If you are a gym member, there is a chance that you will run into a powerlifter. While it is true that he or she has the same rights over equipment and gym space as you do, if you want to avoid a hostile interaction and even improve your chances of learning something interesting from this athlete, here are some things you shouldn’t do:

  1. Ask him if he will be much longer using the power cage: chances are that he will. Powerlifting just resembles the regular gym exercise routine, but the training session is completely different. While you are probably familiar with five or more different exercises, executed in three to four sets of 5 to 15 reps and short intervals, powerlifters do over ten sets of few reps, with long resting periods between them. At each set, the intensity increases and so does the focus. Putting pressure over the athlete by asking how long he will be there will annoy him. The power cage is the safest place a powerlifter can be. While regular gym goers may use all gym equipment, powerlifters will tend to remain inside the power cage. Yes, it is true that you have the same right as he does to use it. It is up to you to try to exert this right while the athlete is training.
  2. Move or stand very close to the bar in any lift. While you shouldn’t do it under any circumstance because this is a basic safety issue, you will certainly make the powerlifter very nervous if you get too close to the bar. Powerlifters handle much heavier weights than any usual gym goer. The consequences of any stability loss can be catastrophic. By all means, avoid it and let the athlete know you are aware of that.
  3. Touch his equipment, such as wraps or belt. You should never touch a fencer’s weapon, mask or glove; a boxer’s gloves; a golfer’s clubs. These are personal equipment items. While you will rarely meet a fencer at his training environment, you may be next to a powerlifter using his wraps and belt at your gym. The relationship between the athlete and his gear has great symbolic meaning. Never underestimate that, even though it varies a great deal from athlete to athlete – some are easy going, others are freakishly anal about it.
  4. Step over his loaded bar. This is akin to murdering his mother. Never – ever, ever – do that. If it is on the floor, then he is probably deadlifting. This is usually the lift that requires the most psyching up of all. Big chances the bar owner (yes! The athlete owns the bar while he is loading and lifting it!) is close and acutely aware of what’s going on with it. Also, if the bar is heavily loaded, he is past warm-up and his aggressiveness is also much increased. This is a necessary state of mind to handle the challenge of doing a deadlift (or any lift). You don’t want it turned to you.
  5. Ask him if the exercise is good for the pecs (or legs, or back). While most powerlifting athletes are not strength and conditioning specialists, they do know that each lift requires much more than the primary muscles. More important than that is that you know he is not performing that lift to improve any body part, but to improve the lift itself. This is what you really need to understand if you want to get along with a powerlifter: the lift is performed to improve the lift. That’s all.
  6. Talk about performance enhancing drugs. Don’t be stupid: of course he knows about them. But you don’t belong to his tribe: this is a tabu subject and you have no right to approach it.
  7. Talk about bulking and cutting. Just don’t.