Anyone who has spent time at a gym has seen it. A man attempting to go beyond his limits to improve his answer to the question, "How much do you bench?" Working out with too much weight for ego purposes isn't a smart thing to do.
Sometimes it becomes comical. Friends shout encouragement as the man struggles with the weight, veins popsout in his neck, and he thrusts his hips off the workout bench to help his overmatched chest muscles. Ken Karnack, a personal trainer for 12 years, has seen that many times.
"They yank their hips up off the bench over a foot and they're screaming and yelling," said Karnack, the owner ofOld School Fitness in Frisco, Texas. "With men, their ego tends to take over and they think they can do muchmore than they can." Pumping the ego is responsible for many of the ridiculous things men do when working out.
Here are six of those ridiculous behaviors and workout strategies, as well as some advice from fitness pros tokeep you from standing out -- at least in a bad way -- during your next visit to the gym.
------ LIFTING TOO MUCH WEIGHT Yes, this one really is about the ego. Dumbbells or barbells, machines orfree weights, many men go for too much. That can lead to bad form, which will not train muscles properly and canlead to injury.
"The last two reps of a set should be challenging," said Shannon Edwards, a trainer at Cooper Fitness Center inDallas. "But you should never compromise your range of motion." From first rep to last, you should be able tocontrol the weight.
------ SLAMMING WEIGHTS AND GRUNTING Slamming down the weights is very manly. Some guys think so,anyway.
"Men in particular love to do this because they think it draws people's attention to them and how much they areactually lifting," said Matthew Heinrich, head of personal training at Lifetime Fitness in Garland, Texas. "Theslamming of weights can be very annoying to the people around and all they are really doing is damaging theequipment." Another look-at-me strategy is the weight-lifting grunt. Maybe it helps some guys complete a lift, butprobably not.
"No science has ever proven that the louder you grunt, the more you lift," Edwards said.
If grunting or slamming weights down is not intended to attract attention, it's probably a sign of attempting toomuch weight.
------ NEVER TRAINING LEGS Some trainers call them "lollipops." Others say these guys look like big lightbulbs. Both descriptions seem accurate for the men who build their upper bodies but neglect their leg muscles. "Guys tend to train the 'mirror muscles,"' said Israel Allen, a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Southlake, Texas."And most guys won't look at a full-length mirror. That's a woman thing." It's important to be well-rounded, so allparts of the body should be trained. Trainers also encourage a balance of pushing exercises, which men favor, andpulling exercises.
------ LACKING COMMON COURTESY
A woman could be to blame for the sweat puddle around the treadmill or the damp seat on the stationary bike. But men are more likely to commit a breach of gym etiquette.
"Cleanliness is not one of the priorities of most guys," Allen said. "We need to get better at that." Wiping upsweat is one courtesy. Another is being conscious of body odor and using deodorant. Wearing appropriate clothingis also important.
"I'm not a big fan of the Spandex bottoms without shorts over them," Edwards said. No more explanation needed.
------ TRYING TO GET A DATE While some men are working out at gyms, others are scoping out potential dates. The notorious gawking at women is one reason why gyms specifically for women are popular. What do these pickup artists think of the gym?
"It's a bar without beer," Edwards said.
It's also rude. And for the guys flexing in front of the mirrors as the women walk by, a reminder from Karnack: "You can't flex fat."
------ UNEDUCATED TRAINING A lot has changed in the last 20 years, but for some men, the gym workout has not.
That's partly because men don't like to ask for directions, whether they are on a road trip or a path to fitness. "Men don't want help because they feel they know what they are doing," Heinrich said.
"If they truly understood the body and used a trainer for even a short period of time, I believe they could increase results and get past the same plateaus their current routine has created." That might also keep men from passing along bad fitness advice to others. Some men not only stick to the workout they did when they were playing high school football 20 years ago, they expect it to work for everyone else.
It's funny, Heinrich said, when he sees a guy teaching the workout to his wife or girlfriend.
"Because we all know that her main goal is to break tackles and run a 40 faster than all the other women," he said.