The Most Dangerous Things That Can Happen at the Gym—According to the Guys That Have Lived Through Them 


As awesome as the gym can be for your health and fitness, it does come with some inherent risk. Gym mishaps—from crashing barbells to treadmill falls—can lead to serious injuries and, in several instances, have even proven fatal. (Check out our list of the most dangerous pieces of gym equipment.) Luckily, all of the fitness experts and regular gym-going guys here made it through their worst gym disasters—albeit with sorely bruised manhood. (In some cases literally.) And now, they can regale us with their cringe-worthy, crazy, and, let’s face it, sometimes hilarious tales. Check out their stories of the most “dangerous” things—from escaped farts and broken iPods to more serious and actually dangerous things like pulled muscles and messed-up teeth—that can happen at the gym.

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1. Cracked Teeth

“One time I was putting away 45-pound plates, wasn’t paying attention, and I picked up the plate with both hands and slammed it into my face. Don’t ask me how. I’m still amazed to this day. But I cracked both of my front two teeth, and I slammed myself with such force that the iron from the plates became engrained in my teeth giving me that very popular ‘grillz’ look. But, unfortunately I’m not Paul Wall or Nelly, so it didn’t look so good. Truth be told: I finished my workout—true meathead—and then got dental work to fix it.” – Adam Bornstein, CEO of Born Fitness and Born Fitness Consulting

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2. Crashing Barbells

“I was training at a powerlifting gym a few years ago and I was doing chain suspended cambered bar good-mornings. Basically chains hang from the top of a power rack, and the bar lies in the chains, suspended in air. With chain suspended GMs, you start in the bent over position and straighten up. It’s a fantastic deadlift accessory movement. Anyways, on my last set—which was in the upper 400s—I bring the barbell back down to rest on the chains when the chain on the right side breaks and the whole thing comes collapsing down on me. To my own fault, I never checked to make sure the chains were secure. They weren’t! How they lasted a few sets before breaking is beyond me. Needless to say, I was lucky. The only thing that really happened was a big gash out of my right hand from it being impinged between the barbell and the chain. It could have been much, much worse.” – Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance

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3. A Pinched Penis

“Back when I was new to lifting and didn’t know any better, I was doing lateral dumbbell raises and letting them clank in front of my body rather than stopping them at my sides. One time, they clanked together and pinched the tip of my penis. To add insulting injury to egregious injury the pain caused me to immediately drop the dumbbells and one of them landed on my foot.” – Syndicated fitness columnist James Fell, C.S.C.S

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4. Treadmill Falls

“I was in college at the time and had decided to run a few miles on the campus gym’s treadmill. The gym was packed at the time. I hopped on the treadmill and began warming up, slowly increasing my speed to 7.5 miles per hour. I have short legs, so for me this was fast. I got into a good rhythm, but soon realized that I had a bad habit of moving from side to side on the treadmill instead of a straight line. I may as well have been running on a tight rope. I tracked a little too far to the right and the inside half of my right foot stayed on the treadmill belt, which was moving, while the outside half of my right foot landed on the treadmill’s stationary frame. This caused my right foot to wobble out from underneath me while my left foot laughed at my right foot and thought it would be a good idea to keep running. I thought I was going to bite it for sure. As I grabbed the handlebars for balance, both of my legs kicked out from beneath me. I stumbled, but was able to pull myself back up. I didn’t bother looking around to see who witnessed the mishap, and just kept on running. From that day forward, I will only run on treadmills with wide belts. I haven’t fallen off of a treadmill since.” – Amin Virani, a police officer and marathoner

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5. An MIA Spotter

“Back in graduate school, I was convinced that you had to go to failure on everything. So one day I opted to do some heavy dumbbell bench presses with my roommate. Toward the last few reps, the weight felt heavy, but I knew that my faithful roommate and lifting partner would help if needed. I lowered the weight and it almost got stuck to my chest, I pressed up as my arms were shaking like the limbs of a tiny tree in a violent windstorm. As the shaking got worse, I just hoped I wouldn’t drop them on my face in the process and get called ‘One Toothed Willy’ the rest of the year. After what seemed like several minutes, I finally got them up, and tossed them on the floor as I sat up. What the heck happened to my spotter? I stood up and soon spotted him, bent over in the fetal position, pointing and laughing his head off. What? All he could blurt out was, “Dog!” Five minutes later, after he caught his breath and uncoiled, I found out that the gym dog—because all of those gyms had dogs back then—had wandered over to the bench and stuck his nose right next to me as I was doing my set. I was concentrating so hard that I never saw the dog during the set. My spotter thought it was funny and fell over laughing while he forgot about me straining my spleen out under the weight.” – Exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S.

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6. Escaped Farts

“A few years ago I was in the gym doing a leg workout. My stomach hadn’t felt well, but figured I could push through my workout quickly and get out of there. In the middle of a squat I farted rather loudly. The people around me definitely heard or pretended like they heard nothing since they had headphones on. I finished my set and got out of there as quickly as I could.” – Marcus, a solutions architect, cyclist, and lifter

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7. Out-of-Commission Muscles

“I was doing a German volume training program and decided to up the weight on my deadlifts for my tenth and final working set. After nine working sets and a tough week of working in the gym, this should have been a no-brainer bad idea. Obviously, as soon as I tried to initiate my pull, something tweaked in my lower back and I was down for the count. After about 10 minutes of lying on the floor, not being able to move—I should mention that I was in the gym alone after hours—I was able to get up slowly. It took about a week for my back to feel normal again. Needless to say, the lesson here is to listen to your body, especially as your training progresses. Check the ego at the door and understand that lifting more weight with poor form will only lead to injury and pain.” – Gavin McHale, C.S.E.P., C.E.P., a kinesiologist and certified exercise physiologist

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8. Smashed Gadgets

“I usually drop my dumbbells when I’m done with them, but one day I decided to set them down more carefully. I was doing an incline bench press near some other people and didn’t want to risk dropping any weights on their toes. Well, I happened to be have one of the old iPod Shuffles clipped to my short pockets. And in the process of trying to set the dumbbells down, one caught my headphone cord, and sent my iPod flying, unknowingly, right where my dumbbell was about to land. The weight completely smashed my iPod. Rest in peace, iPod.” – Bryan V., an accountant and currently iPod-less gym-goer

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