5/3/1 In A Commercial Gym: Observations

TAGS: 531 training, 5/3/1, commercial gym, health, Jim Wendler, strength training, strength coach, Elitefts Info Pages, training

Because of a major career change, I've recently relocated to a new city. With this move, and all the bullshit that goes along with moving, I've been forced to endure the misfortune of trying to find a new gym - in an area where all I can seem to find are commercial "chain" gyms that don't offer what guys like me are looking for in a facility.

As a result, I've done a lot of thinking about what these types of gyms do wrong. Now, anyone who's in business will say, "Dude, the key to business is giving people what they want. Who are you to tell a business owner what he's doing wrong? If people want to pay $79 a month to walk on treadmills and do preacher curls all day, why shouldn't gyms just take their money?"

The answer to this is easy. Like smoking, drinking and black tar heroin, what people want isn't always the best thing for them. The world, however, has been convinced that 20 minutes of treadmill walking - hanging onto the rails, of course - followed by endless sets of every bicep exercise under the sun is "the way to train."

And you know what? It's just f-ing sad. When I look around my commercial gym, my inner Thinker comes out and I say to myself, "This country's in trouble."

Here's where I'm coming from. If you've read my log before, you'll know I'm a major advocate of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program. I think it's the best "general" lifting program I've ever seen, and I'm planning to stay on it for years to come because it works. Even a program as simple as 5/3/1, however, can be a bitch to perform at a commercial gym because of the obstacles these places put in your way.

That said, here's a list of things that I think would improve the commercial gym experience for all concerned. Some of these are things gyms should do, and some of them are things gyms should stop doing. Most of you can add a dozen more things to this list. What I've tried to do with this is to be realistic, and not come out with the EFS party line that "every gym needs twenty power racks, a glute-ham raise and a reverse hyper," because that's simply not going to fly. Some of these will sound familiar, but if they do - within the context of this article, anyway - then it's something I honestly think is universal.

1. Get More Power Racks:
In most commercial gyms, power racks are also known as "hanging ab stations." This is because people don't know what you can really do in a rack. If they actually did, the racks would be the busiest area in the gym, because you can do virtually anything in a power rack. Anything. Most gyms have one rack at most, and it's usually some rickety old piece of shit in which you wouldn't dare attempt squatting more than 315 pounds. In my old gym, we had a number or racks that nobody ever used. Once some "real" lifters came in, and people saw what could be done in a rack, they were constantly being used.

2. Enforce the "Rack Your Weights" Rule:
Instead of walking around hassling people about signing up for sessions, a major responsibility of all these "floor trainers" you see buzzing around in commercial gyms should be to make sure people are taking plates off bars and machines, and replacing dumbbells where they belong. Cleaning up after "95 Pound Squat Guy" is annoying, especially when he's squatting with a pad on the bar.

3. Make Room For Barbell Exercises:
I stay pretty basic with 5/3/1. On squat days, since I no longer have access to a glute-ham raise, pretty much everything I do involves a barbell: squatting, RDL's, good mornings and cleans. On bench days, among other things, I bench, row and do shrugs. With all the machines and other crap they pack into commercial gyms, there's little room to do any kind of barbell exercise without having to look all around you before you get started, lest you run into some wandering slapdick who's late for his appointment with the preacher curl.

4. Enforce the "Put Shit Back Where You Found It" Rule: I do lots of weighted dips. For whatever reason, whenever I do these, I have to hunt around the gym for several minutes looking for the dip belt with the chain, because it's never in the same place. The same goes for damned near every portable implement in the gym. At my old gym, the carabiners on our chains would constantly disappear because people thought they were part of the general carabiner supply for the entire place. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

5. Enforce the "No Cell Phones in the Gym" Rule: I've never seen anything like this before. Everyone in this f-----g gym walks around talking on the phone. Am I missing something here? I've never brought a phone into a gym in my life, so maybe I just don't understand. Is this something I should be doing?

6. Take an Allen Key and Tighten Your Dumbbells:
Is it a rule that every heavy dumbbell in every commercial gym in America should be about to completely fall apart? Do some weekly maintenance on your facility and fix this shit, please. It's completely inexcusable.

7. Get Real Collars: Let me let you in a little secret. Spring collars suck, and nobody likes them. About the only thing they're good for, in my estimation, is hanging chains from them when you deadlift so the chains don't hit your feet. That's it. And since most commercial gyms don't have chains - give this time...you'll see people misusing them all over America eventually - spring collars are good for just about nothing.

8. Tell Your Cheesy Personal Trainers to Stop Stealing Shit From EliteFTS and Doing it Wrong: Look around any commercial gym. Every single one of them will have a trainer who advocates box squatting, and every single one of these trainers teaches it entirely wrong. This is because they have no idea what the f--k they're doing. They saw it on YouTube or at some functional seminar, they want to be "hip and trendy," and now they're box squatting and kettlebell swinging and sled pulling and doing all manner of shit they've never done themselves and couldn't teach to my dog. Please. Stick with your Bosu balls and balance boards and stop embarrassing yourselves.

9. Revoke the Membership of Anyone Caught Lifting With Sunglasses On: If you're going to wear shades in the gym, you'd better produce a prescription on demand, otherwise you're a jackass and we'd be better off without you. The same goes for any number of "things" that these f-ing people do in these places. I once saw a guy taking a leak at a gym urinal with his pants around his ankles and his ass hanging out. Sorry, man. Doesn't fly.

Believe me, this list is by no means comprehensive. This comes as a result of "training" for less than a week at a commercial gym, so I'm sure I'll have an entire litany of complaints by the time my stay in this particular facility is complete. I look forward to my next visit to my personal chrome and neon hell.

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