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The Ten Commandments of the Gym

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Monday, August 3rd, 2009 in Culture, Fitness

the-ten-commandments-1956_posterFollowing up on my “7 Reasons your Workout Sucks” article, it occurred to me that, through both e-mails and talking with friends, the issue of gym stupidity has not been properly covered on this website. Indeed, we’ve begun to cover what’s important for your own training- but we’ve conspicuously forgotten to cover anything related to gym etiquette. With that being said, after some deliberation (and going to the gym enough to be properly irate), here are the Ten Commandments of going to the Gym.

10. Thou shalt not intimidate.

This happens more than it seems it may. Just because you know your way around the gym does not give you the right to, intentionally or not, intimidate other people. Do not try to one-up those around you. Do not intentionally show off the speed you run, the amount of weight you lift, nor the size of your muscles: everything, no matter how much you may think otherwise, is relative to your body shape, size, and many other factors. Some of the best lifters I’ve ever known were the most courteous because they understood this very fact- it’s amazing to see a guy deadlifting 500lbs in the corner of the room to not bother anyone where guidos try to spread out to show off their “curling technique” to anyone who will glance at them.

9. Thou shalt spot and save when necessary.

Sometimes, muscles and machines fail. It happens to everyone, and it’s entirely normal- you can easily be pumping away with a bench press when the weight slams down on you because of a bad grip, or you can accidentally get yourself caught up on a cardio machine. No matter what, if you’re around and anything like that happens, help out. If you can’t lift the weight or manage the stuff, get someone else to help you. No, the person isn’t an “idiot”, nor are they bad lifters/runners/whatever- again, it happens to everyone- and you might need their help another day if you get yourself in a similar jam. It goes without saying that, if someone asks you to spot or help them out, within reason, you should help.

8. Thou shalt use good form.

Under no circumstances should you swing your weights maniacally, drop dumbbells, throw equipment, or any other manner of dangerous techniques. For some reason, many lifters (no doubt seeing videos of power lifter competitions) think they should throw their weights down after they are done, either to immediately release the strain from their muscles or for some kind of “manly” effect- either way, it is dangerous. At minimum, you could easily damage the equipment (see below), at worse, you could break a foot.

7. Thou shalt not preen, flex, or pose.

You are not Mr. Olympia (Dexter Jackson is, at least since last year). The gym is not a place to look good and show off, no matter how many times (other) dating websites may encourage you to pick up people: gyms are for exercise, and that’s just about it. That being said, looking at yourself in a mirror for a reason other than checking form is incredibly vain, especially if you do things like flex at yourself. I, and many of those whom I hit the gym with, have actually seen people lift up their shirts and try to show off their abs to themselves- trust me, it’s far from attractive. If you must be a budding Narcissus, do it at home.

6. Thou shalt not hog, nor shall thou hover.

Invariably, unless you are at some sort of mega-gym, there will be a scant amount of resources so far as machines go. Machines (or any kind of finite equipment- squat racks, olympic barbells, treadmills, etc etc) are incredibly expensive, which means that your average gym will have a scant few- so don’t hog them. In between sets, allow others to use the machine. Do not sit on the machine for extended periods of time. Do not tinker with the machine for hours on end. When you are done with the machine, remove the plates, clean up yourself, and then let someone else use it. However, the opposite applies as well- if someone is hogging a machine, no matter how irritating they may be, don’t hover and harass them. Feel free to ask them once, but beyond that, do not bug them. Be polite.

5. Thou shalt not damage equipment.

This is a no-brainer: use the equipment as it was meant to be used. Treat even the heaviest duty machines with care- no matter how much of a gym rat you may be, check the instructions and follow them. Especially for cord machines and other complex MC Escher-sort of equipment, you can often break a machine through improper use incredibly easily. Do not jostle a machine, try to “alter” it in any way, or otherwise attempt to do anything than what the little instruction sticker/guide/poster says.

