Q: Where’s the best gym you’ve trained in?
A: Depends how you interpret “best.” One of the best gyms I trained at was an outdoor space with squat stands, bench, barbell and plates—no other equipment. I lived on a small island in Hawaii at the time. The guys I trained with were very keen, as I was. There was terrific camaraderie, and we had terrific workouts.
Many bodybuilders today are so used to machinery that the thought of having only squat stands, a bench and free weights would be inconceivable. Some machinery, properly used, is excellent; but some is poor and does more harm than good. Besides, any machinery that diverts focus away from hard work on basic exercises usually undermines hardgainer progress.
It’s what you do with equipment that matters the most, not the equipment itself. Many people train at superequipped gyms but never really commit to their training or, if they do commit, they don’t use routines that are appropriate to them. Either way they make little or no progress.
One of the best gyms I ever trained at was in Liverpool, England, in the late 1970s, where some elite bodybuilders of the time worked out—two Mr. Britains, for example. There were no machines there, no central heating and no mirrors in the training area. There were, however, free weights in abundance. Most members were serious bodybuilders. Sadly, most of them overtrained—six-days-a-week training was the standard fare there then—which meant that only the guys on steroids made good progress. That aside, the overall atmosphere was one of great seriousness, camaraderie and purpose, and it was infectious.
It was there that I first got a chance to use anabolic steroids. The gym owner told me that I’d never make it in competitive bodybuilding unless I used them. I didn’t believe him—I was very naive at the time. Even so, I never used performance-enhancing drugs. I always put my health first.
The very first gym where I trained was a small, bare-bones place at the local community center of my hometown, with only the bare essentials of equipment. I loved it there, and my desire to train was extraordinary. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough at the time to exploit my zeal fully, which meant I wasted some of my prime years on routines urged by Arnold and his ilk.
No matter where you train, provided it has at least the bare essentials of equipment and you know what to do with it, you can have great workouts. You’ll train much more effectively if the atmosphere of the gym is one that motivates you and encourages you to use routines that are appropriate for you.
Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new 638-page opus on bodybuilding Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great, available from Home Gym Warehouse, (800) 447-0008, or www.Home-Gym.com.