The last thing you want after you’ve worked up the motivation to go to the gym for a focused and structured workout is to bump into any of these jokers. From the guy who hogs the equipment to the wannabe personal trainer, every gym has them, but you needn’t let them ruin your session.
1. Captain Form-Check
Yes, form is important. And yes, getting the right grip-width when you bench (or foot-angle when you squat) can be the difference between a mediocre session and a PB. But that doesn’t mean every self-taught internet PT can bellow “Elbows up!” and “Drive drive drive!” at you like he’s a submarine commander. It’s fine if you ask their advice: less so if they offer it unsolicited.
How to deal with him The long way: reassure yourself that you’re doing it right by posting a form-check video at reddit.com/r/weightroom. The short way: headphones, no eye contact.
2. Johnny PB
“Oh, you just squatted bodyweight? Nice work! Yeah, last week I got 100kg. For five reps. In socks.” There’s a man in every gym who has done better than you at any given move, under worse conditions, at a time you didn’t happen to be around. Almost like magic. It’s OK to not like him very much, and it is very OK to not want to listen to him.
How to deal with him Remind him that, in the words of judo founder Jigoro Kano, it is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than yesterday. (Then ask him what he benches and tell him you can do 10kg more than that. Narrow grip.)
3. Professor Bro-Science
To be fair, academic studies do often lag behind real-world experience when it comes to building muscle: the muscle-building value of chasing the “pump”, for instance, has only recently been validated by research, despite Arnie extolling its virtues three decades ago. But that man telling you that if you aren’t scoffing a tub of waxy maize during your post-workout window you’re going to lose all your gains? That man, my friend, is not Arnie.
How to deal with him Talk to him in his own language. “Sorry, bro – I only do moves that I’ve seen referenced in double-blind peer-reviewed meta-studies.”
4. Mr Try-This
Doing dumbbell presses on the bench? Yeah, seated cable flyes’ll hit the pecs better. Hitting up some 30/30 sprints on the bike? Listen, 20/40 is really where it’s at for the lactate build-up. Whatever you do, there will be a man who tells you that doing something slightly different will get you where you’re going faster. Ignore that man.
How to deal with him Hit the gym with a plan, preferably written down: it’ll keep you focused and, if you have to, you can wave it at interlopers. If necessary, assure them that you’ll do their crazy bullshit next time you’re at a loose end. The secret? This is never.
5. The Right Honourable Lord Three-More-Sets
It’s all right to ask to share a bit of equipment. Sometimes, it’s all right for your new gym buddy to be reluctant – if they’re sticking to incredibly short rests, for instance, or if they’re a terrible person. What isn’t cool is when you ask how many sets they’ve got left and they say “three”, then wander off for five minutes. Leaving their towel on the bar.
How to deal with him There’s no hard and fast rule, but if someone’s resting for 60 seconds or more between sets and they’ve got at least two sets left, and you’ve offered to help swap the plates between sets… well, they can still say no. But they’re basically worse than Lex Luthor and Loki combined.
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From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.