Men's Life Today: Expert Q+A
When should I let people "work in" while I'm on a machine? And in a work-in situation, should everyone keep changing the weight and seat settings back for the other person?
Remember what happened in nursery school when you and a fellow toddler both wanted to play with the same toy? Grabbing, pushing and general mayhem would ensue, finally broken up by your teacher, after she rushed over and told you both that you needed to learn to share.
For many adults, sharing is still not something that comes naturally -- particularly in the testosterone-charged environment of the gym. I’ve often found myself wondering why on earth a certain lunkhead has decided he needs to use the exact same machine or weights I’m using at the exact same time I’m using them -- particularly if the gym is not crowded. In general, I find working-in requests to be disruptive and often experience performance anxiety lifting in front of someone who’s standing mere inches away from me -- I’m convinced the other guy is praying I won’t make my 12 reps so he can jump on the machine faster! (Granted, this may be my own issue, but chime in if you’ve felt this way too.)
In general, unless someone is being an equipment hog, taking an inordinate amount of time between sets, I prefer doing another exercise until the other individual is done. If, however, the individual seems to be napping between sets or if the gym is so mobbed that my chances of ever getting on a certain machine are slim to none, I’ll work in.
If you’ve decided you need to work in with someone to complete your routine, follow these guidelines of good gym etiquette:
- Chose wisely. With free weights, pick a station where the other person’s lifting loads comparable to yours so you won’t each need to spend inordinate amounts of time loading and reloading. Likewise, if you’re six-foot-eight, avoid working in with a five-footer -- you don’t want to spend more time adjusting seat heights than you spend actually working out.
- Inquire. Ask the other person how many sets he has left. If it’s just one or two, wait it out. If five or six ...
- • Ask nicely. “Do you mind if I work in?” is preferable to “Dude! You’re taking forever; let me hop on!”
- Be clean. Wipe down the seat and bars after each use so the next person doesn’t get a coat of your sweat. And when you finish your set, give the person some breathing room -- don’t hover.
- Assist. Offer to spot if you’re using free weights and be sure to help unload and reload for his next set. If you’re using a machine, move the pin back to where it was before you got on. From there, he’ll move the pin to suit his own needs. Also be sure to move the seat or handles back to his positions.
- Express appreciation. When you’re done, say thank you. And pay it forward: If someone asks to work in with you, grant the request gracefully.
Do all the above and you just may have made friends (and maybe even future workout partners) at the gym.