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I like to consider myself a pretty even keeled guy.  Outside of the occasional Tracy Anderson soundbite or random person who drives 20 MPH below the speed limit when I’m on my way to work, there’s not much that really gets my blood boiling.   Even when I was a pitcher back in my college days, my mound demeanor was fairly consistent.  I wasn’t one to yell at the umpire about balls and strikes, and I tried my best never to show much emotion, figuring it was best to show the other team that I was never rattled.

I remember one game my senior year where I gave up two base hits and a walk to start off the game.  My coach, the antithesis of calm and collected, called timeout and stormed out to the mound.

“Tony,” he said, about two inches from my grill and pointing his finger at me, “get your head in the game. You’re acting like you don’t even want to be here”  I replied, “I got it coach.”

I ended up pitching a complete game, winning 5-2.  Without throwing a temper-tantrum.

So, fast forward to two nights ago when I received the following text message from a friend of mine down in New York City:

Looking at gyms in NYC.  One gym is BANNING squat racks.  So, the opposite of the predator handshake.

No shit it’s the opposite of the Predator handshake (which, by the way, is the most awesome thing ever).  Banning squat racks is a complete and utter FAIL.

Being even termpered my ass:  I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to drop kick a puppy more in my life than after reading that message.  Really?  Banning squat racks?  What’s next – banning vegetables from grocery stores?

After a few more text exchanges, my buddy went on to say that he went to join “x” gym chain (name omitted for fear of riots that may ensue, but I’m sure you can figure it out), and neither affiliate he visited in the upper west side had a squat rack.  Apparently, according to the fitness managers of said establishments, too many people were getting injured, and that my buddy, assuredly, could garner the same benefit from using a Smith machine instead.

What the what!?!?!?!?!?!

Are they serious?

Firstly, lets just get one thing straight:  squats don’t hurt people.  What people THINK are squats hurt people.

Secondly, machines are never superior to free weights.  Ever.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I’d argue that the Smith machine is more dangerous.  The Smith machine locks you into a fixed plane of motion, which develops what is called ‘pattern overload syndrome’. This was coined by Paul Chek and is explained as:

People get a pattern overload from using the Smith machine. The more fixed the object, the more likely you are to develop a pattern overload. This is due to the fact that training in a fixed pathway repetitively loads the same muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in the same pattern, encouraging micro-trauma that eventually leads to injury. If Johnny Lunchpail always uses a Smith machine for his bench presses, he ends up working the same fibers of the prime movers in the bench press all of the time: triceps brachii, pectoralis major, long-head of the biceps, anterior deltoids, and serratus anterior. But he can’t change the pathway, the bar will always be in the same position. This commonly leads to chronic injury over time. The weight is stabilized for you. However, the joints operate in multiple planes. Use of the Smith machine, greatly decreases stabilizer activity. That creates a problem when the trainee returns to free-weight training. When that happens, the trainee is exposed to the three-dimensional environment called real life.

If squatting in a SQUAT rack (what it’s actually designed for) is so dangerous and too many people are getting injured, why stop there?

Lets ban bench pressing because it can lead to shoulder impingement.

Lets ban pull-up bars because people may lose their grip and fall.

Lets ban deadlifting because we all know that it’s the deadlifts that are hurting people’s backs, and not the fact that they have hip flexors stiffer than a table and have the movement quality of a pregnant hippopotamus.

While we’re at it, lets also ban treadmills because they may lead to shin splints, and step-aerobic classes because we run the risk of people tripping over their pink dumbbells and pulling a groin (not to mention the risk we run of people’s ears bleeding from the cheesy 80’s music).

In fact, lets just get rid of dumbbells altogether because people may drop them on their toes!

In fact, it’s probably best to just shut down every gym in the country because people may actually sweat, and that’s just icky.

Needless to say, whomever they are, the fitness managers of the aforementioned establishments should be ashamed of themselves.  I’d be curious to hear everyone eles’s thoughts on this.  I have to assume you’re as fired up about it as I am.


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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Dave

    But where would I do my 16,000,000 sets of Atomic Bicep Curls if there is no Squat rack to do them in?!? LOL :)

    August 19, 2011 at 6:00 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kyle

    My hometown gym did away with their foam rollers (they only had 2 to start with)about a month and a half ago. The reasoning was that "no one used them". This is true seeing in the three years I've been there I have been the only one using them on a daily basis. In fact while using them I often received strange looks and was questioned on why I would waste my time. Gotta love gyms like that...

    August 19, 2011 at 6:03 am | Reply to this comment

  • Greg R

    Is there going to be a banned squat racks island. Like the island of forgotten toys?

    August 19, 2011 at 6:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • Pete Morgan

    Completely asinine. One potential benefit of this may be the litmus test we need to know with assurance which gyms to stay away from. And by stay away from, I naturally mean, burn to the ground.

    August 19, 2011 at 6:26 am | Reply to this comment

  • Damon

    I recently left a job at a gym because they were going to put a "no deadlift /olympic lift" rule in effect. The manager told me that machines are a lot safer and they make less noise. I said thanks for the opportunity but this is not the right environment for me....What the heck is wrong with the fitness industry?

