DO's and DON'Ts of Gym Etiquette

DO's and DON'Ts of Gym Etiquette

The gym occupies an unusual space in our lives. It's that rare space where people (usually strangers) gather in close quarters to achieve very specific goals. A workplace where no one has their own office or desk. Everyone's working very hard, while also trying to stay out of each others' way. And everyone seems to know exactly what they're doing but you.

Gym Etiquette SidebarIt can be a bewildering experience. If you're new to the gym life entirely, and all these machines and fitness areas are new terrain for you, we strongly suggest that you invest in the services of a personal trainer. Your new gym will happily provide one along with a variety of hourly plans from short-term to long. Your new guide will show you how everything works and better yet, help you establish a workout routine best suited to your goals and abilities.

If you're just switching gyms, you've probably already received a guided tour when you signed up. So you know where everything is, generally speaking, and how most things work. Most gyms have posted rules for certain activities and they can vary from gym to gym. Make a point of reading and following the rules specific to your gym.

So here you are, gym bag in hand, at the front desk. Let's take a look at some do's and don'ts of gym etiquette that will help establish you as a good citizen in your new workplace.


Handling Free Weights

Re-Rack Your Plates and Dumbbells
Few things are more frustrating than sacrificing your workout pace and momentum because you're looking around a pair of 25-lb dumbbells, only to find six of them in the back corner of the fitness class room. Those signs that say "Please Put Your Weights Back" are there for a reason.

Drop Your Weights on the Floor
Yeah, we get it. You're pushing yourself beyond the absolute furthest extremes of human exertion, so of course you have to drop 120 pounds of barbell onto the floor like you just lifted a Buick off someone's baby. ONE MORE REP, right? Here's another philosophy: Control the weight throughout the entire movement -- concentric and eccentric -- for maximum productivity and growth benefit. While we're on the subject: grunting is fine; howling in the throes of agony is not.


Occupying Workout Stations

Leave Your Phone Alone
This is controversial, we know. Especially if you're young. But really, you can take 45 minutes off from your phone. It'll be okay. If you're using it to play music, leave it in your pocket. If you're not, leave in in your locker. It's especially irksome to see someone sitting on a piece of weight-training equipment you'd like to use and having to give them side-eye as they engage in a text frenzy on their phone (or even more baffling, scroll through TikTok). If you must engage with your phone instead of your workout, do it somewhere out of the way.

Occupy Two Pieces of Equipment at the Same Time
Don't be the guy on the overhead press machine who yells "I'm using that!" when someone tries to take a seat at the unoccupied pulldown machine. There's a place in the world for supersets and that place is an uncrowded gym. If you're in the gym at a high-volume time, you can usually improvise supersets with free weights (overhead free weight presses and bent-over rows, for instance). At the very least, you can let someone work in.


On the Gym Floor

Wipe Down Equipment When You're Done
Until recently, it used to be sufficient to carry your own gym towel and wipe down equipment you'd finished with. Now most gyms deploy spray bottles of disinfectant and paper towels. Make liberal use of them.

Broadcast Distracting Noise
Your music should not be clearly audible to people around you. Likewise watching YouTube, Tiktok or Instagram clips with the volume on is a no-no. Finally, don't be the person wandering the floor or running on a treadmill and having a conversation with someone on your phone. No one wants to hear your personal business or that of the person you're talking to.


In Fitness Classes

Follow Along With the Instructor as Best You Can
There will always be a specific exercise or position that you have trouble with. Maybe your body just doesn't contort that way or you have a recent injury. If so, this is not the time to try some completely unrelated exercise or start chatting up your neighbors. A good instructor, when you're clearly having difficulty, will usually suggest a modified version of the exercise. Be grateful and do the best you can.

Arrive Late
It's a sign of disrespect to your classmates if you're barging into a class ten minutes late while everyone else is already furiously working the kickboxing bags or trying to achieve a state of meditation in a full lotus. Even if someone doesn't have to stop what they're doing as you creep by or move their mat to make room for you, you're still disrupting the flow of the class. Try to arrive on time, or better yet, arrive a little early so you can greet the instructor and get set up.



Remember That Everyone Is There For a Purpose
Every gym has its coterie of gadflies, people who wander around starting conversations. This should not be you. Be pleasant by all means, exchange simple greetings when required. But recognize that most people you encounter in the gym have a specific goal in mind, and it's not talking to you. They're trying to squeeze a specific number of sets and exercises into a specific time frame. People coming up to you to engage you in conversations is why god invented earbuds.

Offer Exercise Advice
Even if you're right. Especially if you're right. You come off looking like a know-it-all or a busybody. And the person you're mansplaining (or womansplaining) to is going to feel singled out, especially if you're in discernibly better shape than they are. Everyone has to find their own way. Or learn from a certified trainer whom they're paying. Oh, and don't "congratulate" anyone for being in the gym.


In the Sauna or Steam Room

Sit Upright and Be Peaceful
A sauna or steam room is, by definition, a small, confined space. It's not a place to lay down horizontally across a length of bench with a towel over your eyes while other people stand. It's not a place to air your compelling political beliefs. It's certainly not a place to suddenly start doing burpees or pushups. And stop getting up to throw water on the heating element; it's not helping. Just enter, grab a seat, close your eyes.

Treat the Space Like It's Your Laundry Room
Yep, we've seen it all. And the guy who takes the prize is the one who brings his sweaty workout shorts or wet bathing suit, HANGS IT OVER A RAIL in the sauna, and leaves. Because that's what we want, to spend some quality time alone with your laundry. This shouldn't be a thing, but it is. Also the guy who holds a conversation with someone in the open door of the sauna or steam room while all the heat escapes.


In the Locker Room

Clean Up After Yourself
Never, ever, be the kind of person who says "That's what attendants are for." If your gym issues towels, don't leave them on the floor when you leave. Throw them in a hamper. If you spill something, supplement powder or some toiletry substance, clean it up. Leave sinks and showers clean for the next person. For god's sake, don't be the person clipping their toenails on a bench in front of the lockers. Basic common sense.

Take Up All The Available Space
A typical locker room has a lot of lockers and not many benches. It stands to reason that bench space will be at a premium, especially during peak hours. That means you don't get to spread out all your clothes and toiletries on the bench beside your gym bag and yourself. You don't get to take up the whole bench. When you're done with what you have to do, don't take up space chatting or texting. Move on and make room.

We'll conclude on a positive note by reminding you that, while there are plenty of do's and don'ts to gym etiquette, you can usually get by in any gym environment by being mindful of two basic philosophies: 1) Treat People With Respect and 2) Give People Space.

The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.