T Nation

How to Help Someone Without Coming Off as a Douche


Ok. So you’re at the gym and as always there are high school looking kids trying to squat, press, whatever. You know you can help them before they literally crash with a barbell on their back. But these guys all think they are experts because weight training is easy… How do you broach the subject of giving them a little free coaching?

After watching this kid ‘not’ squat 275 and damn near fall over, he was extremely resistant to my ‘let me help you before you kill yourself…’.

I’m guessing some of the more successful coaches who contribute here have some approaches that could actually make people who need it at least listen for a second before getting defensive.


You don’t. Let them learn the hard way.


You don’t.

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Same way you correct someone who is driving poorly by texting and driving, or not coming to full stops, putting themselves in danger.

Or the way you correct a smoker or drinker, who is putting their health at risk.

Or the way you correct a fellow diner out at a restaurant that makes poor nutritonal decisions, putting their life at risk.


See options below:

  1. Own the gym. Then you can say “This is the right way. If I ever see you do that shit again, you’ll be out on your ass.”

  2. Have just finished doing the same lift in front of them with a heavy enough weight that they’re impressed. Then they MIGHT listen.

  3. Convince them to hire you as a coach.

  4. You don’t.


Hey buddy that could have ended bad / you could have hurt yourself there. Do you need help?

Then it easily becomes a Yes or No response

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It never hurts to start with a compliment.

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Now that might work.


Might work.


You need to fight them first and give them a good beating but make sure they know you held back on the final, fatal blow. Then they will willingly listen to your words of wisdom. Works in old kungfu movies.


I think just asking if they’d like some advice is the way to go.

That’s only if you really feel the need to help, I’m with the “you don’t” crew

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“Hey buddy, I think you’d be great at basketball, why don’t you change your hobby and try?”


Anyway, I see people doing dumb and probably dangerous stuff at the gym all the time. I never tell them anything. It’s NONE of my business.

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If people interrupted me every time I did something dumb, different or dangerous I would never get to train.


You can spout studies at them. Just walk up and start blabbing about something on pubmed.

Throw in some big words here and there just to make sure that they know that you know big words.

Who doesn’t love that?


Of the few times I’ve done this, only one of them ended somewhat well. I saw a guy deadlifting with a mixed grip and pulling up with his arms at lockout. This guy was probably in his 30’s so a modicum of maturity was present at least. We were in the gym around the same time enough for him to have talked to me about my deadlift in the past, so there was at least some level of respect toward me.

When I saw him doing that, I simply stated in a matter of fact tone “You’re free to not listen, but every time you do that you’re risking tearing your biceps.” He asked me to clarify what I meant and I explained it a little clearer. He was super thankful and managed to stop. That’s 1 of maybe 3 times that I’ve done that. Had he been a high school kid that I had never interacted with before and didn’t have any level of credibility with, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have gone so well.

Pro-tip: Go straight AAF on them. They’re little more than chimps with drivers licenses at this stage. Establish your dominance by pressing whatever they’re squatting with overhead. Then give any advice in the following format: ABBAB (Always Be Berating and Belittling). When you see them failing to do the exercise correctly, inform them of how “bitches” always have a hard time doing that exercise correctly and then demonstrate how it is done. This may be your only option with high-school boys.


To be perfectly honest, the best way is to be friends with the guy first after seeing him a couple of times in the gym. Really awkward if you try to correct someone you’ve only met for the first time

That’s how I helped a guy way bigger and squats waaaay heavier than I do. Started out asking him a few things about body building stuff. He seemed like the receptive type, and eventually told him to be careful about letting his knees cave in (and explained why) when squatting heavy and about reaching depth. Guy punched me in the face eventually when we got out of the gym. Had to transfer to a new gym since then.

Just kidding. He’s a good gym friend of mine now lol.


Just some gym bros, talking about training. A couple dudes trying to get better.

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Fixed it for you

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Either be “incredibly strong” (From what I’ve seen, deadlift 4+ plates, squat/bench 3+ plates) or do some sort of gymnastic/acrobatic movements that catches people’s eyes.

I think it also helps to make yourself look available.

They’re kids, so they’re unlikely to listen unless you firmly establish yourself as an authority figure and someone who possesses some quality that they themselves desire.

Hell, that probably applies to everyone…