LBEB Ladies: Establishing Gym Legitimacy

This is not a “man hating” article but, it is geared toward women. So, if a women’s perspective doesn’t interest you, no need to continue reading. I want to talk about the gym, specifically how it is usually divided: the cardio side, and the weights side. The stereotypical situation is that the women remain on the cardio side, and the men claim the weights side.

Ever since I started training, I have encountered this phenomenon. The purpose of my article is not to tell the men to take their sweaty balls and moaning and groaning elsewhere. My purpose is to reach out to other women and encourage them to train amongst the sweaty balls and moaning and groaning!

The gym is a fascinating place. It’s like a jungle, with its own “animal” hierarchy. The biggest, baddest dudes or dudettes are at the top of that hierarchy and they effectively own the gym. Whatever piece of equipment they want is theirs. They may not have to follow the typical gym rules (no chalk or no gym bags on the floor). This is not so much because they are excused from the rules but, rather they don’t give a sh**. Now, many times women observe this hierarchy and they have no clue where they might fit in. A few things play into one’s peer to peer gym ranking structure: time at that gym (dedication), squat/bench/deadlift numbers (brute strength), appearance, knowledge (to include form), and general attitude and training effort level. What women need to understand is that typically, guys do not discriminate between men and women when it comes to the gym hierarchy. However, you must be prepared to be ranked. Whether you are the King Pin or the little minnow, it doesn’t matter because you are all part of the gym family.

At my gym in Las Vegas, Dominate Your Game, I train with a bad ass group of powerlifting dudes. They are all super jacked, super knowledgeable, super strong, super smelly, and super awesome. There are about 7 of us who are in the “core center” of the powerlifting group. To us, the gym is “ours.” We run it. We choose the music, we have first dibs of the equipment; it is our place, our home away from home.  Aside from that core group, there are other lifters, of course. One particular lifter who we will call, Alan, is one of those “other lifters.”. Alan is not especially strong or knowledgeable and in fact, he was quite skinny but, he tries.  Almost every day he would train at the same time as us. His effort level was high. He also was willing to help us out when we needed it (move plates, set up). He would let us have equipment if we needed it; he was very accommodating, and always had a positive attitude.  Because of this, Alan was taken in, almost as a little brother by the group. Many times as he was training, someone from the group would study Alan’s form, then work with him for a bit and give him technique advice. I let Alan train with me too sometimes. Once, I was going outside to do some sled conditioning work and he asked if he could join me. I said “sure!” He ended up puking immediately afterward but, he did it! I respected him for that.

Alan was a perfect example of someone who was not top on the gym hierarchy but, he respected the ways of the gym jungle and was able to earn his place amongst the top lifters and ultimately, gain a lot of knowledge from them.  I have no doubt that if Alan were “Allison” he would have been treated exactly the same… only perhaps he would have gotten hit on a bit as well. 

My point is this: women should not be afraid to train on the “weights side” of the gym. In the gym hierarchy, sex does not matter. What is most important is your work ethic and your attitude. Across the board, a hard work ethic is important. After that, I recommend having respect for your fellow lifters. For example, be courteous when it comes to asking to “work in” with someone else. You should only ask to work in when the weight you’re going to be doing is similar to the weight that the current lifter is using. If you’re a 300lb squatter, don’t ask to work in with a 600lb squatter unless you’re already friends with that person. Otherwise, you’re working in is likely an annoyance.

Another way to gain gym respect is to be courteous of other lifters and of the equipment. Follow these simple “Dos and Don’ts” to improve your gym legitimacy:

Do: Squat in the squat rack, do rack pulls in the squat rack, do good morning in the squat rack, do overhead jerks from the squat rack.  Respect the squat rack. Don’t: Exercises where you do not NEED a squat rack. For example, barbell curls, barbell rows…anything involving rowing.

Do: Put your weights away. Don’t: Leave any plates on your barbell/machine. 

Do: Clean up chalk messes. Don’t: Leave chalk all over the equipment/showering the floor like a blizzard came through.

Do: Ask your fellow lifters questions. Don’t: Ask questions right before or after they lift. Instead, wait for him/her to be completely done with that exercise.

Do: Ask to join a PL/strongman group. Don’t: Assume you can join the group.

Do: Offer technical advice if a fellow lifter specifically asks you and you feel you legitimately have a good answer. Don’t: Go up to other lifters, unsolicited, and tell them the “better” way to do things.

Do: Be respectful of the equipment.   

Don’t: Do heavy rack pulls and drop the weight and the top, which bend the $300-$400 barbell, messing it up for everyone else.

Do: Work hard. Psych yourself up prior to your lifts main lifts. Don’t: Make porno audio noises while you’re curling.

Do: Ask a lifter how many more sets he/she has on the squat rack then begin stretching and warming up. Don’t: Ask a lifter how many more sets he/she has then stare at him from 5 feet away until he is done (unless of course the squat rack is being used in properly). 

These basic gym laws apply to everyone, not just men. So, women, don’t assume that the guys know what they’re doing just because they have a dumbbell in their hands. At the same time, you should always strive to increase your lifting knowledge. Work independently: read lifting articles, find out who the best lifters are in the world and then watch their Youtube videos, do research on which programs might work well for you. Realize that no lifter 100% knows what he/she is doing. Even the most experienced lifters are still exercising trial and error; I am. Just because you’re not an “expert” doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to train on the “weights side” of the gym. Be confident, work hard, and ask questions, just be respectful when you do so. Observe the gym hierarchy and soon enough you’ll fit right in.  Whether you decide to keep to yourself, or join a group or 10 others, you will be part of the gym family soon enough.

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