Be a Good Gym Member: Safety, Respect and Taking Care of Equipment
Greg Everett | Editorial | February 17 2014
"Back Away from the Squat Rack
If you’re doing an exercise using a squat rack, whether it’s squatting, jerking, or anything else, take more than half a step back from the squat rack. It’s not a lot of effort, and if you miss a lift, you won’t drop the bar on the base of the rack. When bumper plates land on racks, it will often chip pieces of the rubber away and the rack can be dented or certain plastic parts broken completely (for some perspective, the Werksan bumper plates we use at Catalyst Athletics range in price from $210/pair for 10kg to $410/pair for 25kg and Werksan squat racks are $565 each). You also won’t have a near-death experience getting yourself tangled up with the bar and rack. "
"If You're Sketchy, Use Collars
We weightlifters often train without collars on our bars. That’s because we lift them straight up and put them straight down, so there’s no sliding of plates on the bar. If you’re new, unsure, or otherwise sketchy when you lift, use collars. Weights sliding on your bar can be disastrous—the shift in weight magnifies whatever imbalance caused it, and your attempts to correct are usually too little, too much, or too late. Spare us all the fear of seeing you die and protect the rest of us and the equipment by keeping your weights secured safely on your bar with collars. If you don’t know whether or not you’re a sketchy lifter, you’re a sketchy lifter.
Contain Yourself in Your Lifting Area
This is usually a platform, but it may also just be a designated space on rubber flooring. If you’re fighting a bad lift, and the only way you think you can save it is to chase the bar off your platform or outside of your lifting area, it’s already over—drop the bar (under your control) inside your lifting area. Not only are you putting yourself at risk, but you’re putting the people around you in danger, and that’s not cool. If you want to do irresponsible things that risk injury to your person that don’t threaten the safety of others, knock yourself out. Do not do those things in a public place where you’re around people who don’t share your lack of regard for personal physical wellbeing. If you’re not sure you can contain yourself in your designated lifting area, you shouldn’t be doing whatever you’re doing. Just because someone or something wasn’t somewhere before your lift went sideways doesn’t mean that remains true afterward—someone may have wandered into the space you think is clear, and may very well not be paying attention to you, operating under the assumption that you know what you’re doing and you’re not going to be running around the gym throwing barbells.
Keep Your Lifting Area Clear
Whatever your lifting area is, whether a platform or a nice cozy spot of floor, keep it clear. Don’t leave change plates, collars, bumper plates, clothing, training journals, or ANYTHING on the floor in that lifting area. Hard, solid objects are things that a dropped bar can bounce unpredictably off of, causing a loaded bar to collide with you or someone near, or go crashing into other equipment. Soft items (clothing, towels, journals) are trip hazards, whether during a lift or not. "
"Don't Drop Empty Bars on the Floor
I know you see all the cool European lifter on the IronMind training hall videos dropping their empty barbells right onto the platform after doing some warm-up exercises, but you’re not those guys and their gym, coach, federation or competition host isn’t paying for the bar you’re dropping. Bars are meant to be dropped on the floor when loaded with bumper plates—dropping an empty bar directly onto a platform is unnecessary stress on an expensive piece of equipment that already has to survive a great deal of stress day to day. If you’re not strong enough to set an empty bar down when you’re done with it, you’re not a weightlifter and you have zero chance of ever becoming one.
Don't Put More Than 10 kg of Change on One Side of a Bar
If you have more than 10 kg of metal plates on one side of a barbell outside the bumper plates, you need to put another or a heavier bumper plate on instead. This is especially true when there is only a single bumper plate on each side, and even more especially when that single bumper plate is a light one, like a 10 kg plate. Dropping a bar loaded this way puts undue stress on the bumper plate: first, it’s absorbing more force than it’s meant to, but more importantly, it likely will not land perfectly evenly between the two sides, which means the bumpers are hitting at an angle and being torqued sideways by the additional weight. This can cause plates to crack and/or bend, and the hubs to deform so they don’t fit onto the barbell as well. Suck it up and throw the right bumpers on the bar (and don’t load heavier plates outside lighter plates in most cases)."
"Keep Chalk Where it Belongs
You’re not flocking Christmas trees—you’re lifting weights. Chalk all over the floor and elsewhere in the gym is not helping you hold onto your bar. Stick your hands in the chalk bucket and keep them in there while you rub the chalk in. Don’t grab a handful of powder or a chunk and then proceed to rub it in outside the bucket, and don’t slap your freshly-chalked hands together like an emotional slow-motion montage in a Lifetime original gymnastics movie. Yes, some chalk is going to end up on the floor in lifting areas—let it get there in unavoidable manners—don’t be lame and lazy and spread it around. Not only is it a pain in the ass to clean up, it clogs HVAC filters and forces more frequent replacement, and it’s a slipping hazard for lifters on the platform.
