The I Hate The Gym Program

The I Hate The Gym Program

It may be hard to believe that I don’t love the gym. As someone who’s spent a not-insignificant portion of my life in gyms trying to get as strong as possible you would think that I’m enamored with the process and it’s something I couldn’t live without–a sentiment that many regular gym-goers do share.

But I don’t. In fact most of the time I see it as necessary drudgery. Sure there are times that it’s exciting to chase a particular goal, or when I am really enjoying what I’m doing, but that’s not the majority of it. I view working out as a necessary chore, something akin to homework, that I have to do so that my body is capable of doing whatever I want it to do. And, yes, I recognize how lucky I am to even be able to work out regularly.

I’m not going to take the time to try to convince you that lifting weights and doing some form of cardiovascular exercise is worthwhile. Suffice to say that if there was a pill that controlled weight, increased your lifespan, improved mental health and general mood, strengthened bones and prevented osteoporosis, reduced the risk of many cancers, reduced or eliminated type 2 diabetes, reduced cardiovascular disease, improved ability to do daily tasks, importantly for older people reduced and prevented damaging falls, increased energy both perceived and actual, improved immune system function, and reduced stress it would be without a question the most popular drug in the history of humanity and everyone would take a daily dose.

But, I am here in full recognition that the number of people who currently exercise regularly (going for hikes and occasionally being outside is great but let’s be clear, it’s not the same as progressive resistance training and intentional cardiovascular exercise) is a fraction of a fraction.

And I realize how much I am at fault here, by letting perfect be the enemy of good. A new gym member asks “how often should I work out?” Well I tell them that three times per week is generally ideal to get the best results. And it is. This is virtually indisputable. But that’s too much for a lot of people.

Something that as a gym owner keeps me up at night is that for the majority of the majority this desire and ability to dedicate a couple hours (including transit time etc) to going to the gym the majority of the week nights hangs in the most tenuous of balances between other priorities and desires. All it takes is a job change, a new baby, a new relationship, a move, or any number of other things and this person won’t come back to the gym at all for 5-6 years until they start the cycle over again.

So I offer a solution.

This program is not going to get you the fastest “results.” This program isn’t optimal or ideal. This program isn’t going to put slabs of muscle on your body or strip layers of fat like all good programs promise. This program isn’t as good as a program that gives you more practice, more progression, and more time under the weights.

But, this program is something I think that someone can, even begrudgingly, drag themselves to the gym to do once a week.

It’s something I think you could do for years, because it’s just once a week. And doing this for years will have a meaningful effect on your quality of life.

Sorry, no 12-week promises here.

If you hate the gym, for whatever reason, but you recognize the value that consistently doing focused exercise over the course of years can hold then this program is for you.

The Program & How to Use It

The program is simple. One workout per week. Some of the exercises will repeat, but they may be new at first. You have an entire week between workouts so this should give you enough time to do your homework, understand the intention method behind the movement, and be ready for the workout. Part of any strength program is taking ownership of your body and learning how to best utilize it. This is no different.

Most of the days are just two exercises. The weights you choose should be challenging. If you picked the lightest weights in the gym you could finish the whole workout in 3 minutes and you wouldn’t get much out of it. But if you choose weights are challenging, such that you need a couple minutes to recover in between sets this will be a good workout.

Sometimes a little specific cardiovascular exercises is included. Keep this easy, at a pace where it might be hard to keep up a conversation but you aren’t struggling to catch your breath.

Don’t hesitate to make adjustments. Three sets not enough? Do another one. Want to go heavier and do fewer reps? Great, do that!

Who knows, maybe you’ll learn to like the gym. Even love it.

Here’s the program itself. I’ve also created a PDF version that has links to tips to how-to videos. Just trade me your email address so I can keep you updated on any changes. If people like this and find it useful maybe I’ll expand it out to a full year program. Click the program image, or click here to download the full version.

Just For Fun

Tweet at me and include the hashtag #IHateTheGym and tell me why you hate the gym. Maybe it’s a one-off experience like Allie’s, or a more general sentiment.

Either way I want to hear your stories.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS


  1. Sherin Kumar says:

    #ihatethegym because I can’t afford it

  2. Beautiful simplicity. I can see myself doing these workouts every (other) day when life gets particularly hectic and I don’t have the energy to think my own thoughts. Thank you Coach Dave!
    Also #ihatethegym because there are too many people and not enough barbells.

