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Best Gyms for Beginners: The Top 6 Gyms for New Starters

Beginner-friendly gyms offer a supportive environment and community, a variety of equipment, and optional classes or instruction. We see Crunch Fitness as the best traditional gym for beginners.

Gyms
11 min readOctober 27th, 2023
MKWritten By Michelle King

OVERVIEW

It’s exciting to join your first gym because it’s a serious commitment to your fitness. We’ve rounded up our best gyms for beginners based on locations, equipment, amenities, community, access to instruction, and value. All of the gyms on our list have multiple locations nationwide and offer significant benefits for gym beginners.

Best Gyms for Beginners

Benefits of Joining a Gym as a Beginner

When you’re just starting your fitness journey, hitting the gym can feel intimidating, and you may be tempted to skip the drive and workout at home. While we love home workouts, gyms offer unique benefits you won’t find in your living room.

Access to More Equipment

Home workouts offer a convenient way to move your body but are limited to the equipment you have around your house. Most gyms, on the other hand, provide a huge variety of machines and free weights. This lets you get more creative with your workouts and makes it easier to target some muscles you may not have the equipment to engage at home.

Insights from Fitness Professionals

Whether you join Crunch or YogaSix, gyms offer access to certified fitness professionals who can help guide you along your fitness journey. These educated experts are well-equipped to answer your fitness-related questions, offer insights into effective exercises, and ensure you’re performing exercises correctly and safely.

Fitness Community

You may have heard the phrase, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time around.” There’s some truth to that sentiment. Research shows that the healthy or unhealthy behaviors of others impact your habits. This can work in your favor if you surround yourself with individuals motivated to live an active lifestyle. One study found that participants who spent time with active friends were more motivated to incorporate fitness into their daily routines.

You don’t need to ditch your inactive friends and family members to start exercising, but making new connections may help motivate you to exercise more frequently. By offering workout classes, fitness challenges, and proximity to individuals who share your goals, gyms can help you find friends that motivate you to live an active lifestyle.

What to Consider When Choosing a Gym

Before signing up for a new gym membership, consider location, classes offered, equipment available, and amenities.

Location

Between work, family, and social obligations, life can quickly become busy. When your "to-do" list gets long, finding the time for a twenty-minute drive to the gym can feel impossible. Choosing a gym close to where you live increases your likelihood of staying consistent with your workouts and gives you the flexibility to move your body more and spend less time sitting in the car.

Classes Offered

While some gym-goers prefer throwing on their headphones and working out solo, others are interested in a more structured class setting. If you're the latter, it's important to ask gyms what classes they offer before committing. Explore class schedules online to ensure they align with your fitness objectives and preferred workout style.

Equipment Available

Most commercial gyms provide an extensive range of machines, free weights, and cardio equipment. On the other hand, smaller boutique fitness studios may offer limited equipment options. Before committing to a gym membership, explore each gym's available equipment and see if it complements the types of workouts you enjoy.

For example, a yoga studio that provides mats, blocks, and other yoga props may be perfect if you're only interested in practicing yoga. But, if you want to include strength training in your routine, a commercial gym with squat racks and free weights may be a better option.

Amenities

Choosing a gym membership with a few key amenities can add convenience to your pre- or post-workout routine. Features like locker rooms, showers, and towels make it easier to head straight to the office after your morning workout. Other amenities, like childcare or kids' classes, make it easier for parents to enjoy exercise without needing to secure a babysitter.

Interested in more luxurious features? Some gyms offer saunas, steam rooms, or massage chairs to elevate your post-workout rest and recovery.

Individual Reviews
Starts at $9.95/mo

Crunch Fitness

Best Traditional Gym

  • Very inclusive
  • Variety of classes
  • 400+ locations in US
Crunch Fitness Pros
  • Affordable
  • Tons of equipment
  • Variety of classes
  • Personal trainers
Crunch Fitness Cons
  • Basic memberships lack some amenities
  • Can get crowded during peak hours

From cardio machines and free weights to an extensive list of fitness classes, Crunch welcomes all exercisers, regardless of their preferred workout style. This versatility is ideal for beginners who are eager to try a variety of workouts.

Class options vary based on location, but typical Crunch classes include yoga, cycling, Zumba, and a variety of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) options.

Interested in learning the basics before you check out a class? For an additional fee, Crunch's experienced personal trainers can provide one-on-one support to help you build confidence in the gym and safely progress toward your fitness goals.

Along with classes and personal training, Crunch provides members with unique amenities, including saunas, spray tanning, hydromassages, childcare, and guest passes. However, you’ll need to purchase a Peak Results Membership to access all the perks they offer.

Membership options range from $9.95/month to $29.99/month, making Crunch Fitness the most affordable option on this list.

