Comparing Four Popular Gym Chains: which gym is right for you?

As much as I loved using my college’s gym for four years, there’s no way you’ll catch me working out there now that I graduated. I don’t want to be that girl who just can’t move on, you know? So while I was in search of a new job, I was also in search of a new gym. Right away I started comparing gyms for me to join.

Originally, I was just trying out one gym that I thought I’d love and then switch to immediately. But then I realized basically every gym gives 1-5 day passes and I could go to the gym free for almost three weeks. Fine by me!

After trying out the second new gym though, I realized I could write a post comparing all the chain gyms I was trying out. I’ve never seen anyone do anything like this, and I love putting out content that I know can help you guys. So, today I’m going to be comparing four popular gyms that operate around the US: Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness, LA Fitness, and Anytime Fitness. (People really need to get more creative with their gym names it seems)

Related: How to Get Motivated to Hit the Gym

Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness is the one gym on here I’ve used the most. My mom, my sister, and my boyfriend all have (or had) black memberships here so I used to tag along with them as their free guest. I’ve been to at least three different locations as well.

Basically, it’s the gym I know the most about so I feel most confident in this review. Except, I somehow don’t have any photos so I just pulled some from their website so you could see what their equipment looked like!

planet fitness weight area
Photo Credit: Planet Fitness

Equipment @ PF

The one good thing, besides they’re insanely low price, about Planet Fitness is that they have a massive amount of treadmills and ellipticals. Which is why I would recommend this gym if you’re just looking for cardio. Beyond that, there are a few things that are staples at every location, but some locations are smaller and therefore have less equipment.

Things I know all locations have: smith machines, free weights, free barbells, lots of benches, the basic lifting machines, TRX area, 30-minute workout area, stretching area. 

Classes @ PF

The classes Planet Fitness offers are actually pretty unique. They aren’t your typical group fitness class, instead, Planet has something called PE@PF. Basically, you can sign up for group sessions with a personal trainer for free.

As far as I can tell, the PE@PF classes are more so basics than for someone looking to really up their game. The description from their website says they are designed to get members familiar with the equipment. This really caters to people just starting out on their fitness journey, as I mentioned earlier.

Atmosphere @ PF

Planet Fitness is the place you go if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, you just want to do cardio, or you workout because you have to but you don’t really want to. The equipment and famous “lunk free” policy definitely agree with what I just said, too. Almost all the people that work out there are somewhere between beginner and intermediate levels, and I rarely ever saw any big bodybuilders. 

planet fitness cardio area
Photo Credit: Planet Fitness

Free Trial & Overall Impressions of PF

As far as I’m aware, Planet does not have a free trial. Your best bet would be to go with a friend or family member or call to ask about trying it free for a day. I found a few contradicting pieces online that said Planet will let you workout free for a day and others said they had to pay $20.

I never considered getting a membership with Planet for a couple of reasons. One of the biggest ones is that they don’t have real squat racks, or platforms, for me to do squats and deadlifts. You can do them on a smith machine, but I find it too much of a hassle to deadlift like that and deadlifts are my favorite. 

Also, at the location closest to me, they don’t have too many leg machines (leg press, leg curl, leg extensions, abductions, etc) compared to other gyms and I don’t want to fight people for stuff, especially since Planet is almost always busy unless you’re going at a weird time.

Crunch Fitness

I’ve always heard good things about Crunch Fitness so I was ecstatic to try it out for myself. Right away I could tell it was a gym for people who actually enjoy to workout and wanted to be there. Aka it was right up my alley.

Equipment @ Crunch

Crunch had an insane amount of cardio machines at the location I went to. Like Planet Fitness times two, it seemed like. Plus, they had more than just the typical treadmill, bike and elliptical. Crunch had a whole row of Stairmasters, a few rope ladder climbing machines, and more atypical cardio machines that I can’t even remember. If you’re bored of doing stereotypical cardio, Crunch will totally have something for you.

There were two other sections: the weights and the functional area. The weight area was so smooshed together and that bothered me. I couldn’t even venture towards the benches, dumbbells, or towers because there were too many people. (Too many jacked men to be exact).

I stuck to the leg area and used one of the many squat racks with a platform, leg press machine, and something between a mix of a smith machine and a normal squat rack? It was strange but I really enjoyed it.

This photo is actually from LA fitness so don’t come at me. I didn’t have any photos for Crunch. Oops

The functional area confused me. It looked like a place for people to just use the punching bags (yes they have those), ropes and sled push. It felt off-limits to me, so I felt like there was nowhere for me to do my accessory work. However, when I was leaving I did see people using the area to do lunges and squats, so I know it’s a place for everyone, I just felt uncomfortable using it. I just felt like I was in the way of everyone there.

Classes @ Crunch

Crunch has lots of fitness classes. Some of them are included in the normal membership while others, like spin classes (!!!), require a higher membership. Even despite my issues with their weight room, I wanted to join just for the spin classes honestly.

Other classes range from TRX, yoga, Zumba, Tabata, boot camp, and more specific classes as well. 

Atmosphere @ Crunch

Overall, Crunch is a place where people who are serious about working out. There are lunks and girls who look like they have their own Instagram fitness page, so if that scares you off, this gym isn’t for you.

in the locker room at Crunch Fitness.

Free Trial & Overall Thoughts on Crunch

You can try out a Crunch Fitness near you free for one day with a guest pass, so I’d say give it a whirl. Maybe your location is less crowded than mine and you’ll really enjoy it. Honestly, if the location near me had a bigger building, I would switch there because it’s one of the cheaper memberships compared to the other gyms, but still has so many amenities. 

