Hardcore Gym or Health Club?

‘Powerlifting’ and ‘Bodybuilding’ gyms can be a little (or a LOT) intimidating to the ininitiated – especially if you have no interest in becoming a competitive powerlifter or stepping onto the bodybuilding stage.

But even if squatting 800lbs or shaving your entire body, painting it orange and covering your nether regions with little more than an eyepatch don’t appeal to you, there is one VERY good reason you should consider training in a ‘hardcore’ gym over a commercialized health club…

Powerlifters and bodybuilders – although they’ll often go at it like cats & dogs (or more like Mexicans and Puerto Ricans) – are among the most supportive people you’ll ever meet.

Sure, when they compete, everyone wants to win, but ya’ know what?  The iron game is about personal achievement, and PL/BB-ers love to see everyone (even their competitors) achieve personal goals and surpass their self-imposed limitations.

I’m pretty sure this has something to do with the fact that neither PL or BB’ing is considered a ‘mainstream’ sport. Winners rarely get more than a trophy or a plaque to hang on their wall.

With the big money of more popular sports out of the picture, PL/BB-ers train to compete for little more than the personal satisfaction that comes with self-improvement.  Isn’t THAT the reason you’d want to join a gym in the first place?

Now if you go to a ‘fitness boutique’ or a franchised health club, you’ll often find just the opposite is true. Members are often more interested in the social scene than achieving any meaningful progress.

If social is what you want, stay home and play Farmville or take another survey on Facebook.  (Just please stop inviting me to play along with you!)

Mainstream gym-goers frequently engage in subtle (or even flagrant) ‘one-upmanship’ .  Ego’s flair.  Opportunities to put another member down as weaker, fatter, less successful in life are frequently used to boost one’s own self-image.

Not a very supportive environment, in my opinion.

In a hardcore gym, the only thing that really matters is how committed you are to change.

To learn.

To push yourself to new levels of physical progress.

To say you’re going to accomplish something – and then go ahead and actually DO it.

The weights are all the same & there’s no difference between treadmills.  But people in a hardcore gym are more likely to help you, to spot you in a tough exercise, to cheer you along as you work towards a personal best, to challenge you to get back in the game when you blow your diet… while you do the same for them.


Because it’s the right thing to do.



  1. I have long ago given up on health clubs for that very reason.
    I don’t understand “primping and showering” to go to the gym! Makes no sense at all.


  2. The one and only time I visited a “hardcore” gym, I found that the resident clients were less than amused to have a newcomer at all and that I was using the weights on the left side of the rack didn’t help. I was traveling so maybe I stood out as a short-timer but it wasn’t an atmosphere that called me back.
    However, I will take your advice, suck it up, and go to a hardcore gym without fear the next time the opportunity presents itself. I loathe having to be social at a gym and my shirt and pants rarely match, so the atmosphere you describe sounds good and even helpful.


  3. Just “bumped” into your site..like your point here. Got into the best shape of my life at a “hardcore” gym in the early 2000’s. I was an overweight 25 year old, who had been too skinny for most of my life. I was overwhelmed, living in a new city in the South, just re-entered school and had joined a “health club,” with a trainer who spent more time in the mirror than in the gym. After he pissed me off, making fun of my new “baby” muscles, and good form, actually – I joined the hardcore gym across town. At first I stuck to the cardio center and classes, but I kept coming back – no one giggled at my jiggly bits or even noticed my newbie-ness. Pretty soon, I hired a trainer, who got me, and taught me everything I know about how to lift. He even put the bb competition bug in my ear. The powerlifters and bodybuilder guys even started helping me out, with tips, etc. when they saw I was serious, and not trying to socialize (I never talk when I lift, cause that means I’m not working hard enough, so he said!) I miss him and that gym. Approaching 35 this year, after fighting a sickness, and 130 lb. weight gain, and losing 80 lbs on my own, I wish I could consult him again..I’m gonna pick up The New Rules for Lifting for Women, I’ve been looking at it at the store..I have been doing my cardio at home, but now have got to start lifting again. I want my body back! Thanks for your resources from a girl in Delaware…miss that positive powerlifter kickbutt attitude!


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