T Nation

Oly Lifting in Commercial Gyms: Opinions

So this might be a bit much for a first post but gotta start somewhere.

Kind of a general question but I saw this article the other day: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/commercial_gym_power

I know there are some really experienced oly lifters on here and I just want an opinion.

If someone is lifting in a commercial gym without a coach, is it best to avoid the olympic lifts because of the high technicality involved and the crappy equipment at most commerical gyms? Could it actually end up doing more harm than good?

Do you think that some of the lifts in the article could be used as substitutes? Are there any other ways to reap the benefits of oly lifting in a subpar facility without proper coaching?

Thanks in advance.

I’m not one of the really experienced lifters here but I will chime in anyway.

Are you wanting to learn the Olympic lifts because you want to get good at them, and maybe compete in weightlifting competitions someday. Or are you wanting to learn the Olympic lifts because you just want to get the athleticism benefits for other sports?

If it’s the former then I would recommend seeking out a coach and somewhere to train where you can drop the weights, and not trying to learn them yourself. If you had bumpers and a platform then go ahead, plenty of people have managed to do it by themselves (although it’s much easier with a coach). Without being able to drop the bar all you will be doing is power versions, and if you do them too long you are going to have real difficulty making the transition to full lifts. So in this situation I would recommend just front squatting and back squatting to full depth, Olympic form and start searching for a better facility asap.

If you are just doing it for the power gains and aren’t interested in competing then I guess the exercises in the article might be a good way to get some power work in. I have no knowledge or experience with this though so I’m just guessing.

Commercial gyms do not usually have proper Oly bars, so the most you can do is to squat, press, and do pulls. Light technique and speed work is ok too, going too heavy on a bad bar can screw up your wrists.

I’m not a coach or very experienced in the olympic lifts yet, only been doing them for about 4 months now, but I currently lift in a commerical gym and do the full lifts (but start off “blocks”). So far i haven’t found lowering the bar to be a problem and I don’t believe it will be until the weights start to get really heavy.

My best snatch is only 135lbs x 2 and c & j 175lbs x 2 in this environment. So the weights aren’t so heavy that I have a problem lowering them, and I’ve read that before bumpers a lot of lifters used to lower by catching the bar on their thighs…Eventaully I will switch to a gym that has bumpers as there are a few near me.

What I’ve found to be helpful is a stack up a bunch of those purple plastic square stepper supports that they use in step classes and most commercial gyms will have these. I used these as my blocks and also when lowering I let the bar fall, but under control and guideance, to land on these plastic supports that help absorb the force and don’t make a lot of noise. I’m 5’8" so depending on the plate size I’m using (25lb, 35lb, 45lb) I find stacking them between 7 - 10 squares high keeps the bar about lower-mid thigh and then you don’t have so far to bring it down either.

Being in a commercial gym though does slow your progress as you really can’t go all out since, without bumpers, I only usually attempt weights I’m pretty positive I can get. It’s one thing to lower a good lift and another to fail in mid-lift and have the bar come back down on you or lose control and have it bang to the ground or hit another piece of equipment (I have fallen over a few times (forward in the snatch, backwards in the clean) and had this happen, thus I don’t go for true maxes at the moment but work up slowly attempting only 5-10lbs more than my last best effort every other session or so). Definitely go for very conservative max’s when in a commercial gym setting.

But that aside this is the best way I’ve found to make it work in a commercial setting.