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Home Gym vs. Commercial Gym-Why I switched

My wife and I joined a commercial gym close to our home. The gym was not one of the big chains but was locally owned by a young couple. It had Hammer Strength weight machines (awesome) and Life Fitness cardio equipment (top notch). The free weight area was spacious, stocked with rubber coated Olympic plates, but with only one power rack.

rogue power rack

The gym didn't have a pool, but had a small gymnasium where cardio classes were held. Upstairs, there were tanning beds and a therapeutic massage area. When we signed up, we were told that they were limiting membership to 500 members to avoid overcrowding. Great, we thought. However, I found out later that their membership was between 750 and 1000 members, and the gym got really crowded late in the afternoon and after work. And, it seemed as if you were working out on top of one another.

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The gym opened at 5 a.m. on weekdays, and our schedule allowed us to work out from 5-6 a.m., so we would get up at 4:30 a.m., have a small breakfast and make it to the gym by 5 a.m. We would go three to four days during the week, and usually once on either Saturday or Sunday morning around 8 a.m. This was surprisingly easy to do, for a while.

The management hired someone to open the gym at 5 a.m. and man the front desk. I assume they only paid minimum wage, so whomever they hired would be up pretty early for little pay. Not a great job, but easy to do nevertheless.

I pulled into the parking lot at 4:50 a.m. one morning and the gym was dark. Not a big deal, I thought, I've beaten the employee here before. So I waited 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and after 30 minutes I left, quite pissed off. The gym didn't open until one of the personal trainers showed up at around 7 a.m., I found out later.

The following day the manager profusely apologized because the employee never showed up, and just up and quit! "It will never happen again," he promised. Guess what happened the following month? Another employee didn't show up to open the gym at 5 a.m.! The following month, it happened yet again! Three times I was left waiting in the parking lot. Not only did I get up early, I missed my workout as well. AND they lied to me about the number of memberships they had sold.

We were paying the couple rate of $59 per month, and we were members for two years already. So one evening I sat down and figured out exactly what going to a gym actually cost us so far:

$59 per month for 24 months: $1416

The gym was a 3.3-mile drive, round trip: 6.6 miles. We drove there five days per week: 6.6 miles x 5 = 33 miles per week for two years less a two-week vacation = 100 weeks x 33 miles =3300 miles! (Imagine how much this cost us in gas!) Using the IRS's (July 2008) standard mileage rate of .585 cents: 3300 x .585 = $1930.50

$1930.50 standard mileage rate + $1416 dues = $3346.50. This is how much the gym had really cost us for two years! Ouch!

How much home gym equipment can I buy for over $3300?

Used Treadmill

$350

Powertec Power rack with upper/lower pulley attachment. (This now costs over $1000, but still worth every penny. In fact, when I bought mine, I had to wait a month for it because of the demand.)

$749

VTX 300lb Olympic weight set

$339

Body Solid Olympic weight rack

$79

Ironmaster adjustable Dumbbells and super bench

$898

Body Solid GFID31 Bench

$162

Accessories (handles for cable pull down)

$70

Additional Olympic weight plates 347 lbs (I found really good deals)

$250

Body Solid Leg press

$629

Total Cost

$3526

home gym view

A little over $3300, but I can do 90% of the same exercises at home that I did at the gym.

HOWEVER, the equipment is paid for, and I will never pay monthly gym fees EVER again!


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Let's look at the pros and cons of each:

Home Gym Pros:

  • You can work out anytime you want.
  • No commuting time means your workouts are over more quickly and you'll be more likely to stick with your exercise program.
  • No annoying gym goers: There was one guy at the gym I affectionately called Stinky who never showered, ever! Then there's the guy who wants to talk in between every set, Mr. Know-It-All who tries to critique your lifting form and the beginner who wants you to play personal trainer for them.
  • Privacy
  • Saving money. After the initial investment, you'll be ahead in the long run versus a gym membership
  • My "commute" to the gym is a one-minute walk downstairs
  • I can listen to MY music and watch MY television program
  • For the women: no strangers looking at you like you're a piece of meat!
  • If you buy the right equipment, you don't need a spotter and can lift safely
  • For me, I can concentrate better on my lifts at home
  • Nobody mis-uses or abuses the equipment
  • I control the environment (heating/cooling)
  • Your children can use the equipment for no additional monthly fee

Home Gym Cons:

  • High up-front cost to set up the gym
  • Lots of distractions: pets, kids, spouse, phone, etc.
  • Cardio options can be limited depending on your budget and space
  • Finding room for all the equipment
  • No one to show you proper form, or to motivate you
  • If the equipment breaks, you have to pay to have it fixed (or repair it yourself)
  • Utilities can be higher: turning up the air condition/heat etc

Commercial Gym Pros:

  • Watching others lift can motivate you to lift more
  • Personal fitness trainers are there to show you proper form
  • State-of-the-art equipment: Cybex, Hammer Strength, etc
  • You don't have to give up a bedroom or garage for gym equipment
  • If you lift heavy, you can get someone to spot you
  • Paying a monthly fee is incentive to work out

Commercial Gym Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Crowded at all times
  • Watching others lift can motivate you to lift more... or can lead to injury
  • Waiting for a machine:i.e., the idiot doing bicep curls in the power rack
  • You can learn proper form IF the lifter you're watching is doing it correctlyt
  • You have to drive to the gym, wasting exercising time, gas expense, and wear and tear on your car
  • Your favorite piece of equipment can be broken for weeks
  • The gym I was going to didn't have any way to do dips! UNBELIEVABLE!
  • Sickness. Every dumbbell handle, machine handle, and weight plate has been touched by hundreds of people, which is not good in cold and flu season. Also, not everyone wipes his or her sweat off the equipment
  • No choice in the selection of music playing or the volume
  • Sometimes it's hard to find an empty locker
  • Not everyone puts the weight plates back. I once had to help an older woman remove 1000 lbs. from a leg press machine
  • Personal trainers are there to show you proper form...for a price

Let's review and see what the score is:

Home Gym Pros: 13

Home Gym Cons: 7

Commercial Gym Pros: 6

Commercial Gym Cons: 13

The overwhelming choice is the home gym. I like to add to this list whenever possible, so if you have something to add, leave a comment below


Check out the new Powerblock XXXL Heavy Weight 175 lb set. The info is under Products - Home Use - on the Powerblock site. Click Here.


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