By now, I’m sure most people have seen the line of Planet Fitness commercials. You know, the ones where they embrace hypocrisy to the fullest and promote their “Judgment Free Zone”, while judging people in the process. The hardcore bodybuilding and powerlifting communities around the web have been up in arms about them for a while now, but now I’m even seeing the average Planet Fitness member questioning their advertising tactics. What Planet Fitness is trying to do is create an environment that is comfortable for the average person who walks into their gym. Take a look at their mission statement.
Our Mission Statement
We at Planet Fitness are here to provide a unique environment in which anyone – and we mean anyone – can be comfortable. A diverse, Judgement Free Zone® where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built. Our product is a tool, a means to an end; not a brand name or a mold-maker, but a tool that can be used by anyone. In the end, it’s all about you. As we evolve and educate ourselves, we will seek to perfect this safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected. We are not here to kiss your butt, only to kick it if that’s what you need. We need you, because face it, our planet wouldn’t be the same without you. You belong!
Now that you have read that, take 30 seconds and watch one of their most recent commercials.
I guess the planet fitness definition of “anyone” is a little more selective than my own. They apparently feel that the big “meathead” bodybuilders are intimidating to their customers and have a tendency to judge other people in the gym. In my experience, the exact opposite is true.
The truly dedicated lifter is the guy who is minding his own business. He wants to get in the gym and lift weights. He will be too busy “lifting things up and putting them down” to have the time to judge anyone around him. Sure, he might grunt a little while lifting. This is usually what happens when you are lifting enough weight to actually require some effort. This type of effort is also what gets results. This grunting is not allowed in Planet Fitness and all it takes is for someone to set off the “Lunk Alarm” to get a warning and possibly kicked out of the gym.
That’s right, violate these rules and a loud siren will sound and you will be judged and ridiculed in front of the entire gym so everyone around you can go back to their “judgment free” workouts. I’m sure the loud siren and flashing light is far less bothersome to customers than the guy grunting away in the corner.
The Judgement Free Zone®
As the most innovative health club brand in the United States, Planet Fitness is known for a lot of things – our absurdly low prices, our Lunk™ Alarm, and most of all perhaps, for our Judgement Free Zone® philosophy, which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.
In the time I have spent in gyms, the “hard-core, look-at-me” attitude is usually displayed by those who aren’t actually dedicated lifters. It’s the guys, and yes it’s usually guys who are guilty of this, that feel like they have something to prove. The guys who spend hours in the gym every week with no training plan, spend more time talking than lifting and usually make zero progress from week-to-week. These are the people who are more likely to judge others, give dirty looks and walk around like they own the place. Real bodybuilders and powerlifters are extremely dedicated to their sport and probably know more about nutrition and muscle physiology than half trainers walking around today.
Most gym goers could learn a thing or two, or three or four from watching the way these guys (or women) perform in the gym. But planet fitness chooses to violate the very policy they are trying to uphold, by automatically judging serious lifters and labeling them as meatheads who will scare away their average customer. This customer, by their definition is looking to “relax, get in shape and “have fun”.
While I do think that going to the gym can be fun, the act of “getting in shape” is hard work. There is no way around this. Going to the gym to relax is not going to result in getting in shape. So, while the planet fitness members are enjoying their massage chairs, free pizza, bagels and tootsie rolls, the meatheads will be busy putting in the work it takes to actually get in shape. It’s a shame that they will be shunned by places like planet fitness to their own “hardcore” gyms.
Like minded people feed off of one another and one of the most powerful motivational tools used by many lifters is training with guys who are bigger and stronger than them. Would you go into school and expect to learn everything there is to know from your peers? Probably not. You will you look to those with more experience and knowledge than yourself. The same philosophy should hold true in the gym. Instead of being intimidated by those who are bigger and stronger, try observing and learning, or maybe even starting a conversation with one of them. I would bet that a large majority of serious lifters would be more than happy to talk to just about anyone about their training methods. Just use common sense and don’t approach someone in the middle of a set, or the guy who never takes his headphones off and goes out of his way to avoid eye contact with everyone. It should be fairly easy to spot those who would be willing to talk.
This guy is probably not the best choice, just look at all of those tattoos.
Now, as if the Lunk Alarm wasn’t enough of a deterrent to real lifters, Planet Fitness takes things one step further and has banned certain exercises. Many Planet Fitness locations do not have squat racks, limit their dumbbells to 75lbs and under and do not allow exercises such as deadlifts or power cleans. I worked out at a hotel fitness center a few weekends ago that had 100lb dumbbells, and I don’t care what excuses you come up with, a smith machine is not an acceptable substitute for a real squat rack, but that’s a subject for another article entirely. Now onto the banning of exercises. While the deadlift may sound scary to those who aren’t familiar with the lift, it is one of the most fundamental movements that every able bodied person on the planet should be capable of doing. It is a full body exercise that mimics a movement that we do just about every day of our lives; lifting a dead weight up off the floor. Just because the weight is in the form of a bar and metal plates does not make this an exercise that should only be done by elite power-lifters and hardcore bodybuilders. Picking up your child, your dog, a box full of junk from the floor. These are all essentially deadlifts, and there is absolutely no reason why they should be banned from any gym.
While Planet Fitness thinks it’s protecting it’s clients by putting all of these rules in place, I believe they are hurting them. Their primary concern, like any valid business, is their bottom line. They brag about one of their locations selling over 1500 memberships in a single day and about how much free pizza they give away every month. Their “Judgment Free Zone” is a ploy to attract customers who think that other gym environments are too intimidating for them. The sad part is that it’s working. This is great for the business, and getting more people off of the couch and into the gym is a good thing, but ultimately I think it’s hurting the members. Getting in the gym and working out should be about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, working hard and finding the motivation to do so. I just don’t see Planet Fitness as an acceptable environment for anyone looking to get more serious about training.
I thought I would save my favorite of all the Planet Fitness commercials to close this post. I can’t help but laugh every time I watch it. Enjoy. Bang Bang.
And one last thing that I forgot to mention earlier. The inspiration for writing this post came from a tweet made by my friend Corinne, who also happens to have an awesome blog that everyone needs to check out.