T Nation

Trying to be helpful

What does everyone here think about trying to be helpful in the gym? I see people doing lifts wrong, doing half reps, and other sorts of things that make me want to give them some advice, but I never know where that line is that I can approach them and offer to help without it coming off like I am an ass or know-it-all. I have only had someone comment on my lifting once and it was a great recommendation that allowed me to feel the lift better. I wasn’t offended at all, but I know it bothers some. How do others here deal with this? Or should I just ignore these type of things?

Here’s a little story:

I was a few wks out from a BB show while carrb depleting, and i generally start to look really small when covered up. Anyhow, I was supersetting bi’s and tri’s when an average looking gymrat came over to tell me I was doing a movement wrong, which really did piss me off being depleted , hungry sore etc…I thinking “who’s this jackass to tell me what to do.” A few minutes later I took off my sweatshirt because I was sweating like a whore and losing what little water my body can hold on to in that state. Now even though carb depleted muscle size suffers until carbing up, you will look completely shredded. The guy sees me comes over and says" damn what was I thinking telling you how to train, you should tell me. I still thought he was a jackass for bothering me in the first place w/out me asking for help.

I look at it like this, you never know what someones situation is, what they my be doing, so if they don’t ask, I’m not offering help. Now there will be some exceptions, like newbies, but for the most part Let lying dogs sleep.

Tis happens to me all the time. Lat week, this guy was trying to curl a bar with a 45 on each side. He was cheating on the 1st rep! By his last rep, I thought he was going to throw his back out. I noticed that after the set, he proceeded to add more weight to bar, and even more for a thrid set! I wanted to offer him a dollar if he could lift it with just the 45s for 1 rep in good form. But I resisted.

I always hold back, mainly for fear of getting my ass kicked (I’m a short guy.) But, I wonder if it would be better if I did say something.

I have made the comment “that’s an interesting way to do that,” but that’s as far as I’ll go.

i know exactly how you feel. for the most part i dont say anyhting unless i know them or they ask me for advice. if i tried to help every person that was using poor form i would never get a workout in.

Unsoliciated advice is not warranted and many times, unwelcomed.

If someone asks, feel free to give them any and all the information you deem necessary.

Otherwise, let people do the things they are doing, no matter how dangerous, idiotic or wrong it may be. Most people learn better from making their own mistakes rather than having someone tell them what to do or not to do. Besides, maybe they are doing something you’ve never heard of and it really does work.

I’m quite observant in the gym, but I draw the line at offering advice, unless it is asked for and even then, I tend to not say too much. There is nothing worse than having a know-it-all try to tell you what to do and I don’t want to come off as one, which I’m sure has happened. So, I keep my yap shut, get my training done and go home. Offering advice when it is not asked for is just plain wrong, unless you work in the gym or something dangerous is being done.

I’ll try to give some help in a few situations. If I see an obvious newbie or female struggling, I’ll give a little help. I’ve found that women don’t mind the help. Beginners seem to respect me. Most people of course, know what I do in my hometown are. I always try to be encouraging and polite.
In a foreign gym, I just mind my own business and hope I don’t get bothered by some weirdo.

Helpful advice is a touchy subject. I usually am receptive to advice in the gym. I do solicit the advice of the few experts that regularly workout at the same times that I do.

One thing to remember, is that most people think that after reading a few Muscle and Fitness mags, that they are suddenly an expert in the field. So, unless their physique shows the results of their advice, I usually thank them and ignore it.

Following on Nate Dogg’s comment: Unsoliciated advice is an insult. The gym I frequent has several guys who dole out advice to others. These particular guys use crappy form & questionable tactics and are prone to look around a lot for their next student. I’m also in the world of academia where the impulse “to teach” is often an issue of ego. When I feel the impulse to say something, I keep back & just watch the show, wondering where they get their info. People will ask if they think you have anything to offer…or they’ll pay for it (thinking it’s better since money went into it).

I always go by the code:

“Keep your trap shut unless you’re asked.”

I generally don’t give advice unless a)its really, really obvious that they’re doing something wrong/dangerous/annoying or b)I know the person and they know me. Even if its just a gym relationship, I don’t feel uncomfortable talking to someone about training.

I will however, open my mouth at the morons who curl in the squat rack do lateral raises in front of the dumbell rack (so that anyone who wants dumbells has to pay with teeth), or gets in my or someone else’s way.

Recently I had noticed a situation in my gym where I saw these two guys working out that you could tell had never previously been in a gym before. They worked out virtually every day, doing chest every single day. They knew nothing about tempo and you would see them with tiny weights doing speed reps with 0.05 second negatives, over and over again.

Every day I planned on having a talk with them, just to try to help them out, but I was dreading the response. However, the problem took care of itself- these guys bailed after 6 weeks and never came back. Maybe I could have helped them, but if they really wanted to progress, they chould have made an effort to learn on their own a bit more.

Ha i had this happen…

Last week the “Gym manager” walked by me and tried to tell he how to do tricep extensions with a rope. Now im doing slow ecentric movements with my arms extended all the way for the most stretch. The douche bag comes over, this guys is like 45 big and fat, well he comes over tells me to bend my arms and starts pushing and letting go like he was jerking off. He goes “now you try” so i did them my way and he just shrugged and left me alone.


'Nuff Said.

“Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.”

~ Calvin Coolidge

I’m with Irondoc on this one. The newbies often have no idea and are hoping that someone will come over and show them the ropes. And any obvious females (that was what you meant, right 'doc? :wink: ) are usually a bit more receptive than the average guy.

