No.10 - Hold Your TongueAnybody who is serious about their training will want to keep inter-set conversation to a minimum. You start by talking about whether Favre is really retiring this time, and ten minutes later you’re discussing the girl you banged from the club, by which point your head is no longer in the zone, your muscles have cooled and someone’s using your weights.
Just because you may be sharing the same bench does not mean you need to share opinions; interrupting people’s workouts with constant chatter is a sure-fire way to become the guy to avoid. Unless you know someone particularly well - in which case you will be able to interrupt them mid-flow to do your set without causing offense – stick to saying 'hellos', 'goodbyes' and anything directly related to the workout, i.e. can you spot me? can I share this? etc.
No.9 - Check Your Style
Anything you wear should be practical and expendable; you’re going to be getting sweaty at least twice a week, so be prepared to replace every three months or so. The best look? Plain white trainers, grey jogging bottoms and a white t-shirt never fails. Don’t wear hats, and for the love of God, never, ever wear just Under-Armour.
No.8 - Stand Sensible GroundNothing will frustrate those around you more than having someone working out in front of the dumbbell rack, blocking everyone from it. This seems a painfully obvious error to avoid, but you’d be surprised how many people make the mistake and subsequently become the subject of silent hatred.
Wherever you choose to work out, make sure you’re not obstructing anyone or anything. It’s a simple problem to bypass, so make sure you do.
No.7 - Watch Your MirrorsOne of the biggest complaints I hear about the gym refers to ‘posers’. Being lined with mirrors, it is difficult not to catch an admiring glimpse of your pumped body in the gym from time to time. So when you do, keep it socially acceptable by making sure the eye contact isn’t prolonged and there is absolutely no flexing. However, the primary function for these mirrors is extremely important -- to monitor your training.
Wherever possible, watch the reflection of yourself working out, this is the most effective way of knowing whether you are doing things correctly or not, particularly when training alone. Now you know this, you can also avoid the major faux-pas of walking in-between the mirror and the people working out in front of it.
No.6 - Heed Advice GratefullyThe big guy (aka me) has just come over and told you that your bench press technique needs improving then shows you how to do it (and I can do that in German by the way). The uninformed may feel embarrassed and resentful at this point, but anybody who’s been training for a while can tell you this is actually gold dust -- he’s just set you on course to muscular superiority and saved you from a potential injury – so treat it as such (you're welcome). There is a flipside to this coin. Some, who love to show how hardcore they are, will evangelise about the latest workout they’ve heard of from the underground boxing circuit in Mexico City and tell you that everyone should be doing it.
If someone’s encouraging you to do exercises you’re not comfortable with, an easy way to shake them is to say you’re going to change up your routine in a few weeks and will try to incorporate it then.
No.5 - Share EquipmentWhen the gym gets busy and free equipment becomes scarce, people start to double-up on machines, benches, free weights etc. You should expect to do this and not look surprised when someone asks if they can ‘jump in’ with you. What happens here is that you take turns doing a set each. Go at your own pace and don’t feel you have to do your exercise the second they finished theirs.
If you want to rest for three minutes, do it, but avoid a long, awkward wait by telling your bench buddy so they can get another set in if they want to. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to ask others if you can share the equipment with them; it’s standard gym practice. It is much better to just stroll over and ask than to hover around waiting for it to free up and freaking everyone out by watching them train.
(and speaking of sharing...if you like my blog, don't be afraid to click that little "share" button up top)
No.4 - Put Safety FirstNot securing your weights correctly to the Olympic bar will cause two things: the plates to slide off, creating a horrible sound as they hit the floor, and everyone in the gym to turn and stare at you. Unless you like the idea of social isolation and injuries, make sure everything you do is safe and everything you use is stable. Common sense will see you avoid most hazards without thinking, but there are some that crop up out of fatigue or haste.
When finishing a set, put your weights down, don’t drop them and if you are resting dumbbells on anything but the floor, make sure they can’t fall or roll off. Both points are so glaringly obvious and simple they’re near comical; just make sure you take them on board, otherwise, you will end up being the gym clown.
No.3 - Go in With a Positive Mental Attitude (P.M.A.)It is commonplace within our society to bond over negativity; complaining is acceptable in almost any situation especially when referring to the weather, public transport or the teams last loss. This does not fly in the gym. If you do get chatting to someone, remember not only to keep it brief, but also that nobody wants to hear you whining about how tough your workout is, how tired you are or that the gym is too busy.
People come in to push themselves to the limit despite the obstacles in their way, focusing on these difficulties will only bring you and them down, resulting in a less effective workout. For those around you, this issue is easily rectified: don’t talk to you again. For you, this issue is easily avoided: go in with a P.M.A.
No.2 - Know How To Spot
Unless they request something different, follow their movement with your hands but don’t touch them until they’re really struggling to finish the exercise, then just give a very gently push, but make sure the bulk of the work is coming from them. If someone is doing any kind of press with dumbbells, support the elbows – never ever touch the weights.
No.1 - Master Your TechniqueIt doesn’t matter how well you can spot or what clothes you’re wearing, if your technique is bad you may as well stand on the bench and shout, "I’m new and don’t know what I’m doing". Your workout is the reason you are at the gym and your technique is the core of your workout, so make sure it is nothing less than perfect. It is far better to spend time on lower weights, perfecting technique than to use bigger weights with no form to speak of; serious gymmers judge you by your technique, not your weights.
Given the significance of technique, fellow gym-goers will dismiss you really quickly if you seem unaware of its importance and don’t bother to get it right. Everyone who sees you lifting incorrectly will think of you as an amateur, a hazard and, by association, will assume you guilty of all the other mistakes you’ve taken measures to avoid. Gym instructors exist to help you, so ask them to watch your technique and give you feedback.
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