How to Work Out in a Muggle Gym

Imagine for a moment that you’re a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That would be like, the coolest thing ever, right? To live in the world of Harry Potter, to play Quidditch, to be sorted into one of the four houses (Slytherin for life), and to have your own wand that you could use for spells–God, real life is lame.

As fascinating as it would be to be a young witch or wizard, how would your perspective of the world be different if you were, well, a Muggle? Would how Muggles act in their world surprise you? How are you supposed to live among these non-magic people?

Mark Fisher Fitness is, in more ways than one, its own Hogwarts. The Clubhouse is enchanted after all. And, there is “magic” that happens there. I’ve felt it. You have too. So, what do you do if you happen to find yourself in a Muggle gym? How can you keep the magic of MFF in your heart, while making sure you look like you fit into this Muggle space?

Here are 5 tips to working out in a Muggle gym while staying a Ninja at heart:

1. Treat the space as you treat the Clubhouse / Dragon Lair / Monster Island

No matter where you are, above all, respect the space you’re in. Period. They may have different rules in the Muggle gym than MFF. Respect those rules no matter what.

Even during a tour of the gym, ask if there are standards and practices that the gym has for its members. You can also walk around and see if you can “feel out” the vibe of the gym too.

If there is one thing we could all practice more in 2019, and life in general, it’s showing more respect. And, if there is one thing that often feels lacking in Muggle gyms, it’s respect.

2. Keep It Basic Without Your Hufflepuff

“But Robbie, how do I know what to do exercise-wise at a muggle gym if I don’t have the greatest Hufflepuff on Earth, Harold Gibbons, directing me through a workout?”

If you’ve been around MFF long enough, you’ve probably taken Ninja Essentials a handful of times. Ninja Essentials focuses on the 5 basic movement patterns—squat, deadlift, row, press, and loaded carries. So no matter what your Muggle gym may have in terms of equipment, all you need for a great workout are those 5 movement patterns.

Sample Muggle Muscle Palace Workout:

  • Dumbbell Goblet Squat: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Dumbbell One Arm Row: 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Split Squat: 4 sets of 8 reps per side
  • Dumbbell Floor Press: 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Farmers Carries: 2 sets of 30 steps per side
  • Bear Crawls: 2 sets of 30 second crawls*

*Bear crawls may not be easy to do in some Muggle gyms. If that’s the case, opt instead for Pallof Presses. They’re like a standing plank with minimal movement. Check out how to do them here.

Your workout at a Muggle gym doesn’t need to look or feel complicated. Keep it simple. You could even opt to just do as many reps as possible of 4-5 of your favorite exercises. There will be all kinds of different looking equipment around you at a Muggle gym. But, if that space terrifies you, go with what you know.

At the same time, if there’s one thing that MFF really preaches, it’s the power of getting outside of your comfort zone. So…

3. Try New Methods of Training Outside Your Comfort Zone

Maybe you come to MFF to get more high-intensity workouts done. Or, maybe you’re in semi-privates in the Dragon Lair or Monster Island because you love the challenge of moving heavier weight. Or, maybe you just love Snatched so much that it’s like the only thing you ever do.

But, Muggle gyms also give you the opportunity to train outside your comfort zone.

How to Move Outside Your Comfort Zone

Do you love the sweat and elevated heart rate Kick-Ass Conditioning brings out of you? Do you wish you could be just a “little” stronger? Then, train more like a powerlifter at your Muggle gym.

I’m not saying that you need to go and lift 400 or 500 pounds. But training with fewer reps and sets with higher weight than normal will shock your body into making new gains (that is, if you’re not already doing that in some way at MFF).

And let me be clear: when I say “train like a powerlifter,” I mean sticking to the sets and rep schemes with an appropriate weight you can handle. I don’t mean you need to go buy straps, a singlet, a weightlifting belt, or a Slingshot.

What Does Training Like a Muggle Powerlifter Look Like?

Overall, you want to keep your rep range to somewhere between 2-5 reps, never exceeding 25 total reps. This lower volume of work will allow you to push more weight without breaking yourself. Of course, if you choose lower reps like 2-3, you can usually push weight a bit higher than say you could for 4-5 reps. Keep your total number of sets around 3-5.

For example, you could do barbell back squats for 4 sets of 4 reps (16 total reps). Or, you could choose to do 6 sets of 2 reps and really test your strength. Or, you could do something a bit lighter but still moderately heavy at 5 sets of 5 reps (the good ole StrongLifts protocol).

Rest periods for powerlifting are going to be longer, anywhere from 2-5 minutes; the heavier weight and lower the reps, the longer your rest should be.

What Does Training Like a Muggle Bodybuilder Look Like?

But what if you’re already a strong AF beast but wish you could look a little more swole? Then, train more like a bodybuilder at your Muggle gym.

Muscle grows by reacting to the tension placed upon it. And how do you increase tension with your muscles? Well, you can always follow the principle of progressive overload and add more weight week after week, i.e training like a powerlifter.

But tension isn’t created only by moving more weight. You can create more tension by adding more reps, and by slowing down the exercise you’re performing, like a traditional bodybuilder.

