Does Your Gym’s Culture Give You What You Need?

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What do we Mean When we Say ‘Culture’?

The general concept of culture refers to the shared knowledge, social behaviours and norms of a group of people. In broader society, these groups are frequently formed or defined on the basis of religion, language, ethnicity, geographical region and other key aspects of our identity. Cultural context determines our expectations of the world, drives how we perceive and react to our experiences, and underpins our attitudes.

What about Gym Culture?

When we decide to start training at a gym, we are accepting and entering a new cultural group. The idea of ‘gym culture’ refers to the shared attitudes, beliefs, and customs which are inherent to and promoted by the places where we train. 

Crucially, gym culture defines the values that guide members’ behaviours. Approaches to training and perceptions of ‘success’ are fundamentally related to a gym’s values… and both of these factors are central to members’ self-image. 

When we feel aligned with our gym culture, we form deeper bonds with our coaches and other members, and create a robust, inspiring, emotionally-supportive and long-lasting community with like-minded people: the gym becomes a safe place to try and to fail on our path to success.  

… So? What Does That Mean for Me?

We are all deeply shaped by the cultures which we live: cultural context is a powerful force that can determine a lot about the trajectory of our lives—without us even realising it. It is often said that who we are is the average product of the five people we spend the most time with. If your partner likes reading, you’re more likely to read; if your best friend loves to spend their time complaining, you’ll find yourself more likely to complain (particularly when in their company!); and, if your gym promotes one way of training over another… well, it’s not hard to see where this is going. The culture at your gym plays a vital role in how you train and achieve (or not) your goals. 

Actively Evaluating Gym Culture

At Dalecki Strength, we believe in assessing the culture of a prospective gym to decide whether the gym’s values align with your own. Will this new gym be a positive influence on you? Are the members of that gym seeking similar goals to you? Or are you interested in something very different to everyone else? 

There’s no right or wrong here about finding the gym that is best aligned to your goals—a place where you can thrive and where you will feel most comfortable. When we’re thinking about what culture is going to work best for you, it’s helpful to look at some of the common gym cultures.

Common Gym Cultures

There are SO many different variations of training and gym culture within the fitness industry. While there will be shared characteristics, most training modalities will also have their own key defining factors and we’ll look at some of these below. 

Bodybuilding 

The foundational aim of bodybuilding as a sport is the achievement of an aesthetically balanced physique. Bodybuilding gyms are likely to have the following values and characteristics: 

  • Emphasis on aesthetic physical balance.
  • Focus on training that will achieve the above
    • ‘Traditional’ training splits (like ‘chest’ on Monday, ‘legs’ on Tuesday, etc). 
    • More reps and sets designed to isolate target muscles.  
    • Less interest in everyday ‘functional’ movement patterns than other modalities.
  • Reduced emphasis on physical performance as opposed to achieving the desired look.
  • Less interest in stretching than other training modes. 

For some people, this keen focus on all things aesthetic can be empowering!! Women who are muscular or developing greater muscle mass are particularly likely to find the bodybuilding culture affirming, because it offers a path in direct opposition to society’s traditional concepts of female ‘beauty.’ Bodybuilding’s greater emphasis on physical appearance, however, can also trigger feelings of inadequacy and image-obsession. 

Crossfit

Crossfit focuses on participation, competition, and variation. Unlike bodybuilding gyms, a Crossfit box is likely to exhibit: 

  • Emphasis on strength in key areas—squat, deadlift, pressing. 
  • Value placed on learning to do everything: being strong, being fast, performing technical lifts and technical gymnastics moves. 
  • Focus on encouraging participation across all members.
  • Central aspect of competition, whether it’s against others or yourself: always pushing the limits. 

Crossfit’s drive to encouraging everyone to participate in sessions can be really positive and uplifting! It can also, however, sometimes create an implicit or explicit pressure that people can find uncomfortable. 

Dalecki Strength Culture

What, then, are Dalecki Strength’s core values and aims? We believe in:

  • Acquiring and honing gymnastics-focused skills. 
  • Accessibility of gymnastics for everyone no matter your background or starting level. 
  • Focus on movement over maximal strength. 
  • Quality of movement. 
  • Preventing injury through appropriate preparation for, and careful execution of, skills. 
  • Achieving the delicate balance between aesthetic goals and athletic performance. 

So What Sets Dalecki Strength Apart? 

Many people come to Dalecki Strength because they’re looking for a gym that is focused on moving well and working towards goals with a deliberate, structured approach. Our members are also usually focused on getting strong and having fu — gymnastics allows for a feeling of ‘playfulness’ that can be missing in other fitness modalities. 

Our training is also totally scalable: it doesn’t matter where you’re at, we will meet you there and find a way to make training with us fun, interesting, and fulfilling. 

Where Are You Now, and Where Do You Need to Go? 

If your current gym and its culture has allowed to establish the habits you were seeking, that’s great! We also need to remember, however, that sometimes we need to venture out of our familiar, comfortable spaces to seek other approaches. It doesn’t help to think ‘my way is the only way’, as over time this limited view can lead to reduced growth and a sense of being ‘stale’ in our training. 

Remember, there are lots of fun, interesting and valuable ways to develop your physical capacity — and encountering other viewpoints and greater diversity is essential for all of us! 

What’s the first thing you think of when you think about the culture where you train? 

We look forward to seeing you in the gym!

— Dalecki Strength