Suggestion Boxes Loom Large!

They lurk in the dark shadows of every single gym. They lay in wait, fixated upon you and the exercise that you are performing. They let you get into an excellent training groove and then... out of nowhere... they POUNCE!
We've all experienced them before. They lurk in the dark shadows of every single gym. They lay in wait, fixated upon you and the exercise that you are performing. They let you get into an excellent training groove and then,...out of nowhere...they POUNCE!

As you rack the weight and try to recuperate from the previous, intense set, they slither out of the darkness and with a tap...tap...tap on the shoulder, they annihilate your awesome groove with, "may I make a suggestion?" These fine specimens are what I call the "suggestion boxes." Those "know-it-all individuals" who are not at all concerned with their own damn workout but are much more concerned with what everyone else is doing!

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide

No one is immune from these suggestion boxes. By way of example, my training partner and I were in the gym the other day training legs. To change things up a bit, we decided that we would lift heavy. So, intent upon getting the most out of our workout, we headed for the leg press machine. We warmed up without incident and then started to load on the plates. We got into an excellent groove. Feeding off of one another's energy, we decided to really max out.

My partner performed eight clean reps, 380 lbs, with impeccable form. Then it was my turn. I loaded on another 90 pounds for a total of about 470lbs. I got a clean ten reps all the while committed to strict form. To give you some perspective, my training partner and I push ourselves to the absolute physical limit. For some reason, during this particular workout, everything just clicked and we were really driving ourselves hard.

Say What

As the blood drained from my ears and I began to recover from the final set, out of the clear blue, literally out of nowhere, I hear "may I make a suggestion?" Now, my training partner is a far nicer person than I when it comes to interrupting a workout. Not wanting to be unkind, she simply smiles and listens. I, on the other hand, am not quite so nice. My blood pressure hit the ceiling. This man, who I don't even know and don't care to know, swaggered up, and with his large stomach hanging over his weight lifting belt, offered us "a suggestion" on how to "properly" perform a leg press.

Now, let's examine his "suggestion." Concerned that we were placing too much strain on our knee joints, the first thing that he advised us to do was to lighten our load and work on form. Now, I remain faithful to the fundamental position, and while in this position, there is absolutely no way possible to place undue strain on the knee joints. Next, he told us that our range of motion was too short. According to the suggestion box, we needed to come down further to "hit the hamstrings." To do this, we needed to lower the resistance until our knees came darn close to touching our ears.

Never mind that the leg press requires a very small, precise range of motion to maintain continuous tension on the target muscles, and never mind that we were attempting to hit the top portion of the hamstring, the glutes and the outer head of the quad, according to Mr. Suggestion, we needed to the lighten the resistance, completely throw form to the wind and in so doing, place unnecessary stress on our backs! Gee thanks for the invaluable advice!

My Theory

My personal theory, he could not fathom that we could press the amount of weight that we were pressing with one hundred percent correct form. My ever-gracious training partner, true to her personality, shot me a look, smiled and sent him strutting back to his workout thinking that he really gave us some good advice. She learned long ago not to engage in any conversation with these individuals lest they offer another nugget of information and further interrupt her workout.

Of course, we just disregarded his suggestions. But what if we didn't know any better? The unfortunate recipient of the misinformation may actually listen and proceed to perform the exercise entirely wrong thus placing him or herself at risk for serious injury. Over the years, I've noticed that women, more so than men, are suggestion box magnets. Men, eager to display their superior knowledge, approach women and offer their unsolicited suggestions.

Even presuming a genuine intent on their part, that flies in the face of a debilitating and perhaps permanent injury. The reality is that most people in the gym have lousy form. So, if you receive unsolicited advice in the midst of a workout don't accept it at face value; question the information. Make an appointment and consult with a qualified personal trainer at your facility. Use knowledge as your shield and information as your sword against the unwelcome "suggestions" thrust upon you by the ominous, ever-present "suggestion boxes."