Choosing a Good Gym

Choosing a Good Gym

You can only train as well as your gym facilities and equipment will allow.
This Blog is produced in London, and will therefore make particular reference to gym facilities to be found in London.

Unfortunately, London has, in recent years, been dominated by the company GLL (the initials originally stood for Greenwich Leisure Limited but the charitable leisure and fitness group has expanded its influence well beyond the confines of the Royal Borough of Greenwich - and now includes Barnet, Bexley Heath, Camden, Crystal Palace, Ealing, Greenwich,Hackney, Hammersmith and Harrow, Hillingdon, Kensington and Chelsea, Fulham, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forrest, Westminster,Epsom and Yewell, Reigate and Banstead,).
GLL, undoubtedly because of its bad reputation, has now changed it's name to 'Better' (better than what or who, one may ask), with the slogan 'the feel good place' (the appalling design of their newly designed web page is a good indicator of their general 'lack-lustre' performance).

The group uses inferior exercise equipment, in poorly maintained premises, with under-qualified and badly motivated staff, and under-trained, incompetent managers, and your are advised to avoid these establishments if the wish to successfully achieve your aim to develop a perfect physique.
There are, fortunately, many other Local Authority related, and private gym facilities in the London area that provide excellent facilities and high quality equipment, and employ well-qualified and enthusiastic staff.

in a GLL/Better gym

Many GL/Better Gyms (such as Eltham in London) do not have barbells (see right). (no - we are not joking !)
Possibly it is a 'health and safety issue' - (which jostles with 'political correctness' as obsessions with GLL/Better.)

(Woolich Waterfront does have barbells in a poorly ventilated, smelly gym in the windowless basement - called the 'Steel Gym' - a euphemism for a basement full of old, dirty, outmoded equipment).

Smith machines, essential for safe, heavy resistance training are rarely seen (see top left).

Many GLL.Better gyms (including Eltham) do not have assisted pull-up machines (see left) - which are absolutely essential for efficient upper body development.

Some GLL/Gyms do not even have proper exercise benches, (just little plastic benches - like kiddy's toys) - a good gym will have deluxe, multi-position benches (see right).

Another item rarely seen in GLL/Better gyms is the seated calf machine. The Calves are notoriously difficult muscles to develop, and this machine is one of the few ways to develop these muscles.

Another item of equipment that is rarely found in GLL Better gyms is the Preacher Curl Bench.
This is a relatively simple item of equipment that is essential for adequate bicep developmemnt.
The equipment does, however, require a barbell or an EZ curling bar, and if the gym has no barbells then there will be little point in having a Preacher Curl Bench.


The Good Gym

In a good gym you should find pleasant, well-qualified and helpful staff, - and not just on the day they show you round - ask other gym members who have used the gym for a long period about the level of staff competence.
More important is the gym equipment - you can only train as well as the equipment will allow - so it must be of the highest standard and best design.
If you are in a good gym (NOT a GLL/Better Gym) you will see some of the equipment shown here.

This is top of the range equipment which will enable you to achieve maximum results.

You should also see a wide variety of 'free weights'.
'Free weights' are basically barbells and dumbbells, as opposed to plate-stacked machines (illustrated above).
'Free weights', however, require some considerable skill if they are to be used safely and correctly, and there is a far greater possibility of injury, (particularly to the spinal vertebrae) when used by novices.

A weight machine is an exercise machine used for weight training that uses gravity as the primary source of resistance and a combination of simple machines to convey that resistance to the person using the machine. Each of the simple machines (pulley, lever, wheel, incline) changes the mechanical advantage of the overall machine relative to the weight.

Exercise Machines

Stack Machines

A stack machine—also called a stack or rack—has a set of massive rectangular plates that are pierced by a vertical bar which has holes drilled in it to accept a pin.
Each of the plates has a channel on its underside that aligns with one of the holes.
When the pin is inserted through the channel into the hole, all of the plates above the pin rest upon it, and are lifted when the bar rises.
The plates below do not rise. This allows the same machine to provide several levels of resistance over the same range of motion with an adjustment that requires very little force to accomplish in itself.
The means of lifting the bar varies.
Some machines have a roller at the top of the bar that sits on a lever.
When the lever is raised the bar can go up and the roller moves along the lever, allowing the bar to stay vertical.
On some machines the bar is attached to a hinge on the lever, which causes swaying in the bar and the plates as the lever goes up and down.
On other machines the bar is attached to a cable or belt, which runs through pulleys or over a wheel.
The other end of the cable will either be a handle or strap that the user holds or wraps around some body part, or will be attached to a lever, adding further simple machines to the mechanical chain.
Usually, each plate is marked with a number.
On some machines these numbers give the actual weight of the plate and those above it.
On some, the number gives the force at the user's actuation point with the machine.
And on some machines the number is simply an index counting the number of plates being lifted.
The early Nautilus machines were a combination of lever and cable machines. They also had optional, fixed elements such as a chinning bar.

