T Nation

Actually Helping The Idiots

Although it is fun to see jack-asses and the frat-boys do the most stupid things in the gym, has anybody ever gone up to these lost souls and helped them? Yes, I know they think that they know it all and probably won’t listen, but does anybody have a success story on when someone did listen?
Today I felt like being nice and decided to help a younger kid do squats. I was doing front squats and my weight was good for him. I think he was a college kid and he actually listened!! For some reason unknown to me, it felt good helping the kid. Now that I have helped one, I will return to laughing at them!

I offer some suggestions now and again. Also, sometimes one of the kids will ask me a question, I’m always glad to offer my opinion.

Some advice on giving advice:

“The wise don’t need it, and the ignorant won’t heed it” I heard it from Louie Simmons but, I am not sure if someone said it before him.

A few days ago I was in the SRC and setting up for box squats and someone asked me about them. I told him the benefits and why I was doing them. He thought it was pretty interesting. He still went back to his knee buckling 1/4 squats. All he had to do was ask to jump in and I would have taught him.

There are some people that will actually listen but they are few and far between.

I like that quote!

I think lead by example is the best way. Frat guys tend to be monkey see monkey do. If you’re bigger and stronger than them it will rub off, at some stage they may ask the questions.

In the meantime we get to have stories to laugh about!

Not all new lifters are idiots. I try to make it a rule not to just approach anyone with advice. The ones who really want advice will ask for it or show signs that they are receptive to it. I saw one guy the other day trying to do concentration curls on a bench that was too high off the ground right next to me (it was a preacher bench but he was turned backwards on it and using his knee for support for concentration dumbbell curls). I did tell him that he was too high off the ground and it was making the movement awkward (not in those words). I let him have the bench I was using because I was finishing up. He said thanks, asked me some other stuff about lifting and how to eat and that was it. Unless they are directly in front of me, or one of those who stare at you as you lift but act as if they are afraid to say something, I won’t go out of my way to say anything. You can tell the ones who are serious and, while some may be afraid to speak to someone bigger than them, most will approach you if they are open to advice.

One thing that bothered me is the stereotypical “old guy lifter” who, even though he isn’t all that muscular, feels it is his duty to correct everyone else’s form. That is almost worse than someone 50lbs lighter than me telling me my reps are too fast.

I usually have the attitude that if someone appears to be more experienced than me (like older but is pretty thick or built like a powerlifter), I may ask them for their opinion on something just to hear their take on it. I don’t feel I am ever done learning because different techniques work for different stages of development. I know I don’t lift exactly like I did at 160lbs.

Unless someone is trying to force their opinion on you, don’t think that you don’t have more to learn yourself.

Interestingly, PX, I ran into such an older lifter at my YMCA. He was almost confrontational about correcting my faults on the bench press. Ectomorphic, this one, say 5’9" 140ish.

I made his acquaintance and discovered that he’d lifted for 30 years and had attended my university in the distant past. Eventually he apologized for his comments, and I wouldn’t feel at all awkward running into him again. He seemed receptive to my differing training views.

So many here are confrontational. It’s such a terrible way to make a point. People on the defensive just stop listening.

DI

I only offer advice to obvious newbies with no apparent previous experience at lifting. I’m talking people like overweight housewives who are obviously making a commitment to getting healthier. I’m amazed to see them actually come to the weight room and not just do treadmills and the “circuit room”; I’d hate to see them waste their time with crappy form.

By the time I actually walk up to them and offer a modification of the way they’re doing something, we have already seen each other several days/weeks in a row, and have developed a “nodding acquaintance.” I’ll give them a reason for making the change in their technique. So far, I’ve seen people be grateful AND change what they do.

As for people who already “know what they’re doing”…I won’t bother. Leading by example is a slow process, and even then only works if others are observant and willing to think and change. Of all the morning regulars at my gym, there’s only ONE guy besides me who even bothers to do legs. He’s stronger than me and WAY better built, but he’s seen me (because of T-Mag) go ass-to-grass on squats, squat without shoes, take up Front Squats. Just this week he’s started slowing down on the lowering portion of Leg Curls; he says that once he’s used to that, he’ll try changing the position of his foot that I swear by. I’ve given him the URL for T-Nation, and he knows I really like the supps, but I don’t think he’s even been to the site. Still, he’s someone who is very serious about training and diet, and is slowly changing because he WANTS to, not just because someone is offering advice.

