When we want to workout at home, we often don’t have all of the equipment that we need, so we go to the gym instead.
It’s hard to train like a rebel when you’re stuck inside a globo-gym. It’s not fun being surrounded by bad music, useless machines, and people who don’t know what they’re doing. But luckily, I’ve developed a good attitude towards training that allows me to work out without being bothered.
I’ve been exercising in various commercial gyms since I was sixteen, and they’re all pretty much the same:
- Walls full of treadmills and elliptical machines
- Dozens and dozens of “weight-lifting” machines
- A room for low-impact cardio aerobic classes
- A section in the back or upstairs for the free weights
I always feel like an outsider when working out in a commercial gym because I do things differently than anybody else. I get weird looks from people and often get told off by the meatheads for using the squat rack for squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and power cleans. I also get a lot of funny looks when I load up a belt with weights to do my pull-ups and chin-ups.
You know what? I LOVE IT.
Every day in the gym is a new opportunity to better yourself and get one step closer to your goals. Treat it like a battle that you need to win, and you’ll see the progress you’re making.
If you’re not sure how to use the equipment in a commercial gym, don’t worry. I’ve been in your shoes and I understand how you’re feeling.
Pick a Good Target
If you’re going to get a gym membership, there are certain things that absolutely need to be there if you’re going to get a good, rebellious workout:
- Free weights – if your gym doesn’t have any dumbbells (or only has dumbbells up to 20 pounds) because “we think machines are safer,” don’t even bother – move onto the next one.
- Squat rack (either full or half) – I think any workout (for men or women) should have some good barbell squats in it. This rack will also make overhead presses really simple, and can double as a place for you to do bench presses, deadlifts, and power cleans.
- Bench press bench and adjustable benches – for doing bench presses (duh), 1-arm dumbbell rows, incline dumbbell presses, and so on.
- A pull-up bar – for pull-ups, chin-ups, and hanging knee tucks.
- The rest of it – a place to stretch, cardio equipment (for interval training), exercise balls (for a full range of motion crunches and knee tucks), maybe a rowing machine, and a cable machine (for triceps pull downs and such).
Make sure to try out the gym before giving them your money.
Bring your own music
No matter how many times you hit the gym, you can’t seem to get rid of that extra weight. The music played in a commercial gym is always terrible, so make sure to bring your own. I don’t have statistics to back it up, but I feel like I can lift at least 10 pounds more on any exercise when listening to my favorite songs instead of a techno remix of Ke$ha and Miley Cyrus.
Tuning out the people around you is a big advantage of bringing your own tunes to train with. It allows you to focus on what you’re doing without being self-conscious.
Rather than worrying about what other people think, keep your headphones in, your head down, and just focus on yourself.
Ignore your troubles from the work day, the stress from your home life, or the worry of tomorrow’s big presentation.
Focus on pushing the weights around for those 45 minutes.
Ignore 95% of the equipment
I don’t think a workout is complete if it’s only cardio because you can burn more calories weightlifting and it builds muscles.
End your workout with some intervals after you have lifted some weights.
Don’t use weight-lifting machines because they don’t include stabilizer movements. The only machine you should use is the Smith Machine for inverted bodyweight rows.
Now, if you’re not using machines, you’ll be using…
-You’ll spend most of your time in the dumbbell and barbell section in the back of the gym -This is the section where most of the juiced up and intimidating guys are and they’re too busy staring at themselves in the mirror to notice you
Ignore 99% of the people exercising
Almost everyone in the gym is clueless and if you train properly, you’ll stand out and get weird looks.
I am always amazed at how many people I see in the gym doing exercises improperly, using too much weight, and not getting results. In all the time I’ve spent in the gym, I’ve probably only seen a dozen people doing a proper squat.
There is little to be done when trying to change someone’s perspective who is firmly set in their ways. In these cases, it is best to hope that they have a moment of realization or understanding like you did.
Be careful about taking advice from anyone else because they may not know what they are talking about. Listen to the advice, think about if there is any truth to it, and then continue with your workout.
I find that, in general, men in commercial gyms are only worried about two things: bench presses and bicep curls. Meanwhile, women tend to spend more time doing hours of cardio, thirty minutes of ab work, and 5-pound dumbbell exercises for sets of 50 without breaking a sweat.
Instead of worrying about what other people think of you, focus on your own workout. Chances are, the people around you are more worried about themselves than they are about you.