4. Thou shalt keep to yourself.

The gym is not a place for mass socialization. It’s entirely fine to talk to someone in the lobby or even exchange a few words, but it is not a party locale, nor is it a place for you to do business, meet people, or the like. Feel free to be social- but remember, the gym is not a party, it is a location to work yourself to exhaustion and leave. If you do want to talk (or hit on someone), keep it somewhere relatively off the beaten path, and always defer to those actually exercising. Needless to say, you have no need to have a cell phone in the gym: do your business elsewhere. If you can easily talk and exercise at the same time, you are probably not exercising hard enough.

3. Thou shalt exercise.

No, seriously. See the above. Not only should you not be socializing in a gym, but you should also be actually exercising- not sleeping, resting, watching movies on your iPod, tinkering with your cell phone, or otherwise making an annoyance of yourself. Though it probably does not apply to you, the gym is not a miniature daycare: do not sit your child on a machine and make them wait for you later. Ideally, your time spent at the gym should be spent doing exactly what you are there to do, and nothing more.

2. Thou shalt not place yourself or others in danger.

This is one of the biggest rules you can follow, and it easily challenges the #1 spot: DO NOT PUT OTHERS OR YOURSELF IN DANGER. Do not, under any circumstances, do anything that could possibly endanger another lifter. Do not do situps under a moving weight. Do not stretch around someone squatting/deadlifting. Do not manhandle machines, tip things over, or swing your weights precariously. Do not mess around others using a treadmill, elliptical, or a machine with moving parts. Similarly, you should protect yourself: do not do an exercise you cannot do to completion. Do not do any kind of movement that could injure yourself. Despite how much of a perfectionist you may be, if you feel unsafe doing free weights, stick to plate machines or other much safer machines. If you feel woozy when running, stop running. No matter what, your safety takes precedence over your exercise.

1. Thou shalt clean up after yourself.

This is certainly the biggest rule: Clean up. If you are using plates, put the plates away when you are done- and put them in the right location. Clean up after yourself if you use chalk. Return machines to their default (or safest) position. Clean up any liquid spills or sweat, no matter how insignificant. Throw away used paper towels, place washable towels in the appropriate bin/box, and generally try to reduce any impact you make on the gym. If you can, actually, clean up where you can- even if you’re cleaning up after someone else. Gym managers have it harder than you think.

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3 Responses to The Ten Commandments of the Gym

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t particularily agree with number 4.

    While I don’t think you should go to the gym and talk to somebody for hours on end , I often go with friends to the gym and we talk while we work out or between our reps. it’s not hard to talk if you’re both on treadmills, and running or cool down isn’t straining vocal chords, so I think number 4 should maybe be taken with a grain of salt in this article.

    It should be changed to, “Don’t disturb others’ workouts” instead of keep to yourself.

  2. RandomDude says:

    I’m a body builder, the entire point of me going to the gym is for aesthetics. I don’t understand why you, and other people, have a problem with me flexing my muscles for myself in front of a mirror. I mean it’s not like I’m disturbing anyone or forcing people to look at me, I’m just doing my own thing for myself. If people don’t like it, they can just look away instead of giving me dirty looks and making me feel uncomfortable.Is it wrong to see the progress you made, and getting a little motivation while you do it? Your muscles look their best right after you finish a set, not when you rest up a bit and go home.

    I’m sorry, but it’s a bit silly to put this as a so-called ‘law’, and even border-line selfish.

    • NameGame says:

      Its because the author, or the people he is writing to, don’t understand bodybuilding and/or are just trying to push the ‘bodybuilders are weak/slow/dumb/vain/random negative trait’ bs thats been around since forever and that all bodybuilders are either Chad Dudebro Douche Extraordinaire or Mr Olympia without the withering and crushingly arduous journey through the amateur and into the pro circuit.

      That or they just don’t understand the goal of bodybuilding isn’t a world record clean and jerk or a 2000lb total and the lifting weights isn’t an end but the means to an end. You’re judged on your body not how much your pull is and if you compete in any form its necessary to scrutinize constantly to find and fix any flaws.

      Honestly I doubt its a deliberate part on them and is just mistaken for vanity because its much more blatant. They don’t see me going home and watching videos of myself lifting to judge and correct any discrepancies in form but they do see you and every other aspiring or competing bodybuilding looking themselves over in the mirror and flexing.

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