Just lastnight I was in the gym and saw this pretty obese kid 12-14 come in and start getting “jazzed” up to do some cable cross-overs…I sat there and watched for a moment thinking to myself that I should really do something to help him out…I walked over to him and asked him if he would like some advice and the little feller’s face just lit up. The first thing I told him was that CCO’s were worthless, at least right now, I told him to do squats, deads, benches(incline, flat, decline), and pulldowns. I showed him how to do box squats so he could practice his form. It was pretty sad that everytime he would approach parallel he would just collapse onto the bench. I just encouraged him to keep doing them and eventually he’ll be squatting 600 lbs! I also told him not to worry about using a ton a wieght just to get the form down on all the lifts. I felt pretty good about doing that. I just wonder if the kid will continue doing those things epspecially since he probably wont be able to walk today!

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What happens when one of the idiots is a YMCA staff member?

I was introducing an old friend of mine to serious weight training. He’s a university student, and all he’s seen is people doing various types of curls at the university gym. So he was with me yesterday.

I train at the YMCA, and there was this staff member that noticed us. He noticed me teaching my friend how to squat, and you know he has to run over. I had him practicing full squats with a broom handle draped over his back. And this ‘trainer’ comes rushing up and tells him his form is all wrong. Instead, he grabbed another broom handle demonstrates how to perform a correct squat.

Good god, I didn’t know backs could arch that much without snapping vertebrae.

He basically bent over, hyperextended his ass into the air, and arched his back at such an extreme angle that it was painful to watch. He was holding the broom in front of his body, like a front squat.

‘And that’s how you do it,’ he said, smiling. And shooting me a smirk, which surely I could have done without from this 5’9", 150 pound trainer.

‘Okay,’ I asked, ‘How’s he going to squat with weight then?’

‘Well, I’m teaching him to squat without it first.’

I raised my eyebrows. ‘He’s not going to be bodyweight squatting forever. Besides, if he arches his back like that, it can’t be good for his back.’

He just stomped off.

So my friend and I moved onto the military press. And this same trainer comes up to us again, and declares that the military press puts ‘way too much strain on the elbows’, and suggests to my friend to do front raises instead. So I explained to him why I prefer compound exercises - you know, the whole building more muscle part.

I just kind of sighed and gave up when he followed us to the pullup/dip stand.

What can you do when gym staff are obviously idiots?

[quote]Snoop wrote:
Just lastnight I was in the gym and saw this pretty obese kid 12-14 come in and start getting “jazzed” up to do some cable cross-overs… I told him to do squats, deads, benches(incline, flat, decline), and pulldowns… I also told him not to worry about using a ton a wieght just to get the form down on all the lifts. I felt pretty good about doing that. I just wonder if the kid will continue doing those things epspecially since he probably wont be able to walk today! [/quote]

The truth is, you probably wasted your time. That isn’t to say you did a bad job because you didn’t. I have personally just seen that, unless someone has at least proven that they aren’t part of the “New Year’s Res” crowd by coming to the gym regularly for a while, they are the last that need you to waste your time trying to help. Who knows, he may come back regularly from now on, but usually what I have seen is overweight people who will go all out for a week or two, get burned out because they had no real plan of attack to begin with, and then disappear from the gym altogether. For most people like that, it would be better to simply speak, possibly smile, and make them feel comfortable about being there at all. Most are partially embarrassed to be there around people who are in better shape than they are. That means, attempting to help them out of the blue can often backfire because they begin to think that you helping them for no reason means they REALLY look like they don’t know what they are doing or don’t belong.

