If you dare mention any of the big players in the corporate gym arena to a “serious lifter” you are more often than not met with this exact response “Commercial gyms suck!”. Now I won’t disagree fully, commercial gyms just haven’t been geared towards the “serious lifter”. Whether it is powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, or even Crossfit (Gasp! Crossfit, serious? YES!); The commercial gym is just not the place for these activities. Another complaint with commercial gyms is that they lack overall training culture and are sterile safe places for people who just want to stay active. Again I will agree with you and say that commercial gyms generally will not have the same culture as some of the smaller athlete/trainer owned gyms. But guess what, “serious lifters” NEED commercial gyms.
Wait, I know you think I am nuts. Why would “serious lifters” NEED a commercial gym? First off most “serious lifters” started in these commercial gyms. Hell a lot of them still train in these commercial gyms when not in their hardcore, in your face, chalk flying private/small gyms. Now not everyone started in these commercial gyms but a vast majority did, without them a lot of big time iron slangers may have never found the love that they now can’t live without. Also I have been putting “serious lifters” in quotes to make somewhat of a point. I feel like the fitness industry as a whole has become a little too gym snobby and has tried to belittle your average gym goer. So what if someones goal is just to stay active? Your goals are your goals and their goals are their goals, a lot of people forget that simple point.
I have gotten slightly off topic, back to your regularly scheduled program. Now let’s talk about training culture. I will be the first to tell you, I was borderline depressed when I realized I had to make the switch from places like Cressey Sports Performance, school weight rooms and hardcore gyms, where the training culture is like nothing I have ever experienced, back to your regular old 24hr fitness. But you know what, I was pleasantly surprised. When I got back into the commercial gym setting I found a different attitude than the one previously experienced many years back. The reason behind this change may be due to the fact that fitness has exploded on social media and that the older generations running things are slowly being phased out in these commercial gyms.
During my time back in the commercial gym world I have met so many awesome people and connected with them over shared goals and just general excitement over strength. Every day I would walk in to get my lifts in I would be met with conversations of different programming methods, technique, and questions on how my lifts have been coming along. Building these relationships has been one of my favorite things about getting back into the commercial setting. So many different people from different backgrounds all excited about strength and just being better than they were the day before. I have learned and shared a lot with these people regarding training and just every day conversation.
Another gripe with commercial gyms has always been equipment selection/scarcity. A few years back you would find maybe 1-2 squat racks, no platforms, no bumper plates and a ton of benches along with a wild array of plate loaded/selectorized machines and treadmills. Today more and more commercial gyms are realizing that they need to provide a better selection and have added power rigs with multiple squat racks, landmine attachments and TRX stations, while also providing lifting platforms and bumper plates. It is still a far cry from the smaller/privately owned gyms but it is a step in the right direction.
Overall I feel the commercial gyms get a bad rap and people are being too snobby about where they get their lifting done. If we are being 100% honest, no matter the level of lifter, you can find some value in the commercial gym. Also the commercial gym is the reason a good majority of people even started their fitness journey. There will always be a place for the commercial gym in the world of fitness, if we can continue to utilize them well they will continue to grow and change with us.