When you train this way you’re after one thing and one thing only: The Pump. To get that sleeve-splitting, better-than-cumming pump as Arnold called it, you’re gonna want to stick to rep ranges of 12-15 or 15 to 25+.

Bottom Line: Muggle Powerlifter vs Bodybuilder

Training for strength means you’re going to be moving heavy weight for short reps with longer rest. Training more like a bodybuilder means you’re going to move lighter and more moderate weights for more reps with less rest; rest in bodybuilding style training can remain anywhere from 30-90 seconds depending on your goals and the work being done.

But chasing The Pump and training like a bodybuilder affords you the ability to really challenge yourself in ways like never before.

4. When in Doubt, Use Machines

But, what if you’re not feeling the confidence to hit the weights outside of MFF? Do you just resign yourself to cardio only at this Muggle gym?

You could. That’s totally an option. But, if you want to move some weight and don’t feel confident enough to hit the free weights, use machines. In fact, you might find that some of the machines at the muggle gym can give you an even more glorious muscle pump than dumbbells.

From my experience, one of the best leg pumps you can get is to superset machine leg extensions with machine leg curls. (If those muggles have a lying leg curl, you’re golden. Use that. Those are the best.)

Unlike dumbbells or even barbells, machines don’t load your spine with extra weight, and they are easier on your joints too. But machines also don’t require you to do a lot of thinking. You sit down, move the pin to select your weight, and then perform the exercise as indicated on the instructions.

Most of all, machines allow you more control and provide a more optimal way to isolate your muscles. More control means you can play around with tempo, performing static holds, or even making small tweaks with joint angles like turning your feet inward or outward while doing lying hamstring curls.

Yes, the thought of stepping into one of these Muggle Muscle Palaces may cause a wave of stone cold dementor-like panic to cross over you, but they’re really not terrible places to venture into. Muggle gyms provide you with an opportunity to experiment more with your training outside of MFF. Or, you know, you could just hop on a bike or treadmill and do yo’ cardio thing.

However, there are three rules every Wizard and Witch must follow when training at a Muggle gym. And, these are rules that every Muggle should follow as well because these are rules that will make the gym a better place and make you look like an upstanding and caring human being vs. a flobberworm.

5. Rules of Etiquette in Every Muggle Muscle Palace

Clean up your sweat.

I feel like this is a no-brainer. But I see Muggles doing this all the time. They perform their sets, then get up, leaving the bench covered in their disgusting sweat. Ugh, gross. Like, who does that?

Clean up your weights.

Do I even need to say more than that? Probably not. But, I’m gonna anyways. If there’s one thing you will notice about Muggle gyms, it’s that people don’t like cleaning up after themselves. Plates get left in all manner of places. Dumbbells end up on the other side of the gym. Barbells get left out or leaned up against walls.

It’s as if these Muggles never had parents who taught them to clean up their mess and put things back where they found them. But you are an upstanding magical person who knows that you need to clean up your mess and place things back where they belong.

So, it might look like the Muggle standard is to never clean things up, but be better than Muggles. Clean up after yourself. I’m sure the Muggle staff at these gyms will appreciate that too.

Unsolicited advice is not cool.

Every trainer at MFF is really good at asking questions. And yea, sometimes it can be pretty infuriating. But there is nothing more infuriating than to be in a Muggle gym and to have some Muggle waltz up to you and tell you how you “should” be doing that exercise.

First, it always feels like this person is using your “form” as an excuse to hit on you. So, uh, thanks but no thanks, you Muggle version of Wormtail.

Second, when someone tells you what you should be doing, you immediately desire to do the opposite.

And lastly, this unsolicited advice makes people feel uncomfortable in a place that for so many Muggles and Magical People alike already feel odd stepping into.

What to Remember at Every Muggle Gym

A Muggle gym may not feel like home to you. And it may never feel like MFF. But that’s okay. You’re still paying to be there, and you deserve to enjoy your time and take up that space. Don’t apologize for being there and using the equipment.

If MFF is your fitness home, let your time in a Muggle gym be your supplementary training. Use your time there for cardio if you want more of that. Or, use it as your time to pump up your shoulders, biceps, or triceps.

Be courteous to those around you, of course. Ask to work in with others if they’re using a cable machine that you intend to use. These are great ways to improve your Muggle communication skills.

The space may feel less like home to you. But that doesn’t mean that you should go in and feel bad for using Muggle equipment. Hoist those dumbbells and barbells. Enjoy pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. But always remember to come back home.

Ready to sharpen your skills at Hogwarts before venturing out into the Muggle world? Schedule a Strategy Session at Mark Fisher Fitness.


Robbie Farlow is the King of the Gingers, Protector of the North, and an uber nerd who loves all things Star Wars, video games, Marvel, and 90s music. Oh, and tacos and whiskey. He’s an online fitness coach who helps men and women make their 30s better than their 20s. And he writes about all things nerd, lifting weights, emo music, and more at Side Quest Fitness. When he isn’t writing, you’ll find him playing video games, deadlifting, munching on tacos, snuggling on the couch with his wife, and drinking good whiskey.


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