Ask the FBGs: Should I Correct People’s Form at the Gym?

Today we’re featuring an Ask the FBGs post, where readers like you ask the FBGs for advice. Nothing is off limits, although we do prefer that it’s fitness or nutrition related, so send your undying health questions to AsktheFBGs@fitbottomedgirls.com. You just might see them posted here in the future!


Question From Sandra: Should I Correct People’s Form at the Gym?

Hi inspiring FBGs!

After reading the article on gym etiquette a while back there’s something bugging me, and it would be really helpful if you had some advice.

I’m not a certified trainer at all, but I went to gyms on and off during the past 19-something years mainly using the machines for moderate weight training. Recently I signed up at a newly opened gym and it’s a weird zig-zag shaped location, so the trainers simply can’t see the mistakes the people are making all the time and there are many who’ve never been gym members before.

Feeling awkward to tell others what to do — or more precisely don’t do — I still feel somehow responsible if I see someone who’s ruining their back or something like that. What do you suggest here? Take a break in my workout routine and walk to the front desk every time to get them a trainer to explain once again? Just ignore it? I know the staff is highly trained and they guide everyone very well through their first workouts, but not every warning or instruction will be kept in mind for the future — especially by the younger beginners who are in it for the quick results (which they’ll probably never get the way they are doing their exercises).


Answer From the FBGs

Hi Sandra!

This is a tough one — and a really good question. It’s hard because you want to help, but you also don’t want to be the gym police! After much discussion among us FBGs and looking at all of the different angles and perspectives — your point of view, the person being corrected’s point of view and the gym’s point of view — we recommend that, on the whole, you focus on yourself and your own workout.

We know, we know. But it’s so hard to see people doing things wrong and not correct them or help them get better results!

But, honestly, unless you’re a certified fitness professional, you shouldn’t be giving out fitness advice to people (liability for them and you!). Plus, you don’t want to get in trouble with the gym itself for giving unsolicited advice if someone complains. Now, if someone is chatty and strikes up a conversation and you kind of know them, then sure, maybe you could mention it and send them an article or video that shows proper form. Or, if you see someone doing something really dangerous (to themselves or someone near them), then you should definitely grab a gym staff member and point it out. But on the whole, it’s probably best to just keep it to yourself.

It’s a fine line, but one we think really, really, really depends on the situation! Hope that helps …

—The FBGs

Have you had a personal experience with this? Have an opinion? Weigh in! —Jenn

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  1. Jenn says:

    I definitely agree with the FBG advice. Perhaps gyms should have policies in place for how their staff handle such situations, but I would consider it to be entirely inappropriate to have a stranger approach me and attempt to correct my form. Many folks are already insecure or have gym related anxiety. If I were really that concerned, I might ask if I could rotate a set in and try to model correct form, but most likely, I would focus on my own workout!!

  2. DCush says:

    Why not suggest to a trainer that someone might need coaching so as not to injure themselves?

  3. monnibo says:

    Not a gym situation, but the archery range… I’ve generally prefaced my comments with “I’m not sure what you’re focusing on at the moment…” Because if they’re focusing particularly on something, like form or a certain exercise, etc., they may be allowing themselves concessions on other parts of their practice. And then I say something like “I noticed ___” or “when you ____, it looks like ___”. Sometimes having others point out our form—as opposed to critique it—is helpful. We also do this in the riding ring at my barn, because there are no big mirrors to help us see ourselves.

  4. Kiales says:

    As someone who works at a gym, I agree with this advice. I know it may be frustrating, but it’s better for both them and you if you don’t try to “train” them in any way. Like this article said, if you see something especially sketch going on, let an employee know, but otherwise, it’s best to let people do things their own way. Lame, I know, but this world we live in…. you gotta protect yourself.

  5. Sandra says:

    Thanks again for clearing that up. I still clench my teeth a bit but it’s much better now.

  6. Tina says:

    I agree too! Many of us feel a little awkward or self conscious when working out already. The person might feel a little defensive. It could actually discourage someone a little to be corrected. They’ll get it eventually!