It’s Monday (the day where many pectorals are grown and majestically admired in gym mirrors everywhere) and you’ve been programmed to start with Incline Bench Press supersetted with Supine Cable Flyes (gotta hit those pecs from all angles bro) DTP style.

Due to your work schedule you’re not hitting the gym until 6pm (peak bro time).

You arrive to see the whole weights area is overran by the vest & headphone crew who are training the same muscle group as you, there’s no way you’ll be able to get a bench AND use the cable machine for 10 sets of 10 (unless you want to be THAT f**king guy…).

Ever experienced the conundrum I’ve mentioned above?

Maybe my example is a little extreme (or maybe not in your gym…) but I’ve no doubt you’ve gone into the gym planning to train something, only to realise you won’t be starting with the exercise you had planned because of how busy it is.

Training in crowded gyms can be tough, especially from a programming point of view.

Equipment is rarely free when you need it and it messes around with your workouts (I recall one occasion where my local gym was so busy I walked in and walked back out in 5 minutes because it was simply easier to train in my living room).

Thankfully we at SBS decided a post dedicated to you; the people who venture into busy gyms all over the country and train properly, and give you some tips we’ve gathered to make your life easier when you next decide to program your training.

1. Be Adaptable

If you are programmed to go and do Incline Barbell Bench and there’s no bar to use, unless you are a Powerlifter, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do Incline Dumbbell Bench instead. At the end of the day both are essentially working the same muscle group and this won’t be the difference between you getting the massive chest you want or not.

I like to have a bank of other exercises I know I can do instead (usually you’ll be able to fit things in but this is a worse case scenario).

There’s load of other exercises you could do instead of the lifts that need lots of equipment and might be potentially being used.

Here are a few examples:


Split squats, Rear foot elevated split squats, lunge variations, goblet squats, step-ups.



Dumbbell variations, push-ups, flyes.



Dumbbell & Kettlebell alternatives for higher reps, back extensions, glute-ham raises, stiff-leg deadlifts, single-leg Romanian deadlifts.


2.Don’t Be A Douche

You know that guy who is ‘Mr Unapproachable’ and hogs all the equipment?

You don’t wanna be him or be anything like him, especially if you’re a Personal Trainer yourself (little marketing lesson there).

Share the equipment you are using, ask nicely if you can jump in with someone else while they are resting and don’t be the same as the equipment hogger like my intro example.


3. Be Willing To Start On Another Exercise

Ever tried to do all of your accessory work before you do your main compound lift?

It’s a different workout altogether and actually quite fun to try for some training variation.

Be willing to start on one of your accessory exercises before you hit the main lift you might be programmed to do.

It’ll make very little difference to your overall training and might in fact be quite a fun addition.


4. Take Advantage Of Bodyweight Options

I love bodyweight training.

Not only because it can be made extremely challenging but I also find it enjoyable to be able to do more workout wise with just my own bodyweight.

For every big compound lift there is usually an alternative you could be doing bodyweight wise (oh and just for the record I am not saying replace here, there is very little that will replace the effect of a barbell).

In a busy gym there is usually a corner or matted space you could do some bodyweight training from.

Take a small circuit of push-ups, tempo-controlled split squats, single-leg Romanian deadlifts and some Turkish get-ups and you have yourself a very challenging circuit.



Turkish get-ups are a challenging full body exercise that need little space.

You could quite easily use the above options and do strength or hypertrophy work with them (band resisted push-ups or front-racked kettlebell split squats anyone?!) where little equipment would be needed but they’d be challenging enough to be used for that specific goal.


5. Stick To Straight Sets Where Possible

This will keep you away from douche status.

If you are programmed to do super/tri/giant sets, be mindful of the exercises you pick to do this.

Back Squats will not be easily super-setted with Dumbbell Incline Rows as it’s just too much equipment however, Back Squats and Inverted Rows would well together as they will likely be in the same equipment section.

Try and stick to only using straight sets (as in 3×8 Bench Press would be 8reps & rest for designated time, 8reps & rest for designated time etc) as this will mean you don’t end up hogging equipment and when you rest someone else can jump in do their exercise.

The underlying point behind is this article is to essentially say that no matter the programming your training has, there will always be options you can use to work around this if you are training in a busy gym.

It may involve you being flexible and occasionally changing your days training around slightly however, if you are smart with the way you program your training there should be very few problems you encounter.

Oh and remember to be kind and respectful of other gym users and use as little equipment as you can while still doing the training you enjoy; nobody likes an asshole and everyone could do with being a little friendlier nowadays.