The bottom line is, you will waste your own potential and decrease your own progress worrying about everyone else who walks through the door. For every obese guy who can’t bend at the knees for squats without falling down or every teenager doing lateral raises like they are trying to blow out their shoulder joint, there will be a few hundred others that you didn’t even see. In fact, they make up the majority now. I doubt I would be off by claiming that there are no more than 8-10 serious lifters at my gym who actually have a clue what they are doing. Two are NPC competitors and the others are just big muthafuckers who are focused. The rest range between the skinny dudes doing crunches and cardio for an hour and the obese people who also do cardio and then train with the lightest weights they can find for five minutes before leaving.

Considering the odds stacked againt us…the minority who claim to be focused and determined…it is often best to simply keep your head down, lift hard, get done quick, go home and eat. Tunnel vision in the gym will get you where you need to be while allowing natural selection to take out everyone else over time.

[quote]Judecca wrote:
What happens when one of the idiots is a YMCA staff member?

I was introducing an old friend of mine to serious weight training. He’s a university student, and all he’s seen is people doing various types of curls at the university gym. So he was with me yesterday.

I train at the YMCA, and there was this staff member that noticed us. He noticed me teaching my friend how to squat, and you know he has to run over. I had him practicing full squats with a broom handle draped over his back. And this ‘trainer’ comes rushing up and tells him his form is all wrong. Instead, he grabbed another broom handle demonstrates how to perform a correct squat.

Good god, I didn’t know backs could arch that much without snapping vertebrae.

He basically bent over, hyperextended his ass into the air, and arched his back at such an extreme angle that it was painful to watch. He was holding the broom in front of his body, like a front squat.

‘And that’s how you do it,’ he said, smiling. And shooting me a smirk, which surely I could have done without from this 5’9", 150 pound trainer.

‘Okay,’ I asked, ‘How’s he going to squat with weight then?’

‘Well, I’m teaching him to squat without it first.’

I raised my eyebrows. ‘He’s not going to be bodyweight squatting forever. Besides, if he arches his back like that, it can’t be good for his back.’

He just stomped off.

So my friend and I moved onto the military press. And this same trainer comes up to us again, and declares that the military press puts ‘way too much strain on the elbows’, and suggests to my friend to do front raises instead. So I explained to him why I prefer compound exercises - you know, the whole building more muscle part.

I just kind of sighed and gave up when he followed us to the pullup/dip stand.

What can you do when gym staff are obviously idiots?[/quote]

The first time they come over to you say thanks and send them on their way. They come over to you again explain to them, respectfully, that when you want their help you will ask them for it. If he doesn’t take that well… well I don’t think he has a choice because he is the employee and you are the customer. If I had to tell a trainer more than twice to leave me alone I would be pretty pissed. But we as commercial gym goers have to expect a trainer to do that a couple times, but they can’t tell you what to do.

The only time I offer an opinion is if it is asked for. I know way too many "Bob"s. When the opportunity does arise though, I try to be as helpfull as possible without breaching what I call the overload threshold.Thats when you give too much too fast and a person gets that deer in the headlights look.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Snoop wrote:
Just lastnight I was in the gym and saw this pretty obese kid 12-14 come in and start getting “jazzed” up to do some cable cross-overs… I told him to do squats, deads, benches(incline, flat, decline), and pulldowns… I also told him not to worry about using a ton a wieght just to get the form down on all the lifts. I felt pretty good about doing that. I just wonder if the kid will continue doing those things epspecially since he probably wont be able to walk today!

The truth is, you probably wasted your time. That isn’t to say you did a bad job because you didn’t. I have personally just seen that, unless someone has at least proven that they aren’t part of the “New Year’s Res” crowd by coming to the gym regularly for a while, they are the last that need you to waste your time trying to help. Who knows, he may come back regularly from now on, but usually what I have seen is overweight people who will go all out for a week or two, get burned out because they had no real plan of attack to begin with, and then disappear from the gym altogether. For most people like that, it would be better to simply speak, possibly smile, and make them feel comfortable about being there at all. Most are partially embarrassed to be there around people who are in better shape than they are. That means, attempting to help them out of the blue can often backfire because they begin to think that you helping them for no reason means they REALLY look like they don’t know what they are doing or don’t belong.

