Gym People- Do You Ever Want to Scream?

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Do you ever want to just scream when you walk into the weight room and look around at everyone else in there? What are they doing? Doesn’t it sometimes just drive you a bit crazy (especially with all those New Year’s resolution people in there)? Sometimes, don’t you just want to turn around and walk right back out the door?

This won’t be as informative as my “Origins of Strength” article, but hopefully it will at least be a little entertaining. I’d like to go into rant mode here. There always seems to be the same stereotypical people in the gym. It gets a bit frustrating (and sometimes funny), partly because you see some of them doing the same dumb things you did in the past but mainly because they don’t know their head from their arse. Or maybe more appropriately, they don’t know their vastus medialis from their vastus lateralis. Or their linear periodization from their conjugated periodization. I digress…

To protect the guilty, names have been changed, made up, or hell, kept the same even. My apologies if you fit into any of these categories. Don’t take it personally. (Note: When you preface what you say with “my apologies” or “don’t take this personally,” you can say whatever you want!). Hopefully, you find these as entertaining as I do and this helps you make it through a few more workouts in your foo foo commercial gym. If you don’t train in a commercial gym and have your own “garage gym,” can I join?

Mirror Matt

Do you know the reason why mirrors are in gyms? Well for Mirror Matt of course! How else could he check out the pump his guns are getting during his set, after his set, after his set, and after his set of curls?! It’s a good thing he’s doing four days a week of biceps training. He might soon get those pythons up to a full 12 inches!

I’ve been meaning to talk to management and have them check on any leaky seals in the building too because whenever Mirror Matt walks by the mirrors, there seems to be an updraft. I can walk around the same location but never feel it, but I know it’s there because his shirt always seems to come up. This usually causes an involuntary reaction (from the shock of the air hitting his skin I’m assuming) of ab flexing. His training sessions include any location in the gym or a machine where he can see his reflection. I’ve never heard of said training protocol, but he’s a hardcore follower!

Mirror Matt’s favorite shirt

Chatty Chad

Sometimes training is just overrated. Chatty Chad knows this and makes sure to talk to everyone in the gym instead. Whether it’s about his fantasy football team, a movie he just saw, or that girl on the treadmill, he’s got something to say between every set. He must be really concerned about full central nervous system recovery between sets because it routinely takes him between five and ten minutes. Of course, between leg extensions and triceps kickbacks, I’m not sure which is the more physically demanding and requires these long rest periods. I guess I must be missing out on the “eXtreme rest period mass accumulation” scheme he’s using.

“Feel the burn” Barry

Rep after endless rep, Barry always lifts for “the burn.” Because if you feel “the burn,” that means you’re making progress and actually doing something. Feeling “the burn” equals getting results, right? Unfortunately for Barry, he’s getting “the burn” on endless reps of curls or push-downs, not exactly the most effective exercises. But of course, he’s not exactly using the most effective training methods either, so it really doesn’t matter. Maybe, just maybe, he should skip focusing on “the burn” and on how sore and horrible he feels after training and focus on results instead. Feeling “the burn” doesn’t mean you’re doing anything right. Puking doesn’t make you hardcore. Both of those are easy. Getting results is more difficult.

Pathetic personal trainer Ted

Ah, trainer Ted…where do I start? Do you really think your new client should be doing lunge walks with an alternating dumbbell press the first day? I can just glance over and see she has tight hip flexors and the thoracic spine mobility of Frankenstein’s monster. Did you do any assessments before giving her a trial by fire? I can only imagine how her lower back is holding up under that extreme lordosis with load. I guess you are too busy to fix her form because you have to catch her from falling over. Maybe some basic exercises and movement patterns along with some mobility drills would be better to start out with. No need to do an advanced progression right away. Or I guess the harder it is for your client, the better the client thinks you are, right?

Don’t forget to spout off some idiotic information from a fitness magazine you just read because your weekend certification course didn’t teach any real information about training, anatomy, or physiology. It’s a good thing Joe and Jane Q. Public are as clueless as you are due to infomercials, quick fix advertising, and the misconceptions that keep getting spouted by most media outlets or they wouldn’t be wasting their time (not to mention money) with you.

