Have you ever wondered why gyms are lined with mirrors? Believe it or not, their function goes beyond post-workout selfies. They actually serve a bigger purpose—one that’s less known by gym-goers.
Gym mirrors serve as tools to improve your form and workout technique, in addition to making the space look bigger and brighter. Being able to observe your form comes in handy when you’re trying new techniques or want to compare your form to a professional.
In this article, I shed some light on the use and function of mirrors in gyms. Why do gyms have many mirrors, and why don’t the mirrors in the gym go to the floor? Also, what are the advantages and disadvantages of working out in front of a mirror?
Here are the primary reasons for the wall to wall mirrors you see in gyms:
1. Mirrors Help Improve Your Form
One of the primary reasons why gyms are lined with mirrors is because it helps you check and adjust your form.
Whether you’re weight training or doing bodyweight exercises, the importance of good form shouldn’t be underestimated. Proper form not only helps you work out more efficiently but also ensures the prevention of injury. It increases your performance and enables you to have a full range of motion.
But here’s the thing: not everyone has the advantage of having a trainer or gym buddy around to correct their form.
This is where mirrors come in. With a mirror, you’ll immediately be able to see mistakes. Maybe you’re not squatting low enough, or maybe you see yourself starting to swing while doing biceps curls. Maybe your back starts to round while doing a deadlift. Whatever the mistake, you’ll be able to correct it with the help of the mirror.
Over time, you won’t need the help of a mirror to improve your form. But, since we are and should always be learning new exercises, it’ll always come in handy.
2. Mirrors Make a Space Look Bigger
It’s a well-known fact that mirrors make a space look larger and more open. They reflect nearly 100% of the light that hits them, effectively doubling the brightness of a space. They create an illusion of depth, tricking the eye into thinking there’s more space than there really is.
Gyms take full advantage of this fact. By lining the walls with massive mirrors, they’re making the space look flashier and grand. This attracts more clients, which in turn drives more sales. No one wants to work out in a small, stuffy gym.
3. Mirrors Can Boost Motivation
For many people, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the results of their hard work in the mirror. That, alone, can be a great motivator to keep going. Seeing yourself in motion can give you that extra push to work harder.
This theory is backed by a study released in Physiology Discipline. In the study, researchers found that those that work out in front of a mirror are more likely to put more effort in. They’re also less likely to cheat and judge others, and overall be more helpful to others. In a gym, which many find unforgiving, harsh, and demotivating, these qualities are incredibly valuable.
If you’re a regular gym-goer, you’ll notice that the mirrors are usually mounted 16 to 22 inches off the floor. This is so that weights don’t roll up to them and break them.
Though most gym mirrors are toughened with shatterproof glass, they’re not 100% unbreakable. In fact, shatterproof mirrors aren’t actually shatterproof but shatter-resistant. Thus, gym owners have mirrors installed several inches off the ground to prevent costly damages and injuries.
There’s no single best place to install gym mirrors. They can be placed in different areas for different reasons.
For example, if you have a power or squat rack, they’re best positioned in front and to the side of where people will be squatting. Placing the mirrors in multiple angles helps clients scrutinize their form as they perform the movement.
On the other hand, if you want to enhance the lighting of your gym, position the mirrors opposite to a window. Or you can do both.
Regardless of where you position the mirrors, make sure they have a functional purpose. Consider the activities people will be doing there and adjust the height per their needs.
You don’t necessarily need a full wall of mirrors to make your gym look bigger. Here are some tips for using mirrors in a small space:
1. Use an Oversized Mirror
One of the easiest ways to make a small space look bigger is by installing a frameless, oversized mirror on the wall. With strategic positioning, the mirror can create the illusion of more space.
2. Positioning is Key
Mirrors can make a space feel large because they reflect light off the glass and back into the space.
To maximize this effect, install your gym mirrors opposite a window. By doing so, you’re taking full advantage of the natural lighting.
If your gym doesn’t have a window, you’ll achieve the same effect by placing the mirrors near a light fixture.
3. Get the Measurement Right
When hanging up gym mirrors, you want to draw the eye upward to make the ceilings look higher. However, you don’t want people to go on their tip-toes or crane their necks higher to look into the mirror.
The standard width of a gym mirror is four feet or 1,220 millimeters.
If you’re planning to install an end-to-end or corner-to-corner mirror, you’ll need to measure the entire length of the wall. If your wall is 20 feet wide, for instance, you’ll have to divide that by four feet. This gives you about five sheets of gym mirror.
