Steadfast FinancesWhy Pay Gym Membership & Personal Trainer Fees when YouTube is Free?

Why Pay Gym Membership & Personal Trainer Fees when YouTube is Free?

Filed in Budgeting , Frugal Living , Saving Money 18 comments

To get a change of pace from my normal push ups, sit ups and treadmill routine, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to go back to free weights 2 to 3 times a week or use a few high tech cardio machines (elliptical machines, rowing machines, etc.). So I popped into my local gym to get a quick price quote.

Once I saw the prices, my frugal living complex quickly kicked in and convinced me to keep doing push ups in the garage. Gym membership fees were on a “limited time only price” of $34 per month for full gym access. Of course, the perks cost extra: personal trainers, yoga classes, locker room access, etc., were only available via a la carte pricing and were not included in the monthly gym membership fee.

Being something of a YouTube junkie, I had already convinced myself I could find dozens of creative workout routines for free before I even hit the parking lot. So instead of adding another monthly expense to the budget, I decided to save the extra $34 per month ($408 per year) expense and look for free workout routines on YouTube.

If you have run into the same dilemma and you’re looking for a few easy workouts you can do at home in your spare time, here are a few excellent workouts and strength training routines for beginning and advanced levels that I found within minutes of doing a simple search. You’ll also notice that none of these workouts requires any type of equipment or fancy gadgets… just you, your time and some sweat equity!

Basic Cardio and Metabolism Boosting Workout

The burpee (also called squat thrusts) is one of the most basic, yet most efficient, total body exercises you can do. It may look like an exercise to build upper body strength, but don’t let the push up motion fool you because you’re legs will probably start give out long before your arms do.

It’s an excellent way to quickly get your heart rate up, boost your metabolism and get a total body workout with minimal time invested. Start with 10 to 20 repetitions for each set and increase the number of reps as your endurance allows.

This is only one individual exercise, but many more combinations can be found at

Advanced Cardio and Metabolism Boosting Workout

If you’re looking for something a little more diversified or maybe targets a few more muscle groups, here are a few combinations of simple exercises (no need for equipment) designed to raise your heart rate and increase your stamina.

You can go as “advanced” on this sort of workout as you want by simply adding in new exercises, raising the number of sets you do, or by simply increasing the length of time you do each exercise (90 second intervals versus 30 second intervals are far more difficult than it sounds).

Basic Strength and Toning Exercises

If you’re new to working out or you’re just trying to tone up, your body weight should provide more than enough resistance. A daily regime of simple push ups, squats, and lunges (with varying degrees of difficulty) can get you nicely toned or help you build enough physical strength to move on to more strenuous workouts.

Advanced Strength and Upper Body Workout

I thought I was in pretty good shape considering I do 100 to 150 knuckle push ups and 100 burpees everyday. Wrong!

This 10 different push up by 10 reps by 10 second recovery time workout had me winded by set #5, and severely winded by set #8. Embarrassingly, I honestly had to pause the video after set #8 and give myself a 60 second break.

If you’re looking for an interval/circuit training workout that emphasizes building strength but also boosts your cardio fitness, interval training workouts like these are excellent starting points and lots of users have posted them for you to learn from free of charge.

Basic Yoga

I’ve never been much of a yoga person because I’ve always thought most basic yoga techniques are less strenuous than my old football stretching and warm up drills, but if you’re into the stretching, flexibility and getting tone thing, then yoga is something you should consider. Plus, it never hurts to try something new or add some variety to your workout program.

Advanced Yoga

Hot yoga (also called Bikram Yoga, heat yoga, or sweat yoga) is a unique way of taking differing levels of yoga techniques and cranking up the intensity. I’ve taken a few of these classes in my younger years, and it’s definitely not something you should try if you can’t do the basic strength poses, may be claustrophobic (my classes were packed in like sheep), or might not have the mental endurance to tolerate 3o to 90 minutes of 105 °F degree heat.

I included this video because the narrating yoga instructor gives specific instructions how you can replicate a hot yoga studio environment (within reason) by using a space heater, multiple layers of clothes or doing a prior cardio workout like those listed above. If you haven’t done this at least once in your life, you’re missing out!

Basic Sit Ups / Crunches / Core Exercises

No workout is complete without including a few basic core exercises, so it’s important to include a few sets of basic crunches or sit ups into your workout routine. Every personal trainer that I’ve spoken to over the years believes that strong abs takes stress off your lower back, so a few extra minutes a day is worth the bad back insurance policy.

