If you’re like me, you don’t like power trip rules. In other words, rules just because someone said so. So annoying, right?
I’ve always believed rules should be in place for a logical reason, and when the reason is explained clearly, I then respect and embrace following that rule.
When it comes to barbell etiquette, we have some important rules we want you to follow—not because we’re on a power trip to tell you what to do—but to keep you and our equipment safe.
Here are 10 barbell etiquette rules we absolutely need you to understand and embrace:
- No Close Standers Allowed
I often see people standing intimately close to someone as he or she is setting up for a big lift. In a weightlifting gym, the rule is you’re only allowed to stand on a platform if you’re about to lift the barbell on that platform. What we’re saying is, if you’re not about to lift the bar, move out of the way. Akin to this, never walk in front or behind another lifter. For one, it can very much distract someone as they prepare for their lift, especially if maybe they're going for a PR. Now it also goes without saying, this is for your safety and the safety of the person lifting the barbell. Human and barbell collisions are to be avoided at all costs.
- Remove Weights with Care
When you’re stripping down your barbell, don’t let the empty barbell smash to the ground as you aggressively rip the 45 lb. plate off the bar. Instead, place one hand on the barbell as you remove the weight and gently lower the empty barbell to the floor. Letting the barbell smash to the ground is hard on the barbell, meaning we need to replace them more often, increasing our costs and ultimately your rates.
- Keep the Small Plates to a Minimum
Adding up 5 and 2.5 pound weights is OK, to a point. The general rule is, if you can throw some larger plates on the barbell, please do. For example, instead of putting three pairs of 10-lb plates on the barbell, put on one set of 25-lb. rubber plates instead. Similarly, hogging all the 15 lb. plates, instead of throwing on a pair of 45 lb. plates, isn’t cool to the rest of the people in the class, especially during a big class. Apart from the equipment hog aspect of the rule, dropping barbells loaded with too many small or 10 pound plates is harder on the barbells.
- Collars are Cool
Always use collars, especially when you’re going overhead like we'll be doing a lot of in the next 6 weeks. Sure, collars aren’t always necessary for a heavy set of deadlifts during a strength session, but if you’re at shoulder height—fronts squats, back squats—and especially going overhead—shoulder press, push press, jerk, snatch, overhead squat, bench press, COLLAR THAT BARBELL UP! I've seen numerous times people walk the bar out of the rack, shift their feet and the bar starts tiling and the weights start shifting closer to the ends of the bar. It goes without saying that weights flying off barbells is dangerous for you the lifter, and for those walking by or spotting, who could end up with a weight dropped on their foot.
- Do Not Drop These:
- Empty barbells, or barbells without rubber and collars on them
- DBs (unless they’re below the height of your knee)
- Metal plates
I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but let’s protect our equipment.
- Don’t be Shy
If you’re lifting heavy and there’s even a chance you could fail the lift, don’t hesitate to ask for a spotter. If you’re comfortable ditching a bar off your back during a back squat, then double check and make sure you have TONS of space behind you.
- Stop and Listen
When a coach comes over to offer feedback or advice, stop lifting and listen, even if you’re in the middle of a conditioning workout. BUT, do not twist your head or your entire body to look at the coach. If the coach needs you to see them, they will step into your line of sight.
- No Plate Collectors Allowed
Plate collectors are those who can be found with two or three sets of 10lb, 5 lb. and 2.5 lb. plates strewn about haphazardly in their general lifting area. This is a tripping hazard, not to mention you end up hogging equipment. Having one set that you will be building up to with is OK, having a plan for loading your barbell so that you aren’t making unnecessary trips back and forth is best! Aside from being cluttered looking, this can also be dangerous if you drop the bar in the wrong spot. If you have a few extra plates laying around, that is ok, BUT PLEASE make sure they are off to the side of your lifting station so there is no chance that the bar could drop onto them in any scenario. If you've dropped a bar before, you know it bounces. Now imagine if that bounce rebounded off a plate in front of you and now the bar ricochets back towards your shins at high velocity. OUCH!
- Respect Percentages
Even if you think it’s “too light,” the percentages programmed for the day are there for a reason. Follow them, or if you’re confused, speak to a coach first before going “off program.” This one happens pretty often, so I’ll explain it further, at the beginning of our strength cycles the weight is prescribed light for a few reasons, one, so that you can practice perfect form without getting too fatigued. Two there’s an ebb and flow of intensity so that your CNS recovers from heavy lifting so you can do more metcon work, then the metcon work decreases and the lifting gets heavier. There must be balance, otherwise you will burnout, get adrenal fatigue and the progress will slow. Then you will hate fitness or look for excuses or a new workout fad that 'guarantees results in 2 weeks.' Think longer term than this workout, this week, month or few months, think years. If you fry yourself in the next 6 months because you are going too hard all the time, then it’s a very long road back to being healthy. Follow the prescription and future you will thank yourself.
If you’re confused about what you’re supposed to be doing, how much you’re supposed to be lifting, or you have any questions at all, don’t guess. Ask ! You’re paying good money to be here, so don’t be afraid to use the coaches.
Be safe. Take care of the equipment. Lift heavy!