HomeFitnessGym Etiquette - Old School Unwritten Rules You Need To Know

Gym Etiquette – Old School Unwritten Rules You Need To Know

Do You Know Your Gym Etiquette?

Having recently moved gyms to a slightly more mainstream, commercial gym it seems as if the rules of gym etiquette have been forgotten... the old school privately owned gym I previously trained at was inhabited by a small group of dedicated, humble bodybuilders who knew common-courtesy and etiquette when it came to the weights room. Here are the old school gym etiquette rules that in my opinion, need to be followed:


Do Not Isolate In The Squat Rack

Don't curl or perform any other isolation exercises in the squat rack  (unless you're curling in excess of 135lbs there's no need to be using an Olympic bar).
The squat rack or power rack was designed for heavy compound lifts such as the squat, military press and bench press - you don't want to be the guy throwing around some biceps curls while serious lifters are waiting to get in their workout utilizing the rack.

Treat The Iron Well

Don't throw around or drop the dumbbells/gym equipment. Show some respect for the weights as they aren't cheap and they do get damaged (not to mention it's not your equipment and you're sharing with others) so take care when finishing off a set, unloading or re-racking your weights.
The only real exception to this rule is when you are performing heavy deadlifts - during the negative portion of each rep (returning the barbell back to the ground) your lower back is placed under a large amount of stress - in this instance it's generally not a problem to let the bar fall down to the ground while you maintain your grip.

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Not A Trainer? Don't Dish Out Unsolicited Advice

Unless you're a personal trainer employed by the gym you should not be giving out any lifting or fitness advice to other members. Yes, there's always someone in the gym with incorrect or slightly off form but unless they're at major risk of an injury (e.g. completely hunched back while squatting or deadlifting heavy) it is best to leave it be. The gym is an intimidating place to be when you're just starting to build your foundation so be mindful of that before you intimidate, ridicule or embarrass others.

Re-rack Your Weights

It doesn't matter how many plates or dumbbells you're using, ensure you re-rack them when you're done.
Put everything back the way you found it so the gym remains organized and the next member that wants to use the machine/barbell after you doesn't have to spend half their time unloading the machine - this is common courtesy yet even with massive signs up at the gym reading 'Re-rack your weights after use!' it falls on deaf ears.

Don't Stare

Focus on your own training - don't get caught up on what the cardio bunny or shredded physique competitor is doing. Focus on you.

Don't Interrupt Others While Training

The gym is not the place to strike up a casual conversation - everyone (well, most people) are in the gym to push themselves past their current limits in order to grow and progress towards their goals. Interrupting them while their headphones are in is rude and often unwanted. If the machine or weights you intend on using are occupied make sure you wait until after the other gym-goer has finished their set before you proceed to ask them whether you can work in with them or find out how many sets they have remaining.

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No Phone!

I occasionally use my phone for my workout playlist, that's all.
Don't text, make calls or swipe through your Tinder matches while you're in the gym.

If you're guilty of this stop doing it right away - you need to be giving your training 100% of your focus, then the real results will start to come (eliminate all distractions!).
Your workout should only take around an hour - use your phone as much or as little as you like outside of this period - but maintain this tradition during your workout hour.


Stop Trying To Impress Others

Leave your ego at the door.
Nobody honestly cares how much you lift or how many reps you do. From the moment you step in the gym your focus should be entirely on you. It's time to focus on building up You Inc. and the only way you can do this successfully is to give your undivided attention to your own workout in order to maximize your own results.
Don't try and up the weight to out lift the guy on the bench next to you, don't train in front of an attractive girl to try and get her attention.

focus on YOU.

Allow Others To 'Work In' Between Your Sets

If you're following a proper workout regime comprised of heavy compound lifts you're going to be spending a substantial amount of your workout hanging around a squat rack or power cage - chances are your gym only has one or two of these and during your workout others will be wanting to get in on the same equipment. Show some courtesy and allow them to 'work in' between your sets (e.g. you perform a set, they perform a set and so on). Alternatively if you're bench pressing and they want to deadlift this may not always work out - let them know how many sets you have remaining and don't dawdle.

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Utilize A Spotter When Necessary

When performing working sets of your bench press, seated overhead press or squats utilize a spotter.
You don't want to end up injuring yourself, getting stuck or damaging/dropping the weights. Having a spotter in your presence can give a great little mental boost too which I've found results in an extra few reps or a few more pounds on the bar (it's the peace of mind knowing you can attempt to grind out those last few extremely tough reps without it turning into a disaster).
I've never had someone reject me when I've politely asked them to spot me for a few sets during their rest periods.

This works both ways, if you see someone struggling offer to give them a spot - many people don't feel comfortable asking but do appreciate having one.

Practise Good Hygiene

Done with a piece of equipment? Wipe it down.
Don't leave your sweat dripping all over the elliptical or squat rack - clean it up. Sure - wiping the surface will not rid it completely of germs and bacteria but it's common courtesy and should quickly become a habit that you don't even have to think about.
Most gyms have anti-bacterial spray and wipe - if your gym doesn't just use your towel.

If You're Sick Don't Come To The Gym

This has got to be one of the most selfish things you can do - by going to the gym when you're sick or unwell you're weakening your immune system by placing immense stress and demand on your body to lift weights while also exposing everyone else to the germs and bacteria you're placing on the dumbbells, barbells, plates and machines you touch.
If you've got anything worse than a mild sniffle be considerate and don't go to the gym - allow yourself time to recover and come back stronger... don't run yourself into the ground while passing it on to others in an attempt to stick to your regiment.

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The Rock Gym Headphones

Use headphones, Not A Speaker

No one else wants to hear your music.
Play your music through earphones or headphones... not speakers.

Don't Monopolize Equipment

Use one piece of equipment at a time - don't monopolize and have towels set up on 3 or 4 separate machines because you're performing some radical superset or circuit. Should you need to use multiple machines or pieces of equipment at once allow others to work in between your sets.

Clean Up Your God Damn Chalk

Chalk can be extremely helpful to get that additional grip strength when deadlifting or performing any hanging exercises - the downside of chalk is it can be very messy. If you're using chalk make sure you clean it up - off both the equipment you were using and the floor. I haven't seen chalk used a great deal in mainstream gyms however in CrossFit and powerlifting style gyms using chalk is common practise (but still most people don't clean up after themselves).

Don't Pressure Others For Equipment

If you're waiting to use a piece of gym equipment that's in use don't hover around and pressure others for it - find out how many sets they have left then wait your turn or focus on mobility/another exercise in the meantime. Constantly hovering around impatiently is rather off-putting.

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What's Your Take On Gym Etiquette? Let Me Know In The Comments!

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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