Advanced Sit Ups / Crunches / Core Exercises

If you’re looking for something a bit more hardcore or perhaps you want to take a shot at developing those hard to get 6 pack abs, you need a fairly tough ab workout routine. This video will definitely put you on the right path because it’s a tough, well rounded routine. Plus, the guy has the abs to prove that his program works.

Not sure about his diet plan, though, if you’re specific goal is to get six pack abs. Free runners burn a lot of calories and I’m not sure as many people burn as many as he would. Although a French fries and ice diet does sound appealing!

Final Thoughts

Will a home workout program equal or better a monthly gym membership? It’s debatable. It all depends on how much effort and time you’re willing to put into it.

Many of the “gym rats” that I know do a few benchpresses, a few bicep curls, and oogle the spandex clad ladies taking the kickboxing classes. Not to mention, they usually go 3 to 4 days a week and spend most of their time chatting far too long in between sets, so they probably aren’t getting the best bang for their buck. Of course, one could argue that going to the gym is as much of a social event as it is a place to work out, so getting a good workout may not be their prime objective.

One thing is for certain: the combination of 100 push ups, 230 sit ups and 100 burpees workout routine I completed yesterday definitely had me huffing and puffing just as hard — or harder — had I agreed to pay $34 per month for the gym membership.

In the end, isn’t that what matters most?

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Posted by CJ   @   5 January 2010 18 comments
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Jan 5, 2010
2:27 pm
#1 Craig :

It depends on your workout. I go to the gym 4-5 days a week and do weight lifting so it makes sense for me. For those who want simple and effective exercises, stick to online videos. There are good ones out there for free. I have done some abs ones myself and liked them.
.-= Craig´s last blog ..Huge Giveaway at Money Crashers with $4367+ in Prizes =-.

Jan 5, 2010
2:45 pm
#2 Matt SF :

Excellent point. If you’re trying to build muscle mass beyond what an elevated push up can do, hitting the iron is definitely the way to go.

Jan 5, 2010
3:16 pm
#3 Abigail :

I would definitely say it depends on your methods. I’ve seen a LOT of people with the wrong form when using weights and weight machines. This can lead to a lot of problems and/or not working the muscles as effectively (if at all).

So I would consider at least getting a personal trainer to learn the basics, if a weight regime is what you’re after. That said, all PTs aren’t created equal. Most have minimal training. APEX, for example, is a couple of classes and a test. But it’s one of the main qualifications you’ll see on a lot of trainers’ resumes.

Look for someone who actually went to school for this stuff, preferably sports medicine, physiology or kinesiology.

I pshaw-ed trainers for awhile, but lucked into a great one who works with special populations. Since I have chronic fatigue, his help was invaluable. I wouldn’t have trusted most trainers to know my limits. But he always knew exactly when to push me a little bit more and when to stop. I never experienced a setback (which can land someone with CFS indoors for days at a time).

But for the average gym-goer, yeah I would say get a couple of training sessions (most gyms offer a freebie to induce you to get more) to get your form down. Then you can train at home.
.-= Abigail´s last blog ..Sanity savers I: Rewards Programs =-.

Jan 5, 2010
3:29 pm
#4 Matt SF :

Absolutely. If you’re an experienced gym rat (I started at 16), or you’ve attended a few specialty classes (yoga, kickboxing, etc) then it should definitely be okay to go solo.

If you have special needs (BTW sorry about your condition), or if you require that gym atmosphere to get pumped it, the gym is definitely the best alternative. I’ve also known a few people who like to show off as well! haha!!!

Motivation is key from my experience, and for whatever reason, the most demotivating factor of going to the gym is the effort it takes me to get there. Driving 20 minutes is so demotivating that I would never go, and end up not working out at all or just doing some push ups with my feet on the stairwell. Guess I get hung up on the productivity or efficiency metrics when it comes to my time.

Thanks for commenting!

Jan 5, 2010
4:54 pm
#5 Evan :


I guess it would depend on your age, and if you already own Wii, but Biggest Loser on Wii w/the balance board is one hell of a work out! Granted the game and the balance board was a gift.
.-= Evan´s last blog ..I Have No Idea about Credit Card Rewards =-.

