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August 10, 2023

Beginner's Guide to Gym Equipment: Top 5 Areas Explained

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1. Burger Bar & Grill

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2. Eagle French Cafe

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4. Anchor Seafood Market

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Intro to basic gym equipment

Heading into a gym for the first time is both exhilarating and overwhelming, trust me, I know. I first did it about a decade ago, and never looked back. 

Just starting your journey? Start with this beginner's guide to basic fitness equipment, and get acclimated with the 5 basic areas you'll see at most gyms.

Cardiovascular Machines: Igniting Your Heart Rate

Cardiovascular exercise aka "cardio" is an integral, and usually first part of any gym-beginner's routine.  Nearly every single gym on this site has a few of the machines below, build to to get your heart pumping and calories burning. Here's what you'll probably see:

  • Treadmills are a staple in most gyms, providing a versatile option for walking, jogging, or running. With adjustable speed and incline settings, treadmills allow you to tailor your workout intensity to your fitness level. 
  • Ellipticals provide a low-impact alternative that targets both your upper and lower body, offering a full-body workout. 
  • Stationary bikes are another popular cardio option, offering a seated pedaling experience that is gentle on the joints. These aren't quite as popular anymore, but a few can definitely be found, especially with these big-box-chain gyms.
  • Rowing machines, stair climbers, and arc trainers are additional cardio machines that add variety to your workouts. The availability of these machines ensures that you can find a cardio exercise that suits your preferences and fitness goals. It really depends on the individual location, but expect a couple of these even at the smallest locations.
Planet Fitness in Stockton, California. Cardio often takes up 50-75% of the space at their locations.

Strength Training Equipment: Building Muscular Strength

Strength training is essential for building lean muscle mass, improving bone density, and boosting metabolism. Again, nearly all gyms on this site have some combination of the below. 

  • Free weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, offer versatility and allow for a wide range of exercises, including bicep curls, bench presses, and squats. 
    • Doesn't matter how small or big your new gym is: they should absolutely have some selection of the above.
  • Weight machines provide a guided and controlled approach to strength training, making them ideal for beginners or individuals recovering from injuries. These machines often target specific muscle groups and provide adjustable resistance levels to suit different abilities. 
    • These are also a staple at all traditional gyms. However, with how much space they take up, variety may be limited.
  • Resistance bands, kettlebells, and medicine balls are additional options that add variety and challenge to your strength training routine. 
    • Most gym chains (24, VASA, Edge, Chuze, Crunch, EoS, LA Fitness) place these "functional fitness" items on their turf (grass) areas along with yoga mats, stretch balls and push sleds. 

With the right combination of equipment, you can effectively target every major muscle group and progress towards your strength goals.

Functional Training Areas: Embracing Dynamic Workouts

Functional training has gained popularity in recent years, focusing on movements that mimic real-life activities and improve overall fitness. Like we mentioned above, most gyms have started to build dedicated spaces for functional training—nearly always by their turf/artificial grass areas

You may also see CrossFit boxes, HIIT zones, or suspension training areas (usually built by and called "TRX Fitness"). CrossFit boxes are a bit more boutique, and sometimes are part of a paid "HIIT" workout. 

Expect a community-driven approach to fitness often called "Small Group Training" , combining elements of high-intensity interval training, weightlifting, and gymnastics. These spaces are equipped with barbells, bumper plates, pull-up bars, and other equipment essential for CrossFit workouts. 

HIIT zones offer a dynamic and intense workout experience, often incorporating equipment like battle ropesplyometric boxes, and agility ladders. 

Suspension training areas feature TRX suspension trainers, which use bodyweight exercises to build strength, stability, and flexibility. 

We often see people stretching on functional training areas before/after their workouts as well. These are great spaces that provide an opportunity to engage in challenging and diverse workouts that push your limits and enhance your overall athleticism.

Group Exercise Studios: Embracing the Power of Community

Gyms often feature dedicated group exercise studios where you can participate in a wide variety of classes led by experienced instructors. 

All of the large gym chains on this site offer group fitness studios—even quick/small operators like Snap or Anytime. One huge outlier? Planet Fitness. These classes cater to different interests and fitness levels, allowing you to find a group activity that aligns with your preferences. Here are the most popular ones:

  • Yoga classes provide a mind-body experience, enhancing flexibility, strength, and relaxation. 
  • Dance-inspired workouts like Zumba or hip-hop classes offer a fun and energetic way to burn calories while learning new moves. 
  • Cycling enthusiasts can join spin classes, where stationary bikes are used to simulate outdoor cycling experiences. 
  • Other popular group exercise options include kickboxing, Pilates, and high-energy aerobics. 

Budget memberships ($10-ish/month) may not include group studios in their base membership packages, but often at an upgrade around their $20-ish offerings. 

Chains like LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Esporta, at higher membership price-points, include this amenity with your monthly cost. 

Group exercise studios provide a vibrant and supportive environment, allowing you to connect with others, stay motivated, and challenge yourself in a group setting. 

Additional Amenities: Relaxation and Recovery

Many gyms go beyond the basics and offer additional amenities to enhance your overall gym experience. You're starting to see the pattern here, right? Memberships around the $10-$20 month may not have these luxuries. Above that, you've got a better chance. 

  • Saunas or steam rooms provide a relaxing and rejuvenating space to unwind after an intense workout. 
  • Swimming pools allow for low-impact cardio workouts or aquatic classes, providing a refreshing alternative to traditional gym activities. 
  • Locker rooms equipped with showers, lockers, and changing areas ensure convenience and comfort during your gym visits. 
  • Some gyms may offer amenities like massage therapy, nutrition counseling, or personal training services for an extra fee. These additional facilities and services contribute to a well-rounded gym experience that caters to your physical and mental well-being.

Wrapping it up

By understanding and utilizing the various gym equipment and facilities available, you can create a diverse and effective workout routine that aligns with your goals and preferences. 

Whether you prefer cardio exercises, strength training, functional workouts, group classes, or relaxation amenities, gyms offer an abundance of options to help you unleash your fitness potential.

Looking for a specific amenity at a local gym? Head to the home page and scroll to see the most popular ones.

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