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Anyone who has ever been in a gym on a Monday night knows that a busy gym can be an absolute nightmare.
Many people find it so overwhelming that they'd rather skip their session entirely than deal with it! But if you really want excellent results then you'll need to find a way of not only surviving a busy gym, but thriving in it.
This article will teach you how to flourish in even the most hectic of gyms.
Step One. Avoid Selfish Programs
Everyone knows how effective German Volume Training can be, and performing 10 sets of 10 reps on a bench press can really help improve your physique and athletic performance. But a busy gym with only one barbell bench press is not the place to try it.
Another way to irritate your fellow gym goers is by circuit training, there is nothing worse than finding a bench that is free only for some Bro to yell at you from the other side of the gym that he's using it.
Don't be that guy, because everyone hates that guy!
Luckily there are ways to superset exercises that won't make you public enemy number one.
Step Two. Use Efficient Supersets
If the gym is rammed with people it can mean waiting a while in between sets, especially when you're training bench press on a Monday.
Sometimes there can be five or more guys all waiting to take their turn. Creating a superset can prevent you from resting too much and not getting enough done within the hour.
The trick is to ensure that 1) the exercise that you add doesn't take up much space 2) you can perform it with a couple of dumbbells or as a bodyweight exercise.
So bench press supersets with press ups could work, or with dumbbell bent over rows. You could combine barbell squats with bodyweight lunges, or even with press ups.
A lot of people make the mistake of believing that supersets should either be performed with the same muscles (i.e. bench press and press ups) or with opposing muscles (chest and back, quads and hamstrings).
An overlooked combo is upper and lower body, and in fact this usually works really well as there is little to no crossover between exercises.
So squats with bench press, or pull ups with Romanian deadlifts work really well.
Step Three. Be Assertive yet Polite
It can be quite intimidating asking someone who is using the equipment that you need if it's okay to join them. Particularly if you're new to the gym. But it's something that you really are going to have to get over, otherwise you'll never be able to get anywhere results-wise.
What you have to understand is that the only acceptable answer is “yes” and that anyone who says no is not only breaking etiquette, they are probably breaking the gyms rules.
This doesn't mean you should barge in and start yelling, but it does mean that you have a lot more power than you think you do.
All you have to do is walk up to them, keep a respectful distance (nothing worse than getting in someone's way when they're half way through a set), and wait for them to complete their set.
Then ask them how long they have left, if they say 1 more set then you can wait. Anything more and you'll need to ask if they mind you working-in.
99 times out of 100 they'll agree, but if they don't you have three options 1) Kick up a stink 2) Call a member of staff, or 3) Find an alternative, but hold a grudge against that person forever.
Step Four. Learn your Etiquette
You will not survive in a busy gym if you don't know the written and unwritten rules.
Many gyms have different rules about a lot of things but there are some rules that are universal.
- You do NOT own the equipment, meaning that if someone asks to join in with you then let them.
- Don't hog 3 or 4 sets of dumbbells when it's busy, and if you do be prepared to share them.
- Give people enough space to perform their exercise safely, don't walk over a barbell when someone is about to deadlift it.
- Be flexible when the situation demands it, if there are already 12 people around the leg press then you might want to look for something else.
Step Five. Use Alternative Exercises
Sometimes you just have to accept that you're not going to get a chance to perform all of the exercises that you need to.
At this point you have two choices, you can either give up and go home or you can find an alternative. You have probably guessed which one is the right choice ….
So if the squat rack is being used, try leg pressing. Yes the leg press doesn't produce as big a hormonal response, nor does it activate as many muscle fibres . But compared to standing around complaining? It's 100% more effective!
Press ups or chest press instead of bench press, chin ups or straight arm pulldowns instead of lat pulldowns, step ups instead of leg extensions.
Being able to adapt to any gym situation is vital if you're looking to maximise results.
 Shaner, A., Vingren, J., Hatfield, D., Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D. 2014. The Acute Hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(4): 1032-40