Jan 6, 2010
8:10 am
#6 Matt SF :

@ Evan,

I really didn’t even consider using the Nintendo Wii in the post, so I appreciate you bringing a fairly new exercise medium to the discussion.

When I was a kid, Nintendo unveiled a Track and Field video game where the user had to run in place. By the end of several heats, your heart was racing pretty fast. But I’m guessing the technology has improved somewhat and users get a better experience.

I’m curious, though, what workouts can you do on the Nintendo Wii that might be a pseudo-replacement for a real life gym? Just basic cardio with step workouts or something more complex?

Jan 5, 2010
7:44 pm
#7 Walter :

Videos from Youtube are good. But sometimes we have specific questions that need answers, and so it is also good to have a responsive trainer. :-)
.-= Walter´s last blog ..Words are never enough =-.

Jan 5, 2010
7:57 pm
#8 Matt SF :

Good point. I’m sure the many of the video authors/blog owners would be willing to answer your questions, but nothing beats immediate feedback when you’re having difficulty. Plus, the words of encouragement (or tough love) would help also if you’re doing a good job (or slacking).

Jan 6, 2010
11:45 am

And in addition to the freebies on YouTube, heading to the great outdoors for walking, jogging, biking or roller blading is also free!

The gyms by me have been lowering their prices to $10-$15 month, unlimited visits. It seems John and Jane Q. Public have figured out that they have a few options!

But these YouTube videos definately can supplement other efforts.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Save a Bundle By Repairing Your Eyeglasses =-.

Jan 6, 2010
12:06 pm
#10 Matt SF :

Excellent point and thanks for making it. I have a treadmill myself, and even though I put about 10 miles a week on it, nothing beats a good hike through the woods in the Spring and Fall seasons.

Jan 6, 2010
2:15 pm
#11 Derek :

I do the same thing for simple body weight exercises at home. I actually used quite a few of those Ab videos.
.-= Derek´s last blog ..$50 of Target Gift Cards Giveaway =-.

Jan 6, 2010
2:21 pm
#12 Matt SF :

Thanks for commenting Derek. I probably screened 20 different ab exercise videos and barely scratched the surface. Really seems like you can find anything you’re looking for if you’re willing to do the screening.

Doesn’t replace the personal trainer or gym experience, but then again, neither do all of those late night workout videos.

Jan 7, 2010
1:40 pm

This is a great post. From time to time I have used youtube for this various thing. Especially when I am trying to research something like the crossfit exercise of the day, or when a friend suggests a new exercise to me, but isn’t around to show me, youtube works perfectly.

Jan 7, 2010
1:45 pm
#14 Matt SF :

Thanks Mike! My problem is that I get bored fairly easily, so if I can find something new to challenge me or a creative way to do liven up the standard push ups and sit ups routine… I’m all for it!

Jan 13, 2010
7:59 pm
#15 Steph :

I agree. Numerous times I have joined gym’s only to find I lose motivation after a couple of months. I haven’t looked on YouTube before but sounds like a great idea. What I have been doing is cardio on my own and I also use a product I found called Jym ( It allows me to keep track of my strength progress and I can even use it to target the muscles i want to work on. Much cheaper than gyms and PT’s and I workout when I want. Might try adding some YouTube workouts so i stick at it. Thanks

Jan 26, 2010
12:02 am

Following my habit of being a gym meathead in high school and college I can’t imagine life without the gym… it’s where I find my inner zen! As I’m squatting, benching, an dead lifting surrounded by big sweaty dudes.

I think for that most people this post is a great idea, but for me I’m headed back to the gym.

Great compilation of videos… The 3rd one in particular was fun to watch ;)

Jan 26, 2010
1:29 pm
#17 Matt SF :

Yeah, you definitely can’t replicate the squat rack or the sound of iron hitting the floor after a set deadlifts without being in the gym, so that’s definitely a negative to this idea.

It’s really more for anyone who gives an excuse that the gym is too expensive, they’re too busy to workout, or don’t want to waste 20 minutes driving to the gym.

(FYI: I think I’m all three!)

Being a former gym rat as well – high school and college mainly – nothing comes close to replicating what The Iron can do. But somehow, the realism of waiting 20 minutes for a spot at the bench press only to be hurried through my 3 sets made me seek alternatives. So lots of elevated push ups, sit ups and burpees, and I’m done in 20 minutes.

But yeah, the 3rd video was eye catching to say the least. Another reason that working out at home can’t beat the gym… the patrons!

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