8 Phrases You Should Avoid In The Gym

No Negativity

Spend enough time in any gym and you’ll be privy to some humorous conversations. A big room full of mirrors where we’re all trying to look better and lift more than the next person is a recipe for nonsense and goofiness from time to time. Some topics of conversation and phrases though aren’t even funny anymore. Some of them are deserving of a “Terry Crews, the office linebacker” style smackdown. These are some negative conversations we need to avoid and ways we can inject some additional positivity into our training lives.

Stop talking all that negative bull smack!

Stop talking all that negative bull smack!


“I don’t want to get too big.”

When I hear this phrase I have to wonder where the person is coming from. Are they so overconfident in their genetic makeup that they think they could just wake up overnight having morphed into some sort of hulking bodybuilder that struggles to find clothes that fit? Or is this a back handed excuse to not work as hard as the others they see achieving success with their gym endeavors?

Either way this defeatist phrase is a self fulfilling prophecy. Those that can’t visualize making big changes aren’t likely to see the dramatic results they want. Setting big goals prepares you mentally to work harder to attain greater results in your strength and physique pursuits. 

If gaining lots of lean body mass were easy I think we’d hear more stories about how people accidentally lifted progressively challenging weights, consumed lots of quality calories, went to bed early, and consistently maintained this lifestyle then woke up way too big and muscular.... It’s hard work gaining lots of muscle!

Arnold Schwarzenneger said it best. In response to those that told him, “We never want to look like you” he would simply tell them “Don’t worry, you’ll never will”

Instead of putting limits on your success, set larger than life goals for yourself. Then break them down into lots of little steps you can manage.

Laughing Leonardo Decaprio Meme


“She’s too muscular.”

Last time I checked, about an hour ago, I’m still a dude. I’m in no way immune to recognizing sexually desirable traits in others. But in 2014 in the United States of America I think it’s ok for us to acknowledge what women can achieve physically without just relating it back to how attractive we think the adaptations are.

Title IX was passed in 1972, and in the 42 years since then women have been competing in athletic endeavors, elevating the level of athleticism and accomplishment to incredible new heights. It’s quite possible that females nowadays are capable of intrinsic motivations to compete, to become strong, and to do awesome things, without any regard for what you and I may think about their physique.

We won’t see a reduction in the number of women that are strong, athletic, and look the part anytime soon. We need to learn to show respect by acknowledging their accomplishments, be it in bodybuilding, crossfit, or otherwise in context of what they’ve achieved. 


“He’s taking steroids.”

The people saying this one are usually the same people that say they don’t want to get too big. It shows disrespect for what another person has achieved. With or without steroids, achieving a brutish physique takes work and dedication. Steroids can certainly accelerate the process, but not without showing up to the gym, putting in the work, and shoveling the appropriate foods down your throat. Without hardwork, steroids do little more than produce acne gains and a leaner wallet.

If someone chooses to take a substance like steroids it doesn’t harm you, so there’s no need for you to disparage them for what they choose to do with their own body. If they’re an athlete and everyone has agreed to play by a certain set of rules, that may be a different story, but that’s an entirely different debate. 


“Lifting heavy will wreck your ____. That’s how I did.”

There’s at least one of these guys in every gym . They’ll likely also tell you about their glory days, how awesome they used to be, and all about the horrors of aging. The problem with this advice though is that injuries don’t typically occur due to the weight being lifted. Injuries occur when you lift poorly. And although the gentleman likely has good intentions, he usually has no clue about how to properly coach you through the movement well. 

The other problem with this type of advice is that it’s like telling someone not to get hurt just before they attempt something. It plants the seed of doubt and creates hesitation. When you’re about to set a new PR or lift a near maximal weight, you need to be confident so that you can go through the motion in its entirety without hesitation. 

Moving well and continuing to challenge yourself physically is a sure fire way to continue feeling great and doing everything you want as you get older.


“Do you want to make more money?” (Multi Level Marketing Schemes)

When some people say they went to the gym to “Do work.” They really mean it. They’re there to hustle and by hustle, I don’t mean run suicides. When you’re trying to get swole and your newest acquaintance starts asking if you’d like to make more money, that’s your cue to turn your headphones up. 

