By: Barbell Logic Team
Home or Away: Does Where you Train Affect Your Workout?
Trying out a new gym can be stressful. Whether you are traveling or just looking for a new place to train, a change in your regular training environment can be a tough one. Your routines change, the equipment is unfamiliar, and the people are different. And, if you are used to working out as a social activity, new spaces can add an extra challenge to an already challenging workout.
Certain gyms, however, have a special something—an “X-factor”—that seems to seep into your muscles, making everything move a little faster and your form groove a little better, like gains through osmosis.
Stories abound online of lifters finding a great gym to train at while on the road and being influenced by the atmosphere. Few put the X-factor into words as elegantly as did Mark Berry in 1931 after visiting the York Oil Burner Athletic Club (YOBAC), which would eventually become the renowned York Barbell Club:
If you as a real dyed-in-the-wool weight lifting enthusiast have entertained day-dreams of an ideal club for iron-men, you have only to see the York O.B.A.C. club-house to realize that your dreams have come true. In truth, it is a veritable palace situated on the outskirts of a thriving city of some sixty odd thousand citizens.
A private lifting gym wherein a few hundred spectators can be seated, spacious lounging, game, and dressing rooms, with buffet and dining accommodations. We might even go so far as to say it is beyond the dreams of avarice. If you ever get within a few hundred miles of York, by all means go around to see this— the worlds finest weight lifting club. (Fairm1996)
Where do you prefer training, your home gym? Or, do you have a place like the YOBAC that you travel to for training? Studies into the concept of the “home field advantage” in sports have suggested that the performance differences between home and away games provide benefits beyond things like crowd noise and favorable referees. There are psychological and social aspects to your familiar surroundings that can influence, positively and negatively, your performance.
Familiarity. Perhaps the most significant training effect of your gym space is the equipment and your familiarity with it. If you have great equipment at your home gym and you’ve been forced to train at times at a big box commercial gym, chances are you missed your bar, your rack, and even your plates. The home-field advantage is not in your favor in this case. It doesn’t mean you need to change your workout, but going for a new Rep Max effort with a crappy bar, no, chalk, and hex plates is like swimming in your business suit, an unnecessary and uncomfortable complication.
If you are going to have to workout away from your home gym, it helps to prepare. Check out our Travel Training Guide. It discusses how to find your “home away from home” gym and how to remove other challenges that will take you out of your familiar routine.
Social Interactions. New places and new people often present the next biggest challenge. Studies of the home-field advantage show that part of the negative effect of an away game comes from the booing and “razzing” of the crowd. And, while you aren’t likely to be booed and hissed from a gym, feeling out of place, watched, or judged by the regulars can have a similar psychological effect on your performance.
Sometimes, there is nothing for this. Put in your headphones, blast your music, and focus on your training for the day. Sometimes, though, a new gym is an opportunity for some excellent training. For those of you who lift at home by yourselves, just being in a social situation can add a little bit of positive pressure to your training. We want to perform well in front of others, that’s hard-wired into our brains. Take advantage of that instinct with a renewed focus on your lifting form, or dedication to hard or heavy sets. The possibility of failing in front of others is a powerful motivator and not necessarily a negative one; try competing in a lifting meet to see what we mean.
Or, you might, like Mark Berry, find a York-esq gym to train in, someplace infused with the X-factor, with superb equipment, encouraging people, and shared gains. If you have, tell us about it. We love to share the best places to lift with our Barbell Logic Online Coaching members.
John D. Fair, “From Philadelphia to York: George Jowett, Mark Berry, Bob Hoffman, and the Rebirth of American Weightlifting, 1927-1936,” Iron Game History, Vol. 4 No. 6 (1996)