    August 19, 2011 at 6:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • JB

    Some gyms exist to make people better, some gyms exist to make people money.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • Danny Walker

    What the hell do they have against curling?

    August 19, 2011 at 7:52 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brandon

    If there is an island of banned squat racks, I would like to go there. Great rant Tony. Big Fan! At McMaster (Canada) we encourage people to squat, dead lift and do olympic lifts, we just teach them how to do it properly. I'm always blown away with the fitness industry's ideas of how to make gyms better. Seems it's going backwards.....

    August 19, 2011 at 7:56 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brad

    Some thoughts ... if they're banning them, it's because of fear of injury lawsuits. Which means there are idiots suing these gyms because they get injured there, which means: 1. The PTs are not competent enough to teach people to use that equipment safely. 2. The "Don't-Sue-Us-When-You-Hurt-Yourself" waivers they make you sign aren't really worth the paper they are written on. 3. Can I have one of those squat racks?

    August 19, 2011 at 7:59 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nikolai

    This line of thinking (banning certain lifts or equipment) falls right in line with the modern thought processes. There was a time when we as a society were made of strong qualities. Now you glance at someone the wrong way, their feelings have been irreparably damaged and you are remanded to sensitivity training. You have to monitor everything you say, lest you end up apologizing endlessly for something completely harmless. Now people are offended by loud noises of exertion, and are intimidated by someone who actually knows how to lift weights correctly. We have one legged exercises performed on BOSU balls, which for the life of me, I am still trying to understand the reasoning behind performing one legged squats on these things with weights precariously perched upon your shoulders. There's a lawsuit in the making. Today's fitness isn't about hard work, discipline, consistency and effort, or sweat equity. It's about getting abs in only three minutes a day. It's about eating anything you desire, while wearing a belt that jolts your insides with electricity. It's about holding a vibrating device that shakes your body into the next Adonis. We want it quick, we want it now, and we don't want to expend energy to earn it. But we do want to read a book or newspaper, watch TV, talk on our cell phones, or gossip at the fitness centers. Aren't they swell? God forbid someone lifts real iron from the floor to the sky. Ban him, he's not like the rest of us. Off with his head!!

    August 19, 2011 at 8:08 am | Reply to this comment

  • Bob C

    Every gym is in business to earn a profit. The difference between big globo gyms and places like CP is that CP type gyms care about their clients reaching their goals in addition to earning themselves a profit. Globo gyms don't care if you drop dead, so long as they can keep on hitting your credit card every month. For a variety of reasons, I most often go to a globo gym. Over the course of a year, I've had to wait for a squat rack perhaps twice? Needless to say, I love that...but...that tells me that virtually no one uses it. We all understand the "typical" globo gym goer, so that isn't a huge surprise. But...if no one is using it, then it won't be a big surprise if it is removed one day. Of course, that will be the day I move on from the gym. They already ban us from using kettlebells unless we are paying for a trainer. (And yeah...nearly every trainer there has no freaking idea what a proper KB swing looks like, right NYSC? Oops.) Removing the squat rack and power rack would be the final straw for me.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • rob

    belongs right up there with the "pussification of america" rant put out by zach even-esh. also, goes along with your interns rant on why some doctors deserved to be nunchucked in the skull- you have orthopedic physicians telling people not to squat because they say their hips hurt when the do it. Not because they have a labral tear or impingement, but because their hips/ankle mobility sucks. Rather then tell them to work on their mobility issues and then perform a progression to squatting it is much easier to say "you cant squat" and bill their insurance a shit ton of money to get another patient in the door quicker. Its what they usually want to hear anyways and very sad

    August 19, 2011 at 8:57 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike

    I had a similar want-to-drop-kick-a-puppy moment recently when the overweight "trainer" told me no deadlifting without shoes. He said it was a "safety thing". Seriously? Are sneakers really going to protect my feet/toes if I drop a 45lb plate on them? Why not make everyone wear steel toed shoes in the gym and gloves to prevent slipping. Stupid tactic to reduce liability risk... only thing is NOW I want to sue them!

    August 19, 2011 at 9:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • Laura

    It's pretty dumb, but 90% of gyms are about machines not free weights and certainly not barbells so it's no surprise. Machines were introduced initially as a business decision so I guess they are taking that to its end conclusion. In the UK hardly any gyms have a squat rack! At least in the US there are gyms which are more along the Cressey Performance line. We're pretty behind over here.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:40 am | Reply to this comment

  • Niel

    1) Go to gym without squat rack. 2) Deadlift weight from floor to knees. 3) Set-up for Zercher squat. 4) Squat without rack. That should confuse them enough.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Russell

    If my gym got rid of the squat rack I would got on an hate filled rampage and burn the place down. Good luck having any gains using machines. Other note. In my old gym (slight better then my current gym) they had a lifting platform. When some bro was taking up the only squat rack for his quarter squats. I would say no problem move to the lifting platform 8 feet to his left. I would warm-up by doing steinborn squats on the platform. They would usually leave after I was doing 50lbs more then then with no rack for reps like it was cake. This is how I would passive-aggressively get my rack back.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kasey A

    Wow. This is the reason I sometimes question what I'm getting myself into by aspiring to be a part of the "fitness industry", but at the same time it's what drives me. It's certainly an uphill battle to fight all the misconceptions and idiocy, but we have to do our best. I was thinking about the challenge yesterday when I saw a couple of gatorade commercials that they've had lately - one where the guy is doing a set of 25 preacher curls, and the other one with the girl doing triceps and leg press. Then there was also a commercial I saw where Usain Bolt was doing leg extensions and other machine weights.. Why?!?! Why must this go on... not to mention the new "nutrition cookies with 6 grams of fiber!" ughhhh. Thanks for fighting the good fight, Tony.