Headquartered in New York City, Crunch has over 425 gyms worldwide, including 37 states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and Spain.

Starts at $45/mo

YMCA

Best family-friendly gym

  • Comprehensive programs
  • Family-oriented
  • Many amenities
YMCA Pros
  • Family-friendly
  • Community activities
  • Personal training
  • Unique amenities
YMCA Cons
  • Amenities vary by location
  • Equipment varies by location

Starting an exercise program is challenging for anyone, let alone busy parents. Luckily, the YMCA offers many family-friendly perks, making it an excellent option for beginners with children.

Need someone to watch the kids while you workout? Many YMCA gyms offer free childcare while caregivers exercise. Along with childcare, YMCA members can participate in family-focused events like holiday celebrations or family fun nights, helping members find their fitness community.

Most YMCAs offer standard gym features like cardio equipment, free weights, and machines. Although smaller locations may have fewer amenities, larger locations provide unique perks like indoor tracks, pools for lap swimming, and separate spaces for pickup games. Like Crunch, most YMCAs offer a variety of group classes, including cycling, dance, and strength training.

Ask your local YMCA about their personal training options if you're looking for extra guidance. Most gyms provide one-on-one or semi-private personal training for an additional cost.

The YMCA has more than 12,000 locations across more than 120 countries. Of those locations, 2,700 are distributed across all 50 US states. While prices vary based on location, a typical YMCA membership for a family/ household costs around $80 per month, and a typical individual membership costs $45 per month.

Starts at $99.99/mo

Yoga Six

Best Yoga studio

  • Beginners welcome
  • On demand classes
  • Locally owned
Yoga Six Pros
  • Beginner friendly
  • First week free at select locations
  • Great for yoga lovers
Yoga Six Cons
  • Only offers yoga workouts
  • Limited locations
  • No 1:1 training

For some beginners, stepping into a crowded gym full of equipment they’ve never used before can feel intimidating. If you’re overwhelmed by the traditional gym atmosphere, consider checking out YogaSix instead.

YogaSix is a yoga franchise with locations in 25 states. Each studio is locally owned and offers a variety of classes from slow and mindful to hot and fast-paced. This variety allows beginners to pick a class that accommodates their current fitness level and progress to more challenging classes at their own pace.

While YogaSix doesn't offer personal training, they’re committed to teaching in a way that makes classes easy to follow and understand. If you’re unsure which class is best for you, chat with your local studio’s experienced staff. They can help guide you toward the best class to achieve your fitness goals.

Not sure if you’re ready to commit, but are still interested in giving yoga a try? Many YogaSix locations offer your first week free, giving you the opportunity to experience different classes before purchasing a membership. Membership costs vary based on location, but expect to pay $99.99 or more each month.

Starting at $99.99/mo

Jazzercise

Best upbeat workout

  • Have fun while you workout
  • Group classes for motivation
  • Dance to great music
Jazzercise Pros
  • Upbeat atmosphere
  • Childcare available
  • Digital platform
Jazzercise Cons
  • No personal training
  • Dance workouts only

Struggling to start an exercise routine because you haven’t found a form of movement you enjoy? You’re not alone. A 2021 poll of 2,000 Americans found that 50% of respondents didn’t exercise as much as they’d like because they didn’t enjoy their workouts.

If you haven’t found your favorite form of movement yet, why not try an exercise class that feels more like a dance party than a workout? Since 1969, Jazzercise has helped students find joy in movement through heart-pounding cardio dance classes. Today, there are over 8,000 Jazzercise locations across 32 countries worldwide.

Jazzercise studios offer three unique workout styles: Cardio Sculpt, Power Sculpt, and Sculpt. While all three workouts are beginner-friendly, it may take a class or two to familiarize yourself with the routine.

Want to test your moves at home before signing up for a class? Jazzercise's digital platform provides a 14-day free trial, so you can test the workouts from the comfort of your living room before signing up for an in-person class. Studio memberships start at $99.99 per month.

Starting at $70/mo

Row House

Best for cardio lovers

  • Full body workout
  • Low impact workout
  • High-energy group classes
Row House Pros
  • Low impact
  • Multiple class options
  • Free Trial
Row House Cons
  • No personal training
  • Limited amenities

While we love running and plyometrics, these forms of cardio may be too high impact for some new exercisers, increasing their risk of injury. If you want to level up your cardiovascular fitness, consider a workout at Row House instead.

Row House is a boutique fitness studio that combines rowing intervals with weighted floor exercises. This killer combo helps you improve your cardiovascular health while strengthening your muscles.

While rowing machines may look intimidating at first, they can be a great piece of equipment for beginners. Rowing helps you work 86% of the muscles in your body without putting as much stress on your joints as other forms of movement. But every good fitness program needs a little variety. That's why Row House offers six unique classes that each focus on different elements of your fitness.

