10 Things I MISS About Commercial Gyms

January 27, 2012 — 3 Comments

One of the comments left on my last blog post entitled “10 Thing’s I Do Not Miss About Commercial Gyms” was from Craig Hirota, who suggested a great idea about writing my top 10 things that I DO miss about commercial gyms...so here it is!

Some of these might not apply to you, but I’m sure there will be a few you could relate to:

1. Observing Others

Human females with a symmetrical face and a waist to hip ratio of about 0.7, wearing form fitting gym apparel, and performing just about any exercise correctly using a full range of motion are nice to look at by most, if not all heterosexual human males.

It can increase performance for some, but distracting for others.

2. Secretly Competing With Others

Treadmill Racing

I do something similar, in the weight room, lifting weights.

I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.

I like to be the strongest one in the gym. When I am not, I push myself to get stronger.

When I was living in Bangkok, there was a really big guy (well, big upper body at least) who used to partial bench more than I could bench press.

This motivated me to bench more weight than he did, but with full range of motion (that is, the bar touching my chest with every rep), which I did.

Training at home, I don’t have anyone around me to compete with. Although I do compete with myself, trying to break my previous personal records, it’s really not the same as out lifting someone you see on a regular basis at the gym.

3. People Watching You

I’m not an attention whore, but having eyeballs on me when I lift weights is motivating, especially during my main sets. This is also known as social facilitation.

There’s a sense that an audience is around me and I would have to perform.

And because people are watching (at least, I think they’re watching...), I don’t want to look like I added too much weight to the bar and bit off more than I could chew, so there’s an extra bit of motivation to complete that last rep and not fail.

4. Mirrors

I don’t have any mirrors in my basement home gym. At least not yet.

I’m not the type of guy who trains for aesthetic purposes, but I have to admit it’s pretty awesome seeing yourself in the mirror after getting a huge pump.

Often times I would look in the mirror and see some guy with a big traps, huge back and a bubble butt. I’d think, “Damn, this guy is huge!”

Then I’d realize that I was looking at a reflection of another mirror on an opposite wall...and it was me all along. Sweet.

5. Answering Questions

I’m not the most approachable guy at the gym. I tend to be focused on my training and tune everything else out.

However sometimes people would ask questions, and I don’t mind answering as long as people listen (and as long as they’re not interrupting my training or taking too much of my time in between sets like that Mr. Million Questions guy who seems to manifest himself in every gym).

It’s rewarding to see that I helped make an impact on other people’s training, strength, and overall health.

6. Non-Verbally Inspiring People

At least in my past experience, sometimes I don’t have to say anything to inspire others in their training.

For instance, when I used to go to a gym in Bangkok, there would be a group of kids (either fresh out of high school or just starting university) who I knew watched me while I trained. After a few days, I would see them attempt the same thing, albeit a bastardized version of what I was doing. For example, my squat in the squat rack became their squat in the StarTrack Maxrack (a 3D Smith machine).

I even saw that they purchased the same equipment as me. I have the Schiek weight lifting straps that I use for deadlifts. One day, I saw the group of kids with the same straps using them for incline dumbbell bench presses and on the EZ-bar on the preacher curl bench.

I also carry around a belt at the gym. I use it during my main sets (and sometimes during my heavier warm-ups) during squat, deadlift and overhead press. After some time, I saw this same group of kids carry belts with them too and wore it for ALL lifts. But mainly the ones where you sit or lay down on a bench.

7. Personal Trainers with an Area of Expertise

At Fitness First Rama 3 in Bangkok, there were at least 2 former competitive Muay Thai boxers.

When I found out about this, I signed up for a few weeks of personal training sessions with one of the trainers and began my Muay Thai training (ironically, in comforts of an air conditioned commercial gym).

His English wasn’t that great, but through body language, he could communicate what I needed to do and what I was doing wrong.

Hitting the Thai pads with an experienced pad holder and former fighter sure beats any other conditioning exercise I’ve ever tried. And on top of that, he’s given me tips on improving my punches, kicks, knees and elbows.

There’s nothing like getting a killer workout while sharpening your skills under the guidance of someone who has been fighting in the ring even since he was a kid (children competing in full contact Muay Thai is normal in Thailand).

8. Rubber Coated Olympic Plates with Grips

I’m talking about something like this:


Simply put, those rubber coated Olympic plates with built-in grips are easier to work with compared to steel Olympic plates with a bevelled edge.

It’s easier to carry around, doesn’t make that clanging noise when the plates hit each other, and are less vulnerable to rust.

Perhaps I’ll upgrade my weights in the future.

9. Super Expensive Specialized Machines

I’m not a big fan of exercise machines, especially those that are designed to replace their free weight counterpart.

But there are some machines I miss, and although I could buy them myself, they would cost an arm and a leg.

The machine I miss the most is the Freemotion “functional trainer” machine, pictured below:


Now, why would I miss this somewhat gimmicky looking machine?

It’s because the adjustable height of the pulley makes it easy to train my neck. What I do is attach my Ironmind neck harness to the machine, and adjust the pulley at the lowest level to do neck extensions, and then adjust the pulley to around eye level to do neck flexion and side flexion.

I’ve tried attaching a plate to neck harness and perform neck exercises. It works fine for neck extensions, but it doesn’t work as well when I’m trying to train the front and sides of my neck.

I would also use the same machine for face pulls.

The other machine I miss, and have only seen it in one gym (Popeye’s, which is now World’s Gym in Kitchener, Ontario), is the 4-way neck machine. These machines don’t come cheap either.


10. Compliments

Getting compliments from others feels good.

It’s a small reward for the time, money and energy I’ve invested in the pursuit of strength.

There’s nothing like a “YOU’RE A MONSTER!” from someone after nearly crushing myself with 400lbs+ on my back.

Feels Good Man

Feels good man!


Have you switched from a commercial gym and started training at home?

If so, what do you miss from training at the last gym you were a member of?

Leave your comments below 🙂

John Phung

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Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


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