Setting Up Commercial Gym

Dear Friends at T-Nation,

My partner and I are in the process of setting up what will hopefully become a successful chain of gyms in China and there are lots of issues where we would like to use your honorables selves as sounding board.

We intend this gym to be geared towards strength/hypertrophy and general transformations. Basic old-school movements will form the core of all our programs. In fact the training philosophy goes along the lines of most of the regular contributors here on T-Nation.

Number one issue: Equipment

Which machines should we as a bare minimum have in our facility?

The list we have compiled so far include:

  • Dumbbell set up to 120lbs (or perhaps we should go with powerblocks?)
  • Barbells naturally
  • Smith machines (yes, I know you all hate them but there are uses for them and the gym will have its share of beginners too)
  • Power cages
  • Incline bench press bench
  • bench press bench
  • Assisted pull-up/dip machines
  • Cable pulley
  • In/Decline benches
  • Pull down machine
  • E-Z bars
  • Misc handles for pull down and cable pulleys
  • Dipping belts
  • Standing calf raise machine
  • Sitting calf raise machine
  • Ab benches
  • Leg raise/dipping chairs

As well as a bit of cardio equipment like treadmills, bicycles, cross trainers.

Are there any obvious oversights in the above list of equipment? and please bear in mind that while we ofcourse would love have all equipment known to man, we have financial considerations and have to be selective.

Also, which equipment manufacturers would you favor over others?

Looking forward to your valuable input!


Hey, great idea to do what you’re doing but if you don’t know what gear to get, are you sure you are ready to set up a commercial gym?

Even in china the expense will be large. Maybe you should start with a studio first as you might be biting off more than you can chew.

Thanks for your quick reply and encouragement and yes, it would appear a bit strange to ask that kind of question for one about to set up one or more gyms.

There is more to the story you see - this facility is a gym with a twist namely an attached ‘food-laboratory’ making food to specification for the trainees at the facility. You have no idea how hard it is to find really healthy high protein food here.

Im the food guy - my partner has has the gym experience and also a pretty firm idea on what should go into the gym.

I was merely interested in additional input for the frequent gym-goers and gym-owners on this site.


I definitely would NOT get power blocks. I’ve used them in the past, and can confirm they are not particularly easy to use, and have a strange ‘feel’ to them, as opposed to a traditional dumbbell. Not to mention the weight selector lock is unstable.

Stick with a decent range of dumbbells, and almost everybody will be happy.