Gym Equipment

Commercial Gym Meaning : 6 Critical Differences You Need To Understand

commercial gym meaning

Many new gyms are opening all the time and each offer different things in terms of equipment, amenities and membership costs.

If you’re looking to join a gym, it can understandably be a bit confusing.

In this article, we’ll look in more detail as to the factors which affect the commercial gym meaning and types of commercial gyms that you may have access to alongside smaller, independent facilities to help you decide.

What Is The Meaning Of A Commercial Gym?

A commercial gym is a space created specifically for the purpose of undertaking exercise.

They are available for anyone to join by way of a gym membership.

These types of gyms tend to be quite large and offer access to a wide variety of commercial gym equipment including strength training equipment and a variety of cardiovascular equipment.

This tends to make commercial gyms more accessible to the average person who simply want to improve their fitness, gain some lean muscle, and lose weight.

Commercial facilities can be further categorised as follows:

Big Box Gym

Think of gyms such as Planet Fitness, Gold’s Gym, or Anytime Fitness.

These are large corporate chain gyms which can be public or private companies and very often tend to be ‘no frills’ with less amenities.

They usually offer more generic equipment with their primary selling points being 24-hour access and low cost membership fees.

Health Club

A health club, whilst providing access to exercise and cardio equipment, also focusses on wellness.

This means they offer more by way of facilities when compared to a big box gym.

This could include a swimming pool, spa, sauna with access to wellness-based treatments such as massage. Many also have onsite dining options.

These additional luxury facilities do usually result in a higher annual membership cost.

Leisure Centre

A leisure center, also known as a sports center, offers a wide range of commercial fitness equipment whilst also providing access to other sports related facilities.

This could include indoor or outdoor tennis courts, squash and badminton with most having swimming pools.

They usually tend to offer a broader range of classes that can be accessed by both adults and children, for example swimming lessons. Leisure centres are not private businesses but rather owned and operated by local authorities.

So, we’ve considered the different types of commercial gyms, but what if your goals are a little more specific.

For example, perhaps you’re interested in powerlifting and hoping to compete one day. Will a commercial fitness center meet your needs?

Maybe not.

In this instance you may want to consider an independent gym that offers suitable equipment catering to powerlifters.

When it comes to different types of gyms, let’s look at how a commercial fitness centre is different to a private facility.

Commercial Gym vs Private Gym

When compared to a commercial facility, a private gym, whilst being open to the general public, tends to be independently owned. They do offer commercial grade gym equipment but many focus on a specific niche.

Let’s look at powerlifting again as an example. For any powerlifter, you’ll need access to specific equipment to help you reach your goals. This is likely to include things such as a combination rack, monolift, a power bar and calibrated plates to name a few.

However, most commercial chain gyms won’t offer such specialist equipment.

Not least because it tends to be more costly, but the average gym goer just isn’t likely to make use of it.

This means that someone such as a powerlifter or weightlifter will need to seek out an independent gym that focusses their offering on a certain type of training.

Below we consider some other differences between a commercial gym and a private gym.


Membership costs between gyms can vary significantly and the facilities on offer typically push the monthly cost of your membership up.

This is because access to things such as a sauna and swimming pool are included within the price.

A corporate chain fitness facility tends to be the most cost effective, so if you’re on a tighter budget this type of gym could be a better option for you.

The average cost can be anywhere in the region of between $10 up to $25 per month.

Aside from cost being their primary selling point they usually allow for 24-hour access.

A drawback of this is that you won’t always be able to seek the advice of a personal trainer, especially if you work out at more unusual hours.

At the other end of the scale, more exclusive facilities focus their offering on a personal experience.

This could include a training program specific for the member, alongside nutritional advice as well as one to one coaching.

You’ll likely have access to some spa facilities although some treatments do cost extra.

You can expect to pay significantly more for this special treatment with some clubs charging an eye watering $250 dollars per month coupled with a hefty joining fee.


A smaller, local gym who maybe cater to cross fitters, bodybuilders or powerlifters tend to have a more community feel about them.

