Lucky for me, I haven’t had to train in a commercial gym for very long periods of time over the years. I started training in my dad’s home gym in our basement in middle school, and soon after that I started training in my high school's weight room. Then, during the latter years of high school, I either trained there or at a friend’s small powerlifting gym in a nearby town (which had about five or six members total). However, for a short time after high school I did have to train at a commercial gym, and I had my fare share of training sessions in college at a one as well. Yet, while I didn’t particularly love training in these settings, it didn’t stop me from making progress with my training. So, I can say that I’m no stranger to having to figure out how to train with so many damn rules to follow. (No Chalk, No Noise, etc.).

While it may not be ideal, some people have no other option than to train in a commercial gym. And I’m not here to bash those who do (because I don’t see any reason why you can’t achieve results that are just as good as those who have access to more “exotic” equipment and a better overall atmosphere). On the contrary, I’m here to help you make your training sessions more productive and, in turn, hopefully help you get better results.

1. Don’t bench press on Monday.

I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but go into any commercial gym in any city in the United States on a Monday and almost everybody is bench pressing. Even the guys who take their training seriously seem to be drawn over to the bench press on Mondays. I don’t know if there’s an unseen force causing this or if they want to boost their ego a bit by showing how much weight they can press while everyone else is also. Bench on any other day of the week, just not Monday.

2.  When deadlifting in a commercial gym, place some yoga mats under the plates.

This will reduce the noise the plates make when hitting the floor without decreasing your range of motion. Hopefully this will keep the gym management off your back. Also...don’t drop your deadlifts.

3. Invest in Liquid Chalk.

Most commercial gyms frown on chalk use. Don’t just use straps in this situation like most guys do. If your gym doesn’t allow them, then I highly recommend that you pick up some Liquid Chalk. I’ve used the stuff myself and really like it. It works just like chalk but without the mess.

4. Don’t superset or alternate exercises during “peak” gym hours.

This is a surefire way to get pissed off. Because as soon as you move from one movement to the next, someone will be taking weight off your bar to do some ridiculous exercise. And honestly, I personally think it's proper gym etiquette not to take up more than one area at a time when training during the busiest hours. Your sessions may take longer, but you’ll survive. Also, don’t stress if your program calls for a superset or alternating set and you can’t get them done in that fashion. Just get your work in and call it a day. In the big picture it really won’t matter as long as you’re training hard and complete your program.

5. Stop complaining and look for a solution to your problem.

I get a lot of questions from guys who train in a commercial gym that does not have the equipment they want to use. The most common things missing are Glute Ham Raises, Reverse Hypers, Prowlers®, Deadlift bars, Speciality Bars (Yoke bar, Trap bar, Swiss bar, etc.), and strongman equipment. Well, I’m a problem solver. If I have a problem, I find a solution. If someone comes to me with a problem, I help them find a solution. It drives me crazy when people complain about a problem and don’t want to look for a solution.

So, in this situation you have three solutions:

  • Talk to the gym management and express your interest in a certain piece of equipment. See if it would be something they’d be interested in bringing in next time they purchase equipment. If this doesn’t work (and it probably won’t, but it never hurts to ask), you have two other options.
  • Tell the gym management that you plan to buy the equipment yourself and find out if it would be an issue if you brought it in and left it in the facility. After you get the OK, then buy the piece of equipment yourself. If you can’t afford it, then work it into your budget and save up for it. Before long, you’ll have that new piece of equipment to use anytime you want.
  • Buy the piece of equipment yourself and make room for it in your garage, basement, living room, etc. (Yes, living room. Harry Selkow once had a few pieces of equipment in his living room. I know a Glute Ham Raise was in there for sure). Now, depending on the piece of equipment, you can now program it in however you see fit. You can come home from the gym and use it, hit it before hitting the gym, or have a day where you do whatever it is on its own day. It may not be ideal, but it’s better than not having access to it at all.

So there you have it: five simple tips to help those who train in the commercial gym setting. While I do think training atmosphere is important, there’s still no excuse to not get bigger and stronger just because you think your gym sucks. And if it’s really that bad, find another gym or invest in a home gym.

Related Articles:

Developing Your Own Training Philosophy

Treadmill Pushing: The Solution to the Prowler-less Gym

How a Home Gym Can Save You MONEY?