Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Don't Drop Weights

This morning a man in the rec center dropped his dumbbells after every set, which, sadly, isn’t uncommon among men in weight rooms. Today was especially egregious, though. It’s a small space without padding, so he was dropping 60-pound dumbbells loudly on carpet-covered cement barely a yard from my head while I used the adjacent bench.

It’s a city rec center not a professional gym, it’s against the rules, it’s in your membership contract, the sign on the mirror right there says DON’T, and the equipment is already torn up enough with many dumbbells missing sizeable chunks of the rubber coating.

I sort of wanted to work up the nerve to say something next time, so I asked in a few fitness forums: “Do you ask men to fucking quit it when they're dropping weights? If so, how?”

Several people recommended simply asking the people who work there to take care of it, since that is part of their job.

It’s a small rec center and there aren’t employees actually IN the weight room to monitor these things, so I do have to stop my workout, go downstairs, and leave the area to reach the front desk to say something. I did cut my workout short to ask the women at the front desk if anyone could speak to him, but they seemed reluctant themselves. I don’t fault them for it; their expressions mirrored my own feelings.

A friend pointed out that such aggressive behavior is dangerous in more ways than one:

“Men doing dominance displays with throwable objects, men being negligent with things heavy enough to be dangerous… Those are red flags that confrontation from a peer is unlikely to go well. People who work there are authority figures who should have the clout to tell him to follow the rules or leave.”

Hopefully I won’t encounter him again. But if I do, I’ll think twice about saying anything to him directly and will not hesitate to speak to the staff and return to finish my workout. I’ve every right to be there and to feel safe there, moreso since I’m behaving appropriately and not damaging equipment.

“Dropping once or twice, it happens,” another friend explained and went on: “Dropping every set, or every rep? Someone is lifting too much and anyone pointing that out is threatening Captain Butterfingers’ peen. Throwing the weights down is a hazard to others, self, and property, feckin dangerous, and feckin stupid. Report to the desk. If they don't take action, go up the chain. And if the desk staff seems reluctant for their own safety, include that in your escalated complaint so staff isn’t unfairly disciplined.”

WHAT THE HELL, MEN? Where did you get the idea that you should drop weights every freaking set?

I’ve often seen the rebuttal that “dropping heavy weights is necessary to prevent injury.” Let me stop you right there.

Dropping weights isn’t necessary 80% of the time, maybe more. Dropping weights evolved as weightlifting became more popular around the world, especially in Eastern Europe, and more and more weight was being lifted, which was naturally more difficult to lower to the platform. As dropping weights became more accepted, something had to be done because the metal plates were tearing up platforms and destroying the flooring underneath. Someone invented rubber bumper plates around the middle to late sixties. They certainly have been a big plus in sparing damage to platforms and floors.

“Now it seems that all lifters, from beginners to elite, think that dropping all weights, from warm-ups to maximums, is the way it should be done. This situation has perhaps evolved from watching the world championships and Olympic Games where lifters certainly drop weights, some from overhead even, and yet never have a lift disqualified as a result—even though the rules state clearly that you aren’t supposed to let go of the bar until it is at waist height. I think it’s unfortunate that this has been allowed to escalate to this level because now beginner and intermediate lifters think that is what is done in order to lift the big weights.”

(Boldface emphasis mine.)

So we’ll acknowledge that dropping is useful and necessary in barbell-lifting contexts and heavy-weight competitions. The city rec center does not even have any of that equipment! You should NEVER drop dumbbells; they aren’t made for it, and this is why the set of them is so torn up. Sure, I was lifting half as much as him this morning, but I could very probably use a 60 for a goblet squat, and likely will within the next month.

“The dumbbells cost around $.50 per pound, so they’re pretty expensive to replace. More importantly, if a dumbbell is dropped on the edge they can actually break in half. I’ve seen it happen twice, where the handle broke in half. Fortunately, it occurred when they hit the floor and not in someone’s hand. It would have been worse had they stayed together until the next person used them, and then broken in the middle of a set.” Tom Nikkola, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer

This absurd display doesn’t make you look strong. It proves YOU AREN’T STRONG and need to choose a smaller weight that you can safely manage. Nikkola agrees:

“Unless you’re performing Olympic lifts, if you’re not sure what those are, you’re not, there’s no reason to drop the weights. If you don’t have the strength to set the dumbbells or barbells down, then you’re using too much weight.”

To borrow the words of Jim Schmitz, “Lowering weights properly won’t weaken you.”

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