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10 Most Annoying Gym Personalities: Tips on Proper Gym Etiquette Part 2

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
In the first post in this series on gym etiquette we covered the area of appropriate dress code for working out. In this second post in the series we take a look at the top 10 worst gym personalities, as a means to help you clearly identify and classify inappropriate gym behavior, and to help you steer clear from inadvertently falling into one of these categories as you embark on your fitness journey (for the third and final post in this series, click here).

In no particular order, here is a list of the most annoying gym goers that I have personally come across over the years. Many workouts have been ruined on their account, so please allow me to vent my pent up frustrations in the cathartic swell below.

1. The American Idol: It is increasingly popular that gym goers do their workouts while listening to their iPods. While I personally prefer not to, I have absolutely no problem with it. Many people swear that their music helps them get in the zone and increase the intensity of their workouts while reducing the perception of effort. All this is copacetic. The problem arises when people confuse the gym with a Karaoke bar. The American Idol has somehow arrived at the completely delusional conclusion that their tone-deaf interpretation of Thin Lizzy’s “Boys are Back in Town” should be applauded by their fellow exercisers.

Hint: Stop It! When you get dirty looks from EVERYONE around you, it may be time to step off the stage and re-enter the reality of a gym.

2. The Boneparte: Many guys who enter the gym for the first time, particularly those of a slight or ectomorphic build, become intimidated by their perceived physical inferiority to the more established gym goers. As we all had to start from somewhere, we’ve all been there. The issue with The Bonepartes, is that they respond to their perceived inferiority by severe and often dangerous overcompensation. They put more weight on the squat bar than they should, and inevitably end up on the ground, trapped underneath the weight of their stupidity. I can’t tell you how many guys I have rescued from choking themselves out with a barbell while doing benchpress and not knowing their limits.

Hint: If you need your friend to hand you the weights because you can’t actually lift them yourself, it’s probably a good indication you should be using less weight. Also, if the only way you can squeeze out a single rep of a given exercise (albeit with atrocious form) is with your workout partner lifting 80% of the load – time to downsize Napoleon! If ridicule is your fear, you will attract much more of it by dropping a dumbbell on your head than doing an exercise properly with lighter weight.

3. The Kanye West: Given that the gym attracts those individuals who are concerned about their health and appearance, it is expected that you could bump into a few egomaniacs along the way. How can you spot the Kanye West at your gym? Easy – look for the mirrors! The Kanye’s will be found mesmerized by their own reflection as they perform any of the following: roll up their sleeves and flex their biceps, run their hands through their hair, nonchalantly lift their shirts to flex their abs. You may find engaging in conversation with a Kanye West a tad difficult as they will often talk (usually unengaged) to you while continuing to stare at themselves in the mirror.

Hint: Experts agree that the proportion of time at the gym spent posing in front of a mirror is negatively associated with any fitness gains, but positively related (R2 = 0.98) with being ridiculed and looking like a moron.

4. The Perez Hilton: While both genders can be equally guilty of being a Perez Hilton at the gym, most recently I’ve noticed a huge surge in the number of females who congregate on exercise mats simply to chat and gossip. Every once in a while they may stretch an arm or leg, but for the most part, their mouth is getting the majority of the workout.

Hint: Sitting on an exercise mat for over an hour while doing nothing other than chatting is not actually working out. Given the gym is for actually doing something, and space is limited, please just go to a coffee shop and do your gossiping there. And think – you won’t even have to change into gym clothes for that purpose!

5. The Screamer: Competing for airwave domination with the American Idol is the always present gym Screamer. Although most people think that only hardcore weight lifters scream because they are lifting tons of weight, this is a common misconception. In fact, screamers come in all shapes and sizes. Oddly enough though, they are almost always males. My take on screaming is the following: when a 100lb girl is squatting more weight than you in the next rack over, and is doing so silently, there is no reason for you to be grunting like a rabid boar.

Hint: Breathe regularly during each exercise. Grunting and yelling when bench-pressing the 45lb bar is completely unnecessary, and in fact can pose a safety hazard for those around you who may actually be lifting a relatively heavy load and are trying to concentrate.

