Home Blog What Stupid Stuff Have You Seen in the Gym?

What Stupid Stuff Have You Seen in the Gym?

Written on March 1, 2010 at 5:28 am, by Eric Cressey

I recently came across a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that showed that over an 18-year period, an estimated 970,801 weight-training-related injuries presented in emergency rooms around the country.  That’s an average of 53,934 injuries per year…nationwide.

Based on the market research from back when we wrote Maximum Strength, about 23 million Americans lift weights for exercise – meaning that one out of every 426 people who lifts weights actually gets jacked up enough during a training session that he/she has to to go the hospital.

Now, I’ll be honest: while I have seen people do some INSANELY STUPID stuff in commercial gyms, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anything that warranted a trip to the hospital.  Obviously, I’ve lived a bit of a sheltered life in owning Cressey Performance for the past three years and working in either private training facilities or college weight rooms since 2003, but one would think that I could have come up with at least ONE gruesome story.  Alas, nothing comes to mind…not even a goofy laugh while benching.

So, I’m counting on you, my loyal and entertaining readers, to provide me with some good stories in the comment section below.  What outlandish stuff have you seen in gyms that has landed some schmuck in the emergency room?

25 Responses to “What Stupid Stuff Have You Seen in the Gym?”

  1. Neal Says:

    Hey Eric,

    I run an entire site dedicated to people posting about gym stories… http://www.talesfromthegym.com

    Heres one that hospital bound video that came in (with EMS!):

    I should send you a facebook page request for the site.

  2. Chris Says:

    At a gym I used to work at the pec fly machine broke and the big heavy ass mount for one of the handles fell on a guys head. It split him open pretty good.

    Another was when a guy dislocated his shoulder doing pullups.

  3. Warren Says:

    This from my original post at IronOnline:

    Oh the badness, I wish I could un-see.

    Training a friend of mine at his university gym, I witnessed the following in the space of an hour:

    Every cardio machine packed out
    Tall youth “back squatting” 40 kg on his toes in squashy-soled running shoes. The guy nearly faceplanted the rack
    Small kid doing lateral raises with 2kg dumbbells
    Superstar from the waist up and legs like twiglets – benching of course
    A lovely girl on the leg inny-outty thigh machine for about 5 minutes, set to 10kg resistance – admittedly not the worst thing I’d seen all day
    Front raises with heavy dumbbells, nothing for the rear delts (why bother when you can’t see them in the mirror)
    A man bend over doing a ballistic toe touch stretch for over 5 minutes with his legs crossed
    Endless crunches
    A girl doing side bends with 1kg in each hand

    Meanwhile, onlookers gasped at our bizarre training methods, including shockers such as

    Foam rolling
    Hip flexor stretching
    Goblet squats
    Inverted rows
    Farmers walks (two girls pointed and giggled at these)

  4. Warren Says:

    Disregard that last comment, Eric. I should’ve read properly before commenting – none of it hospitalised anyone.

    It was pretty painful to watch though.

  5. Todd Says:

    A guy dropped his I Pod jogging on the treadmill (strike 1) turned his head to look back where the I Pod had landed (strike 2) and then he’s back laying on the top of the I Pod from getting shot off it. Not really a hospital moment, but some decent skin abrasions.

    A guy forgot there was a 10 lb plate before the 45lb plate on the bar. He went right away to pull off the 45 lb plate and of course the 10 lb plate lands directly on his foot, smashing up his big toe and causing some decent bleeding. What makes this story even crazier is that this gentlemen was “that dude” in the gym who lacked social skills and bothered everyone. When this happened he sat down on the ground while bleeding all over the carpet, yelled and cursed at some people when they asked if he was okay, and refused to clean up his blood until the owner, former professional wrestler – The Cheetah Master (ECWA) – came to him and probably offered him some unpleasant options.

  6. Niel Says:

    I wasn’t in the gym for this, but my friend works in one of the university gyms here and she said a kid broke his nose benching.

    Apparently he was maxing out and had a “spotter” as well. Bummer.

  7. Andrew Says:

    is getting mangled worse than a girl texting while doing a side bridge on a bosu ball?

  8. Ken Andrews Says:

    This isnt related, but you may find this link interesting: http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2010/03/01/northeasterns_smart_shirt_aims_to_prevent_pitchers_elbow/

  9. Allen Says:

    Not particularly exciting, but shows how easy it is. In high school I lot my grip on a lowly 25# plate and it landed on my toe. It only takes a couple feet of drop to break a toe. Never went to the doctor, just dealt with it.

  10. Howard Gray Says:

    I haven’t seen anything major, but will leave a quote from Stone & O’Bryant’s old book on weight training:

    “The scene: A typical college weight room.
    The victim: A male college student intent on finding ways to lift more than he should be lifting.
    The accident: The victim was performing bench presses to exhaustion. His technique was to drop the bar of his chest and throw it overhead by violently bridging. About the third repetition with about 300 pounds, both feet slipped. Before his spotters could catch the weight, he managed to stop the bar from hitting the floor by catching it with his mouth.
    The moral: There are easier ways to develop a nice wide smile.”

    He has a whole page of others in there – very funny!

  11. Dan Goldberg Says:

    “Florida Marlins strength and conditioning coach Paul Fournier brings CrossFit to Major League Baseball players.”

    “CrossFit’s three fitness standards provide general physical preparedness for everyday athletes, but they also prepare professional baseball players for the demands of their sport.”

    Got that from the crossfit journal and I knew you would have a field day with this. I am a strength and conditioning coach who loves crossfit for myself but I understand it is not a catchall system for athletics or even GPP.