Fancy Felicia

Nothing says training attire like wind pants and a fancy dress shirt. Kind of like a mullet—business up top and party on the bottom! Fancy Felicia is retired and comes in to do her physical therapy. Now, I will be the first to say that you should rehabilitate when necessary and pre-habilitate the rest of the time. The only problem is she’s been rehabbing for a few years now. There’s a word called “progression” and she needs to learn it.

Even if she’s going to stick with endless rehabilitation, at least get up to date a little on the rehab methods. She is doing stuff for her back that would make Dr. Stuart McGill cringe. Even so, I guess I can’t rant too much on her because she is actually doing something and has kept at it for quite some time. And even though I don’t know about style, do you really need to wear a dress shirt and wind pants to the gym? Really?

Lollipop Larry

Also known as “chest and arms Adam,” lollipop Larry looks like, well, a lollipop. He pulls off the look by sticking with upper body exercises, focusing on chest the majority of the time with a little arms and back thrown in occasionally. But no resistance training for his legs. Ever. This results in a very comical looking, skinny lower body with a muscular upper body. A good wind would tip him right over, and he also gets pointed and laughed at by girls and guys alike. I’ll give him credit for putting in the effort and getting some decent results with all the upper body work, but c’mon. Only dweebs don’t work their legs. No, running or jump roping doesn’t count for working your legs.

Marathon Molly

The distance runner. The bane of powerlifters everywhere. Marathon Molly runs and runs and runs and runs some more. While I will say it’s impressive, I don’t think the repetitive stress, pattern overload, lack of range of motion movement, increased cortisol levels, decrease strength levels, and potential for increased fat storage is really worth it. I’m not saying powerlifting is the safest event done long term, but having the force of 2–3 times your body weight on a single leg with every foot strike tens of thousands of times isn’t what I call healthy either. I’ll give her credit for actually competing and being consistent with training but don’t expect me to endorse it (or do it!).

Running hurts you. Don’t do it.

“Trying to lose fat” Phyllis

Poor overweight Phyllis. She has the best of intentions, but due to all the misconceptions out there, she is doing far from the best things to lose fat. “Aerobics are the best way to lose fat due to the fat burning zone,” “lifting turns females into “she-he’s,” and “anything low fat is good for you” are only a few that are out there. I can’t blame her too much because she’s only following what most people think is proper anyway. Throw in her seeing Marathon Molly, a slim and trim runner, and of course slow distance running is the best thing to do. Please realize that a naturally slender, built to run, never been overweight person is probably not the best person to mimic. Diet and aerobics can take your body from “more fat” to “less fat,” but without resistance training, the body composition changes you want will not come. Sorry Phyllis.

“Self-proclaimed guru” Grant

Guru Grant comes in every day with a plan like he knows what he is doing. He does some foam rolling and mobility and activation work before he starts his resistance training. Free weight compound exercises are the staples being used, and his technique is close to textbook. He must think…Wait! This sounds pretty good. Never mind…I think I’m describing myself. Next person!

Grunting Gage

Grunting Gage is an annoyance, but luckily, he can be drowned out by wearing headphones. Watch out if you forget. I once was doing a set of dumbbell bench presses when I started hearing a whole lot of grunting and groaning. I got up and uneasily looked over, half expecting to see that the side of the gym had somehow turned into the set of a dirty movie. Luckily, it was only a couple of guys benching with a plate on each side. Maybe the more noise you make, the more impressive you are supposed to look. But if you want the attention, at least have some weight on the bar.

Along with grunting and yelling, grunting Gage usually looks like he is having a seizure while lifting. Swinging weights around and moving your body seizure like doesn’t scream safety or proper training. Learn some technique and body control. You’ll be better off in the long term, and you won’t look like such an idiot.

As much noise as Grunting Gage, but a lot more weight, so it’s okay.

Martial arts master Marty

Kick box master and Tae-Bo killer, master Marty, goes to all the classes he can and considers Billy Blanks a close personal friend. For some reason, this silly guy believes all of this improves his fighting prowess, and his ego is only matched by the number of punches and kicks he does a day. This is also the guy who does Crossfit, P90X, and any other flavor of the week training protocol. Not that any of those are necessarily bad in and of themselves, but don’t think you’re some advanced elite trainee because of it. There isn’t an infomercial this guy doesn’t like!

