Unwritten Rules of the Gym
Okay, so everyone knows the basic rules of the gym and gym etiquette: tidy up after yourself, take care of the equipment, support and help out others when required and so on and so forth. But what constitutes the other unwritten rules of the gym environment, ones that whilst may not make a difference to the smooth operation and running of an establishment, provide its users with the best outcomes and results and are things they most people often ignore?
This works both ways. If you ask me to spot for you, itíll help a hell of a lot if you tell me exactly how you wish for me to spot you. This is self-explanatory on certain exercises, but even for them itís always nice to know how many reps youíre going for. On lifts such as the bench press, knowing your lift-out call beforehand is paramount to receiving a smooth load out from a spotter simultaneously with you expecting to receive the bar. Casually mumbling ďyeahĒ does nothing but hinder your attempts at the set. In regards to being the spotter, just do as the lifter says. If they want a few extra spotted reps, by all means help them out. However, if they want to be left alone when lifting and youíre there just for safety, make sure you donít start upright rowing the bar off my chest. Yes, Iíve had this happen. And yes, Iíve also had one half of a two-man spot team on the squat hold onto the bar as Iíve squatted down. And it wasnít pretty.
Bodybuilders like to and find results using a technique known as time under tension. As for the rest of us powerlifters and general gym rats lifting a weight as fast as you possibly can is incredibly beneficial to both the amount you can lift and the development of the involved muscle groups. I often see this most pronounced when people are deadlifting. At the gym I attend the amount of people I see half-arsing a deadlift pull and subsequently wondering why they couldnít lock out is astonishing. When lifting, irrelevant to what exercise it is, there has to be a real drive to move the bar and its accompanied weight as fast as possible.
Why all that equipment?
Belts, straps, wraps, gloves and all the other miscellaneous equipment that accompanies a great deal of gym goers are perfectly valid to use (well, apart from gloves unless you want to stand out as someone whoís never lifted a weight before). However, people should concern themselves with why they are using this equipment and whether they should or not. For example there is certainly no need to wear a belt when doing lat. pull-downs. And yes, Iíve seen it. If youíre aiming to pull a new personal best on the deadlift, however, then youíre more than welcome to belt up. I see way too many people wearing belts, wrist straps and gloves when they simply arenít necessary. And yet, like I say, they are perfectly valid pieces of equipment when utilised properly.
This infuriates me. Some people seem to assume that because theyíve achieved a certain level of strength they can bypass warming up properly. And I donít mean 20 minutes on a treadmill, just doing enough warm-up sets so that youíre joints, muscles and general body has warmed up and that your CNS is firing. Watching people jump straight into 60kg on the bench press, to 100kg, then straight to 140kg is like a bullet to the brain and whilst it is fairly macabre to wish ill-fait upon anyone, a simple pulled shoulder or torn pec would certainly allow them to see the error of their ways. But alas. Start by warming up with just the bar (except on the deadlift where this can be difficult and unnecessary as long as you have obtained a reasonable level of strength) and do numerous sets with low reps, building up the weight as one progresses. Simple and easy, it just takes patience to work your way up through the weights so youíre primed and ready to tackle the big numbers.
All Sets Are Work Sets
Whilst this last point isnít strictly true in terms of strength and muscle development, its worth treating every set as if itís a work set, meaning that your body should be set up correctly on the bench press, for example, and breathing should be done correctly for every attempt at a lift, be it easy or difficult. Repeating this movement pattern will allow you to focus on moving the weight itself, when it comes to max effort lifts, rather than worrying about tightening your scapula or breaking at the hips or suchlike.