Don't Mix Bumper Plates
Use matching bumper plates on each side of the bar. Different brands and models (and even the same model manufactured in different time periods) can be different widths, different diameters, and different durometers (hardness). This means that when dropped, the two sides of the bar bounce differently and different points of the bar receive the impact, and the bumper plates are torqued sideways. This can mean anything from a dangerously unpredictable bounce of the bar into you or a neighboring lifter, to damage to the barbell and the bumpers from hitting at odd angles.
Control Your Bar When You Drop It
After a snatch, clean or jerk, return the bar under control to the platform. This doesn’t mean you can’t drop it—it means keep your hands connected to it until it’s fairly close to the floor, and pay attention to it until it’s done moving. Don’t be the moron who lets go of the bar from overhead and walks away, letting it bounce across the platform into another lifter, off of something back into your own legs, or into other equipment. This is just common sense and a low threshold of respect and awareness.
Don't Stand on Bumper Plates
I realize you think bumper plates are indestructible because you drop them when you lift, but they’re meant to be durable for exactly one thing—being dropped on an evenly loaded barbell on a proper lifting surface. Many times a bumper will be lying partially on top of something (a change plate, another bumper plate, or the edge of a platform, for example), and by standing on it, you’re stressing the plate in a way it’s not meant to be stressed—like being folded in half. Which leads us nicely into the next rule:
Lay Bumpers Flat on the Floor or Stand Them Up
If you need to lay a bumper plate on the floor, lay it flat so it’s evenly supported by the floor in case someone isn’t paying attention and breaks the previous rule or drops more weights on top of it. You can also lean them up against something if they’re close enough to vertical to not be stepped on or end up on the bottom of a stack. Otherwise, put them away where they belong.
Don’t Step on Barbells
Yes, they’re strong, and yes, I get it, they’re surprisingly springy and this entertains you, but barbells are not meant to be stood on. If you’re curious about how elastic the bar is, load some weight on it and lift it. Don’t put your foot on the middle of the bar and step on it to see how much it gives. Don’t slam your foot down on it to spin it before you lift, don’t kick it after you miss that lift, and don’t sit on it between lifts. Want to know if the bar spins? Do it with your hand. Want to express your rage after proving to the world you suck at lifting? Buy a punching bag. Want to sit down and rest? Find a bench or a chair or a box or anything else that’s build to keep your big butt from hitting the floor.
Load/Unload One Plate Per Side at a Time
When you’re loading or unloading a barbell in a rack, do it one plate on one side, then one plate on the other side, and alternate in this way until all of the plates are on or off. Don’t take multiple plates off the same side first, as this leaves the bar unbalanced and creates the potential for tipping out of the rack. Even if you’re a world class physicist and are convinced that the relative weights and the positions of the rack supporting the bar prohibit such tipping, it’s still possible when, for example, you bump the unloaded or less-loaded end with your shoulder or a plate, and suddenly your safely balanced system is flying through the air. The whipping end of a 6-7-foot long barbell will do very serious damage to whatever it comes into contact with, especially human tissue. I’ve seen someone nearly lose an eye from this—instead he got lucky with just a lot stitches to seal up a 2-inch wide gash just below his eye. Don’t make yourself a one-eyed asshole, and don’t be the asshole who made someone else one-eyed. "
Clean up Your Blood
Sharing can be great, but not when it comes to blood borne pathogens. If you bleed on a bar from a torn callus, accidentally hooking your shin, or in any other way get your disgusting internal fluids on any other public surface, clean it up properly, such as with Clorox, Lysol or a similar cleaning agent. If it’s a bar or another metal surface, dry it off immediately after using any cleaning solution and put some chalk on the cleaned area to help prevent it from oxidizing.
Clean up Your Spills
Accidentally kicked your water or coffee or favorite pre-workout muscle-swelling beverage? Clean it up—this isn’t astrophysics. If you don’t know how to clean it up or what to clean it up with, find a responsible adult and ask. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen and leave it for that responsible adult to find later when it’s sticky, nasty and staining.
Put Away Whatever You Use
You went over this in kindergarten—put your shit away. You got it from somewhere. If the person who used it before you was not a slob, that place was where it belongs, and that’s exactly—I mean EXACTLY—where and how you should be returning it when you’re finished. It doesn’t mean nearby, it doesn’t mean in a different way, and it certainly doesn’t mean you choose a new place to store it that you like better for some reason. If you want to decide where things go, you can build your own gym and go wild. If the person before you didn’t put it away where it belongs, be the better person and do it right because it’s the right thing to do, then tell the offender to do it right next time when you get the chance.
