Commercial vs Private Gyms: Is there a Difference?

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
September 2, 2022

Most individuals new to working out are unaware that there are in fact multiple types of gyms, each with their own benefits and disadvantages that make picking the right one vitally important.

Two classifications commonly seen are that of the commercial and the private gym, with commercial gyms generally being viewed as more accessible while private gyms cater to more specific and unique forms of fitness.

Commercial and private gyms differ quite a bit in a variety of aspects, ranging from the average cost you can expect to shell out to the sort of culture and equipment that is a fixture of such establishments.

What is a Commercial Gym?

Commercial gyms are the most common form of public gym, wherein practically anyone can walk in and request to become a member. They are found anywhere, and may either be a franchise gym or privately owned.

anytime fitness commercial gym
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Benefits of Commercial Gyms

The greatest benefit of commercial gyms is their reliability, wherein exercisers of all levels and backgrounds may sign up with the expectation of finding a plethora of fitness equipment to use.

Furthermore, alongside their accessibility to individuals of all sorts, commercial gyms are also the most frequently found, meaning that there is likely one or two near your home or place of work.

Functionality of Commercial Gyms

Commercial gyms often offer monthly or yearly plans to all types of individuals at a low cost, making them not only highly accessible but convenient as well - especially when taking into account the comparatively more numerous amenities offered by such gyms.

The majority of commercial gyms (especially franchise gyms) are open 24 hours a day, often provide adequate space to account for their numerous members and are generally better stocked in terms of equipment, often featuring duplicates of the same equipment so as to avoid queues.

Membership Limits

Unlike most private gyms, commercial gyms do not usually have a set member limit and will generally allow anyone to exercise at their establishment, even in cases where there are far too many members for the gym to comfortably accommodate.

This can equate to a number of disadvantages, such as poorer sanitary conditions, cramped spacing and equipment being unavailable as other gym members queue to use them.

What is a Private Gym?

Private gyms are a type of gym where a fitness enthusiast or certified trainer acts as the proprietor of the establishment, usually with a specific type of training methodology or clientele in mind.

private crossfit gym
Crossfit gyms are a good example of a "private gym."

Private gyms are often characterized by a limited number of members, more direct supervision in terms of training and greater results as a subsequent result of said supervision.

Benefits of Private Gyms

Private gyms offer just as many benefits as commercial gyms, the most important of which being their more specialized focus. 

This is achieved by offering higher quality versions of many common fitness equipment, coaches and trainers with specialities in certain aspects of athleticism and structured workout classes meant to end in specific results.

Other benefits of being a private gym member are a tighter knit community on account of membership being more exclusive, as well as other methods of aiding the exerciser in achieving their goals.

Accessibility of Private Gyms

Unlike commercial gyms, private gyms are less accessible and will usually come at a premium cost as a direct result of their exclusivity. Usually, private gyms will not only cost a bit more than their commercial counterparts, but also limit how many individuals can become a member at any given time. 

Furthermore, private gyms will usually be of smaller size than commercial gyms, and not offer as many kinds of equipment due to their specific purposes.

Membership Limits

As previously mentioned, private gyms will often limit how many people can be a member in their establishment, and will even occasionally limit how many individuals can be physically present within the gym itself.

These limitations ensure that the coaches and trainers are able to provide tailored and focused services to every member of the gym, as well as offer a number of other benefits such as less queue time for equipment and better hygiene.

How to Pick the Right Gym for You

Picking an appropriate gym for your needs is pretty simple - unless you wish to participate in more specialized workout classes or are in need of a specialized coach’s supervision, commercial gyms are both cheaper and more convenient to exercise in.

However, for prospective athletes, individuals who struggle to keep themselves motivated or gym goers tired of the disadvantages that are characteristic of commercial gyms, picking a private gym is the more suitable option.

Cost Differences of Commercial Gyms vs Private Gyms

For the most part, commercial gyms will almost always be more affordable than private gyms. This is simply a consequence of their business strategy, wherein private gyms offer a more premium service and higher quality equipment rather than the more generalist approach that commercial gyms offer.

While many private gyms come with personal training and coaching baked into their monthly or yearly membership fees, commercial gyms will charge an extra fee on top of their recurring costs as such services are considered extra in these establishments.

Furthermore, private gyms will also provide a greater level of exclusivity by charging members a higher price, ensuring that only dedicated and serious exercisers take part in their gym.

Equipment Differences of Commercial Gyms vs Private Gyms

Private gyms avoid the generalist and catch-all approach that commercial gyms have to equipment, instead choosing to use a smaller selection of equipment of higher quality. 

This is both to ensure that the members of the private gym experience a higher level of training, as well as to aid in their more specific approach to training methodology.

Commercial gyms, on the other hand, will likely have quite a number of different types of equipment available, allowing exercisers of all training disciplines and levels to work out with whatever equipment they may require.

Facility Differences of Commercial Gyms vs Private Gyms

Commercial gyms will often have more expansive facilities than private gyms, frequently possessing things like showers and multiple separate workout rooms so as to accommodate their more numerous member base.

Conversely, private gyms will generally be smaller, and usually only have one or two separate rooms for group training sessions. 

While less expansive and convenient than that of a commercial gym, private gyms do often possess facilities that one may not expect in that of a commercial gym, such as massage tables, dining areas or workspaces.

Coaching and Personal Training Differences of Commercial Gyms vs Private Gyms

While both commercial and private gyms offer personal training and coaching, it is often seen as an extra or add-on in commercial gyms, while private gyms almost always feature it as a primary benefit of membership.

The sort of personal training that is characteristic of private gyms can lead to far better results, especially if your goals are more specific than what the average exerciser wishes to attain, be it improved sports performance or a certain body composition.

In most instances, receiving personal training within a private gym is entirely a one on one affair, while a personal trainer in a commercial gym may be training multiple individuals at once, especially if said commercial gym is rather crowded.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the Different Types of Gyms?

There are quite a number of different ways to classify gyms, though most would agree that commercial, private, home and boutique gyms encompass the majority of such establishments - each with their own unique way of catering to their members.

Is a Gym Membership Worth It?

Yes, a gym membership is absolutely worth it - except for individuals wishing to take on the training discipline of calisthenics, or other methods of training that do not involve the usage of any gym equipment.

A gym membership is also altogether unnecessary for individuals who plan to build their own personal home gym, as purchasing a gym membership at the same time would be redundant.

Parting Thoughts

Both commercial and private gyms have their own strengths and weaknesses, and picking the one that is most suitable for your goals or lifestyle will help you develop your body into its best state.

It should be noted that commercial and private gyms are not the only two routes one can take when choosing to begin their fitness journey, and as such we strongly encourage all exercisers to try as many facilities and methods as possible prior to picking a type of gym.


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2. Fischer, DV; Bryant, J (2008). "Effect of certified personal trainer services on stage of exercise behavior and exercise mediators in female college students". J Am Coll Health. 56 (4): 369–76. doi:10.3200/JACH.56.44.369-376. PMID 18316279. S2CID 43501852.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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