Natural Bodybuilding with JC: No Curling in the Squat Rack!

You know exactly what I am talking about! If you haven’t done it before, you most likely have been inconvenienced by someone who has. The act of curling in the squat rack has grown to be what is probably the most controversial and openly criticized gym experience. There is nothing more I can say on the matter that hasn’t already been said. A simple Google query of curling and squat rack will yield countless pictures, memes, and blogs on the subject. Some funny, some mean, and some just out right inappropriate! I agree with many of them though, as nothing is more frustrating than a piece of equipment being occupied when you want to use it. I find this to be especially true if the user is engaging in an exercise that is without a doubt dangerous and ineffective! (Knowing when and where to intervene as a matter of safety is a topic we can address at another time).

Despite what the title of this column may suggest, the underlying issue is not the act of curling in the squat rack itself, but more so an issue of gym etiquette.
Whilst I do not curl in the squat rack, I do use equipment for workouts that it wasn’t originally “intended” for. For example, part of my ab routine involves the use of a bench. Sometimes I use the flat bench station, sometimes the adjustable bench, and sometimes the bench on the jungle gym. By doing so, yes, I am preventing somebody from using these pieces for bench presses, seated rows, and other dumbbell presses. I have people shoot me daggers all of the time.
But look at it this way, I am using the equipment as a part of my routine, and I am using the equipment in a manner that is of no danger to me or others.

Why is it ok for me to delay your workout if I am using a piece of equipment the way you want me to, but not ok if I use it the way I want to? Just pretend I AM using the bench to work chest. Whether I am doing abs on the flat bench or actually doing a chest press, the equipment is still being used. You can always ask to work in between sets – any respectful person would gladly accommodate you.

This conveniently brings us to the topic of sharing equipment. Have you ever approached somebody and asked them how many sets they have left on a particular piece of equipment? I’m sure you have. Did you receive a response like this: “3 sets, but you can work in,” or did you get something like this, “I’m going to be here a while, bro.” More often than not I receive a response similar to the latter. My asking of how many sets were left was actually a polite statement of my desire to use the equipment, and a request to work in. To be dismissed without so much as an offer to work in is blatantly disrespectful in my opinion. Sometimes it just isn’t feasible to have someone else work in with you – that is completely understandable. Certain programs require specific rest/pause times etc., and the stripping and adding of weights to accommodate a second user may cause a problem. I would much rather hear this explanation than be dismissed.

Not too long ago, I was at the gym and ready to do some squats. There was a guy in front of the squat rack doing deadlifts. This is common since the gym is rather small and the best spot to deadlift is in front of the squat rack. The guy was using the bar from the rack, but that also was not a big deal since there were spares lying around. I approached the guy and asked him how many sets he had left, since I was looking to get in rack to squat. I honestly expected him to say “I’m just doing deadlifts – let me back up so you can squat.” He actually said, “No. I just got here and I have a long way to go.” Whoa, did that just happen?

In a gym with one squat rack that wasn’t being used, I was told I couldn’t use it because someone was working out IN FRONT of it. I decided to wait. Admittedly, I was furious. I paced around, trying to keep my cool, all the while sending frustrated Tweets to my followers. After about five minutes I grew inpatient and gave in to start elsewhere. I got no further than one set on a different exercise before I noted that the guy was no longer in front of the squat rack. The bar and a battery of weights were still there however, so I assumed he had walked off for water. I continued to lift, constantly looking over at the vacant squat rack with the pile of weights in front of it. I finished my sets and moved on to another exercise, all the while still monitoring the vacant squat rack. Thirty minutes passed before I finally concluded that this guy was not coming back. So much for being there a while! But wait – he didn’t rack his weight! And this brings us to our next topic – gym litter.

Unlike most gyms, I don’t mind the presence of a gym bag on the floor. There are a lot of people who bring small pieces of their own equipment to the gym, myself included, and having access to all of your goodies without fear that someone will walk off with it is very comforting. By gym litter I mean plates and dumbbells that are carelessly left on the gym floor for somebody else to take care of. Not only is it incredibly dangerous to leave plates and dumbbells lying around, but it is very inconsiderate to other members of the gym. It creates a crowded and unsafe environment, and obviously puts the responsibility on somebody else to clean up after you. The gym has staff, but believe it or not, it is not their responsibility to follow after you in the gym picking up your mess.

The same applies to when you load weight onto equipment and then leave it there when you are done. Leaving weight on equipment inconveniences other members by forcing them to unload the weight before they begin their exercise. Depending on who will be using the equipment after you, they may not even be able to unload the weight. I was once asked by an elderly female to unload a stack of 45’s from a leg press for her because she wasn’t able to. Similarly, misplaced weights are just annoying. It is simple math – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and so on. There is a pattern in there that I’m sure most gym goers will be able to decipher.

Happy Lifting!

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2 comments for “Natural Bodybuilding with JC: No Curling in the Squat Rack!

  1. November 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Oh man I think I would have lost it with the deadlift guy! LOL What is wrong with people? A couple of weeks ago a guy was using a few different dumbbells and all of a sudden disappeared. We determined he wasn’t coming back after a while and put the weights back. Then we see the same guy, running in the opposite direction of everyone else on the track. I just don’t get it.

    • JC
      November 26, 2012 at 10:53 am

      People can be strange. Common courtesy and common sense would both dictate the appropriate way to act in a public gym, or any public venue for that matter. Some people seriously change when they frequent a gym. Entering the “zone” has serious personality altering side effects.

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