When Do I Tell Someone in the Gym They're Doing it Wrong?

This is a really good question. Let’s address a few other questions first.

1. Do you really know what you’re talking about?

What makes you can expert? Are you a certified personal trainer? Do you have any formal training? Are you a YouTube® bodybuilding video hero?

I’m not saying you have to always be an expert. Sometimes you don’t have to be well read to know someone could hurt him/herself performing a lift. I mean, it’s pretty obvious when someone is severely rounding their back when deadlifting. Or when someone is throwing the weight around instead of using a strict controlled form. What I am saying though? Come to a moment like this with humility. Know your place. If you have doubt, or haven’t done the proper research on what you think you see wrong, find someone who does to approach the person in question.

2. Are you willing to spend the time explaining yourself?

If you are an avid lifter, you know the approach to a lift and the end of a lift are as important as the lift itself. Each lift is complex. It focuses on a joint or joints. It requires placing a weight in a position to begin and end the lift. It requires engagement of specific muscles and either recruitment, stabilization, or disengagement of other muscles or muscle groups. Are you willing to take the time to properly teach someone who might be hurting him/herself?

3. Have you read the situation?

Is this an attractive female you just want to interact with? Don’t. Let her lift. If she’s really going to hurt herself approach a female staff member and explain the issue to her. Let he address it. Does the person seem like they want to be left alone? Is this an older gentleman who clearly has been in the gym his whole life? You may have new knowledge unavailable when he was first trained, but will he absorb it from you, you whippersnapper! Has this person showed any curiosity in your lifts? If so, an approach may make sense. Do you have any prior rapport with this person? If so, an approach may not be a bad idea. Read the situation. Don’t go in blind.

4. What’s your motivation?

Is it really for the good of the other person? Or are you the guy in the gym who needs to make sure everyone knows how wise he is? It’s always better to approach these situations with the proper intentions. It’s obvious when someone wants to hear themselves speak. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Here are my general rules of thumb:

  1. The individual is under 20, alone, and is clearly new to lifting. These individuals are usually appreciative of any information you can offer them.
  2. The individual has entered my workout space previously and asked a question.
  3. I can tell there is a respect for what I’ve accomplished and the other person is unsure of his accomplishments.
  4. Anytime I might be able to slip in an under the radar, non-direct comment that could be overheard and benefited from. No confrontation here.

Things I never do:

  1. Approach a woman I don’t know.
  2. Enter a person’s space when they’re intense in their workout.

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Whenever someone tells me they're unhappy, I always ask, "How often do you exercise?" There is nothing more important to your happiness than your brain chemistry. Protect your brain chemistry.

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