How to Get Strong in a General-Purpose Gym

When it comes to strength training, the most effective way to build muscle is to move heavy objects (or your own body weight) to create resistance. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can use free weights, barbells or dumbbells; bands, tubes or cables that provide resistance; or exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups. You may also do repetitions of the exercise, known as a “set”; for example, one set of 10 chin-ups.

For most people, though, the best way to get stronger local strength training gym is to attend a class led by a qualified instructor. This allows you to learn proper technique and get a workout in at the same time. These classes, which include Sculpt, Total Strength, CXWORX and BODYPUMP, tend to focus on the major muscle groups—the abdominals, chest, back and shoulders; hips or glutes; arms and legs; and the trapezius or upper back. The instructors lead the class and demonstrate proper form, while the participants do each movement to the best of their ability.

The main drawbacks to going to a commercial gym for strength training are the fact that it can take longer to warm up and ramp up your working sets because you may have to wait for equipment or other patrons to use certain pieces of machinery. In addition, many commercial gyms don’t have the specific equipment powerlifters need for competition-style lifts like bench press and squat. This is particularly true of “monolifting,” where you drop the weight from above your head and need a spotter.

However, even with these hurdles in place, it is still possible to get strong in a general-purpose gym. The key is a little pre-planning and spatial awareness.

Start by assessing the equipment that is available. Look for facilities that have a wide variety of implements, from dumbbells to kettlebells and various plate-loaded machines to cable stations. This will allow you to create a workout with minimal equipment, and also to add variety to your sessions with the same tools.

You can also look for a facility that offers specialized strength-training classes, such as those offered at Tetra Fitness, which has garnered 4.9 stars on ClassPass, and Ignite Fitnez, which has 4.5 stars on Yelp. These classes combine strength training with plyometrics and other movements to create a full-body workout that burns a lot of calories.

If your goal is to become a competitive powerlifter or weightlifter, you’ll need to find a dedicated powerlifting or weightlifting-specific gym. But if your main focus is to be a ludicrously strong athlete or bodybuilder, you should be able to get the job done at any gym with the right equipment and a bit of planning. Just make sure you have a plan B in case your original choice falls through!


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