Gym Cretins – A Field Guide

Until my late 20’s I rarely would go to a gym and workout.  I always found ways to be active by playing sports regularly.  But by the time I started to hit my late 20s, I began to develop the build that no man wants – Fat and Skinny. 

Fat and Skinny is a look where all your muscle mass (in your chest, arms, legs) atrophies but you simultaneously begin to develop a bag of flab just above the belt line.  Fat and Skinny is hideous.  And so in the mid 90’s as I sensed a looming Fat and Skinny look in my mirror I started hitting the gym regularly.  I pretty much have gone to the gym every weekday for the last 18 or 19 years.  I like lifting weights – I like working out; but the gym?  I don’t really like the gym.  I have a good reason.

All gyms are full of The Gym Cretins.

A Gym Cretin is a person who will simply annoy you to no end.  They are oblivious to their cretinism.  They roam the gyms of America taking every opportunity to ruin your day.  For almost two decades, I’ve been tracking the Gym Cretins like Von Helsing tracking vampires.  I have kept copious notes and sketches in notebooks.  If I can only understand the Gym Cretins, perhaps I can find a way to stop them; perhaps there is still time to save mankind.

I offer this guide in the hope that we are not too late.

The Gym Cretins – A Field Guide

The Cable Guy:  The Cable Guy is not a funny southern comedian nor is he an overlooked character from a Jim Carey film.  The Cable guy is the cretin in the gym who sets up shop at the cable machine and will not leave.  He does 90 minutes of cable flys, cable curls, cable press downs , lat pull downs, reverse pivot cable extensions.  You name it; if it can be done with a cable, the Cable Guy will do it and he doesn’t really care that there are about 73 other people in the gym who just want to do THREE stinking sets of triceps push-downs. 

The Elaborate Move Guy:   Look for this cretin near the dumbbells.  The Elaborate move guy is the guy who will be wildly swinging dumbbells in a 360 degree motion while doing reverse leg-lunges; then he will immediately knock out high knee sprints and drop for 20 wide-leg push-ups.  During all this frenetic activity other gym patrons are left ducking, leaning, and wincing – in hopes of avoiding a dumbbell off the head.  When you ask the Elaborate Move Guy what the heck he is doing – he usually says something about muscle confusion before knocking out 50 jumping jacks (the cretins call them “Jacks”) while bouncing a medicine ball off the back of the nearest person’s head.

Spandex Shorts Guy:  I first encountered this cretin in 1996 while stationed in Germany.  It was an encounter so frightening that nightmares of it plague me to this day.   I was in the gym and in walked a Lt Colonel who I knew (I was a 1st Lt. at the time).  He didn’t see me.  This Lt Colonel was not in great shape.  He was a bit pudgy actually – but he still thought it was smart to wear a pair of electric blue spandex shorts.  To top off the look, he was wearing a white tank-top, the string kind with the extra thin straps; the tank top was tucked into the blue spandex shorts.  I was almost catatonic as I stared at this spectacle of cretinism. 

Then he started to move.

He started doing some kind of side lateral movements while looking at himself in the mirror.  He wasn’t wearing headphones – but it was obvious that in his mind the song “Maniac” by Michael Sembello (from the atrocious movie Flashdance) was filling his mind.

I turned away; but my mind has never purged that image from my memory.  I fear that my last moments on earth I will think of that cretin – “Maniac, Maniac on the floor…” and then I will die.

Grossly Inaccurate T-Shirt Guy:

The Grossly inaccurate T-Shirt guy is the cretin with a Fat and Skinny body type who is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt that says things like:

I may be stupid; but I can lift heavy things

Life is Short; work hard

No Pain – No Gain 

A living oxymoron.

Multiple Injury Guy:

This Cretin will hobble around the gym wearing a knee brace, elbow brace, ankle supports, taped wrists , ace bandage wrap on the thigh and of course one of those magnetic wrist thingies that are supposed to give you energy and help you avoid injury (working great!)

