How To Build The Best Training Environment

Article written by Matt Mills

There are a lot of reasons you may not be making progress in the gym. Some of the common reasons are: you flat out aren’t working hard enough, lack of proper nutrition, lack of sleep, you don’t keep a training journal, you do the same things over and over, just to name a few. If a lack of programming is your problem then do yourself a favor, and pick up the AJAX Method to take your training to the next level. But what about your training environment? I would say this is one of the most overlooked aspects of making progress in the gym. The training environment is everything from where you train, who you train with, and even what music you are listening to. Building the right training environment is crucial to your training success, and finding the right training partners is most important yet the most difficult.

If you are a follower of LBEB then I’m guessing you like to make a little noise when you train, drop weights, grunt on a heavy lift, etc. Unfortunately there are few commercial gyms that allow this anymore. Your first line of business is to find a gym that suits your needs. I don’t care how far the drive is either. We are all busy and training should be a top priority for you so if you have to drive an extra 15 minutes to the big boy and girl gym then that is what you have to do. You’re not going to be hitting deadlift PRs at a gym that doesn’t even allow you to use chalk. I know you will miss the free pizza and tootsie rolls, but your results are more important. For those of you in the Strong(wo)man and Powerlifting community, I highly suggest you check out Kalle Beck’s Strongman gym locator: You want to find a gym that is based on results, not on looks. If I were to be looking for a new gym to train in, I would stay far away from the ones that have endless cardio and if they have TVs, then forget it. Give me the dusty old gym with equipment that hasn’t been updated since the 70’s, and I’ll be at home. You need a gym with no distractions, and definitely not a “health club” that is really just a social scene. At my facility I don’t allow my members to use their cell phones. Cell phones will only be a constant distraction, and I’m sorry, you’re not that important, you can go without your phone for one hour.

If you are a gym owner then building the right training environment is even more important for your gym’s success. You will have to start by not allowing the negative people in. I know this will be difficult as you will be losing money, but I promise it will only hurt your business in the long run. You will save yourself endless frustrations, and your other members will thank you. You want to build a positive, motivating atmosphere, and this will be impossible to do with toxic people. Not only will these people drain the energy out of your training, it will also reflect badly on your business. If you own a gym like mine, or a Crossfit gym, then your business is built on referrals. Getting referrals from your members will only come from getting them results. In my 14 years of being a coach and trainer, I can tell you that you will not get results out of whiners, and excuse makers. “The path to nowhere is paved with excuses” is something I remind my members of everyday. Trust me, I have tried my hardest over and over only to waste my time an energy that would have been better spent on my positive hard workers.

Asking people to leave your gym is not easy to do, and will take some time to get used to. I will simply take that person aside, and tell them that my style of training is not for them. Most of the time people will appreciate your honesty. Look for people that will only add more positive energy to your facility. If they don’t bring anything to the table, then they can’t train with my crew. There is an old saying in business that goes “you must put the right people on the bus”, meaning you need the right people in the right places. You can use this as your model for the employees your hire, but I like to think of it as getting the right members in your gym. With a positive training atmosphere and good coaching, your training business with only thrive. You overall want to train at a gym where you are the weakest one as this means you will have the most room to grow. The sad thing is that many people that ask me for advice like being a big fish in a little pond. Trust me no real lifter is impressed that you can leg press the most at Planet Fitness. You need to get out of your comfort zone, because that is how you will make real gains.

As I said before, finding the right training partners will be your most difficult task. If you have been training for as long as I have then I’m guessing you have gone through dozens of them. First you want a training partner that actually shows up when it’s time to train. If you haven’t read Matt Falk’s article on lifting etiquette check it out here: A good training partner is someone that will push you when you need it, but is also someone that will tell you to back off when you are about to do something stupid. A training partner should be someone that is somewhat on your own level. I have had people ask to train with me many times that were beginners and this would only be a recipe for disaster for them. First it will only slow your own training down, and second they will most likely get hurt by trying to keep up. The beauty of training with someone of similar strength is that you will be most likely be stronger at different things. I recently had this conversation with two members of my gym that started training together. One of them is stronger at the barbell lifts so he pushes his partner to do more here. The other is stronger on the events so he pushes his partner to do more here. Personally my training partners and I like to do a lot of shit talking the day before a heavy day of training. We are all competitors, and we are just as competitive in a competition as we are in training. Nothing gets me more excited for a big squat day then having one of my friends tell me how he is going to do more than me. Now let me state that this is all in good fun and when it comes down to training we are all business, and want each other to succeed. This goes back to having negative people in your life. Having a training partner like this will only hold your progress back, so get rid of them.

If you train alone, as I know many of you do, then you better be keeping a training journal. For years of my training I never recorded anything. The only lifts I could remember were my PRs on the big 3 so whenever I couldn’t beat my previous max I felt like I was going nowhere. Once I started recording my training I was able to hit a PR nearly every time I trained. Just because you can’t hit a big number on your squat for that day, then maybe you will be able to hit one more rep, or 5lbs more on your accessory work. Either way you are still getting stronger, and slow progress is still progress. I have a few members of my gym that have great home gyms but still like to train at my facility just to be around like-minded individuals. When you are having a bad day and feeling tired, there is no way you can’t get excited to train when you have a whole team behind you pushing you to do more.

If you want to build a gym that attracts the hardest working people around, then you better compete. Not only will you promote your facility through competing, you will also make great connections and lifelong friends along the way. I can easily say at least 25% of the members of my gym have come to me because of my competitions. Whether it is from my team competing, or from holding competitions at my gym it will draw new members.

With competing, you also need to create a competitive atmosphere. This is something Crossfit has done a great job with. Nothing motivates people more than putting them in a group atmosphere where everyone has to push each other to be better. This is a huge reason to have a record board. Everyone wants to see their name at the top, and will push themselves harder to do so. Since I started a record board at my gym I am amazed at the progress people have made. We have had battles back in forth for the top spot many times, and these people never thought they would have been able to accomplish these things without that motivation.

Drop a comment below or on the LBEB Facebook page and let us know what you think builds a great training environment.

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