Basic Guide to Weight Training at the Gym
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Training at a well equipped commercial gymnasium (gym for short) provides you with fabulous weight training opportunities - you can perform almost any exercise you can think of! This wealth of training equipment (and it's quality and reliability) is the main advantage over training at home. You can train however you like and (hopefully!) maximise the effectiveness of your workouts.
Choosing a good gymUnfortunately, however, commercial gyms aren't without the down-sides. A great many gyms are over-crowded, making it difficult to train quickly and effectively as you may often have to wait several minutes to be able to use a piece of equipment (maybe even longer if the people using it are taking ages to complete their sets - chatting between sets, doing too many sets). To avoid this visit potential gyms when they are at their busiest (generally Monday evenings seem to be the busiest time of the week regardless of the type of gym or clientelle - everyone seems to feel obliged to go after the weekend's excesses!). This way you can see if the gym will be too busy for you at times to have a good workout. Avoid the gym if you think you won't be able to train as you'd like and find another.
Of course, some gyms, despite being busy have multiple pieces of the same equipment to try and make sure there's at least one available at any time of day - these gyms tend to be the very large gyms and with this convenience comes costly membership. It's down to you to decide whether you want the luxuries that come with large gyms or the cost effectiveness of the smaller, quieter gyms. A thing to also bear in mind is that not all large health clubs allow full on bodybuilding to occur - they have all their non-bodybuilder members to consider and don't want large, sweaty bodybuilders messing up their nice clean trendy gyms. :)
It's also worth checking out what the quality of the equipment the gym has before joining - you may discover that the equipment is poor and badly maintained and also that they are missing some vital equipment - or at least some of the equipment you'd like is missing. Leisure clubs' equipment is often of a poorer quality (though better maintained). Choosing a gym is a really important decision for your bodybuilding and you should not choose lightly.
What to expectGyms vary greatly from gym to gym. Some are dungeon-like grotty dirty places that cater only to hardcore bodybuilders and powerlifters. These places are like a little bit of heaven for the utter hardcore bodybuilder who doesn't want nice things like sauna's, steam rooms, clean changing rooms etc. - basically they're for people who just want good solid equipment to help them get big as quickly and effectively as possible.
Other gyms are more commerically minded and try to cater for a wider range of the general public. They're often called health clubs or leisure centers or fitness studios. These places tend to be bigger than hardcore gyms and have more facilities (some even have swimming pools) - cleaner too! These gyms are great for bodybuilders who would feel intimidated going to a hardcore gym and are interested in having the maximum facilities available to them.
Some gyms tend to be friendlier than others. I've trained at many different gyms (I've even been a member of six times Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates' gym) and it's amazing how the friendliness of the members varies so greatly between them. With bodybuilders, it helps to have a degree of muscle mass before the other big bodybuilders in the gym will take you seriously and speak to you. Your size (sometimes wrongly!) tells the other bodybuilders how serious you are about your training. If you're really skinny or fat then then some of them won't give you the time of day as they'll think you're a no-hoper. If you've only just begun bodybuilding this is probably a totally wrong impression but over time you'll hopefully get to know them and they'll become friends - these people can be very valuable sources of knowledge and encouragement. Some however may spout nothing but rubbish so use your judgement and don't believe everything you hear!
Strangely enough, leisure clubs don't tend to be any friendlier than the hardcore places. Everyone tends to be wrapped up in themselves or with their friends so these more commercial places can be hard places to make friends and feel comfortable within.
Making the most of weight training at a gymMake friends - being able to learn and be inspired by others at the gym is a massive benefit that training at home doesn't give you.
Use the equipment - change your workouts every now and again to shake things up. The sheer range of equipment at your disposal is something you really should make the most of.
Get spotted whenever you need it. Training at home means there's normally no-one around who can spot you (help you lift the weight if you need it) - this is dangerous and also stops you putting maximum effort into your training. At a gym there's normally always someone willing to spot you if you ask them nicely. This can really make a difference to how hard you can push yourself in the gym. It's also a great way of breaking the ice with someone!
ConclusionI've been training in the gym for 15 years now (is it really that long?!) and haven't looked back. In my opinion the benefits outweigh the negatives but no matter where you are, at home or the gym, train safely, eat well, get lots of water and rest and get massive! All the best, train hard.