There are many unspoken rules in the gym – some can be distilled into a simple bulleted list but others are only acquired through years spent underneath the bar amidst the iron.
Over the past 2 years I’ve had an exceptionally unique experience which allowed me to work, train and learn from some of the brightest minds in strength and conditioning at a designated Olympic training site.
However, I’ll be the first to tell you, this was not your average gym and these were not your average athletes. We sent 8 Olympians to the games in South Korea this past winter. We’re not hitting concentration curls, posing for selfies, and bragging to our boys about the “crazy” party from last night.
Real work requires real rules, here are 5 simple rules that Olympians know and use daily. Consider adopting a few of them the next time you decide to pick up something heavy
1. Don’t ever walk in front of someone prior to or in the middle of a set.
In the world of Olympic weightlifting, this is essentially equivalent to grand larceny – you have successfully stolen someone’s attention and ruined their impending set.
Congratulations, you are now the most hated man/woman in the gym but you have no idea because you’re too busy rocking out to Bruno Mars and snorting a line of preworkout before your next set of DB shrugs. #swolepatrol
Walking in front of someone prior to a set is kind of like peeing in the pool – everyone does it even if you don’t want to admit it, but everyone secretly knows it was you and hates you for ruining the vibe.
Pay attention to your surroundings and have some respect for others who are trying to focus. The gym may be a “battleground” according to your Instagram but everyone else is paying the same monthly dues as you - eyes up, rookie.
2. Don’t drop an unloaded barbell.
Dropping a loaded barbell isn’t as much of an issue if bumper plates are being used given the fact that they will absorb much of the stress from the load. However, in an unloaded situation (especially when dropped from overhead), you can do quite a bit of damage.
Barbells usually contain ball or needle bearings to allow the outer sleeve to rotate around the bar. In the case of more expensive bars (e.g. Eleiko, Werksan, etc.), they may even use carbon fiber needles encased within bushings to reduce drag during rotation and improve the user’s experience even further.
However, there is one exception to this rule…
Who is that you may ask? That is Tian Tao warming up with Lu Xiaojun. They are the top two lifters on China’s Olympic team. Together they account for 11 Olympic medals, 8 of which have been gold. These two can do whatever they want and I can guarantee no one is going to say otherwise.
But, you’re not an Olympian, don’t drop an unloaded barbell.
3. If someone is in the middle of a set, don’t talk to them. Ever.
I don’t care if there’s blood pouring of their nose, don’t interrupt them. If they’re a seasoned athlete, they likely already know the blood is there and they don’t care. However, they will most definitely care if you get in the way and mess up their set.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves – I’ve routinely had individuals interrupt a set to ask if I was using nearby equipment. Often, I’ll wait until the set is over to answer their question but on occasion I’ve had folks tap me on the shoulder to get my attention.
BRO TIP: Headphones are in use for a reason, opt for hand gestures or wait. If someone is in the middle of a set and they don’t acknowledge your presence, odds are they don’t care if you use any surrounding equipment.
4. You’re not LeBron, keep your chalk game under control.
Everyone has a pre-lift ritual. Even the King has a pregame chalk toss.
However, you probably don’t play in the NBA and you’re probably not the most dominant player on the court since Michael Jordan.
That being said, chalk use needs to be strictly confined to the bucket/bowl where it was originally located. Use just enough to lightly coat your fingers and palm, then gently rub your hands together.
That’s it. No smoke show required.
The next time you get any bright ideas about chalking up, take a few minutes and try to sweep up any lingering sidewalk chalk in your immediate area. Not an easy task, I can assure you. Don’t be a jerk, you’re not King James.
5. There’s no need to yell, no one cares how much you lift.
Social media is fun, isn’t it? Ego lifting prevails, hashtags abound, and common sense goes out the window.
The point is, no one is in the gym to watch you lift. They are there to better themselves and listening to you yell when you miss or make a lift is probably the last thing they signed up for.
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You may be the strongest guy in the gym (according to your biased self-assessment) but that doesn’t excuse you from common courtesy. True strength isn’t merely measured by what you can pick up and put down, it’s a matter of how you carry yourself when others are watching and when you’re working quietly behind the scenes with your head down.
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