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3 Things Every Gym Needs to Have

These are the three essential features I first look for in a gym. For my powerlifting focused training style, I find the following materials essential for my success as a strength athlete. If your desire is to optimize your training sessions, you will find great benefit in finding a gym that has the following resources available to you.

1. Squat Racks – Enough Squat Racks to accommodate peak traffic hours with at most a 5-10 minute wait to get a rack.

Explanation – Some people attribute the title “The King of Exercises” to squats; others attribute it to deadlifts. I do not have an opinion about which movement is superior to the other, but I do know that compound movements as a whole are king. If you want to get bigger and stronger as fast as possible, spend 80% of your time in the gym doing compound movements instead of dumbbell curls. You will blow up like a balloon with a proper diet and ample rest. If you walk into a gym and there are no free weight squat racks (Smith Machines absolutely, positively DO NOT COUNT), swing a 180 and march right out the front doors ASAP. Just look at a few top-tier compound movements you can do in a squat rack:

Back Squats, Front Squats, Military Press, Rack Bench Press, Rack Pulls, Shrugs… the list goes on and on…

2. Deadlift/Weightlifting Raised Platform – At least one or two of these are needed to separate heavy deadlifters and weightlifters from the main walkways and get them out of the squat racks.

Explanation – Unless you are a weightlifter, a raised platform may seem like a superfluous facility. I have lifted in two gyms which had deadlift platforms available and two that did not. My quality of life on deadlift days at the platformed gyms was drastically higher than at the gyms without platforms. This was due to my ability to remove myself from squat racks or from major walkways while I deadlifted. Without a platform, either you end up occupying one of the highly coveted squat racks, or you annoy everyone by setting up in one of the straightaways between the sea of benches. Either way, you are going to deal with disgruntled people. I usually opted for the squat racks as I often do squats and deadlifts on the same day, but this meant I would occupy one of the two squat racks for upwards of an hour at times. A raised platform is now the second thing after squat racks I check for in a gym as it shows a dedication to the needs of powerlifters and weightlifters.

3. Ample Free Weights – If I am setting up for a heavy squat or deadlift day and I have to go hunting for plates because some gym bro is ego lifting on the leg press doing ¼ reps with all the gym’s plates one more time!… he’s gonna have a bad time…

Explanation – If you’ve been there, then you know my frustration. I hate leg presses for this reason. Guys are out there thinking they are all that after throwing 20 plates on a leg press and moving the sled 3 inches a couple of times. Meanwhile, those of us who are trying to do some real lifting, can’t find a 45lb plate to save our lives. Preferably, I would suggest never attending a gym plagued by ego-centric lifters.

However, due to the pandemic prevalence of these sensational citizens and the difficulty in avoiding them, find a gym that has invested in literal tons of free weight plates. A trustworthy indicator of whether a gym will have ample free weights or not is what kind of weight plates they use. If they use plastic coated, cutely branded plates, you can be assured all 18 45lbers will be on the leg press every time you need them. If they use dirty, 50-year-old steel plates from an undiscernible brand, then you are golden. Can’t find enough plates thanks to a leg pressing gym bro? No problem; just go ask the gym owner, he’ll tell you there are 20 more plates out back collecting dust he doesn’t have room for out on the floor.

I don’t need to tell you to do your own thing and that this is just my viewpoint on selecting a gym worthy of my own time. Speaking to my own past experiences, when I was on my own picking out a gym for the first time, I wish I had not compromised on these three important features. I wrote in a previous article about my negative experience buying into a gym that I could not afford at the time. That entire headache could have been avoided if I had kept to these three cardinal rules: Plenty of Squat Racks; (The gym had two squat racks) Deadlift Platforms; (No Platforms) and Ample Amounts of Free Weight Plates (Barely Enough to put 4 45lbers on each piece of equipment). If I had seen the red flags then and there, I could have found myself training in a much more fitting gym in no time; instead of being stuck in a 3 year contract!

Blessings Y’all,

Rhys Lyon

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