Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Gym Tips and Etiquette

As a 20+ year veteran of the weight room and former competitive powerlifter, I learned a lot about lifting techniques and how to be a good gym rat. Not everybody follows good technique, however, or understands the written and unwritten rules of the weight room. If you've ever wondered what these are, read on.


Set goals and keep a record of your progress.

Use good form. The best way to hurt yourself or make minimal gains is to use bad form. Execute the proper range of motion for each lift with no contorting, heaving, or jerking. For instance, if you're doing pulldowns, let the bar go all the way up until your arms are straight before you pull it back down again. If you can't lift with good form, then you're using too much weight -- and you're impressing nobody.

If you want to get big and strong, gradually work into lower reps and higher weight. (Don't do this if you're just starting out -- your body needs to adjust.) Bodybuilders bulk up in the off-season with powerlifting. If you want to shape and tone, use higher reps and lower weights, which is how bodybuilders prepare for competition.

Work your lower-body, too. A big upper-body is great, but you'll look weird if you don't balance it with muscular legs.

Unless you're worried about your baby-soft hands, you don't need gloves. I developed a fine set of callouses on my hands and I was proud of them. Use chalk and Stickum if you're worried about grip.

Wrist wraps and knee wraps, properly applied, offer much-needed support once you get into some serious weights.

Have a spotter for the lifts for which you can't easily dump the weight if you get into trouble, e.g. bench press. A spotter is also helpful for the hand-off and racking the weight.


Don't drop or slam your weights down when you're done. Serious powerlifters use a feather touch when replacing weights. Dropping your weights makes you look like you have no control, and it's annoying to other lifters.

Don't try to carry on conversations with people while they're lifting.

Don't get too close to people when they're lifting (unless you're spotting).

Don't be the jerk who lifts right in front of the dumbbell rack so that no one has access.

Rack your weights. Nothing says "asshole" like leaving weights on the bar when you're done.

Refrain from loud conversations, especially on your cell phone.

Don't yell or swear while you're lifting. Yelling and swearing doesn't make you badass, it makes you obnoxious. (Loud grunting is fine.)

If you're serious about getting fit and strong, then don't talk, watch TV, or play with your iPod while you're doing reps. Save it for between sets and concentrate on what you're doing.

Trade secret: Powerlifters do their main lifts facing away from the mirror. It helps you develop stability and forces you to feel what you're doing.


Blogger Alpha Gymrat said...

Love your comments...neo-fits need all the help they can get. I too am a vet of the gym scene...even wrote a book about it...
check out GYMRAT RULES A novel and gym primer by Robin Lindsay...
Its a humorous look at what REALLY goes on in the Gym !!

3/28/2010 12:33 PM  

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