6. The Backstage Ass: The Backstage Ass is a relatively new species of gym goer that I only came across recently. This individual is so hardcore that even after they worked out in the appropriate gym space, they just haven’t gotten enough. The obvious solution? Exercise in the change room! That’s right, nothing says you are an intense exerciser more than a set of pushups amongst other naked men.

Hint: Next time you’re in the locker room feeling like you aren’t quite finished, just make your way back to the gym and finish up there. You can just wear a bandana to let everyone know how intense you are.

7. The Chris Benoit: The Benoits are a staple of most weight rooms, although they will never be spotted near any cardio equipment. The Benoits, also known as juice monkeys, all have this in common: obvious abuse of steroids and associated extreme anger and hostility. In other words, the Benoits exhibit the obvious signs of Roid Rage. They often grunt and scream, like the Screamers above, but more often than not they yell obscenities. Then can be found standing near their workout area simply swearing for no reason. They often find it necessary to throw their dumbbells around, and make as much noise and disruption as possible. Another sure sign of a Chris Benoit are the following: severe acne, gynecomastia (breast development) and testicular atrophy. Despite their athrophied testes, be warned, however, you should not approach their vicinity as mere eye contact may be enough to set these Neanderthals off.

Hint: For the sake of your health, it may be a good idea to drop the juice. For the sake of social integration, drop the bully attitude you perfected in grade school.

8. The Uninvited Expert: “Hey, did you know that if you turn your feet 5 degrees outwardly you can really fire up the glutes when doing that squat.” “You should really try clenching your butt when doing bench-press – it really helps develop your core.” “Acai berry supplements get you really jacked, you should try it. Rachael Ray even endorses it!” These are just a few examples of the misinformation many Uninvited Experts feel necessary to tell you while you are working out. In many situations, the Uninvited Experts are actually staff members at the gym you are attending. Be careful with advice that spills out of these “experts”; despite their confidence in their own knowledge, a weekend course and a subscription to Men’s Health rarely provides one with adequate understanding of exercise physiology.

Hint: Unless asked for advice, please keep it to yourself.

9. The Rico Suave: The Rico Suaves are a huge aggravator for many female gym goers. Rather than working out, the Rico Suave lurks silently until he finds his pray: a female. In a flash, he pounces and drops any of the following on an unsuspecting female victim: “Hey, do you need a spot?”, “So, you like working out, eh?”, “Do you mind if I do my bicep curls (and grunt) directly in front of you despite the fact there is plenty of space elsewhere?”, “You want to get a protein shake after this?”

Hint: The large majority of females at the gym are there for one purpose: to get a workout, clear their head and de-stress. Unless the female you are attempting to woo is a Bar Star (see below), let her exercise in peace and save your pickup lines (and the inevitable rejections) for the bar that night.

10. The Bar Star: The female equivalent of the Rico Suave. Tube top, hoop earrings, a pound of make-up, and not a bead of sweat – the defining features of the Bar Star. Much like Rico above, the Bar Star frequents a gym not for any fitness purpose, but to find a suitable mate. If I had my way, each gym would actually have a designated room where the Ricos and the Bar Stars could aggregate. The room would be void of any actual equipment, since equipment is only ever used by these individuals as a prop for their posing or as camouflage for their lurking.

Hint: If you really want to pick up a guy while at the gym, at the very least stay clear of the equipment that the rest of us actually want to use. Hanging out by the water fountain may be a great alternative – you can even spray yourself with some water to make it look like you actually did something!

Wow – this was a long post, and a very cathartic one at that! Which one of these gym personalities irritates you the most? Did I overlook an obvious gym personality? Let me know in the comments section below – I’d love to hear what type of nonsense the rest of you have come across.

For more basic gym etiquette info, be sure to check out Part I and Part III in this series.

Peter Janiszewski

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22 Response to "10 Most Annoying Gym Personalities: Tips on Proper Gym Etiquette Part 2"

  1. Kaitlyn Said,

    Peter, this is fantastic! I couldn't agree more with these 10 personalities. I especially like your idea of the bar star / rico common room. You could also name the Chris Benoit's as the Jersey Shore Men. This show has certainly added to the popularity of the juice monkies.

