Body building

Are Trendy Gyms Killing Leg Coaching?

by Christian Duque

The vast majority of Iron Magazine’s loyal readers are avid weightlifters and bodybuilding enthusiasts. We know our demographics and always strive to write articles that make our readers happy. I admit there are times when what’s newsworthy isn’t my thing, but as a fitness media writer, I shouldn’t be deciding what news is and what isn’t. On the other hand, there are stories that I’m passionately interested in, such as the piece you are reading right now.

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Now I want to make a very important clarification in order to move forward. I know that purists in our sport will say that gyms and fitness centers are not gyms. Perhaps they are not within that narrow definition, but I do not draw those lines. Most people today train in places like Fitness 19, Planet Fitness, and Retro Fitness. For them, they train in gyms and that’s why I’m not going to rule them out. The fact is, the great gyms of the past (Gold’s, World’s, even Powerhouse) are not competitive. Not all, but most of them just couldn’t keep up with the times. Ultimately, when franchise fees are high, franchisees stop paying and become independent. Some shop for $ 10 a month at gyms, and others just hang a sign outside that says “Gym”. Whether people work out at discount gyms, independent gyms, and / or even some of yesterday’s great gyms, I’ve seen a distinct tendency to downplay the importance of leg training. Part of the problem is with the clientele, another aspect of the problem is space / cost, and finally there is consideration of the type of atmosphere the establishment is trying to foster. I know, I know the last one seems like a gag, but I assure you it’s a thing. It is actually an important aspect of many gyms marketing strategies!

All things in life, at least in Western capitalist nations, are based on capitalist principles. Perhaps the most basic concept of all is that of supply and demand. Before we point a finger at gym owners and gym companies, the big question is whether gym members want squat racks. Do you want deadlift platforms, chalk, heavy weights, and / or sections for bodybuilders and powerlifters? Another key question is how often do members of a particular facility actually exercise legs?

Members could fill suggestion boxes with requests for more leg equipment, but if all of that {expensive} equipment was gathering dust, gym owners and operators would much rather free up space and get rid of the equipment. Plus, most of the owners / operators actually don’t own the machines – or even the dumbbells and plates! Everything is on a payment plan or on lease. This means that banknotes have to be paid for every month. Creditors don’t care where the money is coming from, they don’t care if membership drops or if they are dealing with a single gym owner who was wiped out by the pandemic. When creditors aren’t paid, they come to the gym and confiscate what’s theirs. I’ve seen this happening in gyms followed by waves of members canceling their memberships. I mean, how safe would you feel knowing you were being charged a 12, 24, or 48 month contract every month when the facility is so late on their bills that they get their shit back right in front of your eyes ? ?!?

Everything costs money. Gyms have to pay for the building, lighting, all sorts of insurance, and of course equipment. All the money comes from memberships. Trust me, gyms don’t depend on how many cans of Bang they sell from the cooler next to the door. You don’t even want to guess what it will cost to lease Nautilus, Hammer Strength, or even Knockoff machines. Gyms need to consider work too. Everyone from the cleaning crew to clerks to management has to be paid. Everyone has to be paid and since Covid19 is still with us, everything has to be cleaned several times during the day. You can’t expect gym members to do this – most won’t even lift their weights! With all the necessary expenses, why should gyms store equipment that no one is using?

There is a long-running myth that only the people on the east coast exercise their legs. That sounds weird at first, but when you stop thinking about it, what if it’s true? I live in Louisville, KY and I work out in two gyms. One is a Planet Fitness where the only way to squat is in a Smith machine. That would never be enough for a purist; But if that’s all you got, it’s better than nothing I see a few people – here and there – in these stations. I also see people exercising on the leg press sled. There is minimal weight and the machines are just enough to get through. Even so, there is very little traffic. The other gym I work out at is more bodybuilder-friendly. It even has its own cross-section; However, very, very few people ever do squats, few do leg presses, and this has been since I’ve been there (6 years). One gym doesn’t have proper equipment while the other has enough of it. Overall, however, the legs don’t seem to be trained nearly as hard as the chest, deltas, or arms. And ironically, the legs are the largest muscle group in the body !!

Leg training just isn’t great. It’s not a muscle that is celebrated by the fans, it’s not something that the company really pays a lot of attention to, and there are even departments like MPD that don’t even get you a point with great bikes. I’m not suggesting the division per se, but it’s just wild that a physique-based division overlooks the largest muscles in the body. On the other hand, it’s not that bizarre as people basically skip the leg day – every week. Why this? When did it all start? And will it ever be cool to work out legs? I just do not know. You can’t show a winning body in bodybuilding without them, but what percentage of gym members are average competitive bodybuilders? What, 1%? That doesn’t exactly make gym owners jump for joy, does it?

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Since gyms, especially small chains and unique companies, have to make hard calls after Covid19, I can see a lot of places downsizing. If you can suddenly get rid of leg machines and platforms, and even reduce the number of weights available, you will save money on all these leases and have a lot of free space. If a gym can successfully downsize equipment, it could potentially also reduce the square footage required to operate. Everything costs money. The more money is saved, the higher the profits. This is where purists usually fall away. But what about building great bodies? Well, if building great bodies keeps the lights on, I’m sure gyms are going to invest in equipment that nobody uses or cares about.

Many gyms have taken over a site from PF. While their lunk alerts and cheesy ads may have created good bodybuilder solidarity on message boards, many bodybuilders are tacitly PF members. These places are kept immaculately clean, they are worldwide, and if you have a little imagination, you can get some fantastic workout. One of the greatest contributions that PF has made in the fitness world is their direct hand in creating a gym atmosphere. Through the use of marketing, staff training, and self-regulation among members, the chain has been able to keep the rabble out, keep their gear in one piece, and grow / spread like wildfire. While management at hardcore gyms meatheads ripping up the benches and slamming / destroying dumbbells, they’ll kick your ass out at Planet and if that doesn’t work, they’ll call you! No joke!!

I don’t see any problem in creating an all-inclusive gym atmosphere. Nobody should be scared or intimidated when going to the gym. If creating a positive atmosphere eliminates bullies and haters, I’m all for it, but what if certain exercises are downplayed in creating this eutopian scene? What if the squats and deadlifts are viewed against the bigger picture? Does anyone believe that leg training will survive despite this and the already low demand? In a world dominated by social media and hits, does someone see the incentive in training a body part that naturally finds little love in the industry? I would love to see the likes of Tom Platz, Jay Cutler and Big Ramy want to build bikes, but will it happen? Who knows?

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