Should You Join A Big Chain Gym Or Independent Gym? (RUSS DECIDES!)

You’ve decided you want to get fit.

But before you even start, you’ve got to ask yourself an important question:

Which gym are you gonna join?

Should you join the big chain gym in the city center? Or how about the smaller independent gym nearby?

No need to worry, I’ll answer this one for you:

You join the smaller independent gym.

Now grab a whey protein shake, kick back and relax, as Uncle Russ tells you why small gyms will always be better than big commercial gyms.

Small Gyms Treat You Better

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Here’s the thing…

When we imagine smaller independent gyms, we conjure up images of the big bodybuilding gym from the movie Dodgeball. It was called Globo Gym, and it was full of meatheads being a d**k.

In reality, they are nothing like that.

They’re more like the other gym from the same movie: Average Joe’s.

Can you remember it? The members were all such unusual characters (see point 4 below) and when times got tough, they knew they could always go to the gym to feel better.

Get your reading glasses on. Here’s a true story from a client of mine.

“I used to go to The Gym up the road and I hated it. My workouts felt like a chore. I went there for a couple of years, on and off, and nobody ever spoke to me.

I had no friends in the gym at all, and it felt weird if anyone got on the next treadmill.

When my gym closed temporarily for refurbishment, I was terrified of coming here. I sat outside on the wall for half an hour, too nervous to come in, because I was expecting it to be choc-full of bodybuilders all judging me.


I’ve never been to a more welcoming gym in my life. The owner knows my name. The members are my friends. If I’m ever struggling in a set, people just stop what they’re doing and shout encouragement at me. Nowadays, if I’m having a bad day, I know I can go to the gym and it’ll completely change my mood.

I never went back to the old place when it re-opened.”

How sad is that?

I remember, during our first PT session, she almost got me when she said she’d been training at her old gym for A F**KING YEAR and nobody had ever spoken to her. Nobody should be made to feel self-conscious or alone in a gym. We’re all on the same journey.

This is my least favorite thing about huge gyms. Customers are numbers and credit cards, not people. F**k that.

Thankfully, she switched.

Smaller gyms have smaller customer bases, and they tend to treat their customers a heck of a lot better. Why do they do this? Well, the community is a lot more tight knit, and you being a member is much more appreciated because you’re helping them stay open.

Small Gyms Have Better Equipment

Powerhouse Gym South Shields

Small gyms tend to be more specialist with their equipment because in order to survive, they have to zoom in on their target niche.

Not only will you find some unusual pieces of kit you can’t see anywhere else, but you’ll also notice they are sturdy as f**k and they last a lifetime. Again, this comes down to the fact they generally kit their gym with top end machinery because it’s more cost effective in the long run.

I remember visiting a nearby council gym a few years ago when it opened its doors for the first time. Everything was all show and no go. The battle ropes felt like plastic shoelaces, and the atlas stones were big hollow Yorkshire puddings.

The best part of my workout was performing a one armed row on the door as I left.

Small Gyms Have Better Trainers

are small gyms better than big gyms

To run a successful independent gym, your trainers need to be s**t hot.

It’s not the sort of thing you can do straight off a fitness course, because there’s no safety net. See, if you fail as a PT in a big commercial gym, the company doesn’t care. There’s another guy fresh off their course, it’s like a revolving door.

But a successful PT in an independent gym can have a direct impact on the success of the gym itself. Gyms know this. Good trainers know this. They hire the best. They seek each other out because the relationship is mutually beneficial.

When I look around at my colleagues at Powerhouse Gym, I’m blown away by the quality I see. I consider myself fortunate to be part of such a gifted team of individuals who have earned their chops and went out on their own. If the PT’s at your gym don’t make you feel that “wow” factor, get outta there.

Oh, and before we move on, let me make something very, very clear:

I’m not saying you won’t find a great personal trainer in a big chain gym. You’ll find quite a few. I’m saying as soon as they’ve found their feet, they’ll head to a proper gym to truly ‘work for themselves’, and you should follow.

Small Gyms Have A Better Atmosphere

should i join a small gym or a commercial gym

In the first section, I mentioned how a client had been a member of a gym where nobody spoke to her.

When you join an independent gym, that changes forever.

Honestly, I’ve had some of the best laughs of my life in small gyms!

They are populated with such an array of fantastic characters, every day is fun (see point 1).

This is often the best gym to join for beginners, too, because you aren’t left to fend for yourself. Instead of trudging your a** into the ground on a treadmill in mind-boggling silence, people support you. They offer advice if you need it. They become your mates.

And you get stuff like…

This lad made the schoolboy mistake of popping to the shops.

You’re Supporting Real People

small gym vs big gym

Take a look at the picture above. You’ve probably seen it before.

Look, we’ve all got that one friend who posts mental health memes about #BeNice but in real life they’re an absolute c**kwaffle to everyone, right?

So it’s important to realize the power of the picture above when you share it.

It isn’t just a meme. It’s completely true. In supporting one of your local independent gyms, YOU GENUINELY MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO PEOPLE’S LIVES. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve one.

These small gyms are run by real families from your local area, who are working hard to put food on their table, just like you do.

And that’s why they appreciate you so much.

In Summary

best gym in south shields

Well, there you have it.

5 reasons why you should drop that membership to the rich as f**k corporate gym you never want to go to anyway, and get your butt off to your local independent gym to begin a new chapter of your training life.

If I’ve encouraged you to make a change today, that’s great.

You will find some absolutely killer facilities, and make some friends for life.

If you live in my area, the facility you’re looking for is Powerhouse Gym South Shields. You can see it here. By far the best gym in South Shields, it’s the one I’ve featured in all the images and videos on this post, it’s where I moved my personal training business to years ago, and also where I train myself.

If you don’t live in my area, just go looking. Find your Powerhouse. It’s out there.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Share it so others can see the benefits of supporting their small independent local gyms.

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