T Nation

How to Review a Gym?

I’ve won some free sessions at a local gym. They want to make me regular customer, so i’ll have to find out, whether they are worth their money. The problem is that i don’t really know what to look for.

They seem to be into wellness and offer saunas and stuff. They have free weights, though. Since my goal is looking good nekkid, their weights are probably heavy enough.

The hard part is to assess the trainer(s). I thought about asking them a question or two from Thibs Training Quiz for Smartasses ( http://www.T-Nation.com/readArticle.do?id=490551 )

On my first short visit I also watched the other trainees and I rated them all as “out of shape”.

First, check to make sure they have the equipment you need – plently of free weights, racks, and floor space.

I would also ask for their gym rules. Some gyms won’t allow certain exercises which would probably be mentioned in the rules. Also, check for any other strange rules that might affect your training (ie: no clanging weights or grunting).

Unless you’re planning on hiring one, don’t worry about the personal trainers or their lack of knowledge.

Another big one for me is how crowded it gets - especially around the free weights. Take note of how many people are lifting vs. doing cardio.

That’s a good start in my opinion…


First, see if they have all of the equipment you need.

Second, see how busy it is when you’re going to be training.

Third, see if the showers are clean. Unless, of course, you won’t be showering there.

Finally, go in and deadlift. Their reaction will tell you pretty much everything you need to know.

Also check if they sell shakes or clothes. NOT a good sign to begin with.

As far as i understood the trainers are inclusive. At least workout planning and monthly assessment with them is.

The shakes and clothes thing can be a red herring. The best gym in my town sells all sorts of PWO drinks etc.

My scientific Gym ranking index:

Squat / power rack (+10)
Olympic platform (+30)
Smith Machine (-5)

Pair of Dumbbells over 50 kilos / 100 pounds (+2)
Pair of Dumbbells in pretty colours (-1)

Cardio bunny in tight shorts (+1)
Attractive women using the hoochie coochie or leg curl machine (+2)
T Vixen (+4)
Douchebag chest and bis guy (-1)
Douchebag curling in the squat rack (-10)
Other douchebag (-2)

Water fountain (+4)
Fan near squat rack (+0.1 points per inch of fan blade radius)

Gym sells any item that would be at home on a starbucks menu (-1 per item)
Gym sells chocolate bars (-1 per type)
Gym sells good supplements (+1 per type)
Gym sells crack (-300)

Clean shower (+10)
Disgusting shower (-5)
Pair of Gay guys having sex in the shower (-10 unless you want to join in then +300)

There you go. A scientific way of measuring how good a gym is.

I’ve worked in a “fitness” gym for years. We had plenty of BB weights, not quite enough DB weight (largest was 120lbs) and every imaginable piece of isolated machine and cardio gadgetry you could imagine. They just bought a couple of bikes that have a video game console where you ride through 3-D computer animated rides and compete against other virtual riders that input their data from the gym. It’s all terribly entertaining.

But the best workouts I ever had was in a small dungeon gym in my home town. It had mats and wood floors, one fan, no heat, and the only isolated machine type of things were a leg extension, leg curl, and cable crossover. Other than that it was metallic-smelling plates that became damp with condensation at nightfall…worn olympic bars where baby smoothness had replaced knurling…and mirrors fogged with the stench of iron battles. The kind of place where the one owner tossed you the key and told you to lock up because he wanted to go home early.

In other words, it was fucking awesome.

So yes you need equipment to suit your needs. But as important as that, you need a proper attitude for your goals. If you only want to gain some muscle and go a bit of cardio then where you are is fine.

But if you get “bit by the bug” and want intensity and focus and in my opinion, more fun…be careful before you sign some multi-year contract. Because you might start to get irritated at the pilates classes and BOSU balls in the long haul. Exercise by its nature is WORK and it should not be pretty, or comfortable, or entertaining (in the traditional sense, I happen to find hard work damn entertaining).

For some reason, many places try to disguise the “ugly” nature of exercise to make it more attractive to lazy people that will be put off by hard work so they will spend their money. So weightlifters are herded to the back rooms, the floors are carpeted and acclimated to a nice temperature, machines gleam instead of groan, and LUNK alarms blare at the very existence of effort. If you like to work and understand how real training looks and feels, this can be irritating.

Hell, I don’t even know what we are talking about, I got off on a rant. Dammit now I want to change gyms :frowning:

Oh, and that little awesome hell-in-the-wall in my hometown? Yeah, of course it closed down years ago.

Oh yeah you asked about trainers? I was one, and I was a fitness director that was in charge of hiring and firing a group of about 14 or so trainers over the years.

Of the trainers over the years that I interviewed, hired (and had to retrain) and even some of the ex-phys that I worked for…I would say that maybe 2 or 3 wasn’t completely full of shit in the beginning.

I don’t just mean differences of opinions (like full body vs. splits or steady cardio vs. intervals)…I mean completely full of crap in that they only wanted money, more clients, and worked the clients they did have into payment schedules and session packages that had nothing to do with goals or needs. I even had one trainer who worked there (this was after I stepped down as manager) say that he didn’t like explaining theories and methods to his clients because then they would be able to design programs without him and wouldn’t “need” him anymore. Jerk.

I’m off on another rant again…dammit this thread has pissed me off…

I work out in a gym where the average member is 40 years old and about 220lb of solid mass.

It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall gyms and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Especially not those sauna and massage session gyms.

Ok, report: I saw one guy squatting and a TVixen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLfYGT5Y4Pk works there as a trainer.

The problem is the prize. I think i’ll better spend the money on some weights and work hard at home. They only offer all-inclusive and i don’t want to pay for sauna and spinning courses i’ll never use anyway.

Haven’t found a hell-in-the-wall in the town yet.