Dear Young Men at My Gym,
I’ve been lifting weights for more than thirty years. Every year in late spring, you high school and college guys filter through my gym, intending to get pumped for the beach or to maintain your sports fitness levels throughout the summer. Flush with testosterone and infinite energy, you crowd into my gym, full of great muscle-building intentions. Us older guys are mostly happy to see a younger generation take up strength training. However, most of you young men are missing an awareness of the civil and age-old gentlemanly protocols of gym usage. And that annoys the hell out of us. So, eager young men, although I’m proud of your effort, this snarky article is about how to act like a grown up man at the gym.
Don’t Use the Squat Rack for Curls
The squat rack is for squatting. Falling backwards with weight on your shoulders is dangerous to you and the people around you. The squat rack is designed to give you a place to safely drop the weight if you overestimate your abilities. You’re a tool if you need to use the squat rack for barbell curls. Pick the bar up off the floor like a real man. You’re a weakling if you need to pick the bar off the rack for standing overhead presses. Snatch it up off the floor like a grown-ass man! Leave the squat rack for people who need it to do squats.
Put Your Weights Away, Little Boy
This is not your playroom where your Mom runs around picking up your toys for you. If you were able to take the weight off the rack then you can just as easily put it back. Strip the damned weights and place the bar back where it belongs. Put your dumbbells backs. Everything in the gym has a place where it is safely stored when not in use. Act like a grown up man and be responsible for properly stowing the equipment after you use it.
The Weight Rack is Not an Exercise Station
I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw one of you guys standing right in front of the dumbbell or the barbell rack doing curls. Use your head … how are other people going to access that rack if you’re performing curls in front of it, blocking nine other bars you’re not using. The weight rack is merely a place to safely store equipment that is not in use. Take the bar or dumbbell out of the rack and go use it out on the floor where people can still get around you.
Don’t Dominate Equipment
Dude, your gym membership does not grant you the exclusive right to use the equipment. It does grant you the right to share the equipment with others. If you want to circuit train, then don’t get pissed off when someone jumps on the bench you haven’t been on in ten minutes. A grown-up man at the gym realizes that EVERYONE gets to use the equipment: guys who are smaller than you, girls, women, old people, and us guys who know how to use the gym like an adult and have been going there for more years than you’ve been alive. Do your workout and get off the equipment! Take a minute or two between sets; anything more than that and you’re being an equipment hog dick.
It’s a Gym, Not an Airport
What the hell are you dragging around with you? Stop bringing luggage to the gym. There is absolutely no reason to bring your six-foot long gym bag out onto the gym floor. All that crap belongs in the locker room. Fine, you need your back belt, your gloves, your deadlift straps, your water, your diapers, your sippy cup, etc. Don’t be a baby and drag all of your toys around with you. The locker room in most gyms is usually less than fifty feet away. Go back to your locker and get the stuff you need, when you need it. I’m tired of tripping over your junk.
Other People, Like Grown Up Men, Also Use the Locker Room
Do you see those little tiny closets in the LOCKER room? They’re where you store your clothes, hat, coat, shoes, lifting straps, weight belt, etc., while you’re not using them. Do you see that flat thing under your feet? That’s the floor. People, like grown up men, use it for standing on and moving around on. It’s not designed for storage. Do you see that bench? That’s for sitting on. It is not a convenient shelf for your crap. Use the friggin’ lockers, little boys. Men use lockers. Boys use the floor and the benches. Remember that.
I Spit On That Bench Right Before You Used It, Ha Ha!
You wouldn’t use that bench if you saw me spit on it, would you? Why not? It’s just another bodily fluid like the puddle of sweat you left on the leg curl machine. Clean up your juices, boys. We share the gym with women and other civilized people. They don’t want to splash down into your slippery bacteria-ridden mess. Everywhere you look in a gym there is a sanitizer bottle and paper towels. You know how to use them. The gym is a place where you act like a grown up man. Men clean up after themselves.
Okay, this one is just a gentle reminder. Guys your age are going to smell. You have weird hormonal changes happening and you’ve been in school all day in close quarters with other stinky people. Just put deodorant on in the locker room before you come on to the floor. It’s not reasonable to ask you to take a shower first. Just try your best to tamp down the reek.
No Farting! That’s Worth Repeating… No Farting!
