I am going to share with you the previously unwritten rules of gym etiquette.  Some of these are obvious, but some are a little more subtle.  All are equally important to ensure a well functioning and pleasant gym environment for everyone. 

The Dos

1. Do let people work in with you

During peak hours, it is not uncommon for two people to want to use the same piece of equipment.  If someone asks how many sets you have left, offer for them to “work-in” and let them use the equipment while you are resting, and vice-versa.

2. Do re-rack your weights

Leaving weights around is just plain inconsiderate.  Whether is it a pair of dumbbells or plates on a barbell, make sure you always put them back where you got them.  This rule applies especially to the leg press machine.

3. Do wipe the bench when you are done using it

Gym etiquette 101.  Nothing is worse than seeing the bench you are about to use covered in someone else’s sweat.  It’s great that you are working hard, but make sure to clean up after yourself as a courtesy to the other members.

4. Do learn how to spot correctly

It’s not an everyday occurrence (unless you train with a workout partner), but when asked to spot it’s good to have a basic idea of what you are doing.  Nine times out of ten, someone is asking for a spot on the bench press.  You don’t want to overdo it and pull the weight up for them, but you also don’t want the barbell to come crashing down on their chest.  The best rule of thumb, if the weight is going in the opposite direction (i.e. dropping downward as the person is trying to push it up), that is when to intervene.  Make sure you do so gently, don’t panic and yank the weight up.  Simply grasp the bar with your fingers and guide it to the safety stops.

5. Do wear athletic clothing to the gym

You’d be surprised by how many people I have seen working out in a polo shirt and jeans.  It’s almost as if they decided last minute they wanted to catch a quick workout.  Change into some sweats and you’ll be more comfortable and mobile, and have a far better workout.

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The Don’ts

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

If you need to know how many sets someone has left, wait until they are finished to ask.  If you ask in the middle, don’t be surprised if you get ignored.

2. Don’t walk in between someone and the mirror when they are in the middle of a set

I see this essential gym etiquette rule broken all the time.  It is less obvious then the others but just as important. Gyms have mirrored walls so people can make sure they are doing the exercise with proper form.  If you walk in front of someone to put your dumbbells back on the rack, it can throw them off balance, especially if they are doing an overhead press.  Wait until they finish their set, then re-rack.

3. Don’t chat up the cute girl on the treadmill

She doesn’t want to talk to you while she’s working out.  Don’t try to take advantage of a captive audience.  I’ve seen so many girls politely talk to guys while running on the treadmill, when it’s obvious to anyone watching that they just want to finish their workout.  The same applies for anyone with a hood up and headphones in, they are there to focus.  If you must, wait until they are done with their workout.

4. Don’t come to the gym in dirty clothes

Everyone is in tight quarters and breathing heavily, respect the other members and show up to each workout in clean workout gear. 

5. Don’t superset or circuit train at peak hours.

Holding several machines hostage when the gym is packed is recipe for disaster.  If you must superset during peak hours, make it primarily bodyweight or dumbbell exercises so you won’t hold anyone’s workout up, or better yet come when the gym is empty.

6.  Leave your phone at home and don’t text between sets

I’ve actually seen people text during a set, which is kind of incredible in its own way.  Texting or making calls between sets is disruptive to other members and forces people to wait for equipment.  Not cool.  Leave your phone at home or in the car and you’ll have a better workout too. texting in gym

7. If someone has one last set on a machine or piece of equipment you need, don’t linger

Walk away for a minute and let them take their time.  Lingering and staring at them will make them uncomfortable and pressured, and won’t make them finish their set any quicker.

8. Don’t grunt when lifting weights. Ever.

Grunting, yelling, or otherwise drawing attention to yourself while lifting makes you look desperate.  If the weight is so difficult to lift that you’re yelling, lighten the load and work on doing the exercise with proper form.  You’ll be less likely to be injured and will actually feel the muscle working.

9. If someone is behind you at the water fountain, don’t take 5 minutes to refill your water bottle

It’s not fair to make someone wait and watch you fill up a 32 oz. Nalgene.  Step aside and let them go ahead before you fill up.

10. Don’t pull your shirt up to check your abs

Of course you want to check your progress if you’re working hard in the gym, but do so in the privacy of your own home. Fake wiping sweat off your face with your shirt isn’t tricking anyone. 

11. Don’t wear a weight belt on every exercise

This is less gym etiquette and more advice but I felt it was important to include.  In fact, unless you are doing extremely heavy deadlifts or training for a power lifting contest, I don’t ever recommend wearing a weight belt.  Over time you will rely on the belt and it will weaken your core, making you prone to injury.