"We're not selling jeans here."
- Billy Beane, Moneyball
Athlete X: "Coach, my sheet says I have pull-ups next, but that guy's been in the cable rack since we got here (which was about 45 minutes ago). How many more sets do you think he has left?"
Me: "A thousand..."
When you train in a public gym, you are at the mercy of the "general population". They can make or break your training session, especially if your gym has limited equipment that you want to use.
What makes matters worse is that there seems to be this new fad where people spend over an hour performing the same exercise.
This seems like an exaggeration, but it's not.
Like a biologist in the Serengeti, I have sat and watched people set up camp on a piece of equipment and not leave there for the entire length of our training session (which usually lasts an hour).
During my observations, I have also noticed where this occurs most often and who the main culprits are.
The Cable Rack
In most public gyms, the pull-up bar is situated right in the middle of the cable rack.
Do you know what else is situated right in the middle of the cable rack?
Some guy doing 30 sets of cable cross-overs.
Sometimes you think you can get lucky when you see a guy on only one side of the rack doing tricep pulldowns. In your mind you think, "I can slip in there, right next to this narcissist."
Unfortunately, you forgot that the mandatory super-set to the tricep pulldown is the tricep extension ... which conveniently takes up the space right under the pull-up bar.
This scenario would be acceptable if the guy actually took a break between his 30 super-sets, but that never happens.
You just sit there wondering ... "How Many More Sets Ya Got?"
The Squat Rack
Public gyms don't have many squat racks.
If there is a legit one, the guys with the biggest squat are usually competing for it.
Unfortunately, combining big squats and 30 sets usually leads to a broken body.
And ... a broken body is usually accompanied by knee wraps.
And ... knee wraps are usually taken on and off between sets.
As you sit there watching this hobbled giant remove his knee wraps for the 30th time, all you can think is "How Many More Sets Ya Got?"
The Deadlift Platform
Public gyms seldom have places designated for the deadlift. You often have to find some floor space that isn't smack in the middle of a major thoroughfare.
If your gym has a deadlift platform, consider yourself lucky.
If you plan on actually doing a deadlift, consider yourself unlucky.
Over the past week I have seen barbell curls, bent over rows, military press and the clean and jerk.
If someone is actually doing a deadlift, they follow suit of their brethren and do about 30-sets. To make matters worse, they spend just as much time chalking-up and adjusting their weight belt as they do moving weight.
As you stand there baffled and frustrated, all you can wonder is "How many more sets ya got?"
As infatuated as American males are with the bench press, you would think public gyms would have more of them.
This scarcity of bench press space becomes amplified, as most people are only comfortable benching off of one specific bench.
As with the other exercises, none of this would be an issue if people kept their sets to just under infinity.
As the guy with the giant bench press adjusts his wrist wraps for his 30th set, all you can wonder is "How Many Sets Ya Got Left?"
A Humbling Disclaimer
While we poke fun at these people, we do so humbly because the cable cross-over guy is probably more shredded than us and the bench, squat, and deadlift guys probably lift more than we do on those specific lifts.
If you are reading this blog, you most likely either were, are or want to be a skilled athlete.
For skilled athletes, almost everything we do in the gym is part of General Physical Preparedness (GPP). To keep it simple, it means we do a variety of movements to potentially make us better at our sport.
For professional powerlifters, bench, squat and deadlift are their sport.
Because of that, they can afford to have a much narrower exercise selection, and as a result, become much more proficient at them.
While we leverage this principle in the Holy Grail of Strength by benching and deadlifting every day, we minimize our volume to 2 sets of 5. We do this because strength in those movements is only part of our GPP.
To be a great athlete, you also need to work on things that will allow you to explode, stabilize, and change directions in many different ranges of motion. For that reason, we cannot afford to solely focus on being experts in a few ranges of motion and must expand our exercise selection.
This takes us back to exactly where we started with the quote at the beginning of this article.
"We are not selling jeans here"
- Billy Beane, Moneyball
In the movie Moneyball, Billy Beane said this quote to rationalize why he wasn't selecting players based on their physical appearance. He was looking for athletes that could get on base or throw strikes.
In our world, I am looking to develop better athletes. I am not looking to develop professional powerlifters or body builders.
If you want to be either of those things, you need to train somewhere else.
It's not for everybody ....