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 12:09 PM

  2. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @ Kailtyn - Thanks for the comment. Great idea re the Jersey Shore Men! Alas, I fear that I may offend all those in New Jersey, and with all that roid rage they may hunt me down and beat me with a crow bar. Thank goodness for the relatively low traffic to our blog! ;)

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 12:49 PM

  3. Kat Said,

    Ha, that's awesome. At my gym there's a "Kanye West" who adds perfecting his smile and dance steps to the rest of the farce in front of the mirror - seriously it's like he doesn't realize there are other people around and they're all trying not to choke with laughter at him.

    Your gym attire post though, although mostly true and hilarious, you have to be careful to not impose the idea that a certain type of clothing is mandatory for physical activity (and otherwise you're not welcome to participate). At my gym there is an older gentleman who comes in every day and changes into short sleeve button down shirt, dress-cargo shorts, with leather belt, and older leather "dress shoes"... totally inappropriate and looks silly... but you know what, this guy is coming in every day and using the treadmill or stepper for an hr and I respect him for that. Another 50-ish guy comes in every night in jeans and a sweatshirt to do weights... again, somewhat inappropriate... but I see him working hard (he's super strong) keeping to himself every night... better than staying home on the couch just because he doesn't own a pair of athletic pants... and to me he's miles above the "tight white tank top flexing in the mirror look at me!" type of guy! Workboots... hmm, well they do provide a harder/more stable platform (as some would recommend) than running shoes for doing really heavy weights? And the girl in sports bra, jeans, and visible thong... umm... she forgot her gym clothes, best friend had an extra sports bra, and she decided to go with it and ignore the smirks rather than missing her workout?... well ok, maybe that's giving her too much benefit of the doubt!

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 1:03 PM

  4. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @ Kat - thanks for the addition of "dance move perfection"to The Kanye West character.

    Also, your point regarding gym attire is well taken. You are absolutely right - it is better that people dressed inappropriately are active versus not being active at all. Then again, I still think abiding by a few cardinal rules is probably a good call - like wearing underwear:)

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 1:35 PM

  5. Erin Said,

    From a female gym goer's perspective, there are also the women who have their stuff spread all over in the changeroom and give you a look if you ask if you can squeeze to your locker. Or the women who clearly feel superior as they size you up when you make your valiant first attempt in a new class such as step. I wish everyone could remember that gyms are improving health and be more supportive of each other and respectful of the shared space.

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 2:51 PM

  6. Kate Porter Said,

    I would add a subspecies to the Screamers: The Inappropriate-Noise Makers. These are the people who feel it necessary to perform Lamaze while running, elliptical-ing, or doing other cardio work. I accept that weight lifting occasionally necessitates a quick exhalation or gasp, but is it really necessary to do the whistling-pursed-lip exhalation with every step?

    I also get irritated with the people who carry on long, loud, annoying conversations across five cardio machines. If you want to discuss your personal life, do it in the locker room. Or, at least, get on adjacent treadmills, and keep your voices down!

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 3:28 PM

  7. ERV Said,

    A few thoughts (Ill probably make a post along these lines myself!)

    1-- I dont mind getting asked out at the gym, per se. I work out at the same times on the same days, and I get to be 'friends' with the folks I see regularly. So if one of those 'regulars' asks me out, thats fine :) No different to me than someone I see in class 3 days a week, or something like that!

    2-- There are The Screamers and there are The Slammers. The second a girl enters the weight room, both these guys rev it up. Slamming down a dead-lift is one thing (youre strong enough to pick it up, youre strong enough to put it down reasonably, jerk) but I LOVE the guys who are just using 30 lb dumbbells or doing cable rows 'slamming' the weights around. For Petes sake...

    3-- The jerks who put >9000 lbs on the squat bar (shrugs, not squats), and leaves it. My workout is not putting your weights away! Im notorious for going after the guys who do that.
    me: "Excuse me *smile* Are you done with the power rack?"
    them: "huhum, yeah"
    me: "Well I aint your mama. Clean up after yourself! *points to the weights left on the bar*"
    them: "oh, um, sorry"

    Yes, I can take them off myself, but there are lots of older folks who workout at my gym who use the weight equipment too. It makes me so mad.

