If you’re a bodybuilder, you’ve probably been deeply offended by the TV commercials for the Planet Fitness chain of health clubs, in which we’re portrayed as self-absorbed, exhibitionistic morons. The selling point of the spots is that if you join Planet Fitness, you’ll never have to deal with those lunkheads, since they’re not welcome. Behind every stereotype, of course, lies at least some truth. Some bodybuilders and serious weight trainers do exhibit behavior that gives the rest of us a bad name and keeps the negative stereotypes alive and thriving. All we can do is to make sure that we don’t contribute to those perceptions. Here are some “don’ts” to keep in mind, especially if you happen to train anywhere that caters to a more mainstream mix of clientele rather than a smaller private gym mainly geared toward “our kind.”
Don’t make more noise than you need to. If you’re squatting 500 pounds, you won’t be able to do it silently. Even so, I’ve seen guys performing curls and screaming as if they were being dragged across hot coals. You know they’re making too much noise when you can hear it from across the gym—and you’ve got your iPod playing. It’s unsettling and jarring all the more to those who don’t choose to put in the type of effort we do. More noise does not necessarily equal more intensity.
Don’t leave your weights around. If you’re strong enough to load up that leg press with 1,200 pounds in plates or press a pair of 130-pound dumbbells, you’re strong enough to put them away. It’s only common courtesy, and you also need to realize that there are people in the gym who can’t even take a 45-pound plate off a machine, much less put away dumbbells that weigh as much as they do. Don’t be a rude douchebag—always put your weights away.
Don’t be intimidating. You may feel more hardcore when you wear dark glasses to train or give death glares to all the smaller, weaker members, but all you’re accomplishing is making them think you are one huge a-hole. Make an effort to smile every once in a great while. Introduce yourself to fellow members, and offer help or a spot when needed. In a flash, you’ll go from that musclehead jerk to a nice human being. One at a time we can make the world realize we’re good folks, not hostile monsters.
Don’t be a show-off. Yes, you’re proud to be lean and buff, but you really don’t need to wear string tank tops and little shorts to work out. You can also wait until you get home to practice your posing rather than do it in the middle of a crowded gym, where you’re sure to make the other guys feel jealous and insecure and the women think you’re madly in love with yourself.
Most bodybuilders are nothing like the public imagines. The majority of us are intelligent, respectful, polite and friendly. Make sure that “secret” gets out.