Why Trainers Need To Train At Commercial Gyms

I don’t like going to the gym.  It’s cold, sterile, impersonal.  You become a bar code, either blessed or cursed with anonymity.  Having a community of like minded individuals is always good, and I’ve always had the pleasure of having training partners who believe in the same thing; Having fun and getting stronger.

While I work with an incredibly motivating team and community, there are times when I don’t want to be a fitness professional, and want the anonymity of a commercial gym.  Usually in the morning, I want to keep my hood on, crank up some Lamb of God, and get after it.  It’s rarely intended as an educational moment, but I’m always learning, and it’s made me realize something big:

If you’re in the fitness business, you should go to a commercial gym.

If you’re in the business of telling people what and how they should be doing their exercise, and you don’t know what their current methods are, how the hell are you going to speak their language?

If you head into any commercial gym, you’re not going to hear very many conversations about the work of the Postural Restoration Institute or about the importance of power production for all clients.  Fanaticism about general or specific movement screening is limited to internet, banter for the upper echelons of elitists and contrarians.  Get into a real gym.

Not a gym that’s has the best coaches, trainers, equipment, or towel service.  Go into a local gym, where people swipe their cards without a proper greeting, where they are asked to respect a 30 minute limit on cardio machines, where they have access to 100 different exercise machines, none of which serve their best interest.  Get into their gym.

Their gym doesn’t care about diaphragmatic breath, or about reducing anterior pelvic tilt.  Hell, half of the time that’s considered a desirable look.  Good luck convincing them this isn’t sexy:


Spend more than 5 minutes in an educated setting, and you become well aware that this isn’t the most desirable position to be in, but spend more than 5 minutes in a commercial gym, you’ll see that it’s desired.  You may be emphatic about your educational efforts, but you’re speaking two different languages for sexy.  Trainers may want to enlighten them on the increases in lumbar shear forces, or that their ‘abs’ are on slack.  Keep going, I dare you.  As long as you’re speaking two different languages, this is all you’re going to get:


When it comes to learning, I’m a fan of making it empowering, and I bet that you are, too.  While in school, which teachers did you like more, the ones that recited facts and their opinions, or those who encouraged that you form your own ideas?

As trainers and coaches, we love to learn more, and to share that knowledge with those around us.  There’s no one right way to educate, but it doesn’t need to flip your whole world upside down.  Paradigm shifts are sexy for those on the pro-change side of the spectrum, but what about the other side?  Not so much.

We find our best balance by focusing on the big rocks while slowly implementing change and motivating personal growth.  Who are you to say that the person doing X is wrong?  Is it because of your peer-reviewed papers, meta-analysis, and expert opinion?  You may be right, but you’re doing it on your terms, and not best serving those you wish to help.  Instead, do it on their terms.

One of the things I’ve realized most at commercial gyms is how to succinctly explain ‘new’ training information.  When I run into my peers, they’re not asking me to teach them the most cutting edge information that I’m currently learning, but instead asking a concise interpretation of that material.  Brevity is the soul of wit, and the king of learning.

Sure, the majority of the time when I look up from a set and most commercial gyms, this is how I feel:



That’s me wearing my serious trainer hat, focusing on the best of all possibilities and doing it the right way.  In reality, there is no right way.  We know what works well, what works really well, and we’ll always be trying to figure out what works the best.  That’s where the magic happens.  While researchers and academics are immersed in their work, and rightfully so, and elitists and contrarians argue on the interwebz about 1%, there are millions of folks in the gym while you read this who are focusing on making themselves better.

Rather than fight them, join them.

3 Replies to “Why Trainers Need To Train At Commercial Gyms”

  1. Reblogged this on BeStrong.BeFit and commented:
    OH BUHLEE! <— the battle cry that has developed amongst us trainers at Mark Fisher Fitness.

    This article, written by the incredible H-Gibbs, an expert trainer at MFF, is really refreshing as a fitness professional. It is easy to see the forest from the trees as we deepen our knowledge and our quest for constantly getting better as trainers. But sometimes, less is more. Simple is more. Throw out the minutiae, focus on the big rocks. Cheers!

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