Muscle Sport Magazine

Picking a Gym

By Michael Kaycheck – You walk in the joint; it’s chrome-laden, shiny steel, lotsa mirrors- Wow! This place is great! I’m in! Not so fast. Picking your gym is more important than picking your routine because you ain’t doing no routine if you don’t go to the gym. I’m going to fly through some key points for selecting your fortress of solitude.




How far is it from home/work? Will the trip discourage you? If you take public transportation, is it accessible? Is there a parking lot? Maybe the gym validates parking for a nearby lot. See what the street parking regulations are like in the area during your training hours. If it’s metered parking, will you have to run out in the middle of a sweat in January to plunk quarters down? Remember; if it’s going to be a hassle getting there or fighting for parking, you’re likely to blow it off on those days your sitting on the fence about going at all.

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Really look INTO the equipment. Is there enough variation for multiple routines per body part? By that I mean this: I knew a place that had plenty of incline, flat and decline benches. But that was it for the chest. No pec deck, a shitty crossover cable system and the dumbbells didn’t go higher than 70 pounds. After a few months, you will want to change up your routine for training purposes but also to keep it fresh, interesting. If you can find a place that has variety enough for, let’s say, at least three separate back routines between free weights and machines, great! If you whacked it up every three months or so, by the time you finished routine three, routine one will be new again.




See if you notice a lot of machines with “out of order” signs. In the free weight room, see if the dumbbells are loose (more prevalent in the heavier pounds from the force). Maybe the handles are bent from the bad-asses who feel the need to throw them so everyone can look at them. Are the benches ripped up? On the adjustable benches; do they have knobs on them to change height/seat position? On the machines; are the grips shredded and worn out? A single tear might be recent. But is one rubber grip shredded on the military press and the other a bare handle? Not a good sign. Do you see staff servicing machines? It’s better to see a broken machine being fixed than one collecting dust. When you move the action of a machine or cable, is it smooth? Does it meet resistance- signs that the most basic of maintenance- lubing- isn’t being done? Get on a couple of different cardio machines and just test the key pad by selecting workout, weight, age, etc. Does the console work? Does it operate smooth? Look at the treads on the mill- worn? Does it seem to skip when you’re at higher speeds?



If you shower at home, this is no big deal. But you’ll want to see how clean it is if you’re showering there. This is something everyone should know what to look for (unless you don’t clean your bathroom). Also see if the lockers are flimsy. Is there an attendant? Have there been break-ins? Do you see signs warning of break-ins? How consistent is the hot water? A big issue for special amenities such as steam/sauna seems to be PERMITS. I have seen more of these shut down NOT because they’re dirty, but because many places (usually big names) keep running on temporary permits and the local board of health catches them and shuts them until they get their permanent. I’m not going to say which chain, but once I belonged to a place and joined their BRAND NEW (not even open yet) location. Not 60 days in, the steam room and sauna were shut for MONTHS. Opened for weeks, shut AGAIN for months. I made it a point to tell the guy who signed me up one of my main reasons for joining was the steam room and sauna. So when they were shut so long, I went to him. He froze my membership (whereby I paid minimal) but let me come in because he remembered.




The battlefield is always going to tell what the drawing board doesn’t. So the best “test flight” would be to get a workout in your potential gym for at least each body part. When you walk in, take the tour with them, ask questions even if you don’t care; it shows you’re serious. At the end, tell them that no matter how the place looks or whatever spectacular offer you have, you need to see how practical a workout here will be. Ask for a week’s guest pass. Even though a lot of places will say “Oh, I can’t do that” – B.S! The manager has flexibility. If that’s an issue, then at minimum you should get a three day pass. This is based on experience. I’ve just about always got the three and more often than not (but sometimes not) gotten the week. Then you can go at your regular time and see how it fits. Even if you have to pay for a visit, it might be better than obligating yourself. During this time you will be able to make the above observations and ask other members. But use your judgment; there are those you cannot please at all. If one has all negative, I’d ask someone else the same things. If it comes back four positive, two negative or vice versa, you’re probably getting honest answers.


These are basics to find out NOW what you might find out in your third month and not want to go anymore. Try go get at least three visits; a lot of the above will answer themselves by then. Talk to those who are really training, not socializing. But hey, I’m just another gym rat.

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