The Question

What's the craziest thing you've ever seen in the gym?

Christian Thibaudeau – Strength Coach

This happened at one the best gyms I've ever trained in. And it was actually in the basement of a church!

The gym was a community project by the city to provide an inexpensive place for elderly people and troubled kids, but it quickly turned into the best hardcore gym in the region. But since it was in the basement of a church we weren't allowed to drop the bar on the platform on Sundays or when there was a wedding upstairs. When you'd drop the bar on the basement floor it was amplified about ten times in the actual church.

On a Wednesday morning I came in to train and was told that I couldn't drop the bar that day. There was no mass and no wedding, so I asked why I couldn't drop the bar.

"There's an exorcism going on."

Wait, what's that?

"There's an exorcism upstairs."

The guy had a grin when he said it so I thought he was messing with me, but then I went to go check it out. Sure enough there were two priests leaning over an old man convulsing on the floor.

I can imagine if I had dropped the bar after a snatch...

"Satan, get out of this man's body!"

"BOOOOOOOOOM" (amplified bar drop)

Hello heart attacks!

So needless to say, I didn't do any Olympic lifting that day! – Christian Thibaudeau

Chris Shugart – T Nation CCO

Boots

I was at the seated row station and a woman was using a machine across from me. In walks this guy dressed in street clothes carrying a paper sack. He goes up to the front desk and pays for a one-day membership, then walks up to the lady across from me and hands her the sack. They don't say a word.

She reaches into the sack and pulls out a pair of knee-high, black latex boots, puts them on, and stomps around. Then she pulls out a huge leather bullwhip. She proceeds to walk around the gym in her very-bad-girl boots, cracking the whip. She and Sack Guy still haven't said a word to one another.

After testing out the whip, she puts it back into the sack, takes off the boots, hands everything back to the guy and nods to him, as if to say, "These will do." He leaves the gym without working out and she finishes her set as if nothing had happened.

I just hate it when Mom embarrasses me like that in the gym. No, I'm kidding, but the story is true and I've wondered for 10 years what the heck their evening had in store. Probably not a romantic walk in the park and a cuddle. – Chris Shugart

Amit Sapir – IFBB Pro, World Record Holder Powerlifter

I can't choose one.

  1. Picture two big guys focused as hell. Full squat suits – check. Knee wraps – check. Yelling, sniffing ammonia, slapping each other – check. They load 4 plates on each side, then one does a quarter squat (if you could even call it that deep) and they scream in celebration like he'd broken the world record! Nice, brah!
  2. One guy came into the gym in full-on army gear, including backpack. He tied weights to his arms and legs, then ran around the gym frantically doing push-ups, dips, and all kinds of crazy things for 30 minutes yelling "Too easy!" at the top of his lungs the whole time.
  3. There was one lady on a bike decked out in expensive cycling gear, eating potato chips the whole workout. – Amit Sapir

TC Luoma – T Nation Editor

Okay, maybe it wasn't the craziest thing, but it was definitely the most colorful menagerie of characters I've ever seen in the gym at the same time.

There was me, Charles Poliquin, 6'7" motivational guru/life coach/gas bag Tony Robbins, and Mike Mentzer, who was by then a chain-smoking, donut eating, curmudgeonly trainer who'd no doubt lured Robbins in as a client through the rapidly dissipating whiff of his past bodybuilding achievements.

Poliquin had come to San Diego to visit me and we of course ended up at the gym. We figured it would be empty and it was, except for motivational boy, Mentzer, and the couple who owned the gym. The mixture of personalities was fairly poisonous. It was the workout equivalent of Roosevelt, Hitler, Stalin, and SpongeBob SquarePants (that's me) finding themselves in the same pottery class or something.

Poliquin had no regard for this current, dogmatic, mildly psychotic, pudgy version of Mentzer. Nor did he care much for the huckster Robbins. Mentzer, since losing the Olympia to Arnold a forever ago, pretty much had distain for everybody in the whole world, including me. He considered me an apostate. Yeah, that's the actual word he used. I'd had the gall to ask skeptical questions about his HIT training, which he apparently considered to be a religion.

Robbins, of course, was too filled with his own bullshit to pay attention to anyone besides Mentzer, who was instructing him on the intricacies of dumbbell biceps curls.

For the most part, we all trained in silence until Poliquin noticed the Brazilian co-owner of the gym doing a "third world squat," i.e., sitting on her haunches. Poliquin, who never could resist an opportunity to make a snarky comment, shouts across the gym, using his trademark deadpan delivery, "She comes from a country where there are no toilets."

Everybody broke up laughing. Well, except for Mentzer. He was an SOB.

