I’ve seen some interesting things lately while spending time at the gym.
Now to be honest, I don’t work out in gyms very often, and I don’t belong to one currently.
However, since I’m able to go as a guest with some of my family members from time to time, I have to say that I’ve recently noticed a few people doing things that not only made me cringe because they were dangerous…but rendered further proof of why it isn’t a good idea to copy people when you watch them exercise.
Unless of course you know what you’re doing – which most do NOT.
Why It Isn’t Wise to Copy People When They Exercise
Did you happen to notice the image I chose for this post? It’s a picture of a man doing what is called a “behind the neck/head lat pull down exercise”.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that his anterior delts (front part of the shoulder) are hyper-extended because he is bringing the bar down behind his neck as opposed to bringing it to his chest – the way this exercise is meant to be performed.
This may not seem like a big deal… unless you know better.
And if you do happen to know better, you’ll see that it isn’t a good idea because doing this exercise this way not only places unnecessary strain on the shoulder joint, but has also caused some pretty nasty injuries to people because of the possibility of hitting your upper spinal column with the bar.
Now have I seen people do behind the neck pull downs over and over again?
Some of them appeared to be in pretty good shape too.
In fact, if I didn’t know any better, and was new to working out and needed some ideas…then I, like many others, would seek to copy those who looked like they’ve been at it for a while.
And if that one example wasn’t enough…I happened to have noticed a couple of other “don’ts” going on in the gym this week, such as:
- Someone doing walking lunges when they looked like they should have been doing a modified stationary lunge instead (since they were uncoordinated and unable to do the exercise with proper form).
- A perfectly healthy/fit/muscular looking man performing a chest fly exercise on a fly/reverse fly machine with his arms severely hyper-extended in the starting position (another shoulder injury waiting to happen).
- People running on the treadmill while holding on to the handles (because they were running faster than they could naturally keep up with).
So while you may now have some idea of why it isn’t wise to copy other people’s workouts, one question you may have is…
Does This Also Include Copying Personal Trainers or Fitness Professionals?
Yes it does…and there are a few reasons for this:
- Not all gyms/ fitness facilities require their staff to be well-trained and educated in the field of exercise. There is a lot to consider when doing certain workouts – and unless you know for a fact that the trainer you are watching is well-qualified, you really have no idea if they’re doing anything you should be copying.
- Even if the trainer you are watching knows exactly what they are doing and are doing it correctly, you don’t know for sure that you are in the right physical condition to get away with copying their exercises. For example – if you’ve ever watched any of the personal trainers at the gym you belong to engage in their own workout (as I have plenty of times) – then you’ll notice that their routines are pretty intense. They’ve been at it for years, they know what they’re doing AND they knowingly (and willingly) assume any and all risks that go along with the potential for injuries. Can you say the same thing about you?
- If you are watching them train someone else and you feel compelled to copy what you see them instruct their client to do, it’s important to understand that there is a reason they chose specific exercises for the individual they are working with that may not be appropriate for you. However, you can always walk up and politely inquire about what they are doing and perhaps consider scheduling a consultation with them.
So What’s the Best Way to Get Safe and Structured Workout Ideas?
That’s a good question.
While there is no problem observing others as they do their exercises, it’s a good idea to gain some knowledge before attempting them yourself.
Now, I also realize that not all exercises necessarily look harmful and in fact, some may be harmless to copy. But the truth is that you really don’t know if following what someone else is doing is right for you.
So on that note, some tips you can follow are…
- If you are working out at the gym and there are machines around, make sure that a qualified member of the staff has taught you how to use the equipment properly and then be present and cognizant while doing the exercises on your own.
- If you happen to see someone doing something that looks interesting, make a mental note to do some investigating on your own and see whether or not there is a proper demonstration out there to teach you how to do the exercise correctly. You can also ask one of the staff members what they think…and consider booking a session or two with one of the trainers just to teach you how to do a few things using proper form.
Just Be Mindful and Intentional
Your best bet when it comes to your own exercise program is to be conscious about everything you do…and question everything you see others do.
If you see someone doing something that doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t. Know that just because the person performing the exercise in question appears to be in good shape doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing.
“Monkey see monkey do” doesn’t belong in a fitness routine unless you are very well-informed about the potential risks that accompany an exercise program…and you are willing to assume any of such risks at any given time.
You’ll be glad you came across this advice.
Do you ever feel compelled to copy what others do when they exercise? What are your thoughts on this?