It’s a common story. Someone comes into the gym for the first time, gets intimidated by the guys they see lifting in the free weight area, and decides that it would be a lot easier just to get some cardio in. Women get told they’re gonna bulk up if they lift weights, dudes don’t feel completely at home in the high-testosterone environment, and ain’t nobody want to be the next gym fails video discreetly captured by vultures on their cellphones. We’ve created a culture designed to denigrate non-lifters and empower lifters, and it seems easier not to compete than to learn this new skill.
We’ve got Planet Fitness to scoop many of these people up. With their judgment free zone, they prey on these insecurities and create an army out of it while conveniently making money in the process. But the goal here is to get more people lifting, not less. To experience the supreme sexification that only weights can offer us, Planet Fitness with its “no deadlifting” rules isn’t gonna cut it.
Here’s the secret: most guys (and girls) in the weightroom don’t really know what they’re doing. There are plenty of lifters who really don’t know their ass from the barbell when it comes to lifting, yet they get away with it because they act like they do. The gym is full of people like this: people who lift in the grey area, where no one can really criticize them because they themselves are not sure whether or not that behavior is worthy of critique.
In any given gym, only a handful of people, at most, will really know what they’re doing on a deep and meaningful level. Even then, this doesn’t prevent them from having deep errors in their knowledge or occasionally being flat out wrong - particularly in areas outside their own expertise. Am I going to ask a powerlifter for advice about cardiovascular activity? Probably not. And everyone outside of that handful of people - is faking it!
When I started working out, I primarily did machines and cardio. As I got more dedicated, and wanted to take my fitness to the next level, I slowly began to learn more and more about the gym. I started working with bodyweight movements alongside machines, and then free weights in place of them. I transitioned from doing full body workouts to bodybuilding style split workouts. I realized that I was doing way too much cardio for my goals, and so I cut it back. I realized I had to focus on my diet more, and gained about forty pounds of muscle in the process. Then I realized that I loved strength more than size, and began to train exclusively for strength.
At each step in the process, I thought I knew all I needed to know. I was also completely ignorant to everything I was doing wrong, or else I would have already been at the next level. Chances are, if you’re not an elite athlete in some kind of sport, you don’t know how to train. Hell, even lots of elite athletes don’t know how to train: they’ve got coaches for that. Let’s amend that earlier statement: unless you’re an elite coach in some kind of sport, you don’t know how to train. That means everyone in the gym is running around in some degree of ignorance about the practice of lifting.
I rarely got openly mocked for not knowing what I was doing, even when I was doing crappy quarter squats for my leg development. Chances are, you won’t either, provided you know the basics: how to squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, row/pullup, and probably bicep curls if you’re a bro. You can learn this stuff on Youtube pretty easily, at least well enough not to look like an idiot. If that’s not enough, a few sessions with a personal trainer or the presence of a workout buddy can be infinitely valuable in getting you started. Because that’s all you really need: a base level of competence so that you won’t get gawked at. Once you’ve got the ball rolling, you’ve just got to keep at it. You’ll pick up everything you need to know along the way, provided you keep an eye out and keep your mind open. Will people probably judge you a little in their own minds for minor issues? Yeah, but they’re probably assholes.
The main difference between me and people who spent all their time on the cardio machines was that I wanted to get strong and was overconfident in myself. Oftentimes, how you perceive and experience is more important than that experience itself. Let that one sink in: just acting like you belong is generally what makes you belong. Or as some might say: fake it till you make it. Because here’s the truth: everyone is faking it to some extent. And if we’re all faking it, that means that you can too.