Garage Gym vs. Team Environment by Jacky Bigger

As some of you may already know, I’ve recently started training a bit less at the Mash Compound and a bit more in our awesome new garage gym. I have nothing against training at Mash, I just currently REALLY love our garage gym. I’ve trained in a team environment for my entire weightlifting career, so the change in atmosphere has been awesome for me! Now that I’ve had experience training in both the team environment and training by myself in the garage gym, I’d like to take some time to discuss some of the positive and negatives of both.

Garage Gym Positives

I’ll start off with the positives of training in the garage gym, because for me right now, it’s SUCH a good change. Here are some of the things I like most about it.

  1. You get to create your own environment! If you train in a team environment, I know you’ve had days where you’re over there in the corner trying to work on technique, when everyone else is having fun and maxing out! For me, those were always the toughest days. When training in the garage gym, I get to choose the mood. If I’m working technique, I get to create a calm focused environment. If I’m going heavy and hard, I can create a more intense environment. I love that I’m in control.
  2. You get to choose your own music and don’t have to hear others complain about your music choices. I don’t know anyone else who likes to train to Andy Grammer, Jack Johnson and Michael Buble besides me, but now I can listen to them whenever I want.
  3. It’s easy access. There’s nothing better than being able to open your door and walk right out to the gym. It leaves no room for excuses to skip training since the gym is literally right there! This is especially helpful for those of you with an extremely busy schedule. It takes out the travel time and you can train literally whenever you want. Even if you have to get up at 4:30am, and get your training in before work.

Those are just a few of the great things I’ve discovered about training alone in the garage, now let’s talk about why training with a team is great.

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Team Training Positives

  1. You get coaching and constantly have eyes on you. It’s so important for any weightlifter, but especially those just starting out to get technical coaching. The more bad habits prevented early on, the better you’ll be in the long run. Not to mention, you’re surrounded by other lifters, so you can observe their technique and learn just by watching. I’ve learned SO much from simply watching and being around other great weightlifters.
  2. There’s the social aspect of it. Often times your teammates are your friends, or if they aren’t right away, they quickly become them because you spend so much time together each week. Having a positive community of people with the same goals and values as you do, really goes a long way. It’s so important to have other people around to support and encourage you and help you through the rough times.
  3. The competitive environment and the hype atmosphere. I’ve made lifts that I never thought possible simply by getting in a hype environment and having a little bit of friendly in-house competition. When “battle” is called, you know at least someone in the gym is going to pull out a huge lift that day! Plus, it’s always so much fun to watch a bit of friendly competition even if you’re not involved in it.

As you can see, both environments have their advantages, so what are some of the negatives? Well, some of the positive things that I mentioned above can actually also be negatives. Let’s talk garage gym first.

Garage Gym Negatives

  1. You have to create your own environment. This can be a downfall on those days when you’re not motivated, feeling beat down and really just don’t feel like training. It can be really tough to self-motivate some days and to create an energetic environment when you’re just not feeling so energetic. This is when a team environment is advantageous.
  2. You don’t get immediate coaching and feedback. I coach a lot of people who train by themselves in a garage gym. While remote coaching is AWESOME and you can still make great progress using it if it’s the only thing you have access to, getting in person coaching and immediate feedback really goes a long way.
  3. It’s very easy to get carried away. You’re trying to hit that big lift that you’re SO close to making that you just can’t help but try again. You have no one there to stop you and before you know it, you’ve tried and failed five-plus times, which is never ideal. I’ve already had this happen to me, and I’ve seen it happen to many of my athletes. Or, there may be the days where it’s really just not there, you’re fatigued and you’re not moving well, but you try and push hard anyways. Again, because there’s no one there to tell you that it’s probably best if you just take it easy today.

Now, how can some of the positives of a team environment actually be negatives as well?

Team Training Negatives

  1. The competitive environment. This can definitely be a disadvantage if it gets out of control. You may find yourself competing with your teammates TOO often, which leads to training ineffectively and maxing out way too often. This can eventually lead to fatigue and/ or injury. You can’t compete every day, there have to be days where you take a step back and just get good quality work in. Not to mention, when you’re training in a room filled with other lifters, it can oftentimes be very difficult to stick to your own path and not compare yourself to them, which can also present numerous problems.
  2. The social aspect. It can be very hard to focus on your training some days when training with a group of your friends, because really, sometimes you just want to hang out. Some days, the focus in the gym just isn’t there, and if you’re in the group of chatty Kathy’s it’s great because you’re having a good time. But if you find yourself to be that one person who’s actually trying to focus and get some good training in, it can be very distracting and frustrating.

You’ll see that there are positives and negative of training alone and training with a team. So, which one is actually better? I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other, and I’d encourage you to try both if you have the ability to. If you’ve trained in a garage for your whole career, I suggest doing your best to find a gym you can visit once in a while to get some hands-on coaching and to get around some other lifters. If you’ve trained in a team environment for you whole career, like I have, I suggest training by yourself sometimes, getting to know yourself better and learning to grind on your own.

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