    August 19, 2011 at 11:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Trey Potter

    The sad thing is that this isn't even surprising. This is the type of idiocy main stream gyms and completely unqualified trainers spout that give the rest of us a bad rap. Damn shame. On a related note the university I went to completely renovated their student gym/wellness center before I graduated and the first thing they did was buy 20 brand new pieces of cardio equipment, 10 flat screen TV's, 5-6 pieces of Hammer Strength equipment, bought a smith machine and trashed the squat rack. Frustrating beyond belief. The guy that was/is the head of the wellness center is a former distance runner and actively preached in all his classes that people shouldn't use a full range of motion when lifting weights and that machines were far safer (plus more effective) than free weights. He's also 6 ft tall, 140 pounds. I know girl scouts who can, and probably should, kick his ass. End Rant lol.

    August 19, 2011 at 11:50 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dan Ogborn

    The real question is, where can I buy all these used squat racks they're tossing out? If they don't want'em, I'll gladly take them off their hands.

    August 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Lars

    the problem starts with the owners/trainers at the gym who have no idea how to squat themselves, so they teach bad technique to their clients, and hence end up with a lot if injured customers. Just today, one of the trainers (and I am stretching the meaning of that word) at my gym told this girl who clearly was in the weightroom for the first time that the following was the correct technique for squats: initiate by bending your knees (demonstrating what looked like an ankle mobilization), and when you reach the bottom (in this trainers case: > ) cave the knees together to "feel the burn in your front thighs".. (!!!!) I puked in my mouth a little, then shoved the barbell up his arse. Okay, one of those things didn't happen

    August 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Bret Contreras

    I thought that was going to be our handshake if we ever meet! This article is exactly why I tried to write my "New Rules of Strength Training" article...a good argument could be made for why we shouldn't do just about any exercise; that doesn't mean we should ban them.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sean

    These places aren't gyms.. they're corporate centres where uneducated, greedy, FAT, unfit idiots have free reign to take advantage of the (slightly less) educated population and make them do what is "safe and correct", without actually reaching their goals, and keeping them coming back for more every January and summer. It is a sad time for the fitness industry where these corporate scumbags and thieves are looked at as the status quo and "norms" for fitness and long term health.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Trey Potter: Wow, that sucks!!!!! And to think, that guy is teaching A LOT of college kids that nonsense. Pretty fucking dumb if you ask me!

    August 20, 2011 at 3:56 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Bret: dude, when you and I do that handshake - building will crumble to the ground! But yeah, your article served as a catalyst to my little rant. I thank you kind sir.

    August 20, 2011 at 3:58 am | Reply to this comment

  • Thomo

    Tony, I hate to say it but the supply side i.e shitty gyms are driven more by demand. Its probably quite negative to say but lots of people out in the burbs are lazy and stupid. If people sought to question what they were told and had old fashioned values based around hard work then we might not have so many shitty gyms. Also I think the 'hardccore' bro im like really huge brigade also give heavy lifting a bad name. If the average person could see facilities and training that occur in Cressey Performance then people would understand the benefits of hard training

    August 20, 2011 at 4:46 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ben Bruno

    Tony, I'm guessing your blood pressure has just started to go back to normal after this rant, so sorry to rile you back up, but in NYC, most gyms that I've been to already don't let you deadlift. "Most" probably isn't even an overexaggeration...it's that bad. When I was in school there and looking for a membership for a place to lift on the weekends, I had to take the train about 60 blocks. It's bad.

    August 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ryan

    Funny that I had the same experience yesterday at a brand new, state of the art "fitness" facility. After spending a few minutes spinning in circles looking a squat rack (I found it tucked in a dark corner), I had the pleasure of waiting for a dude to finish his curls. He was kind enough to ask "would you like me to leave those 10's on for you"?

    August 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Will

    They banned me from doing box jumps at my gym :(

    August 22, 2011 at 10:01 am | Reply to this comment

  • michelle

    Now I can't use a piece of equipment because of a possiblility of injurying myself. The option to use or not is taken away because I "might' not know proper form. Hmmmm.... is congress in the gym biz too?!

    August 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Stevo

    My college just got done renovating their whole fitness center. I was excited to come back and see it, just like the gyms up in NYC, my school got rid of all of the squat racks. It was disheartening to see them replace them with new crap that will just collect dust. They know have two smith machines that go up and down and front to back. They are a waste of money and I was bummed to see this happen to my school as well.

    August 22, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Reply to this comment

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