Searching for a new gym? It seems like every other week a new gym pops up. Finding the right gym will help you meet your goals, so how do you know which one is right for you? While free pizza and candy may seem appealing, what matters the most in a gym is the atmosphere and the equipment. The atmosphere is an individual preference, so let’s focus on equipment in this article. Let’s take a look at some of the gym essentials that you do not want to be without.
The name speaks for itself. If you want to do some heavy lifting … you need a power rack. To perform some of the key lifts like squats and any of the numerous variations: good mornings, partial deadlifts, and pin presses, you need a power rack.
Most people may look at this list and say “Oh, well, I’m not a powerlifter,” or something to that effect. The fact of the matter is that these are some of the most challenging exercises you will come across. They recruit a large percentage of your overall musculature. This means that they will be more effective in producing results and transforming your body.
These are very tough exercises; a great general rule when working out is that the more an exercise kicks your butt, the better results you should achieve from performing it. Make sure your gym has a power rack and get used to spending a lot of time in it!
This one pretty much goes without saying (but we will say it anyway): Your gym should definitely have plenty of plates, barbells, and dumbbells. Free weight exercises are the only exercises that can target stabilizer muscles effectively, in addition to the prime movers, while most machines target the prime movers only.
If you only want to be strong in the gym, there’s no need to work your stabilizers. If you’d like to be strong in the “real world” as well as inside the gym, make sure to strengthen those tiny muscles that are often ignored by lifting free weights.
Stabilizers aside, there are hundreds of exercises that can be performed with free weights, and you would be doing yourself a major disservice by joining a gym which lacks them. These include more “functional” exercises like lunges, step-ups, and standing presses. Simply put, lifting free weights allows you to do more with your body.
About ten years ago, the popularity of kettlebells exploded. Everybody and their grandmothers were doing kettlebell workouts exclusively. While the trend has died down, their effectiveness still remains. Kettlebells offer a different center of gravity than dumbbells, and they are a welcomed variety to the usual free weights.
Kettlebell movements like the “Turkish Get-Up” and the “Kettlebell Swing” are great ways to strengthen your core for boxing training. Kettlebells also work very well for circuit training, given the major variety of exercises that you can do with a single kettlebell. Most gyms carry a few kettlebells nowadays, so check to make sure.
While many in the mainstream strength community would scoff at the presence of isolation equipment on this list, isolation exercises do serve a purpose. If you have ever injured yourself during training, you know better than to continue working on your injured muscles. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave the gym entirely, though. Learning to work around injuries is critical; you can still get in some intense workouts even while you’re recovering.
As an example, if you strain a hamstring … by all means, give it a rest. You would not have any issues training your quadriceps, though, or your calves. This is where isolation equipment plays a major role. With strained hamstrings, you still can easily perform calf raises, leg extensions, and more.
Isolation equipment should not make up the bulk up your workout, but they are useful tools under certain circumstances. Be sure to look for isolation equipment at your gym, with an emphasis on your lower body; if you injure a muscle on your upper body, you will have many options for free-weight isolation exercises. You don’t have that same luxury with your lower body.
We’ve spent most of our time discussing what you need to look for at traditional gyms, but we haven’t forgotten our combat sports enthusiasts, either! If you’re considering joining a martial arts gym, here are a couple of pieces that you should definitely look for:
If you aspire to become an amateur or professional fighter, this is an absolute must. Putting on your MMA gloves and sparring with a training partner is some of the best combat training you will ever experience. If your chosen sport is mixed martial arts, having the cage is a great learning tool; you will learn how to trap your opponent up against the cage to push your agenda and vice versa. You must be adapted to this environment if your goal is to compete in one, so this is non-negotiable.
Working a punching bag is a great way to sharpen your tools. You can develop strength, speed, and power during a bag workout. Most combat gyms do have at least a punching bag or two; if you’re in a gym that doesn’t … head for the door! As a side note, for a greater challenge while working the bag, try purchasing heavier boxing gloves than you are accustomed to. Working a bag while wearing heavy gloves is a great way to strengthen your core, arms, and shoulders.
These are wonderful tools for boxing training. With a competent coach or training partner, you can learn and refine various techniques while working on focus mitts that include slipping, blocking, and parrying, all while sharpening your offense. Make sure that your gym has these, as well as an experienced boxing coach who can work with you.
While our goals and preferences are unique, some equipment you just shouldn’t be without. You might find that you have certain preferences that are higher on your priorities list, and others that you can do without. As a general rule, though, the equipment we have mentioned can be used by everyone who is looking to get in better shape and improve his or her performance. Fortunately, most gyms offer a trial period; take advantage of those and go find the right gym for you!