Working In

The Advocates: Expert advice on life -- as you live it.

BY Toby Massenburg

January 05 2009 1:00 AM ET

A little common courtesy goes a long way in a crowded gym.

You’ve gotten into a groove, your heart is pumping, and you’re eyeing the bench press, ready to teach your chest who’s boss, but suddenly your workout comes to a screeching halt. The last bench is occupied by someone who refuses to acknowledge that others are waiting and fails to understand the most fundamental rule of gym etiquette (after wiping your sweat off the equipment): working in.

Working in simply means taking turns on the equipment. You do one set, and the other person does one set; repeat as necessary. It’s not always feasible (when lots of free weights are loaded onto a machine, or when two or more people are already using the equipment), but usually you need only ask. If the answer is no, be patient and try not to think hateful thoughts, and don’t hover or intimidate. If the answer is yes, do your set and try your best to return the settings to the other user’s preferences. If you’re occupying a piece of equipment and you’re asked, allow others to work in with you, and try not to rest on the equipment between sets. Feel free to think of the gym as your home -- just remember that you have a few hundred roommates.

Stronger, Not BiggerMost of us think that to be strong you have to be built like a Mack truck. While some may aspire to action-hero physiques, others would be very content fitting into their clothes without ripping them at the seams. But can you get stronger without gaining an excessive amount of size? Absolutely. Many gymgoers follow a standard routine of three sets of between eight and 12 repetitions, accompanied by moderate resistance, for each exercise. This is great for building size, but as far as pure strength goes, it’s not the winning formula. The key to improving muscular strength is to lift heavy weight for fewer reps. To achieve more strength relative to your body weight, move a higher intensity of resistance for two to three sets of six to eight reps for each exercise. It’s the best way to maximize strength without having to throw away your favorite T-shirt.

Baby Got BackIf you want a bigger chest, work your back. By strengthening and stretching your upper and middle back, you’ll develop a greater range of motion in the chest and shoulder areas. With this new range, your bench-press poundage will skyrocket, and soon you’ll be putting on major mass. So step away from the bench press and start rowing!

Tags: Fitness

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