Knock knock. Who’s there? Planet Fitness. Planet Fitness who?
Planet Fitness, largely regarded as a joke by the bodybuilding community—or “lunks”, as the self-proclaimed No Judgment Zone would call them—is a $10 per month gym that provides free pizzas and candy for their members, but cannot allow overhead presses, T-rows, clean and jerks, or deadlifts.
Heck, Planet Fitness doesn’t even have scales in the locker rooms because… intimidation and stuff.
You might be ready to write this place off and question whether Planet Fitness is actually a good gym, but hold on a sec…
So we can’t do any heavy lifting when we’re at the purple palace… or maybe we can?
Here I’ve listed five exercises not allowed at Planet Fitness and the alternatives available so you won’t get kicked out of the No Judgement Zone.
1. Heavy Overhead Press
The overhead press is an exercise where weights are pressed straight over the head (obviously). It works your upper body muscles, including the:
Though the overhead press is a good upper body exercise, it can become repetitive once you reach a certain point—and trust me, with free weights only available up to 60 pounds, it will reach that point—leading to a plateau that can be difficult to get out of.
Overhead Press Alternative – Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Planet fitness may not allow Olympic barbells, but they allow adjustable benches and dumbbells, which can get you started on dumbbell shoulder presses. In a 2013 study in the Journal of Science Medicine, the dumbbell shoulder press activates the upper trapezius and anterior deltoid better than bench or incline presses.
Other benefits include:
- It works out all the same muscles as the overhead press.
- Doing it seated better ensures proper posture.
- Dumbbells ensure symmetry in muscle growth.
- Shoulder presses can provide variation in a workout, unlike overhead presses.
- Improves movement coordination
How to do it:
- Find an adjustable bench and set it up at a little less than 90 degrees angle.
- Plant your feet firmly on the floor.
- Lift your dumbbells onto your knees and then kick your knees up to lift the weights to your shoulders.
- Press the dumbbells above your head, but don’t lock out your elbows.
- Slowly lower them back to your shoulders.
TIP: Keep your wrists straight. At no point are the dumbbells meant to collide with each other midair.
T-rows are when you stick one plateless end of a barbell in a corner or landmine where it can’t be lifted while the other end has a plate. Then you straddle the barbell on the floor like a witch’s broom, bend over at a 45-degree angle, and lift it to your chest with a handle. Slowly place it on the floor and repeat.
This exercise works out your back muscles, including the:
- Latissimus dorsi
- Posterior deltoid
T-Rows Alternative – Seated Cable Rows
Planet Fitness doesn’t have a bench press, squat rack, or dumbbells past 60 pounds, but it does have a plethora of machines for use including cable machines, row machines, and smith machines. According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, the seated cable row activates the lats the most out of pulling exercises that use machines.
Other benefits include:
- It works all the muscles the T-rows does.
- Safer on the lower back than deadlifts or T-rows.
- The cable requires constant tension to pull, which means more muscles at work.
- Seated cable rows vary with different attachments, which can break up the monotony of your routine.
How to do it:
- Sit at the cable machine with your feet on the feet rest.
- Keep your knees slightly bent and your chest out.
- Pull the handle towards your lower abdomen while maintaining a straight back, chest still back out.
- Stretch back out, still gripping the handle.
Note: The seated cable row works more on your arm muscles than your back muscles, but that can be changed with a straight-bar attachment which you can find in your local Planet Fitness. Make sure that when you’re working out, you have a wide grip (larger than your shoulder width) to truly work those back muscles.
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3. Clean and Jerks
The clean and jerk is an Olympic weightlifting exercise comprising two different exercises. A clean is when you lift a weight to rest on your shoulders. A jerk is when you bend your knees, and then extend your knees, lifting the weight past your shoulders and over your head.
The exercise works out the:
Clean and Jerks Alternative – Dumbbell Snatches
Compared to the clean and jerk, the snatch, another lift in Olympic weightlifting, is less about raw power and more about finesse. The snatch is when the lifter lifts a weight from the ground to overhead in one smooth, continuous motion.
Unfortunately, since Planet Fitness doesn’t allow a clean and jerk, a barbell snatch will probably not go over well for the folks at Planet Fitness, which is why I recommend dumbbell snatches.
- It works all the same muscles as the clean and jerk.
- You can work on the proper form with something light—water bottle, dumbbell, Captain America action figure—and then progress up to prevent injuries.
- It’s a full-body workout which you can work on one side of your body at a time. Equal reps on each side means equal muscle gain on both sides.
How to do it:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbell at your feet, close to your body.
- Go into a squat position, keeping shoulders out, chest out, and back straight with eyes facing forward.
- Grab the dumbbell in an overhand grip.
- Drive your heels into the ground and then stand up explosively using your leg and back, lifting the dumbbell close to the body as you go. (If you’re lifting using mostly your arms and not the momentum of your legs, you’re doing it wrong.)
- Once the dumbbell reaches shoulder height, flip your elbow so it’s under the weight and lift using your arm until it reaches overhead, locking your elbow.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor by squatting back down.
Deadlifts are a powerlifting exercise in which you lift a barbell from the floor to your hips and then back down. Rinse and repeat until strong.
It mostly works the lower body muscles, but hits a few upper body groups including the:
- Adductor Magnus
But because the gym doesn’t have any free-floating Olympic barbells and plates (and this exercise is “too loud”), deadlifts can’t be done at Planet Fitness.
Alternative to Deadlifts
The dumbbell deadlift, while still technically a deadlift, is much more Planet Fitness-friendly. With dumbbells in increments of five pounds, you can find the weight just right for you (as long as it’s under 60 pounds).
- Works out all the same muscles as a normal deadlift.
- Allows higher mobility than barbell deadlifts.
- Safer than barbell deadlifts.
- Increases activation of stabilizer muscles.
- Can help you achieve symmetry through equal reps with each hand.
- Improves your grip strength and grip coordination.
How to do it:
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and back straight.
- Bend down with your knees slightly bent, chest up, and shoulder blades pinched.
- Grab the dumbbells and push up with your legs, keeping the dumbbells close to the body.
- Stand straight with dumbbells slightly facing the side instead of directly in front.
- Slowly reverse and repeat.
Don’t let the rules prevent you from getting the workout you deserve. Even if they have limited equipment, a policy against grunting, and a fear of clanging metal objects and power lifts, you can still get the strength training you want without getting kicked out of Planet Fitness.
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