Editorials / Features

Form and Etiquette

by Hugh Roid


I recently caught myself seeing stars after benching this past month and realized that I’d forgotten the most basic rule: Breathe. I need air. I shouldn’t have held my breath. Also, I’d forgotten a spotter while pushing my limits.

This brief brush with potential death got me thinking: “What other basic rules of the gym have I forgotten?” Today, we’re going to review the rudiments.

First, remember to warm up! Jumping in unlimbered will eventually cause injuries.

Don’t arch your back! When you’re deadlifting, squatting, or rowing, it’s easy to forget proper form—keep your back straight (indicated by a puffed out chest). There’s no better way to permanently cripple yourself than to arch your back.

Figure 1: Arched on left, straight on right.

Another less obvious mistake is rolling your shoulders during shrugs or other exercises. This tears up the labrum in your shoulder socket. Shrugs should be done with the chin tucked into your chest and the shoulders raised directly up or slightly back. No rolling. A good exercise to strengthen the capsule in your shoulder is the “Cuban Press”. Check it out on Youtube.

Don’t get lazy with your grip! Hold on tight! A common mistake for beginners, and the advanced, is to hold weights loosely. Besides letting weights slip and drop uncontrollably, you’re losing out on strong forearms and fingers. An easy way to enhance focus on your grip when working out is to wrap your weights with a towel, it makes the grip bigger and slipperier. Towels have the benefit of being inexpensive and multipurpose, but “Fat Gripz” are specifically designed to increase the grip diameter.

Chief among sins at the gym is the inability to take criticism and advice. Worse is accepting bro science without verification. What is bro science?

“Dude, no more than five reps or you’ll go STRAIGHT catabolic,” or “Rub your nuts in coconut oil to stimulate extra testosterone. MASSIVE GAINS, bro.”

That’s bro science, BS for short.

Real bros don’t throw their weights if they can help it. Weights in the gym are breakable. Also, you don’t want to crush anyone’s feet.

Smart fitizens don’t even stand in throwing range. They also don’t stand between someone else and the mirror.

Finally, remember to put your weights away (and correctly). In ancient Greece, the punishment for littering weights was Θάνατος σε σύνθλιψη. In English, it’s rendered closely as “Gasping and gurgling as the offender is righteously crushed to death under the same weights he would not put away”.

The gym is much like a fancy party with rules of proper conduct and taboos, but with more sweating and nudity.


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