Still unsure if rowing is for you? Enjoy a free workout at one of Row House's 90 nationwide studios before signing up for a membership. Like many boutique gyms, memberships vary based on location but prices typically start around $70 per month.

Starts at $20/mo

Blink Fitness

Best for inclusivity

  • Mood-boosting focus
  • Inclusive environment
  • Personal trainers
Blink Fitness Pros
  • Personal training
  • Inclusive atmosphere
  • Variety of equipment
Blink Fitness Cons
  • No in-person classes
  • Limited amenities
  • Limited locations

While all the gyms on this list pride themselves on inclusivity, only one makes it part of their ethos. With the tagline "Mood Above Muscle," Blink Fitness celebrates how exercise makes individuals feel over how it makes them look. This commitment to inclusivity can be seen in their "Every Body Happy" campaign, which features Blink Fitness members, not models.

What Blink lacks in amenities, it makes up for in atmosphere. The clean, brightly colored gym is designed to elevate your mood and enhance your workout. Blink's facilities also include cardio machines, free weights, a stretching area, and unique equipment like TRX straps and medicine balls, catering to a variety of workouts. If you need extra guidance to get started, Blink also offers personal training for an additional fee.

Blink Fitness has over 100 locations across Florida, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Memberships start at $20 per month, making it an affordable option for most people.

Compare Best Gyms for Beginners

Gym Starting PriceContract Required?Guest Passes?
Crunch Fitness$9.95/moYes Yes 
YMCA$45/moNo Yes 
YogaSix $99.99/moNoNo
Jazzercise $99.99/moYes Yes 
Row House $70/moNo No 
Blink Fitness $20/ moYes Yes 

*Prices, requirements and amenities may vary based on location.

What to Expect the First Time You Go to The Gym

You’ve picked the best beginner-friendly gym for your goals and are excited to tackle your first workout. But, you’re unsure how to prepare. We’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll answer a few common questions people often have before their first visit to the gym.

What to Wear

When working out, ditch uncomfortable or stiff fabrics for breathable materials that are easy to move in. This will allow you to complete exercises through your full range of motion without feeling restricted. Opt for moisture-wicking materials like bamboo or nylon that allow sweat to evaporate easily.

While you may feel tempted to throw on your favorite baggy sweatpants, consider wearing athletic apparel with some compression, like leggings or a fitted top. Research suggests that wearing fitted athletic apparel may help exercise feel more comfortable.

Although some exercises, like yoga, don’t require shoes, you’ll need decent footwear for most workouts. Before heading to the gym, invest in a quality pair of athletic shoes that can be used for multiple activities. As you start to workout more regularly, you may invest in sneakers specific to your favorite activity, like running or lifting.

What to Bring

Before heading to the gym, it’s important that you have everything you need for a successful workout. What you throw in your gym bag will vary from person to person, but the following list of items is a great start for gym newbies.

Water Bottle

Stopping by the water fountain every five minutes can get tedious. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle before leaving the house to stay hydrated throughout your workout.

Change of Clothes

Going somewhere after the gym? You’ll want to pack a change of clothes. Lingering in sweaty clothes for too long can lead to a variety of skin problems, including acne, athlete’s foot, and bacterial infections.

Headphones

Research shows that listening to music can improve exercise performance. Tap into the power of music during your workout by throwing on your headphones and moving your body to your favorite playlist.

Gym Lock

You don’t want anything lost or stolen during your workout, so it’s important to store your gym bag while exercising. Most gyms provide lockers for members to store items, but you may need a padlock to keep your things secure.

Hair Ties/ Sweat Bands

There’s nothing more annoying than sweat dripping into your eyes or hair falling in front of your face during a workout. Hair ties and sweatbands provide an affordable solution to this problem.

How to Sign Up for a Gym

Gyms typically offer a straightforward registration process, often allowing new members to sign up online. However, this process may vary, and if online registration isn’t available, contact the gym for membership details.

During registration, new members are usually asked to complete forms with essential personal information, such as their name, phone number, and emergency contact. They will often be required to sign a contract, committing to paying monthly fees for a specified period and adhering to the gym’s general policies.

Most gyms will require new members to provide payment information during registration to set up automatic billing. So it's a good idea to have a credit or debit card nearby.

To access most facilities, you must provide a valid form of identification, like a driver’s license. This ensures your name matches the purchased membership’s name.

Bottom Line

Finding a beginner-friendly gym that supports your fitness goals doesn't have to be complicated. If you have more questions about the resources a facility offers, give them a call or shoot them an email. Most fitness facilities are excited to help beginners along on their journey. We highly recommend seeing if there’s a Crunch Fitness near you, as it’s our best overall pick for gym beginners!

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