T Nation

Gym Winner or Weenie?


Hi. First post. I'm sort of a refugee from the Fortified Iron Olympic lifting section. I decided that I really need to hit my strength target in various lifts before I tackle weightlifting.

I was really enjoying an old thread about squat-rack curls and I got to wondering how I must appear in the gym to the average gym-goer and how I stack up to some of the very strong folks at T-Nation. I only ever do full back squats, deadlifts, weighted chins, overhead presses, weighted dips and the occasional clean, jerk, snatch, front squat and overhead squat. I've worked up to what I consider respectable weights, but I get the impression that everyone else in the gym is getting sick of me, like I'm some sort of show-off. The occasional "big guy" will come up to me to make small talk or a respectful comment about the weight I'm using, but I think everyone else thinks I'm a dangerous ostentatious jackass.

Here on the forum, I've seen a lot of negative comments about "145-lb soaking wet frat boys" or "his arms couldn't have been more than 14 inches." I'm just over 150 lbs at just under 5'10" and my arms are 14.25" pumped yet I can do chin-ups with 100 lbs strapped to me for reps (though not many!) and curl 100 lbs for reps. I can deadlift 350 which isn't impressive in itself, but I'm sure that I'll get to triple bodyweight in the DL before 2007. My squat sucks, but I've only just started training it heavy because I spent years brainwashed by the "20-rep squats will make you Grow!" mantra. Now I just train squats for fives, triples, doubles and singles like I do chins and the numbers are finally heading for the double bodyweight zone. I'm also just five pounds away from pressing bodyweight overhead with no intention of stopping till I get to over 200 lbs. I can dip for reps with a 100, but I have only a vague idea of how much I can bench.

The other people in my gym are NOT like the people on this forum. I'm the only one I've ever seen deadlifting in there (and I have been in there at all different hours for nearly a year). A few guys chin, but never with weight. I've seen a couple women squatting fairly heavily, but never as far as parallel. The few times I've seen guys squatting to parallel, it's been with baby weights, never more than 135. I squat in the mid-200's deep and I wonder if everyone else thinks I'm wrecking my knees. I'm also a little worried that everyone thinks I'm trying to show off. Yet I'm proud of my accomplishments so far and the only way to keep getting stronger is to keep piling on weights in the classic compound movements even if it makes the bench/curl/3x10 crowd uncomfortable. You should have seen the reactions when I started full snatching bodyweight or getting fairly heavy with the clean and jerk!

Yet on this forum I sense a profound lack of respect for 150-lb guys with 14-inch arms, even if they're getting fairly strong. What would a guy like me have to do to get the respect of a more "built" dude who isn't necessarily any stronger?

I hope this all comes across the right way. Thanks for reading.


Why do you care what other people in the gym think? If you know more than them about traning for your goals, then ignore them. If heavy weight is what you want to use, use it. Why should people you only see in the gym make you worry?

So, ya. Do what you want & don't let what you think other people might be thinking influence you. Especially if you only see these people in the gym.


I sometimes give a passing thought to how I must look in the gym, but never to the point that I'd actually worry about it. I'm an American living in Berlin and the gym I'm at is 20x worse than anything I've seen in America. Even fewer people do legs here than in the states, and they all just do bench/curls/shoulder raises and nothing else. I get a few weird looks whenever I deadlift or do front squat. These people are complete morons, and I regularly see light bulbs whose upper arms are as thick as their thighs.

Trust me, no matter how small you consider your body, if I saw someone here at your size doing oly lifts and all the other shit you do, I would probably try to make him a lifting partner!


I guess I'm worried that I might be intimidating the other members or coming across as though I'm trying to even though I only weigh about 150. I get weird looks from the owner and staff and a few of the members--even the really strong ones--are starting to look a little annoyed.

I know there are gyms that forbid overhead lifting, deadlifts, Oly lifts, chalk and grunting. I'm actually starting to worry that my gym may change policy because of some of the stuff I do. I actually stopped Oly lifting in part because as the weights I was able to handle increased, so did management's nervousness every time I set foot in the gym. A couple spectacular misses on the clean didn't help my cause. In all fairness, this is NOT an ol' skewl place intended for Oly lifts.

You're right that I shouldn't worry about what others may be thinking and just continue to do productive stuff, however. I'm just worried that I'm wearing out my welcome, that management may be planning to take action.


Keep that dark-sidedness out of here! I am a God Warrior!


Usualy when somebody talks down on 150lbs fratboys with 14" arms it's because they only bench and curl, if they ever squat it's quater-squats at best.

Anyone deadlifting, squating etc with decent weights are worth the respect in my book, regardless of body size.