This is because most of the members have similar goals and aspirations when it comes to their training.

This can make a big difference with motivation as like-minded people can provide great encouragement making it more likely that you’ll stick to your training.

When you consider a facility such as a big box gym, these are very different.

This is because members tend to come and go at varying times, each having their own workout plans and goals.


As mentioned above, the exercise equipment commonly found in commercial gyms is usually quite generic.

For example, when you join a large chain gym, part of your membership affords you access to all their gyms in every location.

You’ll likely find that each location is virtually identical in what they offer.

The reason for this is because most big box gyms form contracts with commercial equipment suppliers as this helps to keep the costs down, hence the reason the membership fees are lower.

Once they find a new premises, it’s filled with same kit as their other gyms.

Many of these chain gyms also offer a franchise model.

This involves purchasing the rights from the chain gym to use their branding.

However, the franchisee is usually tied by the terms and cannot deviate from these in respect of purchasing different branded weight machines for example.

Conversely, a gym owner of an independent private facility has free reign to invest in whatever equipment that best suits the needs of their members.

If their gym has a specific niche, such as bodybuilding, they will probably invest in high quality plate loaded strength machines.

In this instance, heavy duty equipment would also be a good option as bodybuilders tend to lift much heavier weights which puts more stress on the machines.


Depending on the type of commercial gym will impact the facilities on offer.

Chain gyms have far less amenities than a health club which is to be expected given the low monthly costs. Usually, it’s the equipment and access to a few classes, with showers and lockers.

Whereas the health club, having a stronger focus on overall wellness, have a more luxurious decor and feel with spa access.

An independent gym usually doesn’t have the same amenities as their commercial counterparts, but they are more likely to invest in better quality equipment with more unique machines that you won’t find in other gyms.

Don’t forget, as many focus on a specific niche, they have a much better community spirit where members looking forward to their gym visits as opposed to viewing at a burden.


In most cases a commercial gym will tend to be much larger than a private facility such as a boutique gym or personal training studio.

This is to account for a higher footfall and allows them to accommodate their wide variety of equipment and cardio machines.

This is one of the reasons they are more competitive on membership costs as they can allow for a higher number of members.

However, being bigger doesn’t necessarily equate to being better.

If you have a specific need for certain types of equipment that it less common, you’ll want to seek out the right kind of gym.


You can find many chain gyms on your local high street or near shopping centres.

Not only do these locations have the required premises size, but they also have a high footfall and with many people working in the local area, joining their gym seems most logical.

They rely on this high level of visibility to promote their low monthly costs and increase their membership numbers.

Independent gyms, on the other hand, are more likely found in obscure places such as industrial estates and off the beaten track.

Most of the time this is down to costs, it’s far cheaper renting a premises away from larger crowds and associated costs are usually less.

However, these locations tend to offer more parking when compared to being in city centre locations.

How Many Members Does A Commercial Gym Have?

The number of members a commercial gym depends on several factors.

This includes the type of gym, it’s location and membership fees.

If you consider a big box gym, on average they have anywhere up to 6,000 members per facility.

Many people are tempted by the low-cost fees but it’s estimated that less than 20% actually attend on a regular basis.

The low cost simply means that people keep paying probably with an intention of going.

A more high-end facility that charge expensive fees, typically have around 2,000 members.

They are usually smaller so couldn’t accommodate huge numbers of people and the monthly cost only really appeals to those on a higher income.

They often cross-sell additional services such as beauty treatments and even branded clothing helping to increase their revenue.

The figures mentioned above are by no means fixed, and the numbers can vary by facility.


Before deciding on what gym is best for you, be sure to consider everything that’s mentioned above so you can get the most out of your training.

As a round up, if you want to train solo, improve your fitness whilst keeping costs to a minimum, a big box gym is a great option.

Alternatively, if you want somewhere where you can wind down post training with either a sauna or swim, a health club might be best suited to you.

However, if you’re into a specific sport such as powerlifting, more research may be needed as you’ll need to make sure you can have access to the equipment you need.

After all, you’re unlikely to find a safety squat bar in a large commercial gym!

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