I attribute a gym’s overall badassery to two things: its crowd and its facility. It’s difficult to control who decides to use your gym, especially depending on where you live. But as for the latter, the choice you make is important where signing a gym membership on the dotted line is concerned.
This post is simple. I’m knocking exercise machines that serve no purpose, and bigging up machines and equipment that I like. I'm also sprinkling in some key equipment that you should have for yourself. This is a message to gyms that spend thousands of dollars on wastes of space for equipment, just to get people in the doors. The showy equipment with horrible application is no gimmick.
This one’s a no brainer. Most every gym has this, unless we’re talking about the dinky condo gyms we all know and love in Toronto. If I see another “universal” with that fixed bench press machine attachment I’ll kill the next designer I can get my hands on.
Another given. We need places to do dumbbell work. Enough said.
A good trainer can get away with just a good squat cage or power rack as a place to hold some form of a full workout. Depending on its design, the amount of compound, bodyweight and barbell loaded movements you can do in this wonderful apparatus almost eliminates the need for much else. Can’t go wrong.
It does get annoying from time to time having to adjust your squat rack or power cage to allow for a bench press station. If you’re paying a membership fee at your local gym, they’d better have a bench press station so that the squat cage isn’t always occupied by the 16 year old boys and Monday workout specialists. Your gym needs to have a bench press station.
You’re lucking out if your gym has this. In my opinion, every gym should. It’s one of the few exercise machines that allow you to work your whole posterior chain and not really have a way to do it wrongly. There’s either a shortage of these in the world or they cost billions of dollars to make. Whatever the issue is, GHR’s usually make themselves present at high performance centres for athletes. Crying shame..
I haven’t seen too many gyms out there that don’t have this piece of equipment, or at least the lame universal attachment. I’d recommend you get a new membership if this isn’t present at your gym.. I’d have a bad feeling it would be the tip of the iceberg for problems to come.
I included this as another “high performance” gym special. I’ve always been the one lobbying with my places of employment over the years to buy a reverse hyper machine to make the glutes, hamstrings and lower backs of clients and members alike happily bionic. There must be a strategy they’re all missing…
I’ll admit it. I’m not the biggest fan of cardio equipment (shocker!). Nevertheless, if I had to choose one type of machine to include it’d be the stairmaster. Simply because it’s gotta be the most asskicking cardio workout machine there. I’ll quickly give honorable mentions to the rowing machine and the Jacobs ladder, however, which hold their own.
Okay, I’m having a moment. In light of all this talk, I’m going to digress for a minute and give my list of stuff I like. Not stuff gyms necessarily need to carry, but things that I feel can enhance the ability of your own workouts, should you decide to use them.
If you’ve never seen these before, they’re the saving grace to grip strength training and gyms without fat bars. Simply fit them around dumbbell or barbell handles and you’ve immediately got much more surface area to struggle with. Say hello to a strong grip, beating deadlift plateaus, and ripped forearms.
At first I was on the fence. They looked like a cheap gimmick. But when you think about the amounts of training shoes out there designed for “comfort”, complete with their 3-inch-thick insoles and unstable and wide bases, it makes you realize that in attempts to help the joints, manufacturing companies can be actually doing quite the opposite by not conforming to the design of the actual foot. Vibrams are a true ode to minimalism. Just the amount of stability necessary, a solid grip on the ground, but no unnecessary materials. These remind me of the track spikes I wore in my sprinting days. Try them out for a leg workout!
If you’re an intermediate trainee, shaking it up can be a good thing every now and then. For a great hybrid program, throwing some suspension training into the soup would be ideal. The instability of the hanging handles supported (and resisted) by your body’s weight makes for a real challenge to your muscles and more importantly your connective tissue. You can either do full workouts using these bad boys or just sprinkle them in as part of supersets or compound sets (Try a barbell bench to a suspended push up – Brutal combo!). Again, I wouldn’t recommend suspension training for the super novice lifter. There’s just too much to worry about.
If you’ve been having depth issues with squatting, or enjoy the Olympic lifts, a good pair of lifting shoes can improve performance drastically. A rigid platform and slightly elevated heel make depth issues a thing of the past, as the position of the pelvis shifts just the right amount to facilitate a deep front or back squat.
This is all fine and dandy, and power to you if you’ve invested in lots of these items. Alternatively, if you belong to a gym that has one, if not more than one of the following, then I encourage you to wallow in shame. It’s time for my blacklist:
The adductors are a group of muscles that primarily act as STABILIZERS. The same goes for the abductors. Trying to work them from a seated position serves no purpose whatsoever and trains improper motor patterns.
It pisses me off when I see more cable equipment than just the standard “universal” set up present in most gyms. How many more stations do we need to do our high to low flies and pulley rows?
If you’re looking for ways to tear your multifidus to shreds, then a twisting abdominal machine is the ticket! As an added bonus, not only does it encourage the lumbar vertebrae to have SEVERAL more degrees of rotation than they actually have to offer, but it also doesn’t follow the path of the oblique tissue at all. Fun fun fun!
I have asterisks by this one for a reason - Because I love and hate the smith machine at the same time. I love the smith machine when it’s used as a method of implementing an awesome pump as an intermediate or advanced lifter who wants to have a really high –volume workout and get the blood exclusively pumping through one area of focus. Smith machine low incline bench presses are my favourite add-on for a sweet high volume chest workout. When straight hypertrophy is the goal, you have to take the “functional – only” goggles off your eyes and train muscles to grow. That’s when using the smith machine with some good weight for certain movements can have lots of benefits. Here’s why I have the smith machine – because 95 percent of smith machine users don’t know anything about what I’ve just written above. They have poor biomechanics and limited training maturity and use the Smith machine as a scapegoat to do an “easier” squat that they feel forces them into the right positions. In reality, learning a primal movement pattern like a squat on a fixed bar path asks for nothing but problems in the long run. The kicker is when I see more smith machines than squat cages in a gym. Quite frankly, there shouldn’t even be an even number!
In ancient Chinese culture, with all good comes a share of bad. Maybe this same “balance” idea is even more true when it comes to gyms and the equipment that half-wits stock it with. We can’t expect perfection, but hopefully this checklist can act as something of a guide when you’re making your next tour at the new Globo gym that just opened on your block. Give it some thought and be a smart shopper. That way you don’t have to look like this lady:
Yep. That’s where I’m gonna end this.
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