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How to Choose a Gym or Health Club

Consider What's Best for You


Updated January 06, 2013

Upright Row

Upright Row

(c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness

You've decided to work out on a regular basis, but you're not sure what equipment or venue is best for you. Here are your options and the pros and cons of each. Depending on your circumstances, you may be inclined to choose one or more of the following options.

Workout Choices

  • Home Gym Workstation
  • Home Free Weights
  • Traditional Gym
  • Modern Gym
  • Health Club Gym

Home Gym Workstation

'Home gyms,' as they are often referred to, are workout stations that incorporate levers and often free weights that you can adjust to do most of the basic weight training exercises. If you like this idea, the first consideration is quality. Paying extra for a home gym of solid construction is well worth it. Check out our home gym review, and here for more recent reviews.

It's worth noting that home gym workstations can take up quite some space; garages and spare rooms may need to be assessed for workable space before setup.

In addition, as with any individual training activity, you need to be sure that you are motivated enough to train alone. Many a home gym lies dormant because of disuse. Some people find the training and social environment in city gyms to be more to their liking.

Home Free Weights

Free weights include dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and other non-workstation weights. With a simple weights bench and a select range of dumbbells and barbells, you can do most of the useful weight training workouts without resorting to a gym workstation. Experienced weight trainers often take advantage of this option. The downtown gym environment still has appeal for social and other reasons, including collaboration with colleagues and exchange of training tips and advice.

The Traditional Gym

The traditional gym is the classic, old-fashioned 'iron' gym where bodybuilders, powerlifters and Olympic style lifters work out. This type of gym has few frills and probably won't have an aerobics floor. Choose this if you like to pump iron with big men (and a few women) and have clear weight training objectives that target muscle and strength, and, or if you are competition bound in any of these disciplines or in other relevant sports.

The Modern Gym

The 'modern gym' is the one most fitness trainers use. It will have free weights, machine weights, an aerobics floor, and probably a cycle spin room and perhaps a pool. This is not quite a 'health club' but it has more facilities and is less related exclusively to lifting big iron. Use this if you're into general fitness and sports training, and weight loss and body shaping.

The Health Club

The final option is the 'health club' -- and this may be an upmarket facility that provides accommodation for live-in programs, with more of everything including a gym, a pool, sauna, coffee shop or restaurant, tennis courts, training tracks, and personal training and in-house grooming and treatment staff. Depending on the luxury of the club and its facilities, the annual membership fee can be very high.

Best Compromise

If you can travel to a gym, and you can afford the fees, here is the basic list of equipment and service you should look for:

  • Machine equipment – cable and pulley equipment with easily adjustable weights.
  • A weights room or area where you can train with free weights, such as dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells.
  • Aerobic and cardio machines – treadmills, stationary bicycles, steppers and cross trainers.
  • A floor exercise and cycle spin class area where you can do aerobic exercise with an instructor.
  • Friendly personal staff and trainers who are willing to provide free advice and instruction without requiring you to sign up for one-to-one personal training sessions. (However, this can be useful in the right circumstances.)

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