Does it matter if you go to a small gym or a big gym?

Yes! Some people may not realize that gym size can affect how much they exercise. 

If the gym isn’t right for you, then you might not enjoy it. It’ll make you feel unmotivated to come back for a second time.

How different are they? It’s good that you asked. Today we’ll compare small gyms vs. big gyms and help you decide which one’s better!

Top 10 Differences Between Small Gyms and Big Gyms

These are some differences you might encounter between small and big gyms.

  1. Their Classes and Training

The largest gyms in the US have tons of classes to choose from. They typically offer specialized sessions like cycling and cardio kickboxing classes. These are classes that you rarely see in small gyms.

In terms of booking and advertising the classes, bigger gyms have the advantage. Big gyms often have apps or websites where you can see what is coming up and what is new.

Small gyms hold workout classes too, but they won’t be as specialized or frequent because they don’t have as many people who come daily. You might see a yoga or pilates class here and there, but they aren’t widely advertised or known about.

They do have the advantage of having classes that are more personalized to fit your needs. You might even get a one-on-one session with your trainer!

  1. How They Treat You 

Because small gyms don’t get a lot of customers, they’re more inclined to treat you better.

Small gyms want to keep you as a customer because every customer is worth more to the survival of that business. To keep the customers that they do have, most go above and beyond to give you the best service. 

one trainer training a group of people

Trainers and employees in small gyms can focus on giving you better service. They can tailor-fit your exercise session based on your physical needs.

Those in bigger gyms have tons of clients coming in per day. That means they can’t focus on you alone. 

  1. Their Fitness Trainers

Currently, no law requires fitness trainers to have a certificate or a bachelor’s degree related to their work. That being said, you would want your trainers to have proper knowledge of how bodies work, right?

Big gyms have a reputation to uphold, and they’re more likely to have trainers with a biology, nutrition, kinesiology, or physical exercise background. They can also afford to hire more trainers because they have more clients.

Small gyms can have competent trainers, but there might be no requirements for them to have a personal trainer certificate.

On the other hand, small boutique gyms may have the best trainers. I know of personal trainers who are total rockstars in their profession and start their own gyms and charge very high prices.

So, small gyms have more variety when it comes to trainer qualifications. You may get a brand new trainer just starting out, or you’ll get a rockstar veteran.

  1. The People You Workout With

Did you know that the number of people you work out with can affect how much you exercise? According to a 2017 study, small-group fitness classes result in higher levels of physical activity versus big-group training. 

Small gyms hold classes with a few people. Because of this, the fitness instructor can pay more attention to each of his trainees.

Large gyms have big rooms that can accommodate large groups of people. You may feel more energized when you’re with a loud crowd. Yet, you might not be doing as much exercise as you can.

It means that taking a class in a gym with a tiny crowd can give you a better workout.

A group of friends working out together
  1. The Lines

Waiting in line sucks. Unfortunately, this is a problem in large gyms during the busiest hours.

It’s common to find someone who “reserves” equipment with towels. You might encounter people who sit on the exercise machines while scrolling through their phones.  

These are issues that you don’t have to experience as often in small gyms where it’s not as crowded.

  1. The Equipment 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, having equipment greatly expands your exercise options.

An advantage of bigger gyms is that they can afford more equipment. They could also have higher quality equipment than the small gyms. 

On the other hand, having less equipment may also be an advantage for small gyms.

Complicated machinery can be intimidating to a lot of people. Some don’t want to try equipment they don’t know how to use. 

And sometimes all you need to get a good workout is a dumbbell and some open space.

In the end, it’s okay if you don’t have access to specialized equipment. What’s more important is that you can use the machines effectively.

  1. The Environment 

The environment is how you feel when you’re in the gym. It’s affected by the crowd you’re with.  

Having a companion while exercising not only motivates you, but you can reap other benefits as well.

For instance, having a gym buddy is a good way to learn new techniques and exercises. Some people tend to enjoy the gym more because of the social aspect. If you stare at a computer all day, it might just be good fun to go and play in a gym with a friend.

Small Gym Advantage

Small gyms will likely have many regulars who all know each other. There’s a sense of community and intimacy that bigger gyms don’t have. Your absence would be noticed.

If you want to make friends through your gym membership, a small gym is your best bet. 

Big Gym Advantage

If you are someone that likes to stay anonymous in a sea of people, a big gym may be more appropriate for you. 

a man running on treadmill close up

You can keep your privacy because the people there won’t pay any attention to you. There’s less chance that someone will start a conversation, unlike those in a small gym.

  1. Their Price Difference

A big gym can have a cheap $10 per month membership, or a super expensive one.

Small gyms usually don’t go that low.

There is a wide range here, but the biggest thing I will say about the price is that the big gyms cannot usually accommodate all of their members if they were to actually show up. They will sell as many memberships as possible and if you dig into the stats (not going to call any one chain out here), they make a killing on people who do NOT go to the gym.

So, would you rather give your money to a gym that is incentivized to have you NOT attend? Or would you rather give your money to someone busting their butt to keep their small business open and their members happy and achieving their fitness goals?

Whatever you do end up paying, it is all worth the money and time saved in future medical costs and time spent in hospitals instead of living your life.

  1. The Amenities 

In deciding which gym to go to, you have to think about amenities. Small gyms may not have the space and resources to afford some facilities. 

Here are a few amenities that may be in big gyms.

  • A sauna and steam room
  • Large shower rooms with toiletries 
  • Exercise pools or indoor pools
  • Racquet areas for playing badminton or tennis
  • Huge training rooms with floor-to-ceiling mirrors
  1. Their Locations and Opening Hours

What I like about large gyms is that many of them are open 24 hours a day. If not, they can still have longer opening hours than small gyms and people can go in any time before or after work. 

There’s also the convenience of being able to go to any branch of a big gym as long as you’re a member. You can enjoy your membership even if you’re on vacation in another state!

If you’re thinking of going to a small gym, there’s only one location to do your workout. Plus, you’ll have to go there during their opening hours. 

Another Type of Gym to Consider

Experts say that you should be exercising daily. In this case, shouldn’t you go to a gym that you’ll actually enjoy visiting? We understand.

If you haven’t decided between a small gym vs. a big gym yet, this may be a good time to talk about small boutique gyms!

What Is a Small Boutique Gym?

A small boutique gym is a fitness studio, usually 800 to 3500 square feet, where patrons can focus on only 1 or 2 types of workouts.

In a sense, it’s a combination of all the perks of big and small gyms.

Small boutique gyms can have all the complicated equipment of a big gym. Yet, they still have the sense of community of a small gym.

Maybe that’s the reason why the IHRSA says that they’re the fastest-growing sector of the fitness industry!

Small Boutique Gym Amenities

Here are some things you can expect in small boutique gyms:

  • Rolled-up towels and a posh shower area
  • A café with a healthy menu
  • Limited membership, meaning there’s no crowd 
  • A luxurious spa and massage treatments
  • Specialized equipment and training

Small Boutique Gym Price

Because of all the amenities and perks, expect to part ways with $40, $100, or more per training session at a small boutique gym.

In Summary

Small gyms, big gyms, and boutique gyms can differ in the number of classes, environment, trainers, amenities, and price. 

These factors have an impact on your experience and they can affect the frequency of your gym visits. That’s why you should pick the right environment based on your preference. 

Which one do you think is better, small gyms or big gyms? We’ll be happy to know your thoughts!



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