Veteran Vick

Veteran Vick has had many years ‘under the bar.’ Unfortunately, that’s all he has and still relies on the training information from his gym teacher he learned back when “he had to walk to school barefoot ten miles in the snow.” He has all sorts of stories about what he could do back in the day and never misses an opportunity to let a younger lifter know he remembers that it was easy for him years back but age is taking a toll on him. He gets credit for staying at it all these years but needs to quit whining and making excuses. There is a decline with age but only if you’re at your absolute genetic peak (no, you’re not at it). Too old? I’ve seen guys in their 60s and 70s compete in powerlifting. Have to take care of a bundle of joy? You have Dave Tate and Jim Wendler who still can keep at it. Multiple kids? Check out Jen Heath and see what a mother of four can look like. Excuses are like…well…you know what they’re like. Stop making them.

Now before you get all offended or start sending me hate mail about these caricatures and why I don’t help these poor, mislead people, you need to realize a couple things. People don’t want help. They think they’re doing the correct things and won’t listen or change. Their ego can’t take it. They heard it from someone or read it somewhere, so it must be the right way. I understand. I was in the same spot, and until they broaden their base of knowledge and realize how much BS is out there, they aren’t going to change.

To be honest, rewind a little more than ten years ago, and I’m in the same spot. I know I wouldn’t even listen to myself if I could go back in time and try to put myself on the correct path. Back then, I knew everything. Now, after years and years in the gym, thousands of hours of reading everything from articles on lifting and supplementation to books like Supertraining, Science and Practice of Strength Training, and ones usually reserved for college courses, I realize how little I know. I had the same kind of hubris the people described above have. Reading a thing or two, taking it as gospel, and following it. Really if you “don’t know that you don’t know,” what else can you really do?

Also, I really don’t know where to start. I was baffled when I heard someone say that muscle turned to fat. Seriously? People still believe this? Lifting weights turns girls big and bulky? C’mon. I’m just thrown off when I’m supposed to go from thinking about reciprocal inhibition in lower crossed syndrome to some thought like “muscle turns to fat.” It would take hours just to get a person to a basic level. How would you explain how to rebuild an engine to someone who doesn’t even know how to check their oil? I get frustrated enough reading and listening to what people think who don’t even have a basic knowledge of physiology or training much less trying to explain it all to them.

Frankly, I’ve wasted so much time already trying to help people out. I’ve grown a bit cynical and figure why waste my time (although sometimes I do slip up and help)?  I remember one time I was asked to design a lifting routine. I was given the old program for an idea of what was currently being done and the exercises that were known. It was a train wreck, but I went ahead and just did some basic things to make it way more effective. I changed the split, I changed the exercise selection and exercise order within the workout, and I changed a progression scheme to use that would have lasted a few months for this relatively new lifter. I gave it back and explained a bit about the thought process behind it. To my sorrow, the very next day, the person came back with another ridiculous workout similar to the original. Claiming what was in the one I gave him and the thought process behind it inspired him to fix it himself. I just shook my head and realized once again how much time I had wasted on helping someone.

Hopefully that explains a bit on where I’m coming from. But hey, if you’re still mad, send off an email to me and I’ll read it. Or if I’ve missed a commonly seen gym type, let me know. If you really want to make me happy, send a few bucks my way so I can get my own equipment and you won’t have to listen to me complain as much because I won’t see these people in my own gym! Happy training, and remember, the New Year’s resolutioners have almost given up!

Dustin Kuhl is an office worker by day and weightlifter by night living in Michigan. He’s able to get lots of exercise for his neck by shaking his head in disgust while training around others. While not shaking his head, he has competed in the USAPL at both the state and national levels. Considering himself a “self-proclaimed guru,” he is always willing to help others who want to achieve their goals in training (if they’ll listen!). Dustin can be contacted at dustinkuhl@gmail.com.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.




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Submitted by DMorgan on Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:20pm.