Trainer’s Table: Tips In Choosing The Right Gym For You


Tips In Choosing The Right Gym For You:

I want to start out by saying that this post is not for everyone; some people out there reading this might be bothered because it challenges the way they coach or work out themselves.

The fitness industry is very large; there are more ways than ever to get a workout in. You have several gym types out there that preach how good theirs are and how bad every other gym is. From a trainer’s perspective, it’s very easy to identify coaches who have a weekend certification course from those coaches who have an advance understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and human anatomy. For the consumer, many times they sign up not knowing what they are getting into. In this column, I’m going to identify the good, and the not-so-good, things to look for before you sign the consent form at a local gym.

The Good

Before you participate in any type of activity at a gym you should fill out some type of medical history form that informs the coaches of your past injuries, chronic conditions, medications, or limitations that are present. As a coach, I want to identify what type of training is appropriate for each individual.

Another piece to look for that complements a medical history form would be some type of movement screen that looks at the quality of movement and identifies a baseline. The assessment will tell you specifically what exercises need to be avoided. An example of this would be if an individual couldn’t squat well, they shouldn’t go ahead and load their squat pattern. That last sentence should sound obvious, but you would be surprised at the amount of people who are terrible squatters and are loading their squat pattern daily.

If you’re at a gym where your core training involves positional breathing drills and not crunches, you’re in good hands. The diaphragm is part of a group of muscles that helps create dynamic postural stability. These muscles work together to help create pain-free movement.

Finally, make sure you’re creating a training plan that incorporates specific goals. These plans turn your workouts into training sessions. Your coach or gym should have the resources to help you create a plan or routine that is going to provide you a road map to achieve your goals.

The Not-So-Good

If you walk into your first workout or training session and you are thrown into a workout without any questions regarding your capabilities or past injuries, I would be concerned. Jumping in over your head can lead to injury and frustration. Understand your limitations and work around them.

If your core work involves crunches, sit-ups, or bicycles, run away! These drills can be extremely dangerous. These drills do not use the core the way it is designed to be used. The core muscles are designed to create a stable platform for your extremities. Performing these drills can lead to neck pain, back pain, pelvic floor issues, and poor posture.

Workouts should be challenging. If your workout only involves walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes, you’re wasting your time. Yes, I am a big fan of aerobic work. I think having a strong aerobic capacity leads to quicker recovery, but if you never stress your systems you will not get the results you desire. Even the most sedentary individuals can find ways to work hard in the gym that don’t involve long walks to nowhere.

If you’re being asked to work through the pain, that’s not normal. The saying, “no pain, no gain” stinks. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Pain should never be ignored during a workout. If you experience pain, stop the exercise and find something else to do.

Any trainer can kick your butt in a gym. You do not need to feel sore to have a good workout; being sore is your body’s way of telling you that you have more ATP-derived hydrogen ions from anaerobic metabolism, which causes a decrease in pH, not lactic acid. If you think that sounded complex, it is; people study exercise the same way NASA studies rocketry. At the end of the day, trainers must have the ability to monitor the volume and intensity of your training sessions to drive the adaptations desired, not just to kick your butt.

These are just a few of the major things to look for when choosing a gym that’s right for you. There are many gyms out there that need to improve their training habits. Make sure your gym is providing you a safe environment with a quality training curriculum to achieve your fitness goals.

To your health,

Michael Donoghue, CSCS, FMS, USAW (head strength and conditioning coach and director of performance at Athletic Performance Training). He is in charge of designing all the training programs for professional, collegiate, high school, and youth athletes at APT. He holds a degree from Springfield College in applied exercise science as well as various certifications. He can be reached at [email protected].)

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