It’s hilarious when you fart in a closed up car with your friends. Ripping one in the locker room at school is even funnier. But you’re to act like a grown up man at the gym. Step outside or, at a minimum, go into the restroom when you feel that pressure building. There’s nothing worse than breathing heavy from bent-over rows and then sliding through a greasy cloud of ass air because some douche thought he could launch it and slip away unnoticed. A grown up man would be embarrassed to do that to other respectable people in the gym.
Work Out By Yourself, Like a Grown Up Man
You know who works out in groups? Women. They go to the bathroom together, they do Zumba together, they hold each others hair out of the way while they puke outside a club. And they work out together. It’s a pain in the ass, but we’re not going to change it, men. It’s a gender thing. You know who works out alone? Men. Don’t bring six of your friends and move together from station to station like a group of penguins. Split up, call a friend over for a spot, meet up at the water fountain. The next time I see six young Turks all standing around a bench, impeding the flow of traffic, and intimidating the female gym-goers I’m going to start throwing dumbbells.
Be a Protector of Women, Not a Predator
The gym can be an intimidating and humiliating place for women. You know what a grown up man does at the gym? He looks in the other direction when a woman is working out. When she’s bent over, camel-toe staring you in the face, breasts dangling, the manly thing to do is position yourself so you’re not looking at her. Don’t try to check her out in the mirror. She’ll catch you and, hopefully, you’ll feel like a loser. Think of it this way: we want the ladies to work out. We like the way their bodies look because they work out. Let’s keep the gym a clean, friendly, respectful place for women to visit and make themselves sexy and fit. A boy stares and scares, a real grown up man minds his own business and protects a woman’s dignity.
Fight Your Own Battle
Weightlifting at the gym is not a competitive sport. The battle you are waging is against your own body, its genes, musculature, biochemistry, and skeletal frame. One of the worst, and most disspiriting, things you can do at the gym is to compare yourself to other guys. How much they’re lifting, how many reps they bang out, and the size of their physique is irrelevant to your own goals. Here’s a secret: the grown up men at the gym have respect for the skinny guy performing exercises properly, with strict movement, with weights that are appropriate for his size and experience. Here’s another secret: when we see that kid consistently grinding it out week after week, making safe and incremental gains, our esteem for him goes even higher.
Planet Fitness takes this issue too far with their “No Lunks” policy, but you need to remember that you are a human real grown up man at the gym. You are not a wild boar. You are not a lion. You are not a silverback ape. Some grunting, exhalations, and other vocal emissions are normal. After all, you’re putting a great deal of effort into moving heavy things. But don’t be that attention-whore yelling nonsense into the mirror while he works on tearing his rotator cuff doing lateral raises. And if you’re spotting someone and you’re shouting “it’s all you” into his face, all you’ve done is created a gym full of people that hate your guts. Be a man. Be an evolved, self-controlled, strong silent type that has no need for the attention of others.
You Don’t Need That Much Water
Who made you believe you must drink a gallon of water during your hour-long workout? If I have to stand behind one more tool taking ten minutes to fill his gallon jug at the water fountain I’m going to be back to hurling dumbbells. Here’s a tip from a grown up man weightlifter: drink moderate amounts of water all day. Drink when you’re thirsty. Drink a little bit more if you’ve been sweating. Drink from the water fountain between sets while you rest. Bring a small bottle with you from station to station. There are sources of water all around you. You do not need to bring your zombie apocalypse-sized water container to the gym.
Don’t Just Take a Wild-Ass Guess How the Equipment Works
Believe me; you don’t want to end up in a YouTube gym fail video. Those people make global asses of themselves. If you don’t know how to use a machine or perform an exercise, ask a gym employee, a more experienced lifter, read the instructions on the machine, or watch some videos online about proper movement. In fact, just stay away from the machines and concentrate on doing basic lifts like the deadlift, squat, bench press, overhead press, bent over row, and pull up. By just doing those compound exercises you’ll work every muscle in your body. Stick some basic isolation exercises in there, like barbell curls and lateral raises, and you’ll be doing well.
Here’s the thing, young men: the gym is a melting pot of genders, ages, skill levels, experience, and goals. The only way we can all comfortably and safely share the space is to be respectful of each other. Just like in his daily life outside of the gym, a real man treats others with kindness and consideration, he protects women, and he upholds society’s expectations. A real man welcomes others into his gym and tries to make it easy for them to be there… even if they have no idea what they’re doing. The fact that they’re trying makes a real man applaud. What separates men from boys is not physical size, money, popularity, or family status. Behavior and character are the two attributes that define a man. Show your best of both at the gym and you’ll be a real man.