Metal plates crash into the gym floor as the barbell begins to slip through my fingers and 185lbs meets the ground. This is weight I had been deadlifting for weeks and I was ready to try 205lbs again. My inner “mini-meathead” was taking over. Although I love to move heavy weight, I do not like to fit the stereotype gym-goers and non-gym-goers alike have of most meatheads.

You know the type I’m talking about:

Invisible Lat Syndrome aka the Watermelon Walker

He walks with his shoulders climbing up to his ears, elbows curved out and an invisible stick up his hind-parts. The guy who acts like he’s carrying five basketballs under his arms and struttin around like he forgot how to bend his knees. It’s called invisible lat syndrome because people with large lats walk like this by necessity, but many times you will find a guy with no lat muscles trying to overcome his inferiority complex by walking as though he has them.

Little Big Guy

This guy is not overly-muscular, often young, but believes he’s the Hulk. He’s the dude lifting the heaviest weight to prove that he is a real man despite his size or age. His reps are accompanied by grunts that wave across the entire gym and somehow do not help him accomplish a full set of anything.

Chest and Bis…or Die

As though some men only have two muscles to work, chest and biceps, these dudes walk in like they own the gym. Sometimes they’ll even bring a Monster or Red Bull to get that bench max way up. They strut around the gym for one to two hours, throw tons of plates on the barbell, pump it with improper form for 1 maaaybe 2 reps, and take a 20 minute break.

Those are just a few examples of the meatheads people don’t like. I admit, it wasn’t until about 6 or 7 months ago I could proudly call myself a mini-meathead, a phrase coined by my spunky, always positive role model and personal trainer, Mary. I pictured meatheads as egotistical lunks walking and talking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But then I learned the difference between confidence and arrogance. It’s okay to act like you own the place, but realize that you’re only a co-owner. Take precautionary measures to avoid meathead stereotypes and negative connotations:

1) Proper form first, heavy weight second

Head to the gym with the intention of being a weight-lifting gazelle not a Godzilla weight-crushing numbskull. Personally, this is one of my biggest obstacles. If possible, have your partner help you focus on form. My gym partner is constantly making me slow my roll and focus on perfecting my form. Your pride may hurt for a short while but it beats a long-term injury or a dreaded plateau. Though I still struggle with this bad habit, focusing on form allows me to lift much heavier weight in the coming weeks.

2) Full reps make you a “real man.”

This rule is closely related to form. If you’re sitting at the preacher bench doing curls and your arms only go halfway down, you should not be taking pride in curling 45s. Lower the weight and do full reps to build your muscles and achieve physical and aesthetic benefits. You may be able to brag about benching 400lbs but if you have a scrawny body from doing half the effort, no one will believe you anyway. Yes, it’s okay to cheat on some of the final reps but cheating on a regular basis is a habit, not a cheat. Also, swinging weights with your whole body instead of isolating the muscle will get you an improper chiropractic adjustment, not big muscles.

3) Quit eye-ballin other gym-goers.

Everyone is on their own gym-journey and there’s no need to judge. Not everyone in the gym is a potential opponent in the imaginary MMA fight you have going on in your mind. We’re all in this together. Show some confidence and kindness by throwing out a compliment instead.

4) Breathe…but keep grunting to a minimum.

You’re deadlifting 500lbs. Awesome. However, the whole gym does not want to hear a warrior’s call to the iron. Some grunting is okay. In fact, I’m fairly certain a 500lb deadlift probably warrants a grunt. But let’s keep the drama at minimum. You’re not a bear. Going hoarse over curling 35lb dumbbells is unnecessary. Try breathing a bit deeper instead of distracting both yourself and everyone around you with a gut bursting roar.

5) Don’t slam the weights.

If you find that you have to slam the weights on every single rep, you are either desperate for attention or lifting too heavy. Slamming a weight on accident or even at the end of a really heavy set, dropset, or superset is understandable on occasion. But controlling the movement will help temper this bad habit and also build stronger, bigger muscles.

6) Ask others for advice. And only give advice when asked.

I’m not talking about a flirty excuse to get someone’s number, but serious weight lifting advice that you will actually be using. Also, approaching a female in the gym to correct something they are doing is usually not a good pick-up line. Put a cap on the ego for a second and think before approaching.

7) Wash off your bench. Wipe sweat off your face.

We know you’re working hard. You don’t have to drip sweat all over the floor, benches, and machines to prove it. Keep Tide and Downy in business, use a towel.

8) Re-rack your weights

I admit, I fantasize about reprimanding gym-slobs who refuse to pick up after themselves. One high school age guy at my gym never re-racks his weights. This is a conversation I secretly wish would transpire:

Me to kid: Oh, hi, I was just wondering if your mom is here today?

Kid: No, why?

Me: Oh, I just figured you were expecting your mother to come clean up your mess when you’re done. But since she isn’t here, I sure ain’t your mother and don’t want to clean up after you. So pick your business up and put it away!

Leaving weights on bars and dumbbells all over the floor adds time to other people’s workouts. If you want to make a mess, do it on your own time and with your own property.

9) Smile.

You’re not forced to be at the gym. Be happy you’re making yourself healthier. You should feel some sort of camaraderie with others who have that same desire, express it.

10) Be aware of others’ needs.

Sometimes it’s impossible to give up equipment at the exact moment when you notice someone else needs it. But putzing around on the squat rack for 45 minutes is unnecessary. Only take 60-90 second breaks and get done and out of there. Your workout will be better and everyone will be happy.

Need anymore advice? Just ask Jerome Mayberry 😉