T Nation

Unwanted Advice At the Gym


Yesterday I had an interesting experience at the local commercial health club I go to. First I was doing some kneeling squats for the first time. I did my first set with my feet flat on the floor. One of the personal trainers comes up kind of discreetly and quietly asks me if I would like a tip. He suggested I try to stay on my toes when performing kneeling squats. I liked this advice since this is how we sit in my sport (brazilian jiu-jitsu).

Now the next thing that happened wasn't so helpful. I was doing some zercher squats next. I was also performing this exercise for the first time. I was going pretty light (95lbs)and taking it easy. After my first set I notice this older strong man type looking guy trying to get my attention. He calls me over and asks me "what are you trying to do, front squats?"

I told him they are called Zercher squats and he tells me that the proper way to perform the front squat is to rack the weight on your shoulders and that I would injure my biceps this way. I told him that I ususally do them that way but was trying this new technique I had seen in an article and I was going light to avoid injury. I told him I was trying to strenghthen my core and learn technique so that I can start to squat bigger. He gets a perplexed look on his face then goes on to explain that I will cut off the blood vessels in the crook of my elbows and it could lead to blood clots.

Out of respect I thanked him for the advice and finished my routine racking the weight on my shoulders. I didn't want to argue with him and respected him even though I felt as if he was treating me like a kid. This guy is there all the time and now it seems as if I have to throw Zercher squats in the trash as to not offend him. What do you guys do in these types of situations?


I wouldn't avoid doing certain things just because it might go against someone else's opinion. If you like them and find benefit in doing them, keep it up.

I've been told that cleans will hurt my back, DB snatches will hurt my elbows, front squats throw me off balance and I should only do back squats, and that goodmornings are terrible for my back. I still do all of them.

It's your body and your workout. If you know you are being safe, don't let someone else tell you what not to do.


Screw him. If you want to do Zercher squats - do Zercher squats.

He's the idiot, not you. Why are you going to rob yourself of a great exercise so as not to insult the sensibility of some blowhard ?

If he gets pissed, that's his problem, not yours. Besides, he should be worried about his workout, not yours.

BTW, yet another example of why the iPod is perhaps the best $300 you'll ever spend.


Keep doing what you're doing. Fuck everyone else, especially that old bastard. I don't give a damn who you are, I'm not going to change the way I lift because you think it's wrong or don't agree with it! Not everyone knows much outside the standard stuff they see in muscle magazines or learn from a personal trainer.

I've done Zercher squats, overhead squats, Zercher good mornings, overhead walks, farmer's walks, burpees, turkish getups, a variety of kbell drills, plate carries, etc. when I trained in the gym. I got odd looks, questions and comments all the time. I answered questions as needed and kept doing what I was doing. Screw what the rest of the people do.


I make up some random ass shit about how this dude with a PhD, Md, MS, PT, and so on and so for told me that this would be a great way to condition the arteries and nerves in my elbows to withstand blows during my secret chineses, japanese, korean, italian, martial art sessions.

Or tell him not to worry that I would be carefull...then smile and get back to my Zerchers.


I've never had to deal with not wanting to offend anyone, but usually I just smile and say thank you.
Then I go back and continue what I was doing.
That or I suggest they try it out themselves, maybe they'll learn something.


You guys are on the same page as me. Damn it's just so annoying though. This guy is the gym legend. You guys all know who I am talking about. Then everybody at the gym overhears what is going on. God for bid I go against what the gym legend says.


Well... you could tell them to visit T-Nation... or just ignore them.

For a few more months my max width on bench grip is 14", altough I usually use an even narrower one. I also keep my elbows tucked. Well, I've had a big bunch of "smart" people tell me that I should keep my elbows FLARED (I mean humerus perpendicular to torso. My shoulders hurt only when thinking), and a wide grip. Never mind I'm bigger and stronger. And I'm a skinny 145lbs 5'10" 17 year old. Imagine how that guy looked. I recently stopped explaining... they're too ignorant. Or as Chris Shugart said "stupid willfully ignorant know it all". They just can't accept THERE IS NO ONE GOOD technique(altough flaring your elbows that much IS CERTAINLY NOT good technique).

If I want to chin with a supine grip (as I always do), they all tell me I work the biceps and that I should use a wider grip to work my back. Well, DUH, I want to work my biceps.

Anyway, ignore them. They'll soon respect you. Ex: I would do pinky chins with a pair of eagle loops. Everyone laughs and points and asks what are they for. Then they try them. And they don't even get half a chin. THEN they shut up.


Everyone's right about continuing to do Zerchers - though he has a point about possible bicep tendon injury. No shame in wrapping a towel or something around the bar for a little padding to protect them in the absence of a thick (2-3") bar.