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 5:45 PM

  8. Jenny Said,

    @Erin - On the topic of locker rooms I'd also like to add ladies that strip, leave their stuff all over the bench, then proceed to write emails on their Blackberries for five minutes. AND those ladies that stand around topless/bottomless in front of the mirror for 15 minutes. Not only do I have to wait around because they're hogging the only working blowdryer, but I have to wait around and try not to look at their...bits.

    I'm all for being comfortable with your body, but hanging around naked in a public place for 20 minutes just seems weird to me.

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 9:33 PM

  9. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    Thanks to all our female readers for providing a more balanced discussion to my rather male-centric post.

    @Jenny and @Erin - I learned something new. Thanks for sharing!

    @ Kate Porter - Yes I know these folks. The name "Screamer" is not ideal, but I wasted all my creative juices on the other personality names.

    @ERV - that is awesome! I love that you chase the guys down and make them put away their weights - that is pretty gutsy. Just make sure you're not dealing with a Benoit - they do not take kindly to criticism!

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 10:15 PM

  10. Kipper Said,

    Ha! I admit I totally sing along with the gym music between sets (softly! -- if I'm capable of singing loud I should be doing my next set).

    There is a species you may not have noticed as a guy, the Fashion Critic. She's anxious to let you know that your hair, outfit, and make-up aren't up to snuff in her opinion (although of course she will prefer to do this by making loud commentary *near* you rather than speaking to you directly). The rise of iPods has been a great loss for this species.

    Somewhere in the territory between the Uninvited Expert and the Fashion Critic is the Sneering "Expert". The SE is anxious to let you know -- again probably without direct conversation -- that he or she doesn't approve of your workout and/or your body. The SE is frequently a newer convert to some iconoclastic regime (e.g. CrossFit)...although there is also a female variety who feels her fellow females need to know that she doesn't think it's very attractive to look like you're exerting yourself.

    Posted on January 27, 2010 at 10:50 PM

  11. Kat Said,

    Ok, I've been known to whistle or mouth a few words to the gym music between sets doing weights and in a good mood... (and noone's around!)... but I had trouble believing the "American Idol" (singing out loud to their own ipod?!) actually existed... until I witnessed it today! On a cardio machine, people all around her, woman just singing away to her ipod... WOW how annoying!

    @ ERV - thought of your line tonight as I was unloading 10 extra plates from the leg press, knowing exactly who'd left them there but he'd already left... can't wait to let him know "I ain't his mama" next time I see the guy, grrrr!

    Posted on January 28, 2010 at 1:52 AM

  12. scicurious Said,

    I've got two!!!

    Perhaps this one's an addition to the Perez Hilton: the cell phone talker (I'm not good with creative names). I do NOT want to hear about your personal problems or your friend's personal problems when I am on the treadmill next to you. Neither do I want to hear all about your big business deal, dude, though I'm sure it makes you feel big and bad. Hang up and work out, honey.

    The second one: I call them the Owls, because that's about how big their eyes get when I enter a room. Yes. It's a girl. She's working out. She might be extremely sweaty. But STARING continuously as I do my weights or get in a run or do my stretches is NOT WELCOME. These guys have forced me to the women only workout rooms on several occasions through sheer awkwardness.

    Posted on January 28, 2010 at 11:08 AM

  13. Anonymous Said,

    Kate Porter, YES! Peter, I love the list...I hate the grunters, too! They are so distracting. I hate those people who shout (because the noise from the cardio machines calls for it) over you when you are on a machine in between them. I find it so rude! People who talk on cellphones (which you are not supposed to do, anyway) while on the treadmill are annoying too.

    Posted on January 28, 2010 at 11:29 AM

  14. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday Said,

    I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of the Backstage Ass. That ACTUALLY HAPPENS?? I can guarantee that is found only in the men's locker room.

    I think the most annoying, that you neglected to mention, is Cellphone users. This is a gym, not a telephone booth. Lifting your cellphone to your ear does not count as a bicep curl, so don't do it while sitting on the preacher chair that I'm waiting for.

    Posted on January 28, 2010 at 1:00 PM

  15. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @ Samantha Angela - Yup, the Backstage Ass is a rare but real species. I actually saw one early this week and made a note to myself to include them on the list.

    I am surprised at how many of you have encountered people talking on their cell phones while at the gym. I must admit, despite being a regular exerciser, I have only witnessed this once. Thanks for commenting.