Anytime Fitness

Anytime Fitness is a chain known for being “open” 24/7. They achieve this by giving members a key fob that will unlock the door to give them access to the facilities, even if it’s not staffed or a holiday.

At first I thought this was a little scary (what if something bad happens?) but the whole gym is under security cameras, there are those funny “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” necklaces you can wear if you’re alone and nervous, and the manager is notified each time a member unlocks the door. So, I’m all good on the secure part now.

Equipment @ Anytime Fitness

Like any gym that would be open 24/7 (think apartment gyms or home gyms) the actual place is small and doesn’t have too much equipment. I’d say they have considerably more equipment compared to an apartment gym, but not as much as a “real” gym.

Anytime Fitness does have a squat rack, a platform, a smith machine, a leg press, and a training area with rope and kettlebells, but other than that it’s just cardio and free weights really. They do have a few of the functional machines but only the basic ones. Aka no hip abductions or lying leg curl. They don’t even have Stairmasters. RIP.

functional area at anytime fitness

The accessory area is actually really nice compared to some other small gyms. As I said, they have ropes and kettlebells, but they also have Bosu balls, medicine balls, and multiple different step-up boxes. I’ve never been to a gym where I saw so many, especially being unused since they don’t get too much traffic.

Classes @ Anytime Fitness

Technically, Anytime Fitness does offer fitness “classes.” That’s in quotes because I’m using that very loosely. What I consider to be watching an exercise tape, Anytime Fitness considers a fitness class apparently.

Like you literally just lay a mat down in the functional training area and follow along on a tv they have mounted on the wall. Like… I could do that at home? Or in 8th grade P.E.?

Atmosphere @ Anytime Fitness

I felt so welcome in this space. The gym manager was so nice and sweet and really made sure I knew where everything was and engaged in nice small chat. I also noticed he said hi to people as they came in and knew almost everyone by name. 

The gym also runs a 100 workout challenge, so if you check in 100 times a year you get a free t-shirt! Not sure about you, but the manager definitely had me at the free t-shirt. After signing up you also get two free personal training sessions, which is a great value since they usually average at least $50 a session.

free weights, smith machine and cardio machines at anytime fitness

The gym was also never busy while I was there. I’m talking four to five people max. However, I was told they get super busy between 4-6 pm with the after-work crowd, but they mostly stay on the cardio machines. This is super important when comparing gyms because I sure don’t have any motivation to work out if the gym is crowded.

Free Trial & Overall Thoughts on Anytime Fitness

Overall, I feel like this is a great place to go if you’re looking for a sense of community and want something a little more than just the basics. You can try it out with a 7-day free pass today. The only catch is that you can use the facilities while it’s staffed unless you pay a deposit for the key fob during your guest pass time.

LA Fitness

I remember when I told people I was trying out LA Fitness I always prefaced it by saying, “I would never actually pay to go here but I’m going to try it since it’s free.” And now here I am about to give it a glowing review. Spoiler alert.

Equipment @ LA Fitness

Each LA Fitness has it’s own “specialty” as to what it has more of (at least according to the personal trainer who showed me around) but they all have a great selection of weight machines, free weights, squats racks, cable towers, and benches. A weight lifters dream honestly.

And unlike Crunch, LA Fitness had all their equipment spaced normally and I didn’t feel like I was on top of anybody while doing dumbbell curls or standing shoulder press, even when the weight room was busy.

My only complaint about their equipment is that the cardio machines look super dated. It didn’t seem to be very high tech? The treadmills and Stairmasters especially seemed old with no screens and bare minimum look. Which some people like, but I like to have a screen that shows me what is going on. So this is a personal preference thing and you may be the opposite. All the cardio machines do all have built-in fans though, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

Classes @ LA Fitness

This is something I had no idea beforehand, but all of LA Fitness’s classes are included in normal membership! I’ve always been told LA Fitness is bougie and expensive, so I always assumed you’d have to pay extra. Nope! Taking into account class prices is super important when comparing gyms if you’re planning on doing any of them, or even if you’re just slightly interested.

I’m excited about their cycle and yoga classes, but they also offer classes like Bootcamp, Zumba, aquafit (because yes they have a pool!), hip hop, pilates, tai chi, step, and more. Each location does have varying classes so some may not be available at your location.

in the locker room at LA Fitness

Atmosphere @ LA Fitness

Since LA Fitness seems like an expensive private gym, which I mean it is, I one hundred percent expected super intense people, rich mommies that don’t actually work out, and basically spoiled brats to be crawling all over the place. I’m very happy I was wrong about this. 

I felt the most comfortable at this gym than I did at any of the other ones I tried, besides Planet Fitness, and I obviously wasn’t expecting that. While there were mostly men at this gym, and they were pretty jacked, they also didn’t give off an “I’m mean and don’t touch my weights. Also, you’re in the way” vibe. So I was never scared to walk straight to the middle of the weight room or grab a bench.

weight room at LA fitness

Free Trial & Overall Impressions of LA Fitness

LA Fitness also has one of the best trial programs! You get five days instead of just one, and you get to have a little talk with a personal trainer about goals and body fat percentages and such. I didn’t know I was going to have to sit through that, but it was actually really motivating and I’m glad the guy made me do it. I just wish his huge spiel about the gym wasn’t thirty minutes long. So, be prepared for that when you go redeem your guest pass.

I hope me taking the time to compare all these gyms helps you out! If I hadn’t of thought about comparing gyms for a post I never would have found the perfect gym for me and would have stuck with a mediocre one, so writing this definitely helped me.

And keep in mind, things that I may have docked as a downfall may have been on your pro list! So don’t be offended if I knock a gym you love!

What gym are you a member at?

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Which Gym is Right for You? Comparing Four Popular Gyms: Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness, Anytime Fitness, LA Fitness
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