Many people don’t know this, but weight rooms have certain standards of etiquette to observe. I discovered this soon after I began weightlifting.

 I happen to be one of those people who sweats profusely at the slightest provocation. The weight room presents a profusion of opportunities for me to ooze perspiratory liquid. In fact, I sometimes become so slippery that I’ve earned the nickname ‘Slime.’

 The pools of perspiration I leave behind rival the oil slick left by the Exxon Valdez.

 I once left a lake on the leg press machine that caused the next user to slide off and injure her knee. “I hate it when this happens,” she said. “I hate slipping in somebody else’s sweat. Were you the last one to use this machine, Slime?”

Of course I denied it. She was bigger and stronger than me. Nevertheless, her plight certainly illustrates the existence of an unwritten code of rules. For example, the message here is that one should endeavour to dredge one’s own swamp before someone sits in it.

 In the interests of preserving health, safety, and good manners in the weight room, I present some other points of weight room etiquette.

 1) Don’t become overly fascinated with the mirrors.

Contrary to popular belief, gyms do not install mirrors to make the weight room look bigger. They are there so people can watch themselves while they work out. Psychiatrists call this the Narcissus Complex. I asked a psychiatrist who comes to my gym about this, and he denied it. I went to another gym and asked another psychiatrist preening himself on the pec deck.    

 “That’s nonsense,” he said. “The mirrors are there to let you check that you have the correct position for the exercises.”

 “Aha,” I thought. “A cover-up, and a logical explanation to justify their denial. Two psychiatrists in two different gyms engaging in slightly deviant behaviour and both propound denial. What more proof do you need?

 Actually, there is more proof. Look closely at the glass of the mirror. Notice the brownish tint. The tinting makes you appear tanned, and therefore more attractive to yourself.

 Also, gyms make use of track lighting. They arrange the light so it falls in the centre of your workout location. It makes you feel like you’re on stage when you look in the mirror. You are your own audience.

 This is where you need to be careful. You may be in danger of becoming transfixed by the reflection of your own rippling biceps while you’re doing curls. When you snap out of it, you will notice a line-up of angry body builders eager to view themselves in the mirror.

 2) A Growl Is Not A Grunt.

People serious about working out expect others to be the same. They go to all the trouble of straining muscles and wrestling tendons from their points of origin and insertion. They want others to do the same. They don’t want to be the only ones limping home from the gym.

 Many weightlifters think a good way to prove one’s seriousness is to grunt loudly no matter how light the weight or easy the exercise. They think there are several advantages to this.  First, grunting indicates controlled breathing technique. It is a form of exhaling. When you exhale with a grunt, you avoid letting all the air out at once, thereby increasing the likelihood of dropping the weight.

 It also changes your facial expression. You become more intense as the veins on your forehead pop out. Grunting and popped out forehead veins inspires others to work harder.

 Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember that game you played in elementary school when you held your breath while a classmate squeezed your chest? This resulted in you passing out. Grunting has a similar effect. It suppresses the exhale. 

 Replace your grunt with a growl. 

 Growling can help you be a show-off. Always bench press that 400 pound bar with a hearty growl. Weightlifters expect this. Never attempt your lift silently with a relaxed and composed facial expression and a look of casual nonchalance. Weightlifters find this disgusting. You’re making a spectacle of yourself. Worse, they’ll all watch as you get up and try to walk around the gym with a double hernia.

 Finally, boisterous growling keeps others from napping on the pec deck.

 3) Never interrupt another’s “Rep Count.”

Weightlifting is a scientific discipline. Weightlifters cause their bodies to change shape by the careful counting the numbers of repetition (or reps) of a particular exercise. If you talk to a weightlifter during rep seven of a twelve rep set, she will lose count. Her only recourse for this interruption is to flex her biceps and wring your neck.

 4) Don’t be a know-it-all.

Most people have had some experiences with know-it-alls. If you’re skiing, for example, the know-it-all will pop out of nowhere to tell you your skis are on the wrong feet. Then he will certify his own qualified expertise by parallel turning into a tree.

 I had more than my fair share of experiences with know-it-alls. I have been one for years. I came about it honestly. I come from a long line of know-it-alls. My father was a sea captain. His crew gave him the nick name ‘typhoon.’ “The weather looks pretty good around The Horn today,” he would say to his First Mate. “I think we’ll chance it.”

 “But sir,” the mate would say, avoiding calling him ‘typhoon’ to his face.  “It’s the middle of winter, and a storm could pop up any minute.”

 “Nonsense,” he would say. “Look at the sky. It’s red. ‘Red sky in the morning, a sailor’s delight. Red sky at night, gives sailors a fright.’ My son taught me that. You should remember that, mister.”

 But, I digress.

 There are two characteristics about the information dispensed at will by a know-it-all. First, it is always unsolicited.  Second, it is always wrong. Because weightlifters regularly engage in a pursuit that some consider dangerous, a know-it-all in the weight room can be a particularly perilous person.          

If you are a know-it-all, you have to exercise restraint. Warn people you are a know-it-all before passing out your worthless information. Preface your pearl of wisdom by saying, “I don’t mean to be a know-it-all, but have you tried …”

 Be careful with this tactic. Don’t stand between the person and the mirror. Don’t approach them in the middle of a rep, and remember to growl before you say anything.

 Next week: Aerobics Class Etiquette

 Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. or at 604-464-4195.  If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.



  1. Fat Loss Advisor Blog » Blog Archive » Shape Your Body Faster in 2011 Says:

    […] WEIGHT ROOM ETIQUETTE:Weighing a Consequences « SpinDoctorResumes […]

  2. Sharon Says:

    Good advice given with humor, Slime. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

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