Going to the gym can be an eye-opening experience — both for the first-timers and veterans in the iron army. You get to see all walks of life converging in the same square footage, all with one relatively similar goal in mind: better personal well-being. Whether you signed up for a gym membership to get in shape, stay in shape, bulk up, or simply blow off some steam after work, no one’s going to stop you from bettering yourself.
But there’s also plenty to criticize. Now, we’re not advocating that you actively and aggressively people-watch at your local gym; that’s a surefire way to lose your membership quicker than it took to sign up in the first place. If you frequent the gym enough, though, you’ll start to notice both the poor etiquette and bad exercise habits of other members because you’ll cross paths with at least one guilty party every time you go. If you’re new, don’t automatically assume you’re an offender; oftentimes the most experienced people have the most offensive rituals. After all, it takes time to build bad habits and practices. Below is a cautionary list of bad behaviors at the gym and how to correct them.
Don’t drop the weights on the last set. Or ever, for that matter. Not only is it loud and unnecessary, but you can seriously injure yourself or someone around you and damage the equipment. Plus, if you let the weights down slowly, it’s more of a workout — and that’s why you’re there, right?
More protein powder doesn’t necessarily mean more muscle. Dean Golich, head performance physiologist at Carmichael Training Systems and Honda Racing’s personal trainer, prefers for Honda Supercross riders Cole Seely and Trey Canard to get their protein from whole foods rather than powders. Golich says, “Only when the workouts intensify preseason, do we use supplements.” And even then, Golich says 15 grams of protein are enough, unless you’re really looking to be a professional body builder. “More than that is unnecessary.”
Warm up the right way. If you’re going to bench press, it doesn’t make sense to go for a jog. Personal trainer Lee Ashford says, “If you’re going to run, then warm up by running. If you’re going to lift weights, then first mimic the actions with bodyweight moves.” So either just do pushups or try benching the bar without any weight.
Don’t leave the treadmill soaked in sweat. Just because you have minimal contact with the machine doesn’t mean you won’t leave a mark. Benches and machines are a little more obvious; when you get up, you can see that it looks like you tried to water the seat or backrest like a houseplant, purely from sitting on it. With treadmills, the side rails and treads are usually covered in your sweat and the user interface has your paw prints on it. Wipe the whole thing down.
Form before weight. It would make sense that you know what you’re doing before you hold heavy weights over your face, wouldn’t it? When it comes to lifting, it’s best to have the right range of motion and get your form down before you move up in weight. Todd Bumgardner, strength coach and co-founder of Beyond Strength Performance, says, “If your spine rounds or your hips and knees don’t move in unison, the weight is probably too heavy.” If you can’t properly lift the weights you’ll probably hurt yourself.
iPhone curls don’t count. The time you waste nose-deep in the latest celebrity Twitter beef is time lost lifting weights. Although proper recovery is key, let your heart rate dip too much between sets and you’ll lose crucial blood flow to the muscles you’re working.
Unsolicited nipple action. For the guys who go the overzealous muscle-tee route, having the arm and neck holes bottom-out just above the belly button is too much. A standard tank top or wicking t-shirt should do the trick.
Free yourself from the machines. Using machines every so often in resistance training is a great starting point for a workout, but it can hold you back in the long run. Ashford says, “A Smith machine, for example, offers a very limited range of movement and doesn’t involve any balance.” If you can stand and do a workout, you’re better off, because you’ll be using muscles you don’t even know you’re using, just to keep balance.
Stretch right. Static stretching before a workout can actually hinder everything you’re about to do — it’ll actually tighten the very muscles you’re trying to relax. After a workout, it can relieve muscle tension and aid in recovery. Pre-workout, though, you’ll want to run your muscles through the motions with active and dynamic stretching.