My favorite comeback to people giving unsolicited advice is to ask them "Why?" You'll usually get a blank stare, though sometimes it takes a couple "why?"'s.



I find that one of the benefits of wearing headphones with the music cranked up very loud is that most people don't try to talk to you, and if they do then you can't hear them anyway!


I listen. Unless someone is coming across like a straight asshole, you can learn quite a bit from older lifters or people who have been at this longer than you and made more progress. There seems to be some trend on this site lately where so many of you think you know more than anyone else and that no one can tell you anything. If you were really blowing away everyone with your progress, chances are he would never have said a thing. People don't do that to me anymore, but when I was much smaller, I not only listened to other people's advice, I would go searching for it.

Even if someone is slightly off about their knowledge base, there are still things to learn from experience alone. What are your stats?


Prof X this is why I started the story off telling about the great advice I got from one of the trainers (also an older guy). I am always open to advice but the way this guy was a little off in his advice. His attitude was closed minded even as I tried to explain to him that this is a new exercise I found in an article and that I do know how to properly front squat. Even after I switched it up to normal front squats I could see him eyeing every rep I did as if he was looking for a flaw in my technique.

As far as my stats....I've been lifting for 2 months. I am using WSSB. I'm 6'2" 205lbs. I pulled 355 last week. I haven't maxed out on squats but those numbers don't mean much on the net unless you can see how deep I squat. I have no spot so I haven't maxed out on bench but I put up 185 for 5 reps on my ME bench day.


My take on it is this, people have built amazing physiques for decades without ever worrying about a Zercher squat. You can do them to your heart's content and I am the type of person to avoid ever stepping in to give anyone advice unless they have already removed their head from their shoulders and it is rolling across the gym floor towards another lifter. In that case, my advice would be, "look out", but that's beside the point.

He obviously felt they were useless in terms of strength or size gains. You may disagree with that. One thing I can guarantee, however, is had you appeared to actually know what you are doing, there is much less of a chance that anyone will try to correct you on it.

That doesn't mean you tell him to "fuck off" just because of this. It does mean that in the "unwritten rules of the gym" your progress determines how people respond to you. Deal with it and make more progress. Everyone else had to.


Sure, but usually the unsolicited advice is garbage. In this case, he did - the guy displayed his ignorance by a) not knowing what the exercise even was and b) going on about circulatory damage or whatever.

I, like you, wasn't shy about asking for advice - but I think that's a whole different ball of wax than unsolicited advice - the shame is that the people who usually give it out are the people who are the least qualified to be giving anyone advice on training.


I used to ask for advice around the gym but stopped when I started reading here that half the advice they gave me was holding back from actual progress.

Eg: Do not squat-knee trouble, do not deadlift-back trouble, do bicep exercises for maximal bicep growth, etc.

Now, sometimes people come up to me and ask me why I squat ATG and I try and explain on how when performed correctly it can strengthen the entire body but they still scoff at me and go back to their bicep curls.


Serious? You need to worry about what's best for you. Do your workouts any way you dammned well want. It's not your job to make this guy happy or stroke his ego by listening to his advice.


If the guy is telling him how to properly do FRONT squats and he wants to do ZERCHER squats, he should do what he wants. So long as he knows how to properly do zercher squats. Although he may be knowledgeable and was trying to be helpful, the guy didn't listen to HIM and was giving him tips on an exercise he wasn't trying to do.


That's pretty funny. The other day I was doing some rack pulls. I had 385 on the lowest pin setting. Some huge guy comes up behind me to get a drink from the foutain right as I'm about to pull. I see him stop and get a little smirk as if he was thinking "I have to see this" I pulled the weight twice with great form.

After I finished he came up and complimented me on my lift. Maybe if the other guy paid closer attention to what I was doing while he was using the machines on the other side of the gym everyday he would see my progress. Just a thought...


Whether or not I listen is based on their physique. If it's a really old guy then the physique doesn't come into question. The skinny 17 year old trainer can take a flying leap.

I had a 50'ish guy recommend that I not jump up on the chinup bar using my momentum to get to the top. I was doing negatives and didn't see a problem with. He explained hurting his elbows having done. Yeah....whatever. Few weeks later began to develop a sharp occasional pain in my....elbows. I apologized to him the next time I saw him. He stated that the same thing happened to him and the same thing will happen to me when I try to warn someone else. Lesson learned.

If learning from the experienced or having to listen to idiots is a problem then buy a cap and headphones. Don't look around the gym so then people can't make eye contact with you. After a few years of serious lifting you won't have to worry about people bothering you with advice. You will have to deal with people asking you what you did to get so big? Which defines into...what kind of steroids and where can I get some.

Be courteous and polite....never hurts.


In the real world, it helps to look the part more than to actually be the part. No one is saying you are weak, however, this is the gym we are talking about...perception is everything.