But there are problems with this approach as well. The newbie may latch onto you and want advice every day forever. And if the woman is good-looking, she’ll like as not think that you’re trying to hit on her.

For every problem there’s a solution, though. After the third question or so I direct the newbies here and tell them to start reading. That weeds out 99% of them. As for the women, a scornful look and saying, “Me date you? Ha! You don’t lift enough for me to date!” usually solves the problem. :slight_smile:

I used to try to help people in the gym. I found some people were ok with assistance…and some weren’t. Alot of the time I would spend an inordinate amount of my own workout time trying to help and would feel ultimately depleted mentally; not to mention behind in my own training! And besides…I would often see the same person in a week or so doing the same ol crap that I had tried to educate them NOT to do!

Now I look at it like this: I have secrets that I can keep to myself that will put me above the pack (except for friends that I will help)…above the rest of the run of the mill wannabees in the gym! And unless I am asked why I am doing something a certain way…I keep my trap closed!..its to MY advantage!


i hate when guys watch you do an excercise and then copy you while getting the form all wrong. I laugh in their face cause i know they will never be anything. laters pk

On trying to helpful. Its my job as a Exercise Specialist/Personal Trainer to help people. But I found out its better to help someone that is blantly doing something wrong and could wind up hurting themselves or a female that looks like she has no clue on what she is doing. They are the ones that are easier to approach. Another good thing to do is get to know the person before you even say anything about his or her lifting.

Then you’ll know if they really need help or not. Simple conversation my lead up to am I doing this right.

Interesting thread. Several issues have already been brought up here, and I’d like to summarise the main ones:

  1. FAMILIARITY.- Mentioned late in the day by fitone, but in my opinion one of the most important points. If you’ve already conversed in the past, then advice is friendly, not a challenge. i.e. as long as they’re not about to break their neck, then get familiar, SEE them perform the mistakes a few times, and THEN intervene.

    There’s also your familiarity with the whole environment. If you don’t train there regularly, do you really understand the gym hierarchy (who’s been there for years, who’s friendly and who’s not, who’s experienced, strong etc.).

  2. Your place in the HIERARCHY. -Do they respect YOU? How long have YOU been training? Is YOUR technique that strong? I think most of us (me included) may need a reality check on this one. Sorry, but just coz you read T-Mag (a good start I will admit) doesn’t make you the next Poliquin. And even if you are experienced and knowledgeable, as stated above if you’re in a foreign gym this will mean NOTHING to them till you’ve proved yourself.
  3. HOW BAD ARE THEY?- Bad enough to severely injure themselves, or just cheating a little too much on the last few reps of the last set of curls? If the latter, IT CAN WAIT!!
  4. SEX.- Women MAY or MAY NOT want your attention. Play it careful dude. Once again, the familiarity issue is often crucial.
    And be wary of the buff boyfriend over in the corner on the squatrack. You didn’t notice him till HE noticed YOU getting a little too friendly helping her complete the last bicep curl from behind (know what I mean!?)
    With men, it’s the macho thing. (“Who’s he to tell me how to …?”) I think on this one, it’s the sort of shape that YOU are in that will swing it or not. Do you look the part? Does he FEEL he can learn something from you? If so, then even if the dude appears kind of resistant to your advances, he will probably be listening intently underneath, and will put it into practice (even if it’s only when you’re not around).
  5. AGE.- For guys (mid-teenagers), it’s usually the macho thing x1000. i.e. You’d REALLY better look like you know your stuff. Usually, as they read a lot of M&F/FLEX, that means you need at least a Kevin Levrone sort of body, and to be shifting quite a few plates on the bar.
    Teen girls are usually with someone older anyway, so this is less of an issue.
  6. AUDIENCE NUMBER. Single trainee? OR “the gang”? If the latter, usually best to stay away in my opinion unless asked. As an outsider, you will NOT be welcomed.
  7. THEIR PROGRAM. Are they doing a high-intensity, short rest program? Or a circuit training program? IF so, then getting interrupted right in the middle is a major pain in the ass. Leave well alone, and if you’re gonna tackle, do it during the warm down. IF it’s 1 set every 10 minutes, with water breaks, and cute-babe watching breaks in between, then you may be better received. (Advice on rest intervals might help for a start!:-))
  8. YOUR PROGRAM. Dude, do you really have time to go through the mechanics of the back squat (including demo., coaching and spotting them initially)when you’ve got an hour tops to get your workout done, before heading back to class or to work or home to see the family etc?
    Sure, if time isn’t an issue (I don’t have that luxury) then work away. However, my other point would be the structure of YOUR program. What does it do to your supposed 2min rest periods? Once again, save it for your warm down/after workout.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m afraid I’m a pretty self-centred individual. MY workout comes first.
When I was PT’ing for a short while, then I was being paid to help others. Not any more. And with the great danger of a rebuff as mentioned above, I think it’s generally better to save my breath.

With a friend/acquaintance, the scenario changes a little. But just keep in mind, that gym time should be YOUR time. SRS

[quotei hate when guys watch you do an excercise and then copy you while getting the form all wrong. I laugh in their face cause i know they will never be anything. laters pk[/quote]

You should see some of the people that have tried doing a Turkish get-up after seing me do it.

I get looks, stares and comments on my Renegade Training on a daily basis. It’s quite amusing. But I can at least say that my progress is visible, as you can tell that I’ve gotten leaner, much more defined and in great shape while training. The rest of the gym members are still doing the same workouts with the same results and not looking any different than they did six months ago.