  3. kurtdriver says:

    How do you get stronger on this? Do an exercise, eg. Overhead Press on week six, and do it again ten weeks later. You’ll be using the same weights each cycle, no?

    • Maybe? In the program PDF it says to use weights that are challenging. That might mean more, or it might mean less. But frankly the primary goal of this program simply isn’t to make you stronger – if that was your goal you’d use a well-rounded strength program. The goal is simply to regularly perform some simple strength training exercises. What follows from there is more important than whether or not you actually gain measurable strength on it.

      Does that make sense?

  4. kurtdriver says:

    I don’t understand how this would “strengthened bones and prevented osteoporosis,”. If someone new to lifting, lifts say 45 pounds on the overhead press and after a year, (ten cycles) is still lifting 45 pounds, will that meet the objectives quoted above? Wouldn’t 75 be better? I’m thinking here of my mother, aged 75 years and her two pound dumbells, I’d like to see her move up to the fives. That takes frequency. Thanks for your reply Dave.

    • Kurt, I’m not sure why you’re assuming they’d be lifting the exact same weight after a year? The program specifically says to use weights that are challenging for every workout. That means you’d eventually be using heavier weights.

  5. kurtdriver says:

    “you’d eventually be using heavier weights”
    Once every ten weeks will achieve that? The methods for increasing strength have long been known, frequency is key here.
    I don’t hate any gyms, so I’m not your audience here.

    My prescription for someone who hates every gym around? Build your own. 310 pound olympic sets are a dime a dozen on craigslist. A trap bar allows farmer’s walks, a fantastic exercise. Each of these is around fifty lattes.

  6. Steve Lantner says:

    I’ll chime in to say I like it. I think the skeptical/critical comments are from people who didn’t read you saying “This program is not going to get you the fastest “results.” This program isn’t optimal or ideal…..”

    I love the gym and I love training hard and smart, and especially this time of year with all the New Year’s Resolution folks clogging up my gym (actually they’re already gone), I think this is a great place to start. I don’t know how many time I’ve seen some way out of shape guy come in do nothing but bicep curls. A lot of people just don’t know what to do, get discouraged and quit, so this is a great place to start.

    And in my experience, someone who hates the gym ain’t gonna start any serious lifting in a home gym. Why do you think those barbells and plates are on craigslist? I doubt those people are upgrading their 45’s.

  7. I might be somewhere in your target audience, Dave. I have a home gym with a squat rack, Oly BB, DBs, etc. I lifted 3-4x week for 4 years. Then I got sick. Debillitating asthma. One infection after another with zero downtime between for seven months. I went from healthy to not being able to hold a conversation without gasping for air. Harsh medication, weight gain, depression followed. I’m better now, but I have zero stamina and feel discouraged. Perhaps doing your once a week program will give me enough recovery time between workouts to build myself back up to lifting regularly. I’m going to try it. Thank you for putting it together. 🙂

    • That is such a bummer to hear, but I hope this is useful to you. Keep me posted!

      • The silver lining to all this is how it got my doctor to really understand the importance of weightlifting in overall fitness. If I hadn’t been at the level of health I was when the illness hit, she doesn’t believe I’d have made it. Now she encourages her patients to lift. 😊 I’ll keep you posted on how it works out for me.

        • That’s not the first time I’ve heard that actually. One of my gym clients had a pulmonary embolism and her doctor said if she hadn’t been in such good health and fitness otherwise she probably would have died. Makes all those evenings spent in the gym worth it when it literally extends your life!

  8. This article isn’t for me because I LOVE the gym and movement in general. However, there is tremendous value here for people who struggle to “find time” to work out or have every excuse to NOT move. I’m going to share it in my newsletter because more people need to know!
    Thanks for this post.

  9. I hate the gym… when it’s crowded or there is some wank blocking access to the dumbbell racks or when it is sunny and beautiful outside. However, I love going to the gym and working out.

    It is great that you created a program that is accessible for folks with limited time or interest but it seems to offer an empty promise. Some amount of workout is surely better than none, but what kind of true health benefits are there from a brief workout once a week? People need to eat well, sleep adequately and exercise often and regularly (both cardio and strength). That doesn’t make for a very appetizing headline but it is the reality. You might consider positioning the program as an accessible entry point to fitness rather than a great solution.

    • Dave, I think you’re letting your ideology get the best of you. If something is better than nothing then the discussion ends there. Maybe for some folks it will be an entry point, and for others it will be the something that is better than nothing. Either way everyone wins.

Speak Your Mind