Gym Membership vs Home Gym: Choosing the Right Gym for You

Roger “Rock” Lockridge
Written By: Roger “Rock” Lockridge
November 30th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
18.8K Reads
Gym Membership vs Home Gym: Choosing the Right Gym for You
Training in the right place can help you reach your goals faster. See if you're better off investing in a home gym or joining your local gym.

Everyone needs the right place to train. It doesn't matter if you're a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or just improving your fitness. You deserve a place that makes you comfortable and allows you to reach your goals.

For many athletes, that means going to train at the local gym or health club. More populated areas typically have several gyms to choose from. Smaller towns may have only one. Other athletes feel like it's better to train at home by investing in their own equipment and creating their own open space.

If you’re currently trying to decide which option is best for you, then read about the pros and cons of both training in a gym and having a home gym. This will help you make a rational decision that will best suit your goals.

Training at a Local Gym

Gyms and health clubs have been around for decades and expanded rapidly after the premiere of Pumping Iron in the late 1970s. Many of the biggest names in bodybuilding are associated with the big gym in their hometown. Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for his time in the original Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach. Ronnie Coleman made MetroFlex Gym in Arlington, Texas a landmark in bodybuilding and Dorian Yates's workouts in Temple Gym in the UK are legendary. Other top gyms are Bev Francis’s Powerhouse in Syosset, NY and Metro Fitness in Columbus, Ohio. Nowadays almost every town has a local place to clang and bang with the iron.

Gym Membership Pros

Commercial Gyms: Lots of equipment to choose from

More Exercise Options

You will likely find a wide assortment of different machines, several barbells, and a variety of dumbbells so you'll have a lot of exercises to choose from when creating your routine. There are also several cardio options including classes, treadmills, ellipticals, stairmasters, and others. There will be more space obviously, so you take advantage of that space as well.

Surrounded by Like Minded People

Motivation is important when it comes to fitness. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people can get you more excited about going in and training hard. Seeing others give their all can inspire you to do the same. Whether you’re in a weight room watching some jacked dude go heavy or in a class with a group of people, the same theory applies.

Learn from the Gym's Trainers

If you’re a beginner, it can be helpful to talk to the professionals in the gym and have them show you the ropes. They can show you how the equipment works, teach you new exercises, and even give you a beginner's lifting plan. For the guys who are a little more advanced, having staff on hand to help with spots on heavy sets does ensure safety and reduce the chance of injury.

You're Not Responsible for Maintenance

It can be tough to go to your favorite treadmill, elliptical, or machine in the gym and find the dreaded “out of order” sign on it. But on the bright side, the maintenance is not your issue and since you’re already paying gym dues, it’s on the gym to have it fixed.

Gym Membership Cons

Commercial Gyms: Waiting on equipment

Waiting on Equipment

Since there are a lot of people who go to the gym, there is a chance that you will want to use a machine and someone is on it. You might encounter someone who will let you “work in” and train while he or she is in between sets, but you may also find that person who makes it a point to sit there and wait or, even worse, talk on the phone between sets. This can be frustrating to say the least.

Busy Environment

How many times have you seen one of the memes on social media with a photo of an empty gym and the caption read something like “Empty Gym Instant Happiness“ ? Nobody likes to walk into the weight room and have a big crowd of sweaty dudes or finding every cardio machine taken with a waiting list at the door. To some beginners, this might also be intimidating and overwhelming.

Related: 10 Hilarious Stereotypes You'll See in Every Gym

Paying Gym Dues

When you pay your bills every month, the gym dues are something you can’t forget to include. Depending on where you train, it might take a good chunk of change out of your pocket, especially if you have a family membership or if you train at a gym with a CrossFit box and want to use that equipment as well. If you sign up at a gym, you need to prepare for this line item in your personal budget.

Train on Their Schedule

So you had a long day, issues at work, meeting took forever, traffic was backed up because of road work, you’ve chugged your whole preworkout, and you can smash the steering wheel in your hands because it kicked in and you haven’t made it to the gym yet. You finally show up and…it’s closed. Although the hours might be longer at some places than others, unless you’re a member of a 24/7 gym, you go on their hours, not yours.

Training at a Home Gym

Although Ronnie Coleman trained at MetroFlex Gym, he also had a home gym that was seen in a couple of his DVDs. His is better than most, but it was still a home gym. Home gyms are basically a space you create for the purpose of training. It can be a garage, open room in your house, or a building on your property. It's all yours and you can make it however you want.

Home Gym Pros

Home Gym: Design it the way you want

You Create the Environment

You’re the designer so you get to put in whatever you want without having to talk to others about it. Your home gym exists to help you meet your goals. It's a blank canvas and you get to make the masterpiece that is your home gym. You can also put up whatever you want on the walls to inspire you and listen to your own music or watch your own show on TV.

Train When you Want

That’s tough about the guy who couldn’t get to the gym before it closed, huh? Well, that guy should have gotten a home gym because you get to go clang and bang at 1:00 pm or 1:00 am. Your home gym is available whenever you want.

Related: Best Morning Workout for Building Muscle

No Waiting on Equipment

Unless you bring people in to work out with you, there’s no waiting on equipment in a home gym. You’re guaranteed to be able to use whatever you want whenever you want during your workout because it’s yours.

Home Gym Cons

Higher Initial Investment

Although long term you won’t be paying gym dues, it will cost you some money to get the equipment that you want to make a good home gym. You will have to dig a little deeper in the wallet at first and spend more cash than you may like to have a good place to train.

No Spotter or Trainer Available

Home Gym: No spotter or trainer to help

Again, unless you want someone else coming over to hit the weights with you or unless you have a strong person living with you, training heavy will be risky since you won’t have someone to spot you. You also won’t have the trainer with you in person to help you master proper form if you’re a beginner needing to learn. Don’t be too concerned about this one though because you can learn a lot of what you need to know here on Muscle & Strength.

Fewer Exercise Options

If you can afford a lot of the big machines that the health club and gym chains have, go for it. But otherwise you might be limited on your exercise choices depending on your personal budget and the space you have available.

Maintenance is on You

If something falls apart in your home gym, it’s not as simple as sticking an “out of order” sign on it and waiting for it to get fixed. That’s on you so you’ll have to take care of it with your own money and sweat equity.

Home Gym or Gym Membership: Which is best for you?

So now that you have a better idea of what you will be in for if you commit to a gym or training at home, you can make a more rational decision about which option is the best for you to reach your own goals. Whatever you choose, make sure you give your best effort to achieve your best results.