Remember: headphones in, head down, zone out.
Do your thing and get out of there.
The Worst People at the Gym According to Trainers
The top trainers in the country were consulted on proper workout decorum in order to make gyms a friendlier place. The following is a list of the worst offenders of deadly sins in gyms.
The Gym’s Most Wanted List
- The Hoarder
Health club hoarders tend to collect a lot of workout equipment and never use them, similar to those seen on reality TV. Personal trainer at Chelsea Piers Fitness, Max Tapper, says that they often stand in the same spot in front of the mirror with different weights and swear they will use them all while doing multiple exercises. To avoid becoming a hoarder, Tapper suggests making circuits small and only taking the weights you will need at that moment.
- The Not-So-Supersetter
Using two or more exercises at a time (super setting) is a great way to maximize your time and increase your burn. However, during busy times at the gym, this can cause problems for others trying to use the equipment. If you are using more than one piece of equipment, make sure you stay close to them so others know they are being used. If you walk away for more than a minute or two, people will assume you are done and try to use the equipment.
- The Spoiled Brat
Some people have difficulty keeping their gym equipment in its proper place because they grew up with nannies, butlers, and maids who did that for them. Dan Trink, a strength coach and owner of The Fort NYC, says this can be frustrating when you’re trying to get a workout in and half the time is spent looking for the equipment you need. He suggests avoiding this problem by returning your equipment back where it belongs when you’re done with it.
- The Exhibitionist
When you’re working out and need a distraction, people-watching can be a good thing. But be careful. Jordan Syatt, a five-time world record powerlifter, strength coach, and owner of SyattFitness.com, says that people working out without any underwear on is more common than you’d think. So, for your sake and the sake of everyone around you, make sure you put on a decent pair of underwear.
This is also the case for shirts at some CrossFit gyms. Kelly Starrett, coach and founder of a San Francisco CrossFit, says that they have a policy requiring both men and women to wear shirts while working out. The main reason for this is to keep people’s sweat from getting on the equipment and floor, but it also creates a more welcoming and inclusive environment.
- The Miley
We are exercising at the pull-up bar when a person comes in blasting music from their headphones and singing loudly. Is this person being Miley Cyrus and just being themselves? According to Michelle Lovitt, a celebrity trainer and fitness expert, most likely not. She says that singing in the gym is distracting to other members and annoying. It is better to sing to yourself in your head.
- The Pick-Up Artist
If you want to stare at someone, do it by swiping right. For all other interactions, keep them respectful. Men who leer are not only creepy, but they’re also preventing women from feeling comfortable in the weight room, according to Adam Rosante. If you see someone you’re attracted to, make eye contact and smile at an appropriate time. If they smile back, wait until they’re done working out to say hello. If they don’t respond, move on.
- The Talker
A typical gym-goer spends up to 35 percent of each sweat session on activities that are not related to fitness.
Approximately one third of gym-goers confess to taking time out of their workout routine to have a conversation with friends. Although taking a short break during a recovery day is acceptable, most workout routines should involve some amount of physical labor. Anja Garcia, a Daily Burn and Equinox trainer, says “If you can hold a full conversation while on the treadmill, you aren’t doing it right!” Gossip can wait until after the workout is completed – and for those who can’t help but talk constantly, cell phone calls should never take place on a moving piece of workout equipment. Garcia says “It’s important to dedicate time to yourself, your fitness, and your health.” Ignoring distractions and focusing on the task at hand can be the difference between a great workout and a fall.
- The Texter
A typical gym-goer wastes up to 35 percent of each sweat session on non-fitness activities, such as texting, checking email and scrolling through apps, according to a survey conducted by Harpers Fitness. To avoid shortchanging yourself, put your mobile into airplane mode and plug back in once you have that post-workout shake in hand.
- The Drama Queen
“Dropping your weights” refers to a common practice among weightlifters of allowing the weights to fall to the ground after completing a set, rather than carefully setting them down. While this may be unavoidable at the end of a very heavy set, it is generally considered dangerous, disruptive, and unnecessary at most commercial gyms.
Hyson explains that if someone is dropping their dumbbells or barbells multiple times, they are either desperately seeking attention or they are very careless. This can cause damage to the equipment as well as the floor, and it can also injure people who are nearby. It is important to be aware of your gym’s policy on this matter, and to only lift weights that you are reasonably sure you can control.