The day you first stepped foot in the gym most of the things in your checklist of “Things in a gym” checked but a few in all likelihood raised doubts. Similar was the case when I first entered the gym and it was when I was around 17. I opened my checklist in my mind and it was dumbbells checked, treadmill checked, weight plates checked, machines and a few other pieces of equipment checked. But then I looked around and I saw my many reflections staring back at me. People looking away from the main entrance could tell who just entered the gym.
My perception of the gym was way too different. I knew there are mirrors in the gym but I had no idea it was that many at every corner of the wall. It was like all the walls were covered with mirrors and people lifting, flexing and clicking pictures in front of these mirrors everywhere. And It wasn’t until I had become a regular gym-goer and a somewhat good lifter inside the weight section I realised the importance of these mirrors. Mirrors existence in a gym extended far beyond than just clicking pictures and for the egotistic gym bros to flex 24*7 at.
So why are there so many mirrors in the gym?
Gyms have mirrors so that the people can check and improve their form/technique if necessary when looking at the mirror while performing the exercise. Looking at the muscles involved during the exercise helps focus on the contraction and improves the mind-muscle connection. Mirrors are effective for trainers when coaching their clients as a mirror allows them to instruct better. They can have a view at multiple angles all at once. It is easier for them to instruct a group of people during sessions like that of Aerobics as a mirror will allow them to perform the movement themselves for instructional purpose and keep a view at everyone to check if they’re all doing it right or not. Apart from this gyms have mirrors as an architectural hack as well. With mirrors all around, space looks larger than it already is and it allows for more reflection of light leaving a dim-lit area look brighter.
Therefore it can be said, gyms have mirrors for four main reasons, first, for technique improvement. Second, allowing a better mind-muscle connection. Third, to allow for effective training. Fourth and the last, for aesthetic purposes or the architectural hack.
Let’s take a look at these 4 points in a little detailed manner
While it may appear narcissistic at first, how everyone is just staring at the mirrors in the gym. With time you learn it is a helpful tool to check if you’re performing an exercise correctly or not. As a beginner and a broke student when I first started lifting weights. I didn’t have a trainer to always keep tabs on me. In fact, I couldn’t afford one and it didn’t felt like much of a necessity. I had youtube to search for any exercise in the world and how to perform it.
After learning a new exercise from tutorials the mirror helped me to check whether my elbows were fully tucked or not, if my spine was erect or not or if my knees were properly driving out or not. Now that I know how to perform those exercises I rarely use mirrors for learning purposes. But even today if I am trying a new exercise for the first time then I am going to rely on a mirror to tell me if my technique is right or not.
With incorrect posture, there is so much that could go sideways. With a wrong stretch or locking out a joint which was a big no-no in performing the particular exercise can lead to injuries. No one likes injuries it deters you from your goals, right?. But If you have a trainer looking at you for every second while you’re at the gym then you can excuse the mirror. But if not, then don’t shy away from standing in front of the mirror. With time your technique will improve and you may not require the mirror then. For now, do it.
To mind your posture and to perform an exercise with the correct form is of the essence. So pay attention to how you’re performing an exercise.
Mind Muscle Connection
Most of the bodybuilders use the concept of mind-muscle connection in their training. The process involves focusing on the muscle you’re using when performing a particular muscle-specific movement. Attentional focus on the contraction of muscle being used allows it to activate more effectively.
A study was done on 18 men where they were made to do push-ups normally and the other time by attentively focusing on the muscles involved- chest and triceps concluded the activity significantly improved when the men performed the push-ups focusing more on the muscles they were working.
Mirrors help improve our focus as along with solely feeling the working muscle we can directly look at it. This increases the attention on the muscle. More the focus on the muscle the better activity it will witness. The better your muscles work itself the more quality it will get.
Also, looking your muscles expanding and then contracting, it fitting your cloth fully gives you a sense of motivation. Imagine doing hammer curls in front of a mirror and looking at your biceps bulging out every time you contract, now doesn’t it motivate you to do some extra reps?
If looking from the perspective of a trainer a mirror is a convenient tool for him/her to monitor their client’s work more effectively. A trainer would otherwise move from side to side, front to back to look if the form is correct from all around. With a mirror, his vision allows to look at two sides at once compared to just one side before. It allows for easier instructions as well.
Now take a session such as aerobics, spin class or Zumba wherein there is not just one but a bunch of people and only 1 trainer to instruct them all. Without a mirror, he/she can tell them what to do how to do but he/she cannot possibly check if all of them are doing it right or wrong. It just like at a dance studio where the walls are surrounded with mirrors. It allows the dancers to check how well they are doing and the choreographer to teach in an effective and efficient manner.
This is the most surprising and interesting reason. Most of us could have predicted the other 3 based on our experiences in gyms. But hardly, a few of us might have known about it. As a part of interior designing for the gym, the commercial gyms in most cases here are equipped with a number of mirrors surrounding all the wall. The very reflection of parts of the gyms as visible in the mirror contributes to making it look larger. This allows captivating a person who is there to check out the gym before buying a membership.
The other architectural purpose for the mirrors is to make the place appear brighter than what it is. The fewer lights and the daylight reflects from the many mirrors and makes the whole place light up even more. More light in a gym is a customer satisfaction point as people have a tendency to like brighter places more. More than this, more the light better the person can see them and know the finer details in their muscles.
The mirrors in the gym are more than just for selfies. Bodybuilders use it for practising their posing routines and attaining a mind-muscle connection. The newbies can use it for improving their techniques when performing an exercise for the first time. The gyms, of course, use it for their own benefits as a tool to get more sales. For trainers, it allows efficiency in their work.
This topic of- Why do gyms have mirrors? is a very debatable one. There are people who feel mirrors are a big distraction while there are some who do not believe so. Both of which is not fully true. Having a mirror in a gym comes with its own pros and cons. When training for a sport like bodybuilding mirrors are a requirement for almost all the bodybuilders. But sports like powerlifting, strongman and CrossFit adhere from using mirrors in the gyms. Hardcore powerlifting gyms and CrossFit gyms do not have mirrors as their sport involves focusing on lifting the weight or performing a circuit routine faster than the others as in the case of CrossFit.
At last, it comes down to what suits you better. Nowadays some gyms have mirrorless areas for those who do not wish to look at mirrors or for those who’re still new and better physiques then theirs intimidate and demotivate them due to the concept of insecurity.
So what do you prefer? Mirrors or no mirrors?