Plate-loaded Machines

Plate-loaded machines (such as the Smith machine) use standard barbell plates instead of captive stacks of plates.
They combine a bar-end on which to hang the plates with a number of simple machines to convey the force to the user.
The plate-loaded machines will often have a very high mechanical advantage, due to the need to make room for large plates over a large range of motion following a path that causes them to converge at one end or the other. Also, the motion will generally not be vertical, and the net resistance is equal to the cosine of the angle at which it is moving relative to vertical.
For example, consider an incline press machine that is a single-lever machine that has the plates halfway up the lever from the handles to the fulcrum, and begins moving the plates at a 45-degree angle from vertical.
The lever will provide a leverage advantage of 2:1, and the incline will have an advantage of 1:√2/2, for a net mechanical advantage of (4/√2):1 ≈ 2.8:1. Thus 50 kg (~491 N) of plates will apply to the user only an equaling weight of 18 kg or a force of ~174 N at the beginning of the motion.
On the other end of the spectrum may be a bent-over-row machine that is designed with the user's grip between the plates and the fulcrum.
This amplifies the force needed by the user relative to the weight of the plates.

Cable Machine

A cable machine is an item of equipment used in weight training or functional training.
It consists of a rectangular, vertically-oriented steel frame about 3 metres wide and 2 metres high, with a weight stack at each end.
The cables that connect the handles to the weight stacks run through adjustable pulleys that can be fixed at any height. This allows a variety of exercises to be performed on the apparatus.
One end of the cable is attached to a perforated steel bar that runs down the centre of the weight stack.
To select the desired amount of resistance, move the metal pin into the labelled hole in the weight stack.
The other end of the cable forms a loop, which allows the user to attach the appropriate handle for the exercise.
Most cable machines have a minimum of 20 pounds (~9 kilograms) of resistance in order to counter-balance the weight of the typical attachment.

Leg Press Machine

The leg press is a weight training exercise in which the individual pushes a weight or resistance away from them using their legs. The term leg press also refers to the apparatus used to perform this exercise.
The leg press can be used to evaluate an athlete's overall lower body strength (from knee joint to hip and partially ankle extensors as well).
Using the diagonal sled-type leg press machine.
There are two main types of leg press:
The diagonal or vertical 'sled' type leg press.
Weight disks (plates) are attached directly to the sled, which is mounted on rails.
The user sits below the sled and pushes it upward with their feet.
These machines normally include adjustable safety brackets that prevent the user from being trapped under the weight.
The 'cable' type leg press, or 'seated leg press'.
The user sits upright and pushes forward with their feet onto a plate that is attached to the weight stack by means of a long steel cable.

The Smith Machine

The Smith machine is a piece of equipment used in weight training - and is highly recommended as it allows heavy weights to be used in complete safety.
It consists of a barbell that is fixed within steel rails, allowing only vertical movement.
New variations allow a small amount of forward and backward movement.
A Smith machine often includes a weight rack in the base to help stabilise it.
Some Smith machines have the barbell counterbalanced.
The machine can be used for a wide variety of exercises.
When selecting a gym you should ensure that a Smith machine is included in the equipment provided - if not, choose another gym - (this item of equipment is NOT usually found in GLL/Better gyms which indicates their apparent lack of concern for the safety of their customers).

Benefits of the Smith Machine

Behind each vertical post (runner) is a series of slots on which the barbell can be hooked.
This means that unlike an ordinary barbell, the Smith machine need not be re-racked after a set of repetitions: it can be secured at any point.
This makes it safer for those who weight train without a spotter, as one only needs to twist his/her wrist in order to lock the barbell in place in the event that the weight becomes too great.
Most models also incorporate blocks, pegs, or other devices which can be adjusted to automatically stop the barbell at a predetermined minimum height. This further increases the safety factor.
Because it cannot fall forwards, backwards or sideways, a Smith machine is considered safer to use than an ordinary barbell.
Since the weight does not need to be stabilized, this can allow unstable lifters to lift more weight.


There are numerous other machines, which are shown in the sections on Upper and Lower Body Exercises.
While some traditional body-builders wrongly belittle the use of weight-training machines, they are to be highly recommended, mainly because they 'spare' the joints and are generally very safe to use.
They also build muscle very quickly and effectively because they are specifically designed to exert maximum resistance over a full range of movement.

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