The meathead may not be the biggest guy at your gym, and it’s highly unlikely that he’s the fittest; but if you’re not careful, he is the person who could ruin your workout.
Who is the meathead? He’s the person who acts like he owns the training facility, knows everything there is to know about performance, and is quick to chime in with unrequested advice. He thinks he’s the toughest guy in the room, and he frequently checks out his arms in the mirror to make sure his guns are still polished.
The meathead is equally eager to talk and defend his territory—which he sees as every square inch of the gym. (He needs all of that space for his 15-exercise superset, duh.)
The next time you encounter the meathead during your workout, steer clear of his moves with these seven strategies.
Meathead Move 1: He wants to teach you some bro science
There you are, catching a breath between sets of Romanian Deadlifts, when a sleeveless shirt with a spray tan comes up and lays some wisdom on you.
“Don’t do it that way,” Meaty says. “If you do it this way [demonstrates completely incorrect form], you’ll get huge!”
Even if your new friend has constructive criticism, remain skeptical. Bro science is often based on old-school methods, which have since been proven ineffective or unsafe. Or his advice might be based on what works for him, which may not work for you (or your lumbar spine, which you’d like to keep intact by not accepting his jacked-up form cue).
The solution: Take evasive action. Put your headphones on and avoid eye contact. If you get stuck in this scenario, nod along before getting back to what you were doing.
Meathead Move 2: He obnoxiously grunts or screams
A guy sets up for what you view as a fairly mundane exercise using an unremarkable amount of weight. Then on his first rep, you hear a scream that sounds like a hybrid of T-Rex and Chewbacca.
You think to yourself, “Did that just happen? Is this dude seriously screaming that loud?”
Unfortunately, there’s no logical answer to why someone would do this.
Grunting during a heavy lift is OK—and even encouraged. It’s nearly impossible not to grunt when doing a near max set of Squats or Bench Press or while finishing off the last few reps in your set.
But grunting during a Bicep Curl or Shoulder Raise? Come on. And screaming at the top of your lungs? The guy is just trying to let everyone around him know how “strong” he is.
The solution: You know those headphones you already put in? Turn the volume up a few notches. Or invest in a noise-canceling set. Also, avoid all contact with this person. Odds are, he will be guilty of more than one thing on this list.
Meathead Move 3: He takes up the entire gym
Getting things done in a crowded gym can be challenging and frustrating. No one likes jockeying for weights or machines and having their workout slowed down.
So, when you see some guy hogging five sets of dumbbells—naturally, they are always the weights you need—your head could explode (figuratively). You hang around, using the closest weights you can find, but Mr. Meathead continues, completely oblivious to the fact that he is monopolizing half of the set of dumbbells.
The same goes for machine or station hogs. The perpetrator takes command of multiple pieces of equipment and then gets riled up when someone else grabs a piece of equipment when he’s on the other side of the gym.
We’ve probably all had a first-hand experience like this. I was once trying to finish a strength workout with Dwight Freeney’s triceps circuit. I saw a guy who was wearing jean shorts, sunglasses and a weight belt—this should’ve been my first red flag—taking up all four cable stations for about 30 minutes. Apparently he was too lazy to remove the attachments and stick to one or two cables.
He was nowhere in sight for about five minutes, so I decided to work at one of the stations. He came back and stood three feet away from me, staring me down as I completed my two sets. He then proceeded to tell me how incredibly rude I was for taking his station. He was gone for five minutes, and three other cables were available for him to use!
The solution: Ask to work in if necessary, or adjust your workout if that fails. If someone is doing Curls in the squat rack, politely ask him to relocate. Or, you could do your Squats in the curl rack to make your point. When you experience a situation like I did, the best thing you can do is keep your cool.
Meathead Move 4: He uses bad form to lift heavy
You see a guy walking around the gym collecting every 45-pound plate in sight. He loads up the bar with an insane amount of weight, catching your attention.
He starts the lift, and you see what’s really going on. He breaks form so horribly that it makes the exercise look painful. But he finishes his lift, flexes his arms and gives an obligatory warrior cry.
Yes, yes, congratulations. He lifted a lot of weight. But he totally cheated!
Breaking form during a lift is simply a way to lift beyond your max. It’s a Band-Aid for a weakness that will ultimately come back and bite you in the butt when you either get hurt or stop getting stronger.
In the moment, does it look cool and manly? Sure, to the uninformed. If he used perfect form, you can bet he would be stripping plates like mad.
The Solution: Don’t be tempted to outdo the meathead. You may be able to lift heavier and show him up by breaking your form, but it’s definitely not worth it—even if he’s following you around the gym, doing the exact same exercises in an attempt to show you up.
Meathead Move 5: He uses belts and straps
Ever see someone wearing so much equipment during a lift that he looks like a meathead version of the Terminator? He has a special implement or crazy contraption for every lift. Most of the time it’s straps or a belt.
Guess what? All this equipment does is make an exercise easier. So once again, he’s cheating.
Sometimes a piece of equipment is designed to train the body in a newfangled way. But odds are, it’s just a gimmick.
The solution: If you can’t lift a weight without external help, you shouldn’t lift that much. Stick with the tried-and-true styles of training—not gimmicks.
Meathead Move 6: He asks everyone what they bench
“Hey bro, how much you Bench?” Meaty asks.
Is he legitimately interested in how much you Bench? Heck no. He just wants to reaffirm how Hulk-like he is, because he has a 400-pound Bench Press. At the same time, he’ll probably offer you some advice on how you can match his awesomeness.
This type of guy works his chest so much that he walks around with his arms flailed out to his sides. He’s like a 747 moving around the weight room.
The solution: Ask him how much he can Squat and watch the smug grin disappear from his face.
Meathead Move 7: He stares at himself in the mirror
This is the ultimate meathead move. The Meathead finishes a set of Curls and gives an obligatory flex in the mirror. If you’re lucky, he keeps his arms close to his sides and doesn’t go for the full, double-arm flex.
Or worse, he lifts his shirt up, flexes his biceps and gives a macho grunt. Face palm.
He thinks he’s great, but the rest of the gym doesn’t need a show. In reality, this guy probably only works his chest, arms and abs. He’s probably walking on toothpicks for legs. He’s so top heavy that a slight breeze might knock him over. Timber!
The solution: Ask Dr. Flex if he wants a small parade in celebration of his muscles. Actually, don’t do that.