    Can you give me a quick synopsis or link to an article you wrote that explains why overhead press is not great for baseball players so I can turn up the heat on this crossfit message board.
    Thanks for your time

  12. Colin Says:

    I have a friend who was re-racking 70 lb dumbbells and didn’t quite secure one. His shin partially broke the fall but it landed right on his big toe. I saw it about 2 days later and it was swollen to about double size. I’ve been reeeeally careful with dumbbells ever since.

  13. Jeremy Says:

    I was training one day and heard a guy over the way gasping and spitting, he was trying to bench 220lbs and couldn’t lift it – so the bar ended up on the guys neck. Someone else and myself rushed over to lift it off. He was very lucky not to have crushed his trachea.

  14. Ceaze Says:

    The trainers at my gym, all of whom have masters degrees, are obsessed with adding instability to every exercise known to man. I think the one that takes the cake is when I witnessed one of them trying to jump rope while standing ON TOP of a medicine ball.

  15. chris Says:

    Saw a guy running on a treadmill, who decided to take off his sweatshirt, (WHILE RUNNING). Lost it!

  16. Ben Says:

    my stupidest moment came junior year when, after destroying my legs in a squat workout decided to mess around with my friend who was doing Smith Machine calf raises standing on the back edge of a bench with 300lbs on the bar. Obviously, we had forgotten to put the safeties up. I never used the smith machine so I didn’t even know where the safeties were. My legs already felt like jello but for some reason I got under the bar anyway. Legs shaking so hard and I try to step up onto the edge of the foot of the bench and my knees just buckle. The 300lbs bar just drives me downward – I’m thinking at this point, oh S**T, I’m dead. My chin catches on the top edge of the bench (the part you actually rest your head on in a bench press)and the bar sandwiches me in this position with the weight on the back of my neck. My body is crumpled over in this crazy position, until a friend rushed over to deadlift the weight off of me. I just rolled onto my back holding my neck steady until the ambulance arrived. I actually thought I had a broken neck at that point. They get me to the hospital, take X-rays, tell me I’m all right and give me pain medication and a week later I was back to lifting weights.

    stupidity level: 10/10

  17. Jamie Says:

    Didn’t see it happen, but was there to hear and see the aftermath. Some young man was training for football (I believe), and I had seen him doing things like cleans, snatches, etc.

    I guess he was doing clean and presses, and apparently he slipped as he was pressing overhead. Well, his body went forward, and the barbell (and his arms) went back. I guess he didn’t let go.

    Double shoulder dislocations. I can still see him running towards the trainer’s desk, his arms kinda flopping around like doll’s arms.

    The paramedics had to give him morphine before they got him out of the facility.

  18. Matt Says:

    Saw this last week. Guy walks up to 10Kg set of DB’s and asks a guy in the vicinity if he’s using them, he gets no response. He begins to do curls.

    The guy he asks goes to get water from the fountain, wanders back over to bicept boy and punches him in the face. Guess he was using the 10s.

    No hospital required this time but was a little annoyed that they didn’t put the weights back afterward.

  19. Anthony Says:

    Actually a friend of mine was doing heavy squats (most likely incorrectly) a few years ago and stuffed up his shoulder so bad that he had to go to hospital. They put him on morphine because he was in a lot of pain. Now his shoulder i believe is dislocated or something. He has been told by doctors that he needs a steroid shot in order to fix it. Cant remember any other details on this though as it was in 2006

  20. Carson Boddicker Says:

    Deck O’ Death.

  21. Mike Says:

    I saw a guy doing tricep machine pushdowns with added weight in flip-flops.

    2nd set comes along and the added plate drops on his toe and session over. Thankfully, he was wearing socks or else it might have been even messier.

    I wish I was kidding about this, but it’s true. What a bafoon:)


  22. Dan Says:

    In high school, they would make us “max out” in squats for football, having never taught us how to squat or forced us to train the movement. They also made people squat only a quarter of the way down, so the result was that kids who had never squatted (and in fact did not have the ROM to do a bodyweight squat to proper depth) were putting over 400 lbs. on their backs. One of my friends attempted this, fell backwards and stuck his hand out to have 4 plates crush it.

    In college, our head strength coach took a new job and an incompetent assistant was promoted until the replacement was hired. His first order of business was 100+ pullups, every day of his first week. A couple of guys got rhabdomyolysis and had to be hospitalized.

  23. Joe Says:

    It didn’t result in injury thank god…but it’s worth mentioning anyway.

    One of my first days as a gym employee I had the pleasure of asking a member to please not hold his baby against the treadmill console while running at 7 mph for 30 minutes.

    Since he refused to get off and I was not about to hit the stop button and watch him and the baby fly off I stood there for the remainder of his run in case something happened.

    The sherrif (it was a small town) was on the bike in front of him and did nothing other than call the guy an idiot. Apparently the baby did not like the playroom.

  24. Colin Bell Says:

    Im afraid i have to own up to my own classic as seen in my you tube page!

  25. Julian Says:

    Ok, here’s a nice one from Toronto, Canada:

    Working a typical Sunday morning in the gym at my college. Everything seems as usual until BOOOOM %#$@%@@$%@^#

    A girl comes running over to my comfortable command post with the “you-might-want-to-take-a-look-at-this” look, and then verbalizes said look.

    A young, wiry-looking indian guy, attempting to squat about 3 plates on the Smith Machine, absolutely DESTROYED his ankle.

    Fully everted his ankle, to the point where his tibia drove PAST his entire foot *AWESOME* His lower-leg looked like a pole with a meat flag, (his foot), hanging off the side. The tibia didn’t puncture the skin, but his lower leg was numb (probably for the best, we had to wait almost an hour for the ambulance).

    In case you’re wondering, he was lifting in LOOSE skateboard shoes. Might as well of been lifting in clogs.


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