


small chains like u described don't last long... there's a limited population that wants to lift in scrubby surroundings... la fitness and other major gyms survive cuz of that 10 page contract... they advertise like crazy and make it seem like its the only gym ever... and when u call and they give u that sales pitch, thats what it is... a sales pitch it makes average people think about all these amenities and they fail to realize that they will not use but 10% of the actual facility...

also the contract allows the gym to get paid even when the patrons stop coming which for 75% of america is gonna be after 2-3 months (max)... i don't favor the big city gyms... but when they have 3x the locations, updated equipment, and eye candy at most of the gyms its hard not to use them... also remember that ure not a commercial gyms target population (thus the heaviest dumbells being 125 lbs at most)... 40 yo Jenny that just dropped her kids off at soccer practice and has 25 min to get a quick jog in or 45 yo Joe that just got off work and wants to do curls with 15lb dumbbells cuz his gut is getting big is the target population...

i go to la fitness... there's 3 locations within 5 mi of my apt... and 1 location less than a mile from my work... the only BB gym i can think of is 10 mi from my work and my apt (downtown atl) and it has terrible parking and the rates are higher than i pay for la fitness ($45 vs $70)... smaller gyms command a premium cuz they are smaller and with a limited membership base they have to charge more for people to work out there...

Sorry brah... this is real life...




basically, the world does not like meat heads.

there is a planet fitness by my house. every time i drive by, the parking lot is full. they are doing fantastic business.

i work out at one gym that has several world champ powerlifters and other up and comers. there is a 300 plus pound powerlifter jacked up on test that almost always has a scowl on his face. he is a bouncer at a bar and talks about the fights there, swears like a sailor and is openly talking about his drugs. recreational lifters dont want to be around that environment. business drops as more powerlifters join the gym.

I worked out at another gym that had national powerlifting champs and a host of other lifters and a few nationaly ranked body builders. they were so obnoxious that the gym membership dropped and the gym eventually closed.

running a business for meatheads is not always a good business model.

one gym in CA i trained at had an area that was cgaed off where a lot of the meatheads trained. It was pretty fitting. I think that was a pretty good model, but you need a big space.