Don't worry too much about what other people think about you in the gym, they probably just stare in amazement of the weight you're using and wish they could do the same.



Is this the only gym near you?

If people in the gym are looking at you askew that is a good thing, it means you are not like them.

I lift at home now, but when I was using a gym I was only 165 lbs. The guy at the desk would send members to me with questions because of my intensity and work ethic (or because they were lazy).

Lift for you, not what others think.


Not trying to be a dick but at 150 pounds unless your 4'11" I dont think your intimidating anyone, I wouldn't worry.


So it sounds like you lift weights but you don't eat.

If your goal is to be small yet strong; way to go, Bruce Lee. But if your goal is to intimidate or impress; you might want to try some "fork lifts".

I don't know about anyone else, but you definitely have my respect if your activities are commensurate with and tailored toward your goals.


You might get weird looks because you don't look very big but you are outlifting most of the gym?

If you are working hard and want to put on muscle, make sure you are eating enough to support growth.

Other than that, put on your earphones and ignore everyone there. Your issues are between you and the weight you want to move.

Letting some mental aspect between you and the other gym goers interfere with the one that should be be between you and the iron is just a waste of time.

Besides, you have no way of knowing what they are thinking, it's possible they are thinking good stuff based on your abilities, but you misinterpret it. It's a stupid game, guessing what everyone thinks, don't play it.


These 150lb guys are usualy shit talkers and shit stirrers. You'll get respect by not acting in that manner. We respect those that truly take their training seriously, and aren't little clowns. You probably get the looks because you're busting your ass while the others are half-assing their workout. Point it, don't worry about it. You get respect from the ones that you would want it from.


Thanks for the replies and encouragement.

I don't worry that I look intimidating. I worry that I come across as TRYING to look intimidating which would be pretty comical if I were. I eat about 1 meal most days, just the way my metabolism works. Back when I was training 8-15 reps and eating like a horse and taking a laundry list of supplements I got as high as the mid-160's and I wasn't nearly as strong as I am now. Now I train for muscle density (growing my myofibrils) and going for that lean, wiry, fighter-who-is-strong-as-hell look; my main concerns are getting stronger but not getting more than 5 lbs or so heavier. I would love to be 158-160, but chinning with 150 lbs, pressing 225 overhead, deadlifting 500+ and ATG squatting 400+.

Haven't any of you ever worked out in a place where they didn't want heavy lifters intimidating the recreational members? Or where management's idea of "fitness" didn't include being strong, fast and agile? It seems like every single gym out there is committed to isolation (except the bench!) and pumping. I know the owner is thinking about his insurance premiums when he spies me sliding those plates onto a barell on the floor and standing over the thing to hoist it up. I know those around are thinking "okay, we get it, you're strong" when I stand underneath the chinning bar with the 45's hanging from me and quietly psyche myself up for new limit weight. Oh, well

I hope you are right. When I first joined I dragged the representative over to the area I planned to use for Oly lifting (only place to do so, a corner with the squat rack) and SHOWED her exactly what I intended to be doing so I could be sure management wouldn't come to me later and tell me to stop. I did a 135 clean and jerk for her. She looked surprised and said usually it's the bigger members who have that kind of power. I said, not to brag, but I will be using weights twice this heavy and I want to make sure you guys aren't going to have puppies about it. Now that the weights are getting bigger, I get the impression that they are not going to be so cool. I need this gym because it is the only place for miles around with enough space to Oly lift safely. That's why I chose it in the first place.

I guess that sums it up. Thanks!


In my gym, you get respect if you train hard and regularly. Do the proper exercises with proper form.

So what if you're a 16 year old skinny boy? Do you train hard and frequently on the proper exercises with good form? Then you get respect.

Or you might be a 50 year old female. Or even a 45 year old fat guy (that would be me).

You get respect for the effort, for being smart.

I've had some people tell me I couldn't be using good form because if I would, no chance would I be handling the weights I was handling. But they were never able to tell me exactly what was wrong. And if I copied their style, I still was able to use the same weights. So screw them.

I'd much rather see a 50 year old female squat with proper form than a lightbulb doing curls in the power rack. Even if he would have more weight on the bar.


No it's not. That's the way you MAKE your metabolism work. I'm sure your metabolism would prefer at least 3 meals a day.


If your gym doesn't have bumper plates and a platform, then missing on olympic lifts might not be somehting you want to do regularly...
On the other hand, if your gym does, the owners would like to see you using it, as you're probibly one of the few people who do use them.

Other than that, don't worry about how people look at you, or if they will kick you out unless they ask you to town it down.


