Every Gym Chain Ranked Worst To Best

The gym is where you go to get energized for the rest of the day at 6 a.m., or where you end up after a long work day, looking to unwind and let go of stress. For many of us, gyms are sacred: a place where you make longtime friends, where you finally put away all your anxiety, and where you slowly but surely see improvements in your body. Even if your goal isn't to lose weight, going to the gym and becoming stronger isn't just about your physical self — it changes you from the inside out, making you more disciplined, and carrying into your goals.

No matter what kind of gym you go to, working out makes you mentally stronger, and is a fantastic outlet if you're looking to let off some steam (instead of your family or significant other getting the brunt of it). Many people say exercising actually gives them more energy to get through the rest of the day, and it gets your endorphins going for a boost in positivity. In short, going to the gym is a self-care ritual in every way, but choosing which of the many chains to go to is crucial.

It seems like there's a new gym chain every month, dotting the streets you drive through on a daily basis. If you want to join a new gym but don't know where to start, we've done all the research so you don't have to. Ahead, find the main gym chains in the U.S., ranked from worst to best.

LA Fitness

LA Fitness is the leading gym in the United States, with over 700 locations, making it a chain you've possibly been a member of, or seen while driving to work. We had to put LA Fitness on the list, mainly because it does not always live up to the standards it promises. With a whopping $1.5 billion in sales in 2019 (via Sport Net), this gym makes enough money to provide its members with top-tier quality — but that's not always the case.

This gym is much more expensive than most: LA Fitness costs $38.99 per month for members at its "premier" clubs, rounding out at $467.88 a year. ("Signature" clubs, with more amenities, are $44.99 per month). This is not cheap, and something to take into account when examining its quality. A $49 initiation fee applies if you are paying month-to-month, but you can go to several clubs if you travel often throughout your state. Every member has access to all of the gym's facilities. LA Fitness offers more to clients like tons of high-tech weight machines, step machines, treadmills, ellipticals, an unbeatable (yet also intimidating) free weight section for weight lifting, and more. Some gyms even offer a makeshift CrossFit section, as well as an indoor pool for swimming, and a locker room with a sauna. Anyone can attend the classes, which is a major plus, although they are quite basic: cardio, Zumba, kickboxing, and the like. One major downside? Members at some locations claim that necessary gear isn't readily available.

Gold's Gym

Next up, we have a classic that never goes out of style, and although much more expensive, is one of the best gym chains in the U.S. for a reason. Gold's Gym was one of the first health centers, opening way back in 1965 in Venice Beach, California (via PR News Wire). Arnold Schwarzenegger himself would frequent the gym to work on his physique, and Gold's Gym soon became synonymous with bodybuilding. It became one of the most prominent gyms ever created, and is still a go-to for anyone looking to pump iron in a serious-yet-exciting setting. Not exactly a chill place to go to, this is a gym that's tailor-made for anyone who's craving intensity in their workouts. Still, it's low on our list for a few notable reasons.

First off, as a bodybuilding gym, going into Gold's is intimidating — there's no way around it. We aren't regular Schwarzeneggers ourselves, and definitely not Tiger Woods, The Rock, or Jessica Alba, all of whom often frequent the chain. As a regular person, it's easy to feel a bit put-off by the disciplined, strict nature of its members, pumping iron in the free weight section like there's no tomorrow. One plus side is that Gold's also provides members with weight machines, treadmills, ellipticals, and more, while offering group exercise classes from vinyasa yoga to bootcamps. However, this is not the place to go if looking for a super-fun, friendly environment. However, month-to-month memberships start at only $35 per month.

Curves International

Fitness mainstay Curves International is a women-only gym franchise that is tailor-made to helping women feel good about themselves and driving them to their utmost potential, while still being body-inclusive. There's always a place for fitness centers like Gold's Gym when craving something vigorous that will push you towards your goals with intensity, if you're wanting to see quick results — but that depends on personal preference, and Curves provides a different experience. Curves is made for women at every level of physical fitness, and is different from other gyms because it does not provide standard free weight areas, or machinery where you're encouraged to try your hand at pushing metal plates (even without experience). We like Curves because it guides you along your fitness journey every step of the way, only providing 30-minute strength training and cardio classes led by an instructor.

Curves is a good option if you want a personalized approach to fitness with an instructor at every workout, one-on-one meetups with coaches, utmost safety, and a community of women to lean on. That being said, this is not the gym if you want muscle-crunching, full-body-sweat workouts, and want the option of both fitness classes and independent weight lifting or treadmill days. It is the gym for you if you want a relaxed exercise style or are working out for the first time. Moreover, Curves can be expensive. The chain notes that "prices may vary by location" because gyms are independently owned, but Gym Price List claims that it costs $149.99 to get started, plus $549.99 for the premium membership and $419.99 for the basic.


