Where To Find Space In A Crowded Gym

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It’s January⁠—which means your gym is swarmed with resolution-havers. And that’s ok! If people want to better themselves, then they’re just as entitled to work out as you are. The downside, however, is that you’re often forced to wait for a free squat rack, bench press or elliptical. Curious where you can find a little space in an especially crowded gym?

We have a few ideas, though it depends on what exactly you need the space for. If it’s for stretching or crunches, you’ll probably need less space than you would for, say, deadlifts, landmines, hip thrusters or really anything that requires a barbell, so you’ll have to strategize accordingly. Below, advice on where to find a little space when your gym feels like a mosh pit.

An empty studio

You can use your gym’s empty studio space. As we’ve written before, you’re usually allowed to use the studio when it’s not occupied. If you’re uneasy about it, just ask someone at the gym’s front desk and check the class schedule at your gym to make sure there isn’t a group class starting. And you can do virtually anything in a studio, whether it’s deadlifts or stretching. (We’d recommend putting a few mats down if you’re in a studio space with a floor that easily gets scuffed, however.)

The staff area

At every gym I’ve belonged to, there are at least two areas reserved for its staff, the area behind the front desk and another area reserved for admin or personal trainers’ use. From experience, this other area is rarely in use outside of typical working hours. (Trainers are also busy training, anyway.) I use this other staff area for everything when space is a commodity.

For landmines, I’ll wedge a barbell into a plate and brace the plate against a desk. For hip thrusters, I’ll place a cushioned plyometric box in front of an office door and set up in front of it. I’ll even use the space for deadlifts from time to time, though it requires extra setup time when you’re forced to bring plates from one side of the room to another. Again, if you have concerns about using the space, just ask your gym staff. (They probably won’t mind.)

The least-used machine

Quick: Think of the one machine that never seems to get any use at your gym. Mine is the Smith machine. On any given day, I rarely see anyone use it, even on a busy day—this is why it’s the perfect place to spread out. When your gym is crowded, chances are not every machine is in use simultaneously, so you should find the machine that hasn’t been in use while you’re there. Of course, when someone does need that machine, you should allow them to, but it might prove a good strategy otherwise.

The cardio floor

No one ever really uses the space between rows of treadmills and ellipticals, right? This is why it can become useful in times when you’re desperate for a little space. I wouldn’t use it for anything that requires a barbell unless there’s sufficient space between the cardio machines, but the space is especially useful for walking, weighted lunges or farmer’s walks—really, anything that requires walking.


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