Let's take a look at both types of gyms...
We'll go in order here and start with the gyms that focus on powerlifting first. These gyms are fantastic if your goals involve competing as a powerlifter. However, if you are an athlete whose goals resemble getting the most out of your athletic ability, then these powerlifting gyms are not what you want. As a powerlifter, you want to be able to move as much weight in the big 3 lifts that you can, no matter what path it takes to get there. These big 3 lifts include the bench, the squat, and the deadlift. Don't get me wrong, these people are real strong, but it is my belief that the strength that they maintain is not "true strength." Let me expand further on this thought.
Dan John likes to use the idea of Dads having "Dad strength." In more cases than not, no matter how much you lift, it always seems that your Dad has an edge on you in the strength department. This guy hasn't picked up a weight in like 20 years, yet he has no problem lifting that car engine up out of the vehicle. How can this happen? I'll tell you how... manual labor. Digging holes, moving rocks, cutting down trees and stacking them, carrying 80 pound pipes, cutting logs with an axe, hammering stakes in the ground, moving furniture, picking up tires, etc. You see big dudes doing this kind of stuff in strongman competitions. They are lifting atlas stones and carrying them for time, flipping logs end over end for time, pulling massive trucks for time, farmer walking a car for time, throwing kegs over a wall for time, etc. These are examples of "true strength." These people are straight up athletes! Put them in any sport and I guarantee you they can hold their own. You cannot take any ole' powerlifter or bodybuilder, and have them win a strongman competition, or compete in an athletic sport for that matter.
The athletic key in strongman competitions is that they move heavy stuff for time. Through doing this, you are exerting maximal force throughout your whole body. Is that not what you want to do as an athlete? You want your whole body working in congruency. This includes your muscles, joints, and even neural functioning. Most people forget about the importance of neural functioning as an athlete. When your focus is bench, squat, and deadlift, your body doesn't know how to react to anything other than bench, squat, and deadlift. In other words, your body cannot work in congruency; your body cannot work as one unit. By doing plyometrics, flexibility, speed work, olympic lifting, strongman training, bodyweight training, and powerlifting your body gets a little bit of everything. Your body is able to handle any situation that you put it through, due to training a variety of ways.
Let's move onto the second type of gym; the "skinny gym" or "bodybuilder's gym" ...
Again, I want to remind you that I am not knocking these gyms or the people who attend them, that is if the result that they are getting is what they truly want to get. It is not in the athlete's desire to attend these gyms. Why? Well because everything that takes place in these gyms are slow and drawn out. As an athlete, you want to be fast and explosive. These "skinny gyms" that I am talking about are filled with mostly machines, ellipticals, and maybe a rack of dumbbells. These gyms most likely have an insane number of rules including:
do not use chalk
do not make any loud noises
do not drop weights
no loud music
please, do not sweat on the equipment, because then I have to clean it!
As you can see, there are "slim pickins" when it comes to training gyms for athletes in our area. If you are looking for one in the area, you're almost better off looking for ways to train at home. You can make yourself a sandbag, and mimic lifts that you do with barbells... squats, presses, cleans, carries for distance, etc. Find a place to pick up a big tractor tire... flip it, carry it, move it! Get a rope and pull the tire. Find a big rock and carry it for distance. Use the rock the same way you would a barbell or sandbag. Throw the rock. Find a tree and do pull-ups, chin-ups, leg raises, etc. Do sprints and jumps. Jump for distance, jump for height, continuously jump, jump laterally, jump over stuff, jump rope, etc. Do this stuff enough to push yourself to a point where you are really exerting yourself. Push yourself mentally, as well as physically.
A lot of times athletes get so caught up with not having any place to train that they forget that they have a pot of gold in their back yard. Just get out there and do it! Do not question it and talk about the Jones' having all of this workout equipment. The truth is, THEY PROBABLY DON'T EVEN USE IT! The key is to just do it.
Tim Tebow has this quote saying, "somewhere he is out there, training while I am not. One day when we meet, he will win." If you read Tebow's book, he talks about how he lived on a farm growing up. He was always doing that manual labor that you would expect a farmer to do. This stuff got him big and strong. He just did it! He just picked up that bale of hay and moved it. Obviously, there was a lot more to his success than that, but it created a foundation for him. He is a phenomenal athlete, and it wasn't just natural ability. It involved hard work and commitment.
As an athlete, you need to stop worrying about where you should go to train, and just do the work! Hard work and commitment... sounds like the key to success!
Let's Make It Happen!