They’re likely trying to introduce you to their newest multi-level marketing program. Basically, they have a product to sell, usually supplements, but sometimes other items. And they make a commission or some amount from all the products they sell. More than that though, they’d rather get you to sell those products too. Because when they get you to sell those products, they also earn a commission from everything you sell as a part of their team. 

They’ll promise you a too good to be true solution to making lots of money by helping others to achieve their nutrition or whatever goals. But when its all said and done the products these multi-level marketing companies are selling are really no better than any other supplements you can find at cheaper prices. It’s more about selling the easy money solution than it is about helping others be successful with their nutrition goals. Being successful with your nutrition goals requires support and habit change, not detox diets and sales scripts.


“Lengthen your muscles”

There are lots of programs that claim to give you a “long and lean look.” They may promise to lengthen and taper your muscles to make you look a certain way. When you hear this sort of thing you can immediately assume that, although these people may truly like the types of workouts they’re talking about, they really don’t understand how the body responds to exercise. The length of a muscle is set by your genetics and isn’t likely to change by pulsing and stretching for an hour with weights too small to matter. 

The best way to lengthen and taper your muscles is with photoshop. Magazines, photographers, and the media in general have been doing this for years. It creates unrealistic standards that people should never compare themselves to, and it’s a problem for both women and men. 

When fitness programs utilize this type of language in their ads and descriptions they’re playing on those insecurities that are perpetuated by distorted and altered images of beauty in the media. Sadly, this type of predatory language has become ingrained into the regular vocabulary of those who aren’t satisfied with their appearance. The best way to combat this is by celebrating your and others’ accomplishments. Embrace the confidence that comes from physical accomplishments, and spread that to those around you. 


“Train through the pain.”

“No pain no gain.” has been one of the most popular phrases in sports and fitness for as long as I can remember. And it’s probably done more to contribute to injury rates than it has to the pool of champions. Problem is though, there are plenty of way to make gains without pain. It doesn’t pain me to get to sleep a little earlier, but that does improve gains. Additionally, a lot of people just can’t distinguish between an appropriate level of discomfort in their training and lifestyle and injurious pains.

There are times in competition where an athlete has to perform through pain and injury in order to win. This is true, but the goal of competition is to win. In training, the goal is to make consistent progression in abilities and skills, and pain rarely contributes to that end goal. 
When you have a friend that’s just trying to get started with strength training it can be pretty entertaining to get them to do a crazy workout and watch them limp around with muscle soreness for the rest of the week. But there’s a good chance you won’t see your friend continue training. Zero gains. No longer funny.

Often we need to learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable in our training, but outside of the occasional competition, pain isn’t a necessary outcome. Training through pain is likely only going to create setbacks and inconsistency in your training. Set out to overcome greater challenges in your training and get outside of your comfort zone regularly. This is the path to growth and will allow you to shine in and out of competitions. 

No Pain No Gain Meme


“I can’t...”

The gym is a place we should all go to and think “I will.” Sure there are things that you can’t do right this minute, but in time you will. Plan for success. Plan for lots of little successes and you’ll achieve great things. Never let this phrase take root in your mind.

When you come face to face with limitations, you rarely have to simply accept them as just that. Where there is a will there is a way. Find someone that has done what you wish to do. It’s as easy as looking on Google. Get in touch with them and see what they’ve done that works and put it to practice in your own endeavors. Put your fears aside. You can be strong. You can do great things. You can make it happen. 


Words Matter

There’s a lot you can do to make a positive impact in your own personal training as well as that of others. Removing the negative and useless language we say to ourselves and others is one of the best ways to start. Make your training time a place to build yourself and others up. Acknowledge accomplishments and potential everywhere you see it. Plan for ways to move outside of your comfort zone and don’t fall for the promise of the easier path. Strength and growth requires consistent positive input, and avoiding that which brings you down. 

What are some of the best ways you’ve seen others build each other up in their training? Was it a compliment or did they just shut down negativity? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.