The gym I operate out of is great. Therefore lots of people train there.
Recently, it's been busy to the point of various people sharing platforms and squat racks. Some people have struggled to get their sessions in "because it was so busy."
I don't think that's quite true. I think the issue is actually that people don't know how to navigate a busy gym effectively.
By effectively I mean that both the individual and everyone else in the gym can still get their sessions in without anyone having to miss a workout, miss an exercise or have a massive fistfight in the middle of the gym floor because one person has been hogging the squat rack for too long.
This is normally only an issue at the busiest times which is usually the early evening in my gym but it could be another time in your gym.
So without further ado, here are my general guidelines for navigating a busy gym!
If you are knowingly training at a busy gym at busy hours you should go in there trying to be as accommodating as possible. Be nice.
Remember that you aren't better than anyone regardless of how much you lift or the sport you compete in.
I have had the thought "what the fuck is that weakling doing on a bench. I BENCH TWICE WHAT HE BENCHES!" numerous times.
In those instances, I was an absolute tool.
Don't be like that, I don't care how strong you are.
If you are in a busy gym needing the specific equipment, you have to be prepared to wait or be prepared to ask to share a bench, a squat rack or a deadlift platform. You might need to take more rest. You might need to load and unload a barbell more times than you like. Everyone is there to train for at least nearly the same reasons.
No matter if you have a competition coming up, or if you are lifting record breaking-lifts or whether you are just starting your training journey, make space for people, be welcoming and be accommodating and you're training will go far more smoothly in a busy gym.
If you can't handle anyone around you or in your eye-line in a busy gym either train at a quieter time or train elsewhere.
At a busy time, you will be surrounded by people and distractions. Accept it or change it.
If you have exercises using the same piece of equipment, let's say a barbell, do all the exercises using that particular piece of equipment all together before moving onto a new piece of equipment
If you train like this it means you won't have to fight for the equipment you've already used. If training like this requires you to use the same piece of equipment for an extended amount of time be actively prepared to share said piece of equipment.
And yes, that might mean unloading a bar between sets and changing the height of the squat rack or rolling your bar out of the way between every set of deadlifts.
If you have supersets using lots of different equipment either be incredibly accommodating to everyone else or break the superset apart or adapt the superset to just use one piece of equipment to keep as much equipment free for everyone else as possible.
At a busy time, it's just not fair to reserve half the gym for your session. The whole gym will suffer unless you train sensibly.
Go out of your way to put your weights away.
It just helps everyone :)
If it's a busy time, don't take up two cable machines doing cable flyes.
If you do that, you are a dick. Do them on a machine, use dumbbells, or something else. Or at least go out of your way to share the cables during your rest period you MONSTER!
Did I mention...SHARE, SHARE AND, SHARE!
If no benches are available for pressing dumbbell floor presses, barbell floor presses, machine presses and press-ups are great alternatives to the bench press, especially if you aren't a powerlifter.
There's more to upper body training than bench press. Even on international chest day.
Check your barbell before every set. Check the area around your set just in case a bag is in your way or someone has taken a weight off your bar by accident (it's easier if you don't just assume they are trying to ruin your session.)
Lots of people mean lots more opportunity for people to make mistakes, take weights off your bar or for you to be that distracted that you miss-load a barbell and fuck yourself up. When the gym is busy, be more cautious and always double-check the weight on the bar and your surrounding area.
If you are easily distracted with conversation in a busy gym get the headphones in and get focused!
Yes, it's great to have a great gym community and lots of friends there. But assuming you have goals you want to achieve, get your session done first and chat afterward. Bring the fire first. If you train in a group, keep conversation minimal, get it done, then laugh afterwards.
Call me coach fun police if you like!
Be kind, you never know when and by whom you might need to be saved by if a bench press or other lift ever goes wrong.
Remember this next time you want to throw a dumbbell at someone who had the cheek to bench press less than you on a rack they got to first.
Consider having a selection of your own bands, an easily portable suspension trainer and a good knowledge of bodyweight exercises if you plan on training in a busy gym.
This will guarantee you can get an effective session no matter where you are.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but by remembering the general message of SHARE, BE NICE AND BE ACCOMMODATING you should be one of the people making a busy gym an area where everyone can still get their training in.
By Chris Kershaw
The Heavy Metal Strength Coach