Rising up the list, we arrive at a specialized gym that has our hearts: F45. This Sydney, Australia-made gym is intense, but is designed to be inclusive for both men and women, and people of every age range and workout level. It sometimes gets confused with CrossFit, but is actually quite different. Although both workout styles exclusively offer group classes with several rapid-fire, timed exercises you have to run through quickly, F45's classes are all 45 minutes long, use TV screens and instructors to simulate exercises, and each day is designed for either "cardio," "resistance, "hybrid" or "recovery" (via WOD Tools). Even if you dislike CrossFit and have steered away from F45 for that very reason in the past, don't be put off by its apparent similarities — it is actually really different.

F45 focuses on HIIT workouts, otherwise known as high-intensity interval training, that combines cardio exercises with short periods of recovery time over and over. This gym is a fantastic option if you want to see quick results, especially because it focuses on burning calories, is driven by before-and-afters, and has a community approach based on reaching your goals. We like F45 because many of its workouts are based on teamwork, and it combines serious intensity with a fun vibe between members and instructors. They also offer a F45 challenge, or a 45-day workout and nutrition plan, although it costs extra. The biggest downside to F45 is the price: at $200 a month, it is extremely expensive (via Women's Health).


Very different from a standard, do it yourself gym model like LA Fitness, Orangetheory is similar to Curves and F45 (but also very different) because it only offers group classes led by professional instructors. Of course, if you prefer sticking your AirPods in, grabbing your dumbbells, yoga mat, and resistance bands and going for an independent workout instead, this is not the gym for you. However, if you need a coach to offer a mix of discipline, support, and maximum energy, Orangetheory is an unbeatable option. The instructor-led classes are incredible if just starting your fitness journey, too.

Different from CrossFit-like F45 and other kinds of bootcamps, Orangetheory relies on a mix of three stations: treadmills, rowing machines, and weight training. The hour-long classes are split up into the three sections, with students moving from area to area. Each day features different kinds of exercises, so it never feels repetitive or boring, and the HIIT workouts mean you see results quickly. Die-hard Orangetheory-lovers say they can't get enough of the high-adrenaline workouts, which are designed to make you stronger, leaner, and more resistant to cardiovascular disease. The classes also include a heart rate monitor for every student, which allows you to see your progress. Members can book a class in any Orangetheory studio in the world, making it amazing for frequent travelers. Meanwhile, as per POPSUGAR, the price ranges from four classes for $59 a month, eight for $99 a month, or unlimited for $159 a month.

Crunch Fitness

Crunch Fitness is second place on our ranking for a reason: we can't get enough of the gym's adrenaline-driven, energetic approach to workouts, combining independent models like LA Fitness with an emphasis on community. This gym goes hand-in-hand with entertainment, always putting fun before anything else. Going to Crunch Fitness means achieving your exercise goals and seeing changes in your body stat, but it also means having a smile on your face the whole time. Case in point? As described by the New York Times, the gym offers the most unique classes imaginable, including bicycle yoga, capoeira, and pole dancing. Going to Crunch is like going to a bar with all your friends — except you're achieving your fitness goals, too.

While we love Crunch's classes, the gym also offers an extensive standard weight training area that includes high-tech machinery, a free weight section, treadmills, ellipticals, bicycles, and CrossFit-like areas with heavy tires for HIIT workouts. The gym's instructors and trainers are an integral part of the system, and are always around to offer help if needed — a big difference from other standard solo gyms. Positivity and diversity is at the forefront of Crunch's ethos, and they truly strive to make it feel like one big party. As per Gym Membership Fees, the prices are incredible: it costs $29.99 to join, and just $9.99 for the basic, one-gym plan. If you want Advanced HIIT group fitness classes, it costs extra.


Last, we have our first pick out of all other gym chains in the United States: Equinox. This gym sometimes gets a bad reputation for its high prices, which we completely understand. First up, the somewhat-insane, whopping prices: an initiation fee of $500, plus a monthly fee ranging from $185 to $500, depending on the location you choose and if you decide to go for the worldwide membership that includes access to any Equinox in any country (via Business Insider). If you can get past the price (and it's hefty), this gym is undoubtedly the most luxurious, high-quality gym in the country. This is a fantastic option if you want the most motivating, fun, diverse, intense fitness classes imaginable, but also want to have your independent weight-training time every now and then.

Equinox offers an expansive, several-floor approach that comprises high-tech, beautiful weight machines, dumbbells, rowing machines, treadmills, ellipticals, and more, so you have everything you need for an amazing solo workout. That being said, this gym's classes truly set it apart, with non-members paying upwards of $30 to attend one class alone (with that math, the pricing begins to make sense). Classes range from boxing and kickboxing to barre, pool workouts, cycling, dance, running, Pilates, and yoga, so you have everything you could ever need under one roof. Every class is complimentary for members, which makes the elevated pricing worth it. As per SCMP, some locations even feature a sauna, jacuzzi, rock climbing wall, and yoga studio.