Friday, June 26, 2009

5 Ways a Big Box Gym Prevents Your Fat Loss

I bet most of you didn't know that I used to be a fitness director in a "Big Box" gym for a few years. It was a learning experience to see what goes on behind the scenes of big fitness centers and how they succeed so well. For those of you that are unaware, a "Big Box" gym is your "mall-like" fitness center that opens up at a location complete with tons of exercise equipment, latest technology, hottest group classes, pool, and many more amenities. These facilities are typically built from the ground up and will have a "pre-membership" sale to drive customers into their doors. The facility is usually very nice, accommodating, and sometimes...very "busy"--meaning lots of 'stuff' going on (lighting, built in Starbucks or Subway, music, and Wi-fi capabilities).

But did you know that the Big Box gym actually prevents you from losing fat? Did you now that every time an LA Fitness or 24 Hour Fitness opens, their goal is to keep you from reaching your goal? Want to how? Here's a list of things that I have at some point or another dealt with directly.

1.) Cardio equipment with built in TVs. Ever see the rows of people using the cardio equipment with the theater system built in? Ever see what they are doing? They are performing at a slow to moderate (at best) pace while keeping a very tune ear to the TV program on the monitor. This is touted as making "cardio much more fun", "less monotonous", and "enjoyable". Not sure if any those adjectives should be used to describe fat loss training, but the easier something is, there is always a drop off in return. In this case, the easier cardio is...the harder it becomes to lose that fat around your belly. Solution: Try interval training with varying intensity levels (from high to mid) for a shorter period of time (less than 20 minutes).

2.) Easy cardio equipment. What ever happened to the Steppers? Air-dynes? Jacobs's Ladders? Step Mills? Concept Rower? Versa Climber? Gone....all of them. Sure there are some fitness centers that carry these guys, but they are way in the corners of the facility collecting dust. Only a handful of strong souls will approach such an apparatus and compete against its mighty wrath. These "dinosaurs" are still around. As a matter of fact, they are not totally extinct. Most manufacturers have updated their design and marketing to accommodate the fearful population. However, because these machines are more difficult than your standard recumbent bike (yawn), upright bike (yawn), and elliptical (yawn)--they are never used. If they are never used...guess what? They are never purchased and thus, never seen again. They are entered into the "Museum of Exercise Equipment that Actually Worked but are Too Hard" located in a basement, warehouse, or junkyard near you. Too bad.

3.) Under-qualified staff. Allow me to let you in on a little secret: Trainers are not that hard to find nowadays. And most big box fitness centers need "bodies" to service the amenity of personal training, so they tend to hire uncertified, inexperienced trainers that LOOK good, but don't necessarily have the know-how to design a sound exercise program. Want to know why they hire them? Because they pay them very little. I know, trust me. New trainers are typically paid between $8-12/hour. If they sell personal training they make an additional $8-$10 to that pay rate, while the fitness center keeps the rest. It usually turns out be a 70/30 split (sometimes 80/20) ALWAYS in favor of the fitness center. This way, management can offer an amenity (personal training) and make a great profit from it. If the trainer is under-qualified, chances are their exercise program is not effective--which leaves the client with the same unwanted fat they started with; and a bad taste in their mouth about personal trainers.

4.) Machine, machines, and more machines. It is well-proven that rows of thousand dollar machines are not needed to get into shape. Look at prisoners. They workout in their cells with a dozen bodyweight exercises and stay in relatively good shape. Machines are convenient. People that don't like to exercise, like to sit down and push something. They'd rather sit and push a leg press or pull a bar towards them. This is isolation and in simple terms, isolation training is easy. Load makes isolation training intense, and guess what? People that don't like to exercise will not put alot of weight on the stack. Its doesn't take much to reap the benefits of an accelerated metabolism. It typically takes a good strategic circuit program with limited rest periods, and little equipment. A good workout can include a couple medicine balls, dumbbells, bands, jump rope and kettlebells--all for under $200.

5.) Tanning beds. Ever notice people that tan year round--even though they are a bit overweight? What do you think having tanned skin does for them? Does it hide wrinkles (or cause them)? Does it hide fat? Does it make them look healthier? Tanning makes the body look healthier because the skin darkens giving it a fine tone that hides blemishes, shows muscle lines, and makes one more attractive. But what happens when you are 350 pounds and you tan? You look like a 350 pound person with a tan. Big box gyms offer this amenity because they understand it is easier to satisfy your desire to "feel" good, rather than "look" good. And they make a kick ass profit off of it. Diet and exercise make you healthier and helps you lose fat. Tanned skin makes you look pretty.


  1. My YMCA actually has a few steppers, two C2 rowers, and one AirDyne bike......

    Now I just wish their was more open floor space for bodyweight workouts......

  2. Thanks for the comment. Sometimes the outdated gyms are the better solutions than the new ones!

  3. "Now I just wish their was more open floor space for bodyweight workouts......"

    So you want more open space in your gym for body weight workouts? Correct me if I'm wrong, but if it's just some open space you want then you don't need a gym at all!

  4. Dave,
    I agree with you 100%!

  5. Haha probably dont need a personal training studio either than. Can get just as much done in a backyard or a field


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