Having arrived in Seoul after a long stay in Japan, I didn’t have very high hopes for gyms in Seoul. It’s not that there were no weight rooms in Japan. There were, just they were not very cost-effective for foreigners and non-residents. In Seoul, the bodybuilding and weightlifting cultures were present and quite healthy, with the heart of it at Arnold Hong Gym in Sinchon. Best of all, this gym had great equipment and foreigner-friendly price points.
I didn’t find Arnold Hong Gym immediately. A long week had passed before I learned about its existence. In that time, I talked to a couple of other gyms in Seoul and was initially quite discouraged. These gyms were gutting my wallet like a fish and asking between 160,000 won to 240,000 won a month, which was about $150 to $220 USD. I asked if they had weights (I mimed shoulder presses for good measure) and they couldn’t even answer me that.
I just needed a place with a squat rack and some dumbbells that would let me do daily rates at a reasonable price. And I found this at Arnold Hong Gym, introduced to me by the kind receptionist at Ewha Women’s University. As chance would have it, Arnold Hong was literally right across the street from where I stayed.
Yes, there’s a squat rack.
It’s weird though because the pins seem a tad shorter in length and doesn’t quite catch the bar when you step back too far to squat. I point this out because this detail had subconsciously changed the way I squatted, because I wanted to make sure the pins would have caught the bar if I had to bail. It probably takes getting used to.
Dumbbells went up to a decent number (maybe at least 70kg?).
You’ll also find a long row of treadmills and cardio machines and a neat track for you to stretch and do warm-up drills.
Arnold Hong is clean and spacious. If you wanted to deadlift, you can set that up too. No one cares, and that’s really cool.
There’s also a coffee and smoothie bar, as well as a “personal trainer” area, where they have foam rollers, dowel rods, kettle bells, medicine balls, and such. They also offer yoga and spin classes from what I could tell.
There are locker rooms, showers, and handy water fountains. Upon check-in, they give you not one but two small towels and a locker room key.
When I asked, Arnold Hong offered day passes for 10,000 won (about 10 USD a day). That’s not bad. It’s a reasonable price I would pay once or twice a week to get a lifting session in. The staff spoke limited English, but they were able to knock my price down to 5,000 won a day ($5) because I told them I was going to use it for three weeks. So they gave me a deal and let me buy 14 day passes all at once.
Normally, a month pass would run about 120,000 won, I believe. Still quite high by my American standards, but it seems to be on the lower end for Asia standards. Just make sure when you sign the release form and contract that you’re paying for whatever amount you agreed on and for the number of passes.
It’s right across from the CGV theater, on the corner of the street. The entrance looks like this:
You have to go down some steps.
Overall, Arnold Hong is a great gym for visiting foreigners. The staff’s English is limited, but they generally understand what you need.
I’ve provided the Google Maps location below, though beware that Google Maps doesn’t work correctly in South Korea for whatever reason.