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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Choosing The Right Gym - Jim Duggan


For the readers who have the good fortune to be able to train at home, this article might not carry any great significance.  However, for those of us who do not have the option of training at home, hopefully this article will provide some sort of assistance.  Afterall, having the right place to train is vitally important.  The right place will inspire you to train consistently, avoiding the pitfalls of skipped workouts and irregular training. 
     
Over the years, I've trained at numerous gyms.  The first gym I ever joined was Bruno's Health Club.  I've often spoken-and written- about my experiences at Bruno's.  It's something I never get tired of talking about because it gives me the opportunity to revisit an enjoyable time of my life.  The fact that I keep in touch with the main players of Bruno's Powerlifting Team makes it even more fun to travel down memory lane.  I trained at Bruno's for six years, and while we didn't have fancy equipment or machines, we had the best free weights available.  York equipment to be specific.  What we also had was a great environment in which to train.  Iron Island Gym, on the other hand, had the most extensive array of equipment available, along with a large variety of top-quality bars and unique strength-building items.  In addition, the atmosphere there was positive, supportive, and inspiring.  If you couldn't get inspired at Iron Island, then you should have been embalmed.
     
When trying to determine the best place to train, there are several important factors to consider.  Probably the most important consideration is the equipment itself.  While it is not necessary to have the latest and newest equipment, you want to have access to quality weights and bars that are adequately maintained.  And, let's face it, it all starts and ends with the bar itself.  While I'm not going to get into an argument about who made or makes the best bars, I will simply say that I started out with York and have maintained a loyalty to York Barbell since the first time I wrapped my fingers around a York bar over thirty years ago.
     
As important as barbells and free weights are to training, it's surprising to see just how many places skimp on this all-too-important piece of training equipment.  I could never figure out why a gym would have bars that are bent, or bars with non-revolving sleeves, or bars with non-existent knurling.  It's ridiculous to have an otherwise well-equipped gym with quality benches, modern machines, heavy-duty power racks, etc., yet the bars themselves are garbage.  I realize that I was spoiled by training at Bruno's and Iron Island where the quality of the free weights was unsurpassed.  I will devote more time to free weights in a subsequent article.  For now, though, suffice it to say that the idea of having a training facility that utilizes low-quality free weights is misguided at best. 
     
After equipment, the atmosphere of the gym plays an important role in determining the quality of your workouts, and the satisfaction you derive from training.  At Bruno's, we had a core group of lifters who trained on the same days.  As a contest approached, we'd arrange our workouts so we'd be able to train together at the same time.  I can't begin to describe how much more you can accomplish when you have a group of people working together and supporting each other.  Of course, supporting each other does NOT mean yelling, cursing, screaming and acting like a mad banshee.  You don't get stronger from noise.  You build strength with hard work and consistent training.  Being considerate of others is a desirable trait both in and out of the gym.  We've all seen- and heard- the screamers.  Every gym has them.  They'll scream and yell during every rep of every set. You would think that they are being tortured. What a joke!  What's even funnier is that they usually use baby weights. Which only reinforces the old saying that "empty barrels make the most noise."  Sadly, these yo-yos are unavoidable.  In additions to the screamers, you will also undoubtedly encounter the toners, pumpers, and posers.  These are easily recognizable.  The so-called experts who will expound on everything and spend most of their time pumping the arms and pecs.  They don't train for strength, they just want to pump and tone.  What a colossal waste of training time.  Ignore the toners.  Surround yourself with others who want to train for Strength and Health.

An important aspect of surrounding yourself with the right people is the central theme of this website.  Natural strength.  Not just getting stronger, but doing it the right way.  No drugs.  Unfortunately, many gyms that bill themselves as "hard core" are really places where steroids are prevalent.  I won't beat this to death in this article, I will simply refer to a quote from the legendary strength coach Kim Wood:  " If you take steroids, you are admitting to yourself, deep down, that you don't have enough of what it takes to be a man."  Train hard, consistently, and progressively and the gains will come.  The right way.

Finally, there is one method that I used to determine if a gym was a right fit for me.  I'd walk in, listen to the spiel given by the sales rep, and when he/she was finished I would simply ask two questions.  First I would ask if there was a power rack in the gym.  If they asked what a power rack was, then I knew it was the wrong place for me.  Secondly, I would ask if the use of chalk was permitted.  If the answer was no, then it was time to move on to another place. 
    
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT