Gone are the days of gym etiquette. Like it or not, you are not the only one training in that commercial gym! Just as you pay a monthly membership for certain gym features, so does everyone else that works out there.
When you join a fitness center you also signed a contract stating that you would follow certain gym etiquette rules. Some are the obvious and are written in the contract and others are just plain good manners, a code of conduct. Some gyms even go as far as providing written notes on the walls to remind you of what you signed-up for and the respect you promised give the facility.
If everyone could follow the gym commandants at least 90% of the time, many of the members would be much happier.
Gym Etiquette is to Have Simple Respect for Your Gym and Other Members…
Re-Rack Your Weight
Typically, most women do this; it’s probably just a tidy ingrained thing. I can’t really explain it. Let’s say it just comes naturally for most women. BUT, I have seen some really rude women stack their two, ten-pound plates on the T-Bar Row, do two sets and leave. I’m like, really? Did you really just do that?
Of my top three pet peeves in the gym, failure to re-rack your weights, ranks right up there. I want to preserve my strength and energy for MY set, not your freakin’ last set. Who the hell wants to warm-up their biceps then turn around and have to unload two, 45-pound plates off a bar JUST to start their first set?
If you can stack ‘em, you can rack ‘em. If you forget to re-rack your weights, just look around. Most gyms have signs posted everywhere just to remind you.
Don’t Talk to Someone in The Middle of Their Set
This should be obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. It’s rude, annoying, and distracting. NO one should be talking to you in the middle of your set unless it’s your trainer barking at you.
I typically wear headphones to ward off distractions and to prevent being talked to while training. However, this is not a fool-proof method. Do you know I was in the middle of a set WITH my headphones off and a dude comes up talking to me? WTF?
Honor Buffer Zones
This gym etiquette rule doesn’t even EXIST anymore! Have you even been bowling? Were you instructed not to bowl while someone on the other lane or two was bowling? It’s distracting and it breaks concentration.
Don’t jump next to someone and start lifting while they are in the middle of a set. You can wait until they finish their set, AND THEN do your set. Okay, an example of this is you see someone curling dumbbells; you don’t stand a foot next to them, in the middle of their set, and start doing your dumbbell lifts. It’s rude and annoying.
This buffer zone code of conduct also goes for moving plates next to a lifer in the middle of his or her set. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING more freakin’ annoying than cranking out a set of heavy Hammer Strength presses only to have someone moving plates on and off the machine you are using it. Many iso-lateral machines also hold plates. Don’t be a moron. Wait until the person finishes their set before you start moving plates on and off of the piece of equipment they are using.
Curling in the Squat Rack
There are so many rants about this these days, but honestly, there is room for compromise. Here’s MY view on this. I think it’s perfectly fine to curl in the squat rack provided it’s not during peak hours. If there are only 2-5 members in the gym and no one is using the squat rack, then I say it’s perfectly fine to do curls in the squat rack.
How long can 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps take? Really? Here’s MY reason why. I have a lower back injury that I’m rehabbing it right now and it’s very hard for me to bend over and lift a loaded bar to curl. It’s MUCH better on my back if I can have that loaded bar at an easy reach.
Yelling and Screaming During Lifts
Yeah, that weight is heavy and you want everyone to see your massive plate-loaded leg press lift. Sure, anyone can leg press stacks of 45 plates packed on each end, but let me see you squat that same amount.
Look, natural moans, grunts and the occasional yell is normal and expected in a real lifting gym, but come on, there’s no need in yelling at the top of your lungs on every rep and every set when you are curling what my grandma curls.
Powerlifters, you get a free pass to yell. Those are true gut screams coming from deep within. Your yells are infrequent and it’s simply the body’s reaction from a true powerlift.
Grunts, moans, and the occasional yell should come from deep within and not from your throat simply to make it look as if you are training hard or heavy. Believe me, people know who the real lifters are in the gym and if you are screaming to get the attention, it’s not you.
Wipe-Up Your Sweat
There’s nothing more gross than going to use a bench and it has a disgusting puddle of sweat on it. Hold on while I puke… (BLAH!) I mean, who does that? You have to kind of wonder how these people live. I mean, what is it that makes you think other people want to lie down or sit in your smelly sweat?
As always, I have a simple solution for you… Bring a towel and USE it. Geez… Did I really have to list this one? Is it not the obvious? Moving on to more gym etiquette issues…
Don’t Steal Benches
Oh, this is another one that ranks in my top 3 of pet peeves in gym etiquette. If someone is around a bench, near it, sitting on it, ASK them if they are using it.
Not too long ago at Powerhouse Gym I pulled a bench over by the squat cage to wrap my knees. It was my bench, I moved it there, used it between each set, and had my training journal, water, and wraps all there. The bench was in use by me during that 15 minute time frame.
Get this, WHILE I was sitting on it wrapping my knees some girl comes and sits right on it and does a set of dumbbells shoulder presses. I was like, WTF!? Are you THAT stupid? She didn’t ask if she could use it (while I was on it), she didn’t ask if she could use it between my knee wrapping episodes, she didn’t ask when I would be finished… NOTHING! She just parked her fat ass right there and starting working out.
