Gym Etiquette

Gym Etiquette

Don’t be that guy.

And don’t be that girl.

What guy? What girl?

gym roomYou know the ones I’m talking about. The guy that uses the squat rack to do bicep curls then leaves the weight on the bar and walks away. Or the girl who leaves the elliptical machine that you’ve been waiting to use drenched in sweat without wiping it down.

Most of us have encountered people like this at the gym. They are either unaware of proper gym etiquette or they simply don’t care. Don’t let this be you. Take pride in your gym and be respectful to the people around you.

For those of you who are new to the gym or just want to brush up on your gym etiquette, you’re in the right place. Most of this is just common courtesy. Some of it may be specific to certain gyms but not others. By following these simple rules of gym etiquette, you are sure to have a safe and productive workout without aggravating any of your fellow gym-goers.

Don’t stare!

Yes, that nineteen-year-old girl with the body of a fitness model wearing tight yoga pants and an equally tight tank top is drop-dead gorgeous.

Yes, that guy with arms the size of your torso and lats that look like the wings of a mythical beast is impressive looking.

No, it is not okay to stare at them while you are chugging along on the elliptical. No, it is not okay to strategically plan your workout around where they are to maximize your viewing time. And no, it’s absolutely not okay to try taking a candid picture of them.

It just comes down to being respectful. Let others enjoy their workouts without being stared at, just as you are trying to do. It’s fine to briefly glance around a little bit. Just don’t stare. It’s not only rude, but it’s downright creepy. You don’t want to become known as “the creepy guy/girl that’s always staring at people,” do you?

Respect the Beats!

If someone is wearing headphones at they gym, they are trying to tell you something: “Please don’t bother me right now.” When I have my headphones in, I’m totally in my own world. I’m in the zone. The last thing I want is to be interrupted by someone who wants to chat in between sets. Respect the Beats!

Hold the phone.

Just about everyone has a cell phone, but it’s generally considered inappropriate to make phone calls while in the gym. If you need to make a call, go outside or away from the workout area.

Using your phone to text, browse the internet, or check your social media is more acceptable. It’s not uncommon to see someone in the gym looking up a new exercise or something else fitness related on their phone. Just try to keep it to a minimum, if you must use your phone. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I recommend leaving your phone in your locker or car. This way you can focus on what’s really important: your workout.

Wipe down equipment when you are done with it.

No one wants to use a machine that’s covered in your sweat. If you are sweaty, make sure to wipe down every piece of equipment that you use.

What about if you are not sweaty? I generally only wipe down machines if I am sweating, but some gyms require you to wipe them down regardless. The exception to this is if someone is waiting to use whatever I’m using. I’ll ask them if they would like me to wipe it down after I’m done. Most people will say that you don’t need to but they appreciate the offer.

Don’t interrupt someone while they are in the middle of a set.

If you need to ask someone something, always wait until they are between sets. It’s not only annoying to be interrupted mid-set, but it can also be dangerous. Make sure the weight is on the ground or rack before approaching anyone.

Asking for a spot/advice/help.

If you’re new to the gym and you need help with something, ask someone! We were all new to the gym at one point. Most seasoned gym rats actually love to help newcomers.

gym rulesDon’t be afraid to ask someone if you have a question about anything. And never be afraid to ask someone for a spot if you are using more weight than usual or trying out a new exercise.

A lot of people say that they are too embarrassed to ask for a spot, especially when they are new. What’s even more embarrassing is when you have to yell help because you get trapped under too much weight. Again, most experienced fitness enthusiasts love to share their knowledge and experience with newcomers. Take advantage of this!

Don’t offer unsolicited advice.

Let’s face it: There are a lot of people in the gym that really don’t have any idea what they are doing. They use bad form, too much weight, too little weight, or do “exercises” that don’t work any muscle group that you’ve ever heard of.

You may be tempted to tell them what they are doing is wrong, but don’t do it. Even if you are trying to help them, they may not see it that way. Some people may find your advice helpful, but most will find it inappropriate, annoying, or downright insulting.

There is one exception to this. If I see someone in the gym that is doing something that could cause immediate harm to them or others, I will say something. But even then, I’m cautious. If you are not comfortable approaching someone who is in serious danger of hurting themselves or someone else, consider telling whoever is working there.

Put weights and other equipment back in the right place when you are done with it.

Have you ever gone for a 20 lb. weight to find that there is a 70 lb. weight in its place? Or maybe you went for a 20 lb. weight only to find that it’s not where it’s supposed to be, but rather it’s all the way on the other side of the gym. I’m guessing you have because this happens all the time.

When you are done using a piece of equipment, put it back where it belongs. Even if you found it somewhere else, when you are done, put it where it is supposed to go. Weights, barbells, dumbbells, exercise balls, kettle bells, and all other pieces of equipment have a designated storage area in every gym. If you don’t know where these things go, you can always ask someone.

The squat rack is called “the squat rack” because it is there for one reason: squats.

If your gym is like most gyms, it only has one squat rack. This piece of equipment is designed for people to do squats safely and easily. This is its one and only purpose. Yet, for some reason, people use it for curls, deadlifts, and other exercises. This is one of the biggest no-no’s in the gym. You can do curls and deadlifts just about anywhere else in the gym. Do not tie up the squat machine to do anything but squats.

Limit your time on each piece of equipment when the gym is busy.

gymWhen there aren’t many people at the gym, it’s okay to spend a lot of time on the same machine. It’s even okay to do supersets with more than one piece of equipment at the same time. But if the gym is busy, only use one machine at a time and limit your time to a few minutes.

If someone asks you how many sets you have left, it is their way of telling you that they are waiting to use whatever machine you’re using. In fact, it is the right way to let someone know that you are waiting to use the machine they are using. Wait until they are in between sets and politely ask how many sets they have left. When they answer you, just let them know that they don’t need to hurry but you would like to use the machine when they are done.

Keep it quick and clean at the water fountain.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay hydrated in the gym. But you should always make sure to follow a few simple water fountain rules.

The first one is obvious, but I’ve seen people do it: Don’t put your mouth on the fountain. It’s unsanitary for you and every single person that uses the fountain after you. Also, don’t spit in the fountain. This may also seem obvious, but I’ve seen this, too.

When you are filling up a water bottle, be aware of other people waiting behind you. You don’t want to keep someone waiting while you fill up your gallon jug. And lastly, don’t pour your leftover protein shake or preworkout drink in the fountain. Use the bathroom sink if you need to pour anything out.

In the locker room.

When you are in the locker room, the “Don’t Stare” rule absolutely applies. Do not stare at anyone’s anything. Don’t even look. When you are in the locker room you should keep your eyes to yourself.

The locker room is not a place to hang out and chat. Get in there, do what you have to do, and get out of there. If you are taking a shower you should wear shower shoes and make sure not to leave anything in the shower. And try to minimize the amount of time you are fully naked.

Lastly, if you need to take a selfie in the bathroom mirror, make sure no one else is around. You probably wouldn’t want your half-naked body in the background of someone else’s Instagram photo. Don’t let someone else end up in the background of yours. This also applies elsewhere in the gym. If you are taking a selfie, keep it a selfie: not a group photo.


I really wish someone had explained these things to me when I first started going to the gym. Hopefully, by sharing them with you, you’ll avoid committing some of the gym no-no’s that I was once guilty of.

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