Another thing I remember happened at a bodybuilding contest instead of at a gym. It was intermission and a screaming crowd in the lobby had formed a circle around something I couldn't see. I stood up on my toes and craned my neck and saw a female bodybuilder named Sally McNeil, tight, glittery dress pulled up over her hips, sitting astride another girl in a glittery dress. Sally had the girl's head in her hands and she was repeatedly slamming it into the floor tiles.

Sally McNeil

It seems that Sally had found out that the girl was having an affair with her husband, Ray McNeil, an up and coming pro bodybuilder/marine from Oceanside, California whom I'd gotten to know through a couple of interviews I did with him. Seconds later, the fight was broken up, and the victim of the beating walked away with everything but her dress, hair, and dignity intact.

A few months later, on Valentine's Day, Sally and Ray started to argue at their home. She went into the bedroom and emerged with a loaded 12-gauge shotgun.

She shot Ray in the gut, blowing out most of his liver. Then she reloaded and fired another shot into Ray's head, tearing away most of his lower jaw. She tested positive for nandrolone, so the media made a big deal about roid rage. Her defense was that Ray had physically abused her. She went to prison anyway.

So yeah, that was definitely crazy, but probably not in the sense you meant. – TC Luoma

Mark Dugdale – IFBB Pro Bodybuilder

Wednesday night workouts once required me to shower at the gym due to another commitment later in the evening. One night after a particularly sweaty leg workout I stripped out of my training clothes, stuffed them into a bag, and neatly placed my clean clothes on the locker room bench before heading into the shower.

I shower, towel off, get dressed, and begin checking to make sure I have everything before leaving the locker room. I keep rummaging through my bag and looking around on the floor with no luck. I'm missing my underwear. Not the clean pair I'm wearing now, but the nasty, post-leg workout pair. It's not like they're easily missed due to their bright turquoise color. (Don't ask. I liked the cut and it was the last of my size, okay!)

I thought I was losing my mind. Did someone seriously heist my undies? The pair drenched with sweat and stuffed into a bag while the perfectly clean pair was neatly laid on the bench with the rest of my clothes? Only one other person was in the locker room, although I never saw his face. I had someplace to be, so I headed out minus one pair of dirty underwear.

A week later I went to use the restroom before starting my workout. Walking out of the locker room I glanced between a couple rows of lockers and saw this younger dude changing. In that brief moment while he was pulling on a pair of shorts something caught my eye – my bright turquoise underwear. It happened so quickly that I just kept walking out into the gym to train, though seriously baffled.

As I began to warm-up it kept running through my head. I think that dude swiped, and is now wearing, my post-workout underwear! He was new to the gym. I only saw him a few times and he looked a little creepy to be honest. My mind raced through past events like Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery. Only one probable scenario existed. The longer I dwelled on it the more pissed I got.

They say communication is 70% non-verbal. I saw the dude from across the gym I started shooting devil eyes at him. I'm sure my body was saying, "Only weirdos or perverts steal sweaty underwear!" On my second exercise I couldn't handle it anymore and decided to confront the dude. Scanning the gym I didn't see him, so I marched off to check the lock room.

Alas, just like my missing undies, he was MIA and I've never seen him back at the gym again. – Mark Dugdale

Chris Colucci – T Nation Forum Director

The biggest facepalm I ever experienced was back in my days working as a trainer. On a quiet Saturday afternoon, I watched as another floor trainer, a guy who'd been working there just a month or two, felt it necessary to approach a young lady while she was stretching on the mats and tell her why her current routine wouldn't actually help her flexibility.

"The hamstrings are responsible for low back health, so they're best stretched this way instead of that thing you were doing with the strap. And the calves need to stay loose to help the ankles, so they should be stretched like this, not what you did before." He demonstrated a few super-basic, straight outta the textbook static stretches while she sat on the mats, eyes slowly glazing over while patiently listening and offering the occasional polite nod.

Then, of course, he hit her with, "Really think about changing your current program. We can book some training sessions and I'll give you a whole new plan."

I just stood back enjoying the show because the young lady he was speaking down to was Sarah Hughes, who was in the gym for one of her first workouts after winning a gold medal in figure skating at the 2002 Olympics.

Setting the scene even better, the stretching mats were right beneath a big banner the gym had put up to announce "Proud Home to Olympic Gold Medalist Sarah Hughes!" Fortunately, the banner didn't include a picture of her because that would've made the train wreck just too perfect. – Chris Colucci

Paul Carter – Strength and Bodybuilding Coach

Yoga

I used to be a member at a gym where one trainer was like a carbon copy of the yoga instructor out of the movie Couples Retreat. To give you a better picture, he was always training 2-3 women at a time, and would make them do "exercises" that looked more like positions out of the Kamasutra.