The bottom line is, you will waste your own potential and decrease your own progress worrying about everyone else who walks through the door. For every obese guy who can’t bend at the knees for squats without falling down or every teenager doing lateral raises like they are trying to blow out their shoulder joint, there will be a few hundred others that you didn’t even see. In fact, they make up the majority now. I doubt I would be off by claiming that there are no more than 8-10 serious lifters at my gym who actually have a clue what they are doing. Two are NPC competitors and the others are just big muthafuckers who are focused. The rest range between the skinny dudes doing crunches and cardio for an hour and the obese people who also do cardio and then train with the lightest weights they can find for five minutes before leaving.

Considering the odds stacked againt us…the minority who claim to be focused and determined…it is often best to simply keep your head down, lift hard, get done quick, go home and eat. Tunnel vision in the gym will get you where you need to be while allowing natural selection to take out everyone else over time.[/quote]

I’ll have to disagree with you on one matter and agree on another.

Maybe you didn’t mean to, but the way you put it, it sounds like you believe giving advice is an utter waste of time. I think it’s worthwile doing it, even if only 10% of people you give it to accept it. As long as you’re just doing it inbetween sets and not spending hours being someone’s personal trainer, I don’t see why one shouldn’t help others.

“Most are partially embarrassed to be there around people who are in better shape than they are.” That’s something I’ve been noticing lately as well, moreso with my female friends than male friends. They’re terrified of the gym. They’ll usually admit it to me, but sometimes, when they say that they just don’t wanna go, I feel like they don’t want to because they’re afraid. I mean, it’ not like anyone there’s a beast who’s gonna consume you for a PWO snack. Heck, if anything, I doubt anyone there even has a PWO shake.

So, what is it that scares people? ‘I feel like everybody’s looking at me’ seems to be what bothers them the most. I usually tell 'em they’re not that important…

[quote]lmjudek wrote:

Maybe you didn’t mean to, but the way you put it, it sounds like you believe giving advice is an utter waste of time. I think it’s worthwile doing it, even if only 10% of people you give it to accept it. As long as you’re just doing it inbetween sets and not spending hours being someone’s personal trainer, I don’t see why one shouldn’t help others. [/quote]

I didn’t write that no one should EVER help someone else. I even gave an example earlier of me attempting to give advice to another lifter. However, it isn’t a habit and I don’t go out of my way to do that. For one, I am reading some of these other experiences and wondering if some in this thread even know what they are doing that well to help someone else (like the post about showing someone how to do squats at the YMCA). Unless that particular poster was meaning to say that the instructor was arching his back OUTward and rounding it as he did a squat, I think he misunderstood decent advice himself as far as attempting to keep your head up and arching your back INward as you go down. That isn’t poor form. If I am reading that one wrong, then I apologize, but if I read it right, then that poster may have some things to learn himself.

You used to see a lot of these guys who compete wearing headphones while they trained. Most of the time, that wasn’t because they were just that into their personal cd collection. It was often because it kept people from interrupting their workouts by asking random questions. That doesn’t mean they would NEVER help someone else…just that most who have done this long enough know that most won’t listen to what you say, some won’t comprehend everything you say because you are dropping too much info on them at once, and some are simply not motivated and won’t be there next week…so you just wasted your time.

Like has been said by others, if someone comes to me, then I will help out. Otherwise, it is often best to not get involved, especially if you aren’t “advanced” yourself and are simply restating what you just read in an article. There is the large possibility that you can do more harm than good.

Take your boy’s post that I responded to, where he was trying to teach the overweight guy how to do box-squats. Box-squats…for a beginner? Someone who may be walking into the gym for the first time? Most trainers wouldn’t start someone like that off on something that “advanced” on the first day. When I was personal training, many “never lifted a weight before and can barely do one pushup” clients were started out on machines. They usually lack much coordination at all so, in that instance, I think that was wrong advice and may just lead to that particular guy not continuing or possibly injuring himself. Time will tell.