Column: It’s not how much you can lift, it’s how much you look like you know what you’re doing

It’s good to know what to do, but more important to know what not to do.
One of the many rooms at MizzouRec, the cardio room has many machines to get a great workout on. Courtesy of

Corey Davidson is a junior journalism major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about student life and politics for the Maneater.

The American wild west is probably the most recent example we have of people truly practicing self-governance. In the era of tumbleweeds and saloons, the only law was six-shooters and sheriffs. The modern gym is much the same. While MizzouRec has a handful of rules and regulations, patrons decide among themselves what is acceptable, and, more importantly, what is to be avoided. This column will cover a handful of practices to avoid on your fitness journey.

Turning Into Gym Iron Man

Out of all of the Avengers, Iron Man is the biggest playboy. He suits up, fires lasers and is arguably one of the strongest on the team. However, the gym iron man is much the opposite. Gym iron man sprawls out all of his gear in the line space, spends tons of money on athletic equipment and ends up not even moving that much weight. Even worse, gym iron man acts like some sort of gym brand ambassador, endlessly speaking to the merits of his $180 weightlifting shoes.

Individual pieces of gear are okay. Lifting belts are good for squatting or deadlifting heavy, and wrist wraps are good for things like power cleaning or incline bench. However, it’s hard to justify these plus knee wraps, weightlifting shoes and an elevation training mask while curling 20 pounds. You may think you’re about to save New York City, when in reality you’re not even able to get into the YMCA.

Being a Deer in the Headlights

If you have ever driven on Rock Quarry road, you have probably seen a deer in the headlights. Deer have a questionable defense mechanism in which they completely freeze in the wake of an oncoming car. This look is also shared by gym novices being asked “How many sets do you have left?”

Don’t be a deer in the headlights. When relaying information to other meatheads, one should speak with complete conviction. This isn’t ninth grade speech class; stammering, looking around and being unsure of your own workout routine is beta. Let them know you’ll be on the cable cross for six more sets, and pump them out, as you now have an audience.

Hosting Improv Night at the Rec

Arnold Schwarzenegger is perhaps the most iconic bodybuilder of all time. When it comes to passing on his expertise, Schwarzenegger's most important focus for beginners is on good form. Most exercises are easy to do and hard to master. For example, the bench press looks simple, but experienced lifters can attest to the finesse in proper foot placement, gripping the bar and breathing.

Improper form is among the most disturbing things to witness, especially in the pump room. Seeing somebody squat incorrectly is like watching bad high school improv; it’s awkward to watch, you’re afraid the person will get hurt and the performer has to be feeling uncomfortable. Lack of experience is one thing, but when somebody is clearly pushing more weight than they can handle with improper form, it becomes a problem. For example, benching extra weight by bending your back like a glow stick is both unsafe and unimpressive. Improv is okay because a performer who is aware of their shortcomings can regain the respect of the crowd; the same is not true for being aware of your bad form. You may think it was awesome, but everyone else is in some awe that your spine is still intact.

Coaching The Game Not Being Played

One of the main reasons to go to the gym is simply to find some peace and quiet during the day. When you approach somebody with their headphones on at the gym, it should only be because either somebody’s dying, or you’re complimenting their pump. Otherwise, it can wait. One of the most infuriating things at the gym is being interrupted and given unsolicited advice. What is either person gaining from this interaction? Coaching a complete stranger may seem like a good idea, but should only be done if they ask you for it.

The old saying “coaches don’t play” also seems to apply in this situation. If I’m bigger than you and you tell me I should be holding my lat pulldowns longer, you lose all credibility. Either get your whistle and give advice to somebody who wants it, or back off while I finish my workout.

Finally, Overstaying Your Welcome

The gym is supposed to be an inclusive and welcoming environment. However, some patrons tend to take the “welcoming” aspect a bit too far. Particularly, pairing up with a buddy and hogging the leg press machine for twenty minutes while you talk about Chad from apple berry pie. Some people are on tight schedules and it can be obnoxious when groups take their sweet time working in and having personal conversations, holding machines hostage and disrupting workout schemes. There’s a time and place for everything, and the gym is not the place for messing around.

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