To make matters worse if you are trapped within ear shot of this cretin you will hear his call:  “I used to be able to lift this much; I used to squat:  I used to be able to bend at the waist…” etc. 

The Screaming Guy:

Making a little noise during physical exertion helps – We all get it.  Even Steven Segal, master of Aikido, has been known to let out a grunt or two when destroying a group of bad guys with rapid blows to the face, neck, and chest.

But the screaming Cretin wants everyone in the same zip code to know – he just did a really heavy rep on the squat rack.   If you see this cretin in the Fat and Skinny version – just leave the gym and go for a run or something.  Do not approach the Fat and Skinny Screamer.

The I Only Do One Exercise Guy:

From the same phylum as the Cable Guy, this cretin takes up residence on a piece of equipment and does one exercise for 60 minutes.  I first encountered this particular Cretin on a Pec-Deck.  The cretin was doing pec contractions on a Nautilus machine.  I wanted to use that machine but I went about my workout and checked back every 10 minutes of so.  This Cretin sat happily doing pec contractions for more than an hour.  You will also find this cretin on the leg extension machine for up to 90 minutes at a time. 

The Horrible Form Guy (aka the Weight-Psych Guy)

These male cretins are usually accompanied by a female cretin they are trying to impress.  I recently saw one of these cretins in my gym I go to now.  He approached the cable-cross over machine and put the pin in the highest weight setting.  He was planning on doing pec cross overs with an incredible amount of weight.  He was wearing an Inappropriate T-Shirt. 

Now as an aside, the proper form for a cable cross over is to grab the two handles attached to the cables and then bring the knuckles of your two hands together like you are hugging a rain barrel that is right in front of your chest.  You don’t need a lot of weight.

But Horrible Form Guy is trying to impress his girl.  So he has a colossal amount of weight on each side.  In order to move the stack of weight, he literally has to jump in the air while grabbing the handles in order to generate enough momentum to get the weights off the ground.  Once he has done that – this particular Cretin ends up flexing his wrists repeatedly because any real movement of his arms will result in shoulder dislocation.  The wrist movement is bizarre, and not really an exercise – so he will typically start screaming with each wrist flexion repetition.

Innovator Guy:

Innovator Guy is a cretin who will take a piece of equipment and use it for something it was never designed for.  For example, you might see innovator guy balancing on a medicine ball while juggling 5lb plates; or doing handstands with two kettle-bells tied to the laces of his sneakers.

Naked Locker Room Guy:

Look – people change in locker rooms – so there will be nudity.  But Naked Locker Room Guy covers a lot of ground and has no idea where he left his towel.   So you might be brushing your teeth and Naked Locker Room guy is standing next to you, flossing.  Or you are tying your shoes and naked Locker Room Guys is checking his e-mail on his cell phone – standing.  I ran across a particularly nasty version of this cretin about 7 years ago.  He liked to walk around the locker room engaging strangers in conversations about the Tour De France.  I finally said “How about the Tour de Pants, jackass?   Put some clothes on!”


I realize I am only scratching the surface; there are so many more forms the Gym Cretins can take – and yes I am also troubled by that.

-cj cheetham

4 thoughts on “Gym Cretins – A Field Guide”

  1. The Radical Leftist Cretin: The guy who espouses all the proper ways in which you are supposed to do an exercise. You have no idea who this person is, but he will instruct you nonetheless. His advice sounds good in theory but is terrible in practice. People will try it only to realize it doesn’t work and yet he continues to champion his effort even though he hasn’t made any advances in the weight room since the 1980s. I have now memorized peer reviewed scientific journals to combat him. Even so, he still doesn’t listen because he is The Radical Leftist Cretin.


  2. Just last night, Chris, I was very, very annoyed by heavy breathing guy. This is the guy who is lifting weights and thinks it make him appear macho to exhale with so much force that he could blow out 400 birthday candles. Because of him, I have to wear headphones and turn the volume all the way up so I can block out his ridiculous huffing and puffing. I really want him to know that I am not impressed. He sounds exactly like a woman in labor. Lamaze breathing – he’s nailing it.


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