The gym, depending on where you get your sweat on, might be the last bastion of macho manliness that you’re going to find. Sure, you might have a barber that lets you smoke cigars and pours you a scotch, but you’re still paying him a bunch of cash for that hip cut you’ve got to have.
The gym on the other hand is a place where you can bond with men and get a workout so you look good for the ladies – or the other men — if that’s your thing. While that’s all well and good, most guys don’t have any damn training when it comes to working out.
Maybe you read a book or an article in GQ and now you’re considering a career as a personal trainer once you get all buffed up. Back up buddy – you’re probably doing a whole host of things wrong in the gym, and if you’re like most dudes, you’re not going to ask for any help.
I can’t fix all of your fucking problems for you, but I can help correct some of your most egregious workout mistakes. Give this primer a quick read while you chug a dozen raw eggs and pound a case of protein bars before hitting the gym.
That’s Too Much Weight, Bro!
Men have the moronic tendency to try and pick up weights equivalent to a BMW to show off how manly they are. I can’t blame you for that – it’s a part of our genetic code. The problem is that it isn’t not really helping your body or your workout like you think it is.
When you lift weight that’s actually too heavy for you, you’re putting a lot of strain on your muscles. Unfortunately it isn’t the good kind of strain that builds muscle and adds bulk to your scrawny frame. Instead, it’s strain that will eventually cause an injury if you keep doing it.
So how do you find out what’s enough weight if you prefer to lift heavy? The best option is to find the heaviest weight you can do a few reps of your chosen exercise with, then scale it back to about 75% to 80% of that.
Nobody will think less of you for lifting a bit less, but they’ll definitely mock you when they have to carry you to the car because you can’t straighten your back.
Not Enough Weight, Dude!
There’s a group of men out there who want to look lean and trim without the bulk of a bodybuilder. Sure, most guys at the gym are meatheads, but not all, right?
If you’re one of those lean muscle dudes, you very well might be lifting lighter weights for some crazy number of reps. That can sort of work, but you’d actually be a lot more efficient at the gym — while looking less like a Mama’s boy – with a bit of extra weight.
In general, you shouldn’t be able to do more than three sets of 15 with any free weight that’s worth your time. If you can, you’re not lifting heavy enough. Try fewer reps of a slightly heavier weight, even if that’s only five pounds or so.
Your Form is Shit
It’s really cool that you can swing that barbell over your head like Tarzan in a steroid-induced rage, but that’s really not the best way to work out. Going for speed reps or moving super-slow so you can really “feel the burn” probably isn’t the best method either.
The big problem here is that I can’t tell you the proper form for every single exercise you’re going do to. I can tell you not to lift with your back and not to thrust those dumbbells over your head while standing on one leg, but you probably stopped doing that a long time ago anyway.
So here’s what I can tell you. You need to learn proper form. There are a few different ways to do that – all of which are free or relatively cost-effective.
The first option is to go to the gym with a buddy who knows what the hell he’s doing. If you can’t do that, try making a friend at the gym who does similar exercises. It might seem weird, but asking another dude “Hey, what’s the proper form here?” will likely result in an effective two-minute primer that will decrease your chance of injury and improve your chance of real gains.
The last option is to get yourself a personal trainer. Even if you can’t pay for a ton of sessions, one or two can help you get the form right for all of the exercises in your routine.
It’s money well spent since a lot more of your cash will likely go right into the doctor’s pocket if you keep working out like a god damn monkey.
Are You Going to Take a Nap Too?
Taking breaks between exercises, particularly those that are very hard on your body, is important. Getting a sip of water and taking a second to breathe is a good thing.
Spending 10 minutes shooting the shit with that guy who likes the same team as you once you’ve finished seven crunches isn’t so good. Taking 10 minutes on the floor to rest your back isn’t doing you a lot of favors either.
So what’s the problem with resting too long? You’re letting your heart rate decrease to a near glacial pace! Even eating a slice of pizza probably gets you more worked up.
Talking with a buddy at the gym is fine, but do it before or after your workout. If you’re so exhausted you can’t go on without a 20-minute break, you’re probably done for the day.
Did You Forget About Cardio?
Have you ever seen a dude at the gym with huge arms and legs like a ballerina? While you might not look like that if you just hit the weights all the time, that’s basically what you’re doing to your overall fitness level if you don’t do enough cardio.
What’s enough? In general, you should make every other day you exercise all about cardiovascular exercise. Run, swim, play basketball or just chase a pack of wild dogs. Whatever gets your lazy ass moving and keeps you out of the weight room is fine – even if that’s just running on the treadmill.
If you’re in good shape, good enough shape anyway, high-intensity cardiovascular exercise should be your new best friend.
Getting a good workout isn’t rocket science, but you guys sure make it look like it is! Terrible one-liners aside, if you want to be healthy and look your best, you need to be hitting the gym once in a while.
Use these tips to avoid the stupid mistakes most men make and you’ll be on your way to a better body in no time. Now if I could only get you stop wearing those skin-tight moisture wicking shirts every time you think you might break a sweat. . .