There was a LOT of hip abduction and hip extension going on in every workout he'd take them through. And he was always saying things like, "Ooooh yeah, that burns doesn't it? You like that don't you?"

Anytime I'd go in to train, if he was on the floor with his clients I'd just find another part of the gym and change my exercises. There was no way I could keep from watching this unfold without going into hysterics.

I almost felt as if he was trolling them or seeing what he could get away with. It was a spectacle, but those ladies showed back up every week to "train." So either they really enjoyed it or they just didn't know any better. They always looked happy, so I guess they got what they were paying for. – Paul Carter

Dani Shugart – T Nation Editor

There was a true exhibitionist at one of my former gyms. He was compelled to show his privates to strangers.

When rows upon rows of treadmills were empty, he would choose the one directly in front of me and then allow his short-shorts to "accidentally" work their way down, exposing a good three or four inches of middle-aged butt crack. Then he would LEAVE his shorts like this for the entire time.

This was not a trained buttocks, either. You wouldn't want your eyes landing there. Yet he didn't care! He managed to get his shorts pulled down in front of other women at the gym too. To my knowledge, none of us complained. Maybe we needed more proof that it wasn't legitimately accidental. Or maybe none of us wanted to have that conversation with gym staff. But he always seemed to wrap things up when trainers came around.

One morning he got on the treadmill right next to mine, and instead of walking or running, he did these stretches where he'd place one foot up on the front handrail so that his legs were spread open while he faced directly toward me. He held that inner-thigh spread-legged stretch for what seemed like an eternity... then got in some oops-my-shorts-fell-down positions that I tried to block out of my peripheral vision.

I remember running and trying not to inhale fully because I was afraid of sharing the same air that had been near his exposed crotch.

His behavior got even more intrusive when I'd go stretch on the other side of the gym and would discover him standing behind me. I didn't feel threatened enough to speak to the staff but I obviously should have. Or maybe I should have "accidentally" tripped and spilled ice water all over his exposed parts. – Dani Shugart

John Romano – Competition Coach, Former Muscle Mag Editor

If you know anything at all about our culture and our history, then you can only imagine the crazy shit I've seen training at Gold's gym in Venice throughout the boom of the modern muscle age.

Out of all the characters that passed through there – from the crazy bodybuilders, pro wrestlers, rock stars, and the bevy of scantily clad Hollywood hotties sporting acres of cleavage, shredded fishnets, and way too much makeup for the gym – the craziest thing I ever saw happened one morning when Jimmy "The Iron Bull" Pelechia attempted to bench 1,000 pounds.

Now, Gene Rychlak and Ryan Kennelly have been throwing up a thousand since 2004. But, almost two decades before anyone ever attempted such a feat, if you even dared dream of loading half a-ton on a bar you'd have to wake up and apologize. So out-of-the-realm was such a lift that all that weight didn't even fit on an Olympic bar with enough room left for the collars. They had to use duct tape!

The Bull worked up to 765 before he put on his single ply shirt. By then a crowd had gathered. A giant kid named Eric Mosley was spotting at the head of the bench and two tatted-up monster bikers manned each end of the bar.

Eight fifty-five went up easier than 765. Then they loaded up the bar with 1,000. It was actually 1,015 because of how they had to configure the plates. There was so much bend in the bar no one knew if it would snap, let alone if the bench would handle all that weight, plus Jimmy weighed just 235 pounds. (Keneely and Rychlak weighed over 275 when they benched 1,000.) The lift-off really just took the bend out of the bar and it grazed one of the uprights on the way down kind of fouling its limited decent. And of course he had a little help on the way up. But, he lived to tell about it.

Now, this was by no means a regulation lift and Jimmy has been criticized about his style for years. But no one can take away the fact that a 235 pound dude, wearing a single ply shirt, got under 1015 pounds loaded on a regular Olympic bar, and with a false grip, unlocked his elbows. Say what you will, it took 19 years for anyone to do it legit, and will forever be the craziest thing I ever saw in the gym. See for yourself: – John Romano

Charles Staley – Strength Coach

It was 1990 when I spent a week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Back then, there weren't a lot of gyms in town, but eventually I found what looked like a decent gym so that I could get some training in during my trip.

So one evening I went in for a workout and noticed an older gent on one of the Stairmasters. He had something in his mouth. And the reason I couldn't quite make it out wasn't because my vision was bad, it was because what I was looking at was so incongruous – the dude had a pipe in his mouth, and yes, that pipe was lit!

The guy was smoking a pipe while doing his cardio, and perhaps even more surprisingly, none of the other gym members (or the staff) had a second thought about it. Today, you can't smoke a pipe at a bar, but back then, YOLO right? – Charles Staley

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