Every single time you do something in the gym, you’re a model for other members. Set a good example and help others follow it. Be a contributor, not a drain; be safe and respectful and courteous. Take a moment and think about what your actions tell everyone around you, and if you like your gym and respect its owners, staff and members, prove it with the way you treat the facility.
Matt Foreman | Olympic Weightlifting | February 5 2014
Therapy is really popular these days, have you noticed that? People spend a lot of time and money going to psychiatrists and counselors. They’ve got some mental/emotional/personality issues they need to get straightened out, so they seek professional help.
I’ve never gone to therapy. I don’t need to, because I have absolutely no problems. Unless you count overwhelming charm and physical magnetism as problems, which I don’t. If those things are bad, then somebody better get me a doctor…fast.
Anyway, back to the therapy business. It’s a growth industry, that’s for sure. People must be getting more screwed up as time goes on, because new shrinks are popping up like prairie dogs. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, by the way. I’ve known some people who were in therapy for years. And you know what? It seems to work. They were practically living their lives huddled in a corner and pissing themselves when strangers said hello, and some long-term psychiatric treatment led them to stability and happiness. Good on ya, as far as I’m concerned.
You know what I think? I think weightlifting is good therapy. When people have personal problems, becoming a weightlifter can help them.
I’m totally serious about this, by the way. Let me explain.
Olympic weightlifting is extremely complex and challenging. I think we all know that. Learning how to do the OLifts is probably one of the toughest things a person can try. It tests the limits of your physical and mental ability in a very unique way. There’s nothing quite like being an Olympic lifter. It’s very, very damn hard to do.
Different people bring different attitudes to the table when they decide to give it a try. Just like real life, you’ll see all kinds of personalities in this sport. OLifting can give all of them exactly what they need, in various ways. Here are a couple of examples:
Michelle the Frightened Gerbil: Michelle doesn’t have much faith in herself. She’s quiet, timid, and insecure. She’s a good person, but she doesn’t see herself as special or impressive. When she watches weightlifting, she’s in awe of how skillful it looks and the first thing that pops into her mind is, “I could never do that. I’m not good enough.” She probably thinks that about most other things in her life, actually.
Therapeutic Result of Weightlifting for Michelle: If somebody can actually convince Michelle to give OLifting a try, it’ll be tough for her but she’ll work very hard because she’s so terrified of failing. If you put Michelle with a good coach who knows how to teach and has a caring attitude, she’ll eventually figure out how to do the lifts. And do you know what will happen then? Michelle will see herself just a little differently than she used to. Don’t be surprised if she gets more outgoing and confident. Bingo, the treatment was a success.
Jeff the Arrogant Jerkoff: Just like Michelle, Jeff has a problem with his self-confidence. But it’s the opposite problem. Jeff has an overwhelming surplus of self-confidence. Jeff is full of himself. Jeff thinks he’s god’s gift to the world. When he sees weightlifting, he gets excited to try it because he thinks it’ll be one more way for him to show everybody how awesome he is. He expects to be great at it because…well, because he’s Jeff. If you’ve ever heard the song “Steve Polychronopolous” by Adam Sandler, you know what I’m talking about. That’s this guy.
Therapeutic Result of Weightlifting for Jeff: Hopefully, Jeff will be humbled when he starts lifting. If he’s a big strong guy, he might be able to lift more than most people in the gym right away despite his mutant, disgusting technique. But at some point, he’ll be exposed to other lifters who are much better than he is. I used to train with a 148 lb woman who could snatch 220 lbs, clean and jerk 275, and back squat 418. Most of the guys in the gym, at any bodyweight, couldn’t beat her head-to-head. Jeff needs to see lifters like this. Once Jeff has been forced to confront the fact that he’s not a living legend, hopefully he’ll make some adjustments to his ego. Bingo, the treatment was a success.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Is weightlifting guaranteed to fix everybody’s problems? Of course not. After a year of successful training, Michelle might still think she’s a piece of crap and Jeff might still think the sun rises and sets in his butthole. We’ve got no guarantees that weightlifting is going to solve everything.
But you can say the same thing about therapy. It might be the cure, and it might not.
Most of the people in therapy are there because they’ve got something inside they can’t handle. Low self-esteem, addiction urges, outbursts of anger, whatever. They can’t control these things, so they have to get help.
Having success in the Olympic lifts gives you a sense of control that can trickle into many other areas of your life. It was so freaking hard to learn the snatch, and you went through hell to do it. Once you’ve done it, a lot of other things seem a little easier.
To say it in a much simpler way, being a weightlifter forces you to believe in yourself. Once you start to believe in yourself, you become a stronger person. It’s a pretty basic equation.
What do you have to lose? Even if weightlifting doesn’t make you stop hating your mother, at least it will make your body look better. If your body looks better, people will probably be more attracted to you. That could lead to a bunch of meaningless physical relationships.
See? The positives are all over the place.