As for height, most gym mirrors stand at about six feet. However, it isn’t uncommon to find mirrors up to eight feet. Regardless of what you choose, the mirror should be high enough to see your whole body when standing four to five feet away.
It’s a wise idea to install the mirrors a bit higher off the ground so heavy weights or any other gym equipment won’t accidentally break the glass.
If you’re not working with weights, it’s safe to put the mirror much lower because there’s less risk of damage.
Regular mirrors and gym mirrors may serve the same function, but they’re completely different in terms of safety, strength, composition, clarity, and even performance.
Since gym mirrors are meant to be installed in public spaces with lots of heavy machinery and equipment, they have a higher safety value than regular mirrors.
They’re stronger and have a higher impact resistance. They’re shatterproof, too—or at least as shatterproof as commercial glass can be.
Gym mirrors are thicker than regular mirrors. Regular mirrors are between two to four millimeters thick, whereas gym mirrors are six to eight millimeters thick. Because of this, gym mirrors can withstand accidental impact more readily than home mirrors.
Gym mirrors have better clarity than regular mirrors.
Mirrors with thin glass provide a more condensed reflection, making the world look dull and distorted.
On the other hand, mirrors with thick glass provide a clearer and more appealing reflection. They also don’t lose their polished look over time, even with minimal upkeep.
Regular mirrors come in hundreds of sizes and designs to choose from. They can be used as decorative accents or grooming aids. In comparison, gym mirrors are mostly available as giant mirrors. They’re frameless and minimalistic, with little to no decorative accents.
As you might expect, gym mirrors are more costly than regular mirrors. Depending on the style and dimension, they can cost anywhere between $20 to over $100 a sheet. Regular mirrors can cost as little as $7 to as much as $20 per foot.
There are contradicting opinions to this question. Some experts believe that working out in front of a mirror comes with dozens of benefits, while others believe it can interfere with proprioception; i.e., the ability to sense positions of the body without having to look at them. Let’s take a look at the arguments of each:
Perhaps the biggest advantage of working out in front of a mirror is that it allows you to check your form, posture, and alignment throughout the movement.
Proper form is necessary to avoid injuries, especially with exercises that focus on weight and endurance.
Improper form and distorted patterns of movement can end up being the source of chronic pain. I’ve caught myself looking in the mirror, thinking I was doing a textbook job, only to realize I was accidentally cheating and not targeting the right muscles.
Without the mirror or a trainer to correct me, I probably wouldn’t have noticed my improper form for quite a while.
There’s also the fact that mirrors grant you spatial awareness. In other words, they allow you to see where you are relative to others. This prevents you from accidentally bumping into others and getting startled when someone approaches you.
Finally, mirrors give you a good motivation boost. People often use mirrors to get more out of their workouts. It’s a great way of tracking progress.
Plus, it just feels good seeing your muscles as you work out. It’s not vanity, though some may perceive it that way. It’s more so a way to optimize growth and boost self-esteem, resulting in a more positive mindset.
The primary argument against working out in front of a mirror is that it makes you dependent on it.
If you constantly rely on visual confirmations, you’ll likely never grow out of using the mirror to check your form.
In the higher stages of training, the mind-muscle connection plays a crucial role in body development. Achieving this balance might be more difficult if you trained yourself to check your form every time you exercise.
Another solid argument is that mirrors can distract you from your workout. Exercising without a mirror encourages you to focus on how your body feels rather than how it looks.
In some instances, working out while looking in a mirror can be dangerous. For example, the mirror can distract you while powerlifting or moving a heavy load, resulting in injury.
Mirrors are a great addition to a home gym. While they aren’t a necessity, they come with a ton of benefits. They not only help you stay on track but also make your home gym feel more spacious. Plus, seeing the results of your work can motivate you to push harder.
Just make sure that you have enough space in your home gym and that you don’t run the risk of bumping the mirror with a weight.
Beyond that, you can use the mirrors in your home gym as a whiteboard. You can note down how many reps you have left or what your next workout routine will be. This method is much more efficient than writing with a pen and paper. Once you’re done, wipe away the writing with a dry cloth and it’s good as new.
If you opt for an interactive fitness mirror, the advantages are more obvious. This type of mirror comes with built-in exercise options and a library of regularly updated workout classes. Some models even offer specialized classes, like kickboxing, rowing, and dancing, as well as one-on-one training classes with a live professional.
On top of that, you can interact with other users to simulate being at the gym. Models that feature a built-in microphone and camera give you the chance to hear and talk to the people in your fitness class.