Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to sneer. Commercial gyms have a time and a place. Unless you live in a city or a big town, the globochain gym might be the only outlet you have for your pursuit of physical excellence. It may well be a friendly, welcoming environment where you and your lifting buddies go to pay the iron toll, and it is probably clean, safe and cheap. All of these things are good, and all of these things are necessary.
However, with January just around the corner, the annual idiot influx will begin. You may soon see strange and wonderful things once more in your local gymnasium. From training in such gyms since I was a wee lad and more recently from working in them, the following is a list of things that continue to irk me about lifting in commercial facilities.
Men doing hip thrusts
OK, let’s address this right here. I know Brett Contreras aka “The Glute Guy” basically invented the hip thrust and is certainly responsible for its popularity. I also know that he is hugely successful trainer in his own right, well-respected in the industry, and responsible for perfecting a thousand peaches. All of this can be true — still it is possible to accept the premise that there is something inherently fishy about men in commercial gyms doing hip thrusts.
I don’t know what it is about them that disgusts me so much. Perhaps it’s the lingering eye contact they desperately try not to make with you. Maybe it’s the pointlessness of it all. Why are you, as a man, worried about having a big, rounded bum? Performance related? Sure. I can understand. The glutes drive the squat, the deadlift and are even important in the bench and strict press.
So perhaps my issue is with a certain kind of man, doing high rep hip thrusts in the middle of a packed gym, usually occupying a perfectly good bench to do so. He almost certainly has ‘The Pad’ on and is probably wearing a pair of $80 shorts while he’s doing them.
There are plenty of good movements you can do for your glute strength and development. They range from compounds like RDLs and unilateral movements such as glute bridges, to explosive movements like cleans. I remain entirely unconvinced by the purpose and necessity of the hip thrust. When you see a tiny fitspo girl doing 450lbs with the movement on Instagram, you must question the scalability of it.
Has anyone who was ever truly strong made hip thrusts a key part of their armory? Seems unlikely. Let’s leave it to the insta-influencers in 2022, guys.
When January hits, the PTs slink back to the gym floor, like bears out of hibernation creeping from their winter dens. Another similarity to bears is that many of them are skinny, hungry and looking for easy victims.
Disclaimer: I have worked with many good PTs and see many more good PTs online who clearly love their craft and enjoy helping customers find solutions. To these guys: I can only salute. The world of strength and fitness needs as many genuine practitioners as it can find, and those with both knowledge and enthusiasm are a valuable commodity.
But these people are not the subject of this rant. I’m coming for the charlatans, the lazy and the uneducated.
The PTs who sit on a plyobox texting while their client squats – we see you. The PTs who go off to talk to the gymbunny while their client struggles with dumbbell bench press – we see you too.
We see you, the online PTs who give the same cookie-cutter program to each of their 10 new signups, despite the fact they are 10 different people with 10 different sets of needs and 10 different sets of limitations.
We see you, the PT who has their client try a new set of exercises each time they have a session because they think that endless variety is more important than consistency and progression.
And we see you, the PT who lets their clients lift with bad form because they are not confident enough in their knowledge to correct poor technique. If a client can’t hit squat depth that’s fine – if they have been training with you for sixth months and they still can’t, that’s a problem.
There are good PTs who operate in commercial facilities, and there are bad ones. Sadly, it seems like the latter are starting to outnumber the former.
Lazy PTs? Leave it in 2022.
Dry scooping pre-workout
I don’t know where this trend comes from or why it exists in the first place, but if you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t know what dry-scooping is, then let me explain.
Some people, spurred on by fitness influencers online, take their pre-workout by scooping from the tub and dropping that scoop straight in their mouth. They follow this with a quick swig of water.
Like the pyramids and Stonehenge, the purpose can only be guessed at. Some think the reduced dilution helps the chemicals enter the bloodstream more quickly. Others think the whole scoop going down “in one” is more likely to give a big hit of the caffeine and other pre-workout compounds.
Doctors online warn of choke hazards and such, but I’m not too bothered about that. Anyone that is half-way intelligent isn’t going to choke on 5mg of powder. But they are going to look really stupid with absolutely no benefit for your training. None. And don’t try and convince me that it will. If things worked like that, then you’d put your bacon, eggs and coffee in a blender at breakfast and skull the lot.
Dry scooping, like Will Smith slapping memes, should stay firmly locked in 2022.
The awful music
It has never been more integral for a person to own a set of robust headphones than when they train in a commercial gym. The rationale for the music choices, as I understand them, is that they can’t have anything extreme playing as this may alienate members.
So people lifting in a globogym are subjected to the very worst, most mundane and trivial commercial technopop that a mind can imagine. The music is so very awful that everyone must walk around in headphones at all times. Perhaps this is the whole point.
People wearing headphones are less likely to talk to other people also wearing headphones, so they are therefore much less likely to share notes about the things they dislike about that gym, for example the music.
The chain gym where I keep a membership (it’s cheap and local, don’t judge me) plays music so bizarrely awful that I have turned around and driven the 20 minutes home when I’ve discovered I had no headphones.
There are proven links between optimal music and optimal performance, but I’m not sure that a trance remix of Dolly Parton’s Islands in The Stream quite fits the bill.
Chain gyms pumping out noxious dance remixes that no-one wants to hear – please do us all a favour and stay in 2022
The guy making love to the mirror
One of the key components of the ‘New Years Resolutioner’ intake in any self-respecting commercial gym is a bunch of skinny guys in tank tops who lean into the mirror just that little too closely when they are doing their twentieth set of curls.
You’ll know this guy by the look of sheer delight on his face as he considers his own masculinity. Often treating those around to a quick bicep flex or a pec dance, or at least he would, if he had any.
This guy is probably the least bothersome of the things I’ve listed here, as by February he’ll be back safely at home, reminiscing about the time he benched 315lbs – 3 inches above his chest – and cursing the ‘shoulder’ injury that will keep him out of the gym until, oh, January 2024
End of 2022 review
I hope this year has been kind to you, and you have made enough gains to be satisfied and yet not enough to be complacent. Let’s hope that 2023 gives us all the scope to develop, to improve and most importantly – to grow!
Happy New Year
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