If you are looking for a place to train regularly, and are not interested in specialised group classes, you may want to sign up in a “commercial” gym. There are a few chains with gyms all around the islands, and it might be a bit hard to choose the one that is the most suitable for you – especially if you’re not a gym expert. To guide you, we’ve put together a list of pros & cons for each big-name – feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

What are commercial gyms and who are they made for?

“Commercial gyms” is the term used to design large training facilities, usually ran through multiple branches: big training spaces, lots of equipment, lot of salespeople selling memberships & a few coaches looking over the people working out.
It’s usually opposed to “private gyms”, that have smaller facilities & crowds. These are typically owned by a former trainer and have a much more serious & competitive atmosphere. There are also usually more expensive.

Picking one type of gym or the other is a matter of preferences, and you probably should give both a try before making up your mind. However, they are a few indicators that commercial gyms would work for you.. or wouldn’t.

Commercial gyms are for you if:

  • You’re looking for a (relatively) affordable place to train regularly
  • You want to decide when & where you want to work out
  • You’d like a large variety of equipment, free weights & machines that you can’t find in your condo gyms or smaller gyms
  • You’re looking for a broad range of classes or are a fan of Lesmill programs that you won’t find in specialised studios
  • You are self-motivated & don’t need a proper commitment (like a class booking) to go and train
  • You know how to plan a session or are happy to ask guidance to the staff (you won’t get good results if you just go there and try machines, all training sessions need to be organised and planned beforehand)

Commercial gyms are NOT for you if:

  • If you’re looking for very specific training or skills – CrossFit, callisthenics, advanced yoga… Commercial gyms host classes but they are far less technical than what you can find in dedicated studios and boutique gyms. 
  • If you live far away from any branches – the closer you are and the smaller the effort it takes you to go, the more likely you are to stick to your routine.
  • You like quiet spaces & don’t feel comfortable in a crowded environment – you need to be prepared for loud music and a lot of people working out around you.

That being said, there are a few commercial gym chains to choose from in Singapore. Which one is best for you?

Photo credit: Anytime Fitness

Anytime Fitness

Very cheap compared to the other gyms, opened 24/7, equipment include everything that you need to train (except maybe pull-up bars). All gyms are relatively quiet – definitely a better option than the community gyms if you are looking for some personal space but are on a budget.

Questionable cleanliness sometimes, most of the branches don’t have dedicated locker/changing rooms, showers & toilets are straight forward and there’s no toiletry provided at all. 
There’s no staff outside of very limited time slots, so you might not be able to ask for help if you need any. Most branches don’t offer group classes, and there are no Personal Trainers available.

Make it your gym if… You’re looking for a cheap, no-fuss option. Expect to spend around 90$/month (subscriptions can be negotiated)

Fitness First

There are a lot of branches across the island and most of them are really clean and well equipped. Some spaces are much bigger than others (Bugis being one of the best branches they own). The machines are new, there’s a functional training area in almost all branches, and they have all sorts of equipment & accessories you can just go and use. They provide attire too.
Subscriptions are affordable, especially if you go for a longer period of time, but they also offer flexibility and relatively short term contracts (last time I checked, the shortest was 4 months). If you happen to be a member for more than a year in a row, you’ll get the right to bring a friend with you for free on weekends – which is pretty cool.
Oh, and if you’re into group activities, you’ll definitely enjoy Games Of Zones, taking place on Saturday in the Bugis gym. A friendly competition & a perfect way to make new friends!

Below average group classes – too many attendees & relatively disengaged coaches is not the best combination for a fruitful session. Of course, not saying all group classes are bad there, but the setting is clearly not ideal in most branches, and all coaches are not equal, skill-wise – you can actually tell, as some classes are fully booked one week in advance.
Some branches are ridiculously small (especially in the CBD) and most of them get really crowded after work. Some of them don’t have a closed space dedicated to group sessions – yes, it gets pretty messy.
They are not open 24/7 and most of them run on shorter hours during weekends – not ideal if your schedule is not standard.

Make it your gym if… You’re looking for a mid-range option with excellent facilities – but aren’t expecting too much from group classes. Expect to spend around 180$/month (subscriptions can be negotiated)

Virgin Active

Pros: Great variety of group classes & personal training sessions led by qualified coaches, spotless facilities including pools, steam baths… and of course, every machine and equipment you could think of. Some of the branches are simply mind-blowing (cf the Virgin Active Marina One’s pool above), and everything (except shoes) is provided.
They have the most extensive range of bathroom toiletries & the changing rooms & showers are the cleanest you can find around.

The memberships are (very) pricy and don’t offer much flexibility – you have to commit for 1 year or 2. It is still worth asking if you’re looking for a shorter-term option, some salespeople will make a gesture (but don’t take it for granted.)
Quite surprisingly, the whole atmosphere is so premium that it can be a bit obnoxious for newbies and people feeling more comfortable in chill environments. If luxury isn’t your thing, you might feel a bit out of place.

Make it your gym if… you’re looking for high-quality services & super clean facilities, but are happy with solo workouts and a quite “asepticized” environment.
Expect to spend around 250$/month (subscriptions can be negotiated)

Not willing to join a commercial gym for now? Check out cheaper options to work out here & specialised studios here! (coming soon)

! Before making a choice, keep in mind:

All gyms will be more than happy to offer a free trial – or several, so you can take a look at the facilities and try the machines and the classes out.

All gym memberships can be negotiated – there’s always a promotion going on and saying you’re considering joining another chain might help them make a better offer. Some outlets are cheaper to sign up at than others – visit the branches that are a bit further from the city centre for better deals.

Always triple read the contract before signing and make sure the exit clauses are clear! Some contracts can be pretty dodgy and hard to get rid of, even if you move out of the country.