Trust me, I'm not wired like most people. I get it from my father. Sure he gave me tiny bones and hardly any muscle to work with, but I also have his appetite. I force fed myself multiple meals for years and I can tell you after a decade of experimentation that I feel MUCH better when I eat only when I feel hungry. Eating more than that just puts an unecessary load on my digestive system. If I can get by with one meal per day, why eat more? Some days I'm hungry twice or three times, and those days I eat accordingly. Mostly, however, I just need to eat once.

I had to stop training for a few months and fell down to about 143 lbs. I started training again, just for strength, 1-5 reps and without any attempt to get more calories or eat particularly well and within a couple of weeks I was back up to 147. A couple months after that and I'm up to 153 and I'm a lot stronger now than I ever was when I was bodybuilding and 163-165. I'm just following my body.

It's not in the genetic cards for me to weigh more than 165 naturally so I'm going with my strengths. I was able to put on 10 lbs of mostly contractile tissue without trying and without eating much. I added 30 lbs to my squat, my deadlift and my chin-up, and 20 lbs to my overhead press. I just have a very efficient system I guess.

Not saying that most people's musculature and strength won't suffer if they don't eay multiple meals per day. I may have below average athletic potential, but I also have far below average caloric maintenance needs. Everyone is different. My goals fit my nature; I want to keep getting stronger, but not at the cost of adding 50 lbs to my frame. I'd rather be able to deadlift 550 at 160 than 600 at 210. That extra 25% increase in body mass (assuming I could even put it on) wouldn't be worth the 10% increase in strength.


When I miss on the snatch, I've always held on and bounced the bar off my thighs and onto the floor. I've managed to do this even when I've missed after going into the full squat. I can't snatch more than bodyweight, so guiding the loaded bar onto my thighs/knees in the squat position hasn't been a problem.

What's embarassing was when I missed on new limits for the clean&jerk twice in a row because a fitness dude was standing four feet from me and staring. He'd interrupted my set because he wanted to know how long he'd have to wait to get to the squat rack so he could place his mat there to do crunches and floor pullups off the racked bar!! I went over backwards twice in the squat position and the bar landed on top of me. That had never happened before and I attributed it entirely to being unable to concentrate with that weiner so close to me and watching and waiting. Lucky thing I'm a shallow-chested mofo and can fit in the space between the barbell and the floor when the 45's are on. I got really determined and did a wave and told fitness guy he'd have to wait. I got back up to those limit weights and mastered them.

But believe me, if there were bumper plates, I'd use them. This is the City of New York. All the gyms here cater to chrome and fern metrosexuals. I'm lucky to have a gym with a squat rack and enough safe space to O-lift.


Like the overly tanned guys who have to carry one gallon jugs of water throughout their workout. It must add to the GPP or some such.


Sorry to resurrect this thread, but the other day after a set of heavy weighted chins, some older dude started chatting me up about the movement. I had just done 112.5 for a rep and I explained that my dream was to chin with at least bodyweight strapped to me. He then said "What do you weigh, about 180?" I didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted. "No, 150, maybe 153" was my reply.

This isn't the first time that people have had a hard time believing I only weigh about 150. That's actually a good thing, I guess. I believe it's because I have very narrow bones. It's hard to tell at first glance since I've covered myself up with muscle, but a measure of my "naked" bony parts like my wrists and ankles will reveal in cold, hard numbers that my skeleton is a lot narrower than the average joe's. My wrist is barely above six inches. Again, my old man is undeniable proof that I have a genetic heritage of small bones. He is untrained and you can see just how small-boned he is; he looks sort of like Starvin'Marvin from South Park. Whenever I lament that I haven't come far enough in my strength training goals, my cousin reminds that I have indeed gone much further than my genetics would indicate with four words: "look at your father."


Hi Snatchcleanjerk,

Don't worry about what the "big guys" think. If someone is going to judge you soley on whether or not you are big, then their opinion isn't worth much anyway. The ones who are truly knowledgeable will respect you for your accomplishments.

Wow. That's quite an odd metabolism you've got then. I guess I'd have to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. I can eat till the cows come home and still have a hard time putting on weight. Luckily getting big isn't my goal. Like you I'm more interested in getting strong (building muscle is simply a necessary and fortunate part of that).

I also know what you mean about people giving you strange looks. I do a lot of gymnastics exercises and people are constantly stopping to watch me. I often get the feeling that they think I don't know what I am doing, or am doing an exercise wrong. But, I know that I know what I'm doing, so I don't really let it bother me. Besides, none of those big guys could do what I do.

Good training,