    @scicurious - Yes, the Owl is a popular species. Sort of like a Rico Suave, but without the gumption to actually approach the female in question.

    One that I forgot to mention (that I just encountered today) is the Lazy Susan - most often found on a recumbent bike - just barely pedalling, reading a book, and on the verge of sleep. The Lazy Susan requires a hot shower post exercise to warm up.

    Posted on January 28, 2010 at 3:15 PM

  16. Morgan Said,

    Backstage ass kills me. If this occured in the ladies room I might pee myself laughing. I also enjoyed the screamer. It really can be off-putting and quite nerve racking to all gym goers as they await the landing of the "screamer's" pterodactyle mate.

    Posted on January 28, 2010 at 8:36 PM

  17. Jim Purdy Said,

    "Unless asked for advice, please keep it to yourself."

    That's great advice everywhere, not just in the gym.

    The 50 Best Health Blogs

    Posted on January 30, 2010 at 8:00 AM

  18. Kemanorel Said,

    Here's another one that I get at the gym I go to: the Mimic.

    The mimic is also a combination Kanye West and Slammer. He (I've never see a female do this) will get onto a machine right after someone else has left and they don't change the weight pin. They then proceed to do as many reps as quickly as possible, I think in an attempt to show how strong they are as compared to the person that just left the machine or something. (I never really figured it out.)

    Anyways, this person is usually a slammer because they fling up the weights and drop them in their attempt to do the reps quickly causing weight clanking.

    The one I saw was also an uninvited expert trying to give me advice while pulling a Kanye West.

    So crack open a budd light, Mr. Mimic Man... You really showed everyone how strong you are by lifting the same weight that the 90 lbs girl just lifted.

    Posted on February 1, 2010 at 12:34 PM

  19. Kemanorel Said,

    "Unless asked for advice, please keep it to yourself."

    There's one instance where the "uninvited expert" is a good thing... when you see someone doing something that will obviously end up in injury...

    Maybe I'm making an excuse for myself, but I saw a girl doing lunges while holding a weight... okay, no big deal there.

    The problem was she was letting her knee slam into the ground every time. I'm not sure if she just had really bad form, or couldn't do the lunges with the weight she was holding, but I couldn't stop myself. I had to tell her to stop that before she shattered her knee cap.

    Posted on February 1, 2010 at 12:40 PM

  20. Anonymous Said,

    Make way for the King!
    Those that use 3 machines at once and think they own the gym.

    Posted on March 23, 2010 at 1:44 PM

  21. Anonymous Said,

    I have another one, the once-a-weekers. These are the people (without being sexist, usually women) that come to the gym once a week, dressed in brand new top of the range clothing with an ipod strapped to their arms. They flood the gym every Monday morning/evening, forcing the the 10 members that regularly go to the gym to avoid it like a plague that day. However, as determined as they seem they never seem to sweat, but manage to create the illusion they've done some serious work and they'll be damned if anyones going to get in their way.

    One more personality to add, these are the people who clearly feel they're not welcome in the free weights area so confine themselves to the weight machines. AS well as the fact that, hey, they're the only seats in the house. So they're happy to sit on the machines (surprisingly often on the machines theres only one of) for as long as they stay, occasionally doing a couple of reps with poor form at the lowest weight the machine has. Usually middle aged- pensioner men (again sorry for the sexism) possibly signed up by wives. You can also feel them laughing to themselves as you come past, doing 10 reps on a machine on a heavy weight for 20 seconds. Rightly so, they've clearly been on the machine for longer and which get greater benefit.

    Out of these two, I cant decide which one annoys me more. Probably the once-a-weekers, because hatred annoys me more than sneering.

    Posted on July 26, 2010 at 5:40 AM

  22. PO'd in LA Said,

    Peter, what a great list. I work out in an apartment building complex and the other day I twice politely told an "American Idol" to pipe down. She didn't, so I went upstairs and got management. When the manager arrived, the Idol dared to tell me that I "told on her." Believe me, bad behavior in my gym runs rampant. What about one guy who works out in pink Crocs, another who runs the treadmill in bare feet and worst of all...a woman who would routinely bring in her baby stroller with her infant in tow!

    Posted on September 26, 2011 at 12:28 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


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