What All That Stuff at the Gym Does by @pjtlynch

While most people agree that they should spend more time at the gym, few do. The problem is simple: gyms are intimidating. You walk in, verify your right to enter, and then look around and think “What is all this crazy stuff? And how do you use it?

Well wonder no more, as we take a crash course on the most useful, but confusing, things you will encounter at “the gym”. (Forgive my use of “gym” instead of the proper “gymnasium”, but I’m trying to make this article accessible for new gymnasium users.)


While these items are more commonly called “dumbbells”, I call them smart-bells because you have to be pretty smart to use them! Smart-bells are usually arranged on a long horizontal rack or tall vertical tower, and they each have a number painted on them. The exercise involves trying to find two matching smart-bells with the same number. Now this is not as easy as it may seem! That second 15 might be all the way on the other end of the rack, and that other 25 might be in the locker room, or leaning against the juice machine. This is a great workout for the brain!

Bench Press

The bench press got its name because, much like the bench in a courtroom, this is where one goes to stand and discuss important matters. This is a good place to catch up with others exercisers about how much exercise you’ve done that week, or how wasted Jimmy was at the club on Saturday before he went home with that crazy girl. And if all that talking tires you out, they have an actual bench you can lie down for a bit while a guy stands with his crotch over your face. Relaxing!

Cardio Machines

Some common cardio machines include the treadmill, elliptical, and exercise bicycle. The main difference between these devices is what factors you trade off in your workout experience. The elliptical is less stressful on your knees, but bops your head around a lot, making it very hard to read the captions on Judge Judy. A treadmill is a hard workout, but head bopping is brought to a mostly manageable level. The exercise bike is low impact and has no impact on caption-reading the Judge, and thus is recommended by experts.

VIP Rooms

One of the most demoralizing parts of going to the gym is not being able to enter the VIP rooms. These rooms look so inviting, with the extra equipment, pool, and benches right there to use, but when you try to enter you find yourself blocked.

In most cases when this happens, I recommend looking for yourself in that room. If you see yourself, you are most likely looking not into a private room, but a mirror. Gyms have many of these.

Ab Machines

Abdominal, or “ab”, machines are important exercise tools for actors. Actors often find themselves in scenes where they have to bolt upright from a sleeping position after being scared by a ghost. Thus, they need ab machines to practice and prepare for this move. This is why so many actors have well-defined ab muscles.

No other person has any need to exercise their abdominals.

Hopefully this should help you feel more comfortable at the gym. And if you find yourself with more questions, remember that most gyms have staff members at the ready who you can pay to tell you what their stuff does, and then stare at you while you use it.

Happy gymming!

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