I feel that gym snobbery, as a subject, should be addressed. Sometimes a new person will hear an experienced trainer say, “I would never use that machine.” The new person now thinks that the machine is somehow dangerous or detrimental to his health, going to lower his testosterone or otherwise. You can see where this is going.
Here I will cover some common extremes of opinion, and hopefully add some perspective to the scene.
Free Weights vs Machines
There is a change in thinking from machines to free weights. Gyms used to be full of machines. One machine for each muscle group. You couldn’t mess it up.
Now you see gyms moving more towards open spaces with rings hanging from the ceiling. It looks more like a gymnastics training center than a place where aunt Edna can go to do her old lady workout.
The functional training snobs are preaching that machines limit your range of motion, deactivate your core and never train your balance. And it is pretty much true. Doing a shoulder press on the machine is different than doing it standing. There is more core strength needed to stand up and hold a bar over your head, and you have to balance it all.
The machine person’s argument is that machines are a good gradient to start with, especially if you have a new client who’s been sedentary for years.
The functional training person would say, well we just use less weight overhead and, if necessary, we will use none.
The machine guy says “That’s not even strength training!”
And so on and so forth.
These arguments are usually had among fitness snobs who can’t even afford to buy one machine or a set of weights. They don’t have a broad view of things. They just learned a few tricks and they’re sticking to them.
Neither of them are really wrong and neither one is really right.
A smart gym owner will see what kind of public he’s dealing with and will structure the gym around that. At this point in time, the most successful gyms are hybrids. They have wide open spaces and machines.
Not everyone has jumped over to the functional training group or even wants to. Your average person just wants to go to the gym to get a little better. Many of them don’t want to do something new and uncomfortable.
The amount of options that you have in shoes is just ridiculous. You have your general purpose cross training shoes, your Olympic weightlifting hybrid CrossFit shoes, your true Olympic weightlifting shoes, technical running shoes and the list goes on and on.
Now people think that they are going to hurt themselves if they don’t wear the right shoe. They might injure themselves doing anything, but the choices are just mind blowing.
I can appreciate that people are learning more and the field is advancing but I’ve had someone scold me for doing light Olympic weightlifting in my technical running shoes. I couldn’t stop staring at them. It blew my mind.
The person didn’t know I was a fitness trainer or that I had taken Olympic weightlifting classes and learned to teach the move in detail. Let alone that I had my college degree in fitness! The guy just didn’t know and I didn’t care to brag about myself. But I did stare at him in wonder.
I asked him what his concern was and it was that I was going to hurt myself. I asked him how I was going to hurt himself and he said that my ankles weren’t strong enough to stabilize my body and the weight I was lifting over my head.
Now, I would admit that it wasn’t ideal and it was less stable than with lifting shoes, but this guy just needed to yell at someone.
That stuff happens from time to time and there is no arguing them out of it. He was convinced my ankles were weak by his visual assessment (through my pants).
The “You’re Going To Hurt Yourself” Snob
The above example is also one of these “form snob” guys. But this is a more extreme version.
I’ve been training a client in the gym where I was well established and a newer gym member came and told my client “Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself.”
My client was doing single legged deadlifts with a kettlebell. He decided, in the middle of his workout, that it was time to preach to someone else’s clients about their form without even addressing the trainer. I was shocked. So was my client.
But I kept my cool. I’m hard to shake and I like messing with people more than anything so I had him state his case. I said “Sandra is doing a single legged deadlift with a 20 pound kettlebell. How exactly is she going to hurt herself?”
He went on to talk about horror stories of people lifting things with a rounded back and getting slipped discs and being bedridden for months. I asked him if he saw that her back was rounded. He said “Yeah, a little.” I had Sandra do a few more and asked him to show me. He showed me a little curve on her thoracic spine and said it could be straighter.
I thanked him and said “We’ll keep an eye on it.” He walked away and I told Sandra her form was fine and not to change a thing.
When Sandra went home, I gave the guy a clear message that he was no longer allowed to talk to any of my clients when I am here working on the gym floor. If he felt something needed to be said, he was not, under any circumstances, to approach the client, but to come to me directly.
This is the type of guy that spreads fear and controls people by fear. They need to be identified and their influence on your life and your business severely restricted.
No matter what they say, they are right. Something could actually go wrong. They are coming from a position of “help”, but it isn’t actual help that they want. I’ve had plenty of people like that try to shake up my clients just to steal them for their own.
It is a very low level of existence to scare your clients into paying you for training.
The Equipment Nazi
At one of the first gyms I went to when I was a teenager (the YMCA), I was doing bent-over rows and rested a dumbbell on the bench while I switched arms. I heard “Hey! Get that weight off the bench!”
The weight (that had not been there for two full seconds) was apparently a big problem for someone around me. There was a very, very muscular individual who proceeded to lecture me about vinyl and the replacement cost for such a bench.
That was my second day in the gym. It was a bit overwhelming to be a skinny kid around a bunch of muscular people, but I was making myself do what I had to do to keep up. Putting up with some awkwardness was fine with me if it was going to get me big muscles.
But then I was attacked. I didn’t go back to that gym. I already felt embarrassed just to be there, but I was making myself. I was embarrassed because I didn’t know what good form was, but I was trying. Then I was called out in the middle of everyone. That made the message clear.
If you are new to the gym and encounter one of these people, just thank them for the advice and tell them that you are new and that you welcome any other advice they have to give. That usually gets them off your back. Or they’ll offer to train you once for free. Take it.
You can always tell them to back off later.
There are people who become a bit odd in a gym environment and are unable to relate to others. For some it is a completely intentional thing. For others, they want to help, but it comes out funny.
I write this stuff so that you’ll know what can potentially go wrong and so you can have something to say if it happens to you.
Every time I can make someone comfortable in a gym environment, they’ve been in there working out day in and day out. You can trust that everything on this site is calculated to make you more at-ease with the subjects of exercise and fitness.
Hopefully you get the bug.