I was SO annoyed I packed my gym bag and left. I didn’t say anything to her because I was afraid I was going to hit her. THAT’S how ticked off I was. No, I’ve never hit anyone before…
Just a few weeks ago at The Gyn (Thank you from bringing REAL gym into town) I was doing skulls on a flat bench. I moved the weight so I could reload the bar (remember, lower back injury) and within the 20 seconds I turned around some hot-head dude just took the bench as if he owned it and the whole gym.
ASK before you ASSume or take.
Share the Dumbbell Rack
Gym etiquette basics, share the dumbbell rack. It’s a natural tendency to grab dumbbells off the rack and start lifting right there in front of the mirror. I don’t have a huge problem with that, but if the gym is packed, move away from the rack and allow others to use the dumbbells too. It doesn’t take much to step back a foot or two and leave some room for others.
Put the Dumbbells Back in Order
PLEASE put the dumbbells back in order. I mean, some gyms even make it so simple and put the numbers of what dumbbell goes where. It’s an amazing number system, and it really works when it’s followed. I mean, this is gym etiquette 101.
Use Training Principles Wisely Based on Gym Environment
I think training principles are great and I use them a lot for my clients prepping for competitions. However, you do need to take into consideration using training principles such as giant sets, tri-sets and others that may take up use of various equipment pieces at one time. It’s just simple gym etiquette.
It’s best to use these training methods during non-peak hours. As we expect respect from others, we must also give it.
I’m not going to go off TOO much on the cell phones, as many people use them for work and need to check for calls, meetings, appointments, etc.
Sure, check your phone as needed, but don’t sit on the equipment or be in the way while you check on business. Move to the side or just get out of the way of the members that are training.
Many people use their cell phones to workout. They use the weight training apps and journal on the cell phone, but just make sure your phone tinkering is not invasive to others.
Bad Advice Giver
These days newer equipment pieces are adjustable in many ways. A good example of this is the Pec Deck. The newer models have adjustments so you can control the range from a full range of motion to almost nothing at all.
Personally, I like the full range of motion to get a full stretch since part of muscle growth is in the stretch. Therefore, I put the setting on what’s going to give me the most stretch that I can control. So here’s the situation… I do my 12 reps on the Pec Deck, enjoying my full stretch and peak contraction; I release each side and rest for my next set. Skinny dude sees woman in gym (me) and decides I need advice. He shows me there are settings on the Pec Deck so I don’t have to get that chest stretch. Ok, thanks dude. Now I can really build muscle and win some comps now that you have shown me the light.
It’s fine to make suggestions if you outright see someone doing an exercise wrong, but be respectful about it. Perhaps strike up a short intro such as, “how long have you been working out?” SOMETHING! If the person is doing dumbbell kickbacks improperly you might show them how you do them and how you find the most effective. If they are open to listen to you then you can go on and personally instruct them on proper form.
I’ve been training since 1988 and since then I have ALWAYS used a gym bag and carried it around with me during my training. I am not going to follow the new generation of bench stealing, non-re-racking, dumbbell rack hog, gym-goers and continually walk back and forth to a locker when I want to use my towel, journal my set, use a wrap or hook, etc.
I gym bag is packed with items I use in my training and it’s not in the way. If you want to rant about my gym bag I carry, please check yourself and make sure you are not violating proper gym etiquette and not violating your signed contract.
Stay Home Sicko
You don’t feel good? You have a sinus infection or you feel a cold may be coming on? STAY THE F HOME! I mean REALLY! If you are sick don’t go to the gym and get everyone else sick. If no one wants to lie in your sweat, pick weights up after you, they certainly don’t want your cold or virus.
This is on my top 3 pet peeve list. If you are sneezing, coughing or even FEEL sick you should stay home and/or go to the doctor.
Training while you are sick does not improve your physique or your immune system. ALL it does is give other people your funk, and we don’t want it. Stop spreading your germs and avoid the gym if you are sick.
I really shouldn’t even HAVE to list this one. This is gym etiquette 101.
So, what’s YOUR rant? List it below in the comments section…
How to Train in a Gym And NOT Look Like an Idiot
Gym etiquette doesn’t stop there. You need to train right for yourself. If you want to learn how to train, proper form, how many sets and reps for your body type, how much rest to take between sets, how to build muscle… I mean the RAW, REAL DEAL information on training and actually getting muscle-building results, check out my FREE Report, The 10 Laws of Bodybuilding. Click the link below for instant access…
Karen Sessions NSCA-CPT
Thanks for reading over my article! I hope you found the information helpful. If you have any questions you can contact me directly using the “Contact Link” at the top of the page. I answer all emails.
If you did like this article then you should sign-up for my FREE Contest Prep Crash Course. These lessons provide science-based information on fat loss, muscle gain, and contest prep. Get the facts and you get the results.