Many of us choose to go to a gym for motivation, open space, camaraderie, knowledge about steroids products, or because we want more equipment choice.
In any case, if you use a public gym, then specific rules of etiquette should apply to you and those around you. This topic comes to us from a frequent reader named Colin after he witnessed a naked man dancing and parading around the locker room.
Gyms and health clubs have plenty of written rules, but there is some unwritten etiquette that applies as well. I’m going to give you our own list of rules and etiquette for conducting yourself in any health facility. I often wish others had this same list.
Here are our Top Twelve Rules of Gym Etiquette
For your benefit, wear clothing that is loose-fitting or stretches. Make sure it is appropriate for working out – strongliftwear.com has a good collection for men. For the benefit of others, don’t come in covered in drywall dust or smelling like your shorts came straight out of your cat’s litter box. I’ve seen people track brown dirt all over the gym while working out in jeans. Come on, folks. I’m not suggesting you need to do your hair and makeup to go to the gym, but keep in mind that others will need to be in proximity to you.
Put Away and Clean Up
When you’re done with equipment, put it away. Take all the free weights off the bars and put them where they belong. Put dumbbells, stretch bands, and all the other stuff you use back on the rack where it belongs. If you make a mess or sweat a lot, wipe off the equipment when you’re done. If you break something, don’t just leave it there broken. Report it to the front desk. Your mother isn’t going to clean up after you.
Don’t Take Equipment That’s Set Up
If you see weights or equipment set up in a certain way, don’t just jump in and take it unless you know it’s been left. I get very annoyed when I walk away to get a drink or to complete a superset, only to find that my whole set up has been hijacked. What’s worse is the gym ninjas that get peeved when you try to reclaim your space. If someone walks away from something you want to use, just ASK them if they are done, or if you can work in.
It’s not that hard… just open your mouth and ask politely. People should put away their weight when done (see above). If it’s not put away, you should actively look for the person who was just using it and see if it’s now available. Many of us do not only work on one exercise at once.
Offer Help When Needed
If you see someone struggling with a lot of weight, offer your help. Likewise, if you see someone without a spotter about to attempt something that might be dangerous, ask them if they want a spotter. Do not insist on spotting them, and definitely don’t just run over and try to help them unless they are actually stuck or had an accident. ASK them politely and respect their answer.
If you work at the gym as a trainer, manager, or owner, then you can be a little more assertive in regards to safety. I’ve had a couple of occasions where I was prepared to do more reps of weight, only to have someone snatch it away from me to “help” me when I didn’t need or ask for help. It’s great to offer assistance, but not so great to force it upon someone.
Avoid Extraneous Conversation with Strangers
The gym is where you exercise. It’s not a dating club. It’s fine to be polite and say hello to people, but staring and gawking is certainly a gym foul. It makes people feel uncomfortable. Likewise, if someone is wearing headphones and exercising, then they probably don’t want to have a conversation with you right then. If you need to ask a question such as, “Are you using this?” Then that’s fine, but otherwise, let them be and don’t be offended by their focus on exercise… it is a gym, not a bar.
Couth in the Locker Room
No matter how chiseled you are, no one really wants to see you parade around in your birthday suit. I contend that this is why many gyms provide towels… to keep you covered up. Singing, dancing, and other naked locker room antics are also violations of gym etiquette. Save them for the bathroom in your own home. What you think is an example of free expression may give others nightmares for weeks.
Hot Food in the Gym
This gym-crime is usually committed by staff members. They bring in fast food or other odoriferous appetite teasers into the workout area so every hard-working person can smell it. My advice is to eat at the restaurant or lock it up in your office if you need to eat at the gym.
I see it several times each week, but it still amazes me that people talk on their cell phones at the gym while attempting to exercise. “Did you hear that Billy is dating Suzy…” The other gym patrons do not care about Billy and Suzy or the rest of your gossip. I’m not sure if it’s worse to see someone on a treadmill holding a phone to their ear, or watching someone with a headset talking to no one in particular while lifting weights. Leave your phone in your car. Please.
Treadmill Channel Surfing
Many gyms have shared televisions for the entertainment of those on the cardio machines. Every now and then some joker gets hold of the remote control and starts flipping channels like he (or she) is sitting on the couch at home. Have some common courtesy and ask the people around you if they mind you changing the channel. Change it once and be done with it.
Getting Too Close
Have you ever seen someone doing snatches or swings with heavy dumbbells or kettlebells? Do you think you should walk directly behind, or worse still in front of that person? All too often do people get dangerously close to me when I’m working on power exercises. Sometimes they get so close that I actually have to stop and move so I won’t strike them with a deadly dumbbell blow.
For your safety and the safety of others, stay well clear of anyone doing dynamic exercises. This includes anything jumping, sprinting, swinging, power lifts, medicine ball throwing/slamming, and overhead lifts (including overhead squats, lunges, step-ups, etc.).
This is one area that actually amuses me more than annoys me, but it seemed worthy of the list. I often see people (almost always young men) who try to lift more weight than they should. They move spastically or try to pass off a fraction of repetition as a whole set.
Don’t worry about what other people think. This kind of lifting does not help you, it only endangers your health. If you’re that worried about people judging you, I can assure you that we notice your poor form and range of motion even more than we see how much weight is loaded onto the bar or what size dumbbells you’re using. If you don’t know the exercise, ask a personal trainer to teach you.
Use the Lockers
If you’ve got a change of clothes and a bunch of stuff… don’t lug it around the gym from machine to machine. Just use a locker. I can make an exception for those carrying around their own water/drink and any particular fitness equipment. But if it’s just your clothes and car keys, leave it in a locker, please. This stuff always ends up on the equipment you were using at the beginning of your workout anyway.
So there you have my twelve notorious gym etiquette offenses. In the words of Whitey from the movie Eight Crazy Nights, “That’s a technical foul…”