Over the years, I have come to enjoy the phenomenon of “gym fraternity.”
When I first started working out again in my 30s, I wanted to find a gym that was real. Squat racks. Barbells. People doing olympic lifts. I didn’t want to a gym filled with gimmicks, cardio bunnies, and yoga.
So I found myself in a hardcore “cultural” environment with:
- dudes carrying jugs of water
- aggressive music
- yelling and screaming
- thug life nicknames
- dropping weights
- guys with blue collar jobs
- fighters and boxers
For those that don’t know me: I’m a white, PhD, executive, professor, provider, family man. I stuck out like sore thumb.
However, I came to enjoy the gym fraternity. I became familiar a different demographic of the population that had little to do with debating the Latin meaning a passage in Saint Thomas Aquinas and more to do with alimony, new tattoo ideas, and getting “swole.”
These guys would also coach me and give me tips on form for lifts. They would spot me. They would yell at me. Nothing helps you finish that last set more than someone yelling at you: “That’s right Tayluh! Lift that ****!”
One time I was benching and this Latino tattooed guy was spotting me. It was around 245lb. He said, “Let’s put 295 on there. You can do it. You’re stronger than this.” I argued with him that I couldn’t do it. He said, “Let’s try it. Get back on the bench.”
So I benched 295 pounds. Not just once but twice. I couldn’t believe it. I was pumped. It took someone else to see the potential that I doubted. That would have never happened without fraternity reenforcement.
I’ve since moved neighborhoods and I’m now at white-collar suburban gym with CEOs and housewives spinning cardio. So that fraternity is rare, but if you hang in the squat racks, you’ll meet some cool lifters. If you ask,”Hey man, nice lift. Would you mind watching my lift and tell me if I’m curling my back on my deadlift?” They are more than happy to help. Some of these guys have been studying the sport for decades and they are humble and nice about it.
Recently, I lifted with some friends in Exodus 90. It was great to have the fraternity again. They give tips on form. They challenge for another set. They show you a variation on the lift. They note if you’re cheating or using momentum. They tell stories.
Why Is Fitness Fraternity Important?
Before the Industrial Revolution, men spent days working together. Hitching plows. Chopping wood. Building homes and barns. Hunting. Butchering animals. Wrestling and fighting. We were not designed to click on a keyboard from within a cubicle. There is something dreadful about this, and every man senses it.
One solution is finding a form of fraternity in the context of fitness. If you jog, find a running group. If you cycle, cycle with a group of men. My 68 year old father, cycles with a racing time jokingly called “Team Geriatrics.” If you lift, find a group of guys to lift with after hours or on Saturday morning. They will push you harder and keep you consistent.
It’s not good for man to be (or lift) alone.