In the past, I have talked a lot about training environment and how it can influence progress. Truth be told, it's one of a few factors that can make or break a lifter. You'll hear motivational talk about how a good lifter will make-do with what is available to them. And there is some degree of truth to that, but to make the most of your potential, sometimes you have to take the wheel and steer a bit, even if that means thinking outside of the "box."

Like most of you reading this, I've had to spend a good deal of time training in commercial gyms, throughout the course of my career. It has its pros and cons.

During my hiatus from powerlifting, for the seven years I competed in bodybuilding, there were quite a few pros, actually. Like a wide variety of different machines to isolate muscles from unique angles, providing useful stimulus variables, and a good selection of cardiovascular devices to keep the typical monotony associated with that type of training at bay. But even then, the negatives had no problem tipping the scales in their favor.

Many commercial gyms won't let you deadlift, citing some type of insurance clause which disallows it. Even among the few that do, some will force you to deadlift with those hexagonal plates. Ever tried it? I've done it, but honestly, fuck that. And who wants to wait for a bench or a squat rack to open up? Add insult to injury with the fact the person currently occupying it is more than likely not only wasting your time with the nonsense they're doing, but also their own. These places are a haven for asinine training behavior. It's as simple as that.

RECENT: Coach of the Year

It is possible to train effectively and even do really well in those conditions with the right mindset. My first bench over 500 pounds was in a gym with far more machines than free weights, with a spot from some random clown who probably couldn't deadlift what was on the bar. But I was always running into conflict with other members and know I would've done better, sooner, if the environment had been more optimal. What's truly optimal is an individual thing when it comes to strength training, but for most of us, that doesn't look much like a commercial gym.

knee wrap training environment

There will always be strongholds, sanctums for those serious about strength, but in today's fitness landscape they are few and far between.

If you talk to the owners of any of these places, you'll understand why. It's hard to compete for the average person's business when there are places charging ten dollars per month for a commercial atmosphere and you need fifty per member just to keep the doors open. With the good facilities like these spread out the way they are, even those of us for whom strength training is a top priority sometimes get stuck in a big box nightmare. Though, lately, I've seen a change.

I work with lifters across the country who hold their training sacrosanct. When they realize my method requires very little in terms of specialty equipment and provides a means to reach their respective potentials without being surrounded by dipshits, it doesn't usually take them long to connect the dots. In the last couple of years since I released the original 5thSet book, I've witnessed lifters in droves, leaving the machines behind, for an environment that allows them to set the tone: their basements and garages.

I realize people have always trained at home, but I'm speaking from my own experience, here, and what I've seen recently. For example, I'll tell you a story about two lifters. I call them the Shane's because they are both named Shane (I know, I'm creative). One Shane sees the other Shane wearing a 5thSet shirt at the globo gym where they both train and asks if he is running the program. Long story short, they both start to order what little equipment they need (a racka bencha yoke bar and some bands) from elitefts and a 5thSet Powerlifting crew is born. They go back and forth, training every other session at each other's place, and they're actively looking for others to join.

JP Carroll and his 5thSet crew are working on stockpiling equipment, as well. More and more posts are showing up in the 5thSet Facebook group from others who have decided to join the exodus. That's good, I like that.

training environment swede

Their training is a priority and they are taking steps which demonstrate that. I don't take for granted how fortunate I am to have an environment like Keyhole Barbell to train in. And it's not about the equipment, either. Sure I have all the toys I want now, but I started with a power rack and a bench. We trained on some of the shittiest equipment imaginable when I was in prison and still made better progress than most lifters ever will. When there is a foot of snow on the ground and you have to train under a pavilion, exposed to the elements, it tends to set the mood for a "no fucking around" kind of session. The memories of those workouts will always remain the clearest in my mind. Not for the number of rusty, welded and repaired plates we had on the bar, but for the standard of expectation we held each other to. We were in control of that. I still try to approach my training that way.

It doesn't snow in Keyhole, but I am surrounded by a special type of human. That's my choice. It's what works for me. Your mileage may vary, maybe you're someone who needs a pat on the back to keep their head in the game. But either way, you have the option to take the wheel for yourself and decide how you want to set the circumstances, who you want to surround yourself with, and what you're willing to accept. Like it or not, these are factors which will influence your performance. Before I moved to western PA and built Keyhole, I drove an hour each way to train at Ironsport, because I wanted to train with like-minded lifters. I've always done what I had to do.

In the future, I hope to see more people wake up to the fact that most of us have a very real choice. We don't have to settle for squatting out of a rack that doesn't let us get our hands where we want on the bar, or deal with some wiener behind us checking out his abs and almost getting hit by the plates as we lift. We don't have to train in gyms full of shit we don't need and people we'd rather curb stomp than ask for a spot. This is a call to arms for those who need to hear it.

If you can't find a solid facility to train in buy a rack and a bench. If you can't afford the ones we sell on the site, buy them from some joker on Craigslist who is using them as clothing racks.

Take control of your training.