When you first join a gym, the other gym members can seem as intimidating as the machines. Gym instructors are great at telling you how to use the machines, but they don’t always explain the ins and outs of gym etiquette. Understanding gym etiquette, which is mostly just common sense and good manners, will help you connect with other gym members and feel more confident in your workout space.
There are lots of rules about gym etiquette, most of which you’ll pick up along the way. These are the main ones you’ll need to follow. Stick to these and you’ll find that gym bunnies can actually be quite friendly.
1. Put your weights away
If you’re strong enough to load up a machine, then you’re strong enough to unload it after you’re finished. Leaving the leg press stacked up, or dumbbells on the ground for others to trip over, is potentially dangerous and totally uncool. You haven’t finished your exercise until you’ve cleaned up after yourself. You did ten plates a side on the leg press? Not bad. You did ten plates a side and then you put all those weights away? Welcome to Mount Olympus.
2. Don’t be a show off
Lifting weights that are too heavy for you doesn’t make you look tough, it makes you look like a git. Experienced lifters aren’t admiring you, most of the time they’re shaking their heads and wishing you’d get some proper instruction. Hard work and good form are the keys to the injury-free training that brings results. Unless you’re a weightlifter or a powerlifter, drop down to the weights that you can lift and lower in good form for 8 to 10 reps.
3. Bring a towel to every workout and use it
No one else wants to lie on your little puddle of sweat. They don’t want to use their towel to wipe it up, either. Get in the habit of wiping down every machine after you’ve used it, whether you think you’ve made a mess or not.
4. Be considerate
Save your super-setting for off-peak periods. Using multiple machines during peak periods isn’t good for your workout nor your reputation. Those new to weight training won’t understand that you’re still ‘using’ one machine while you’re sitting on another one, and will often take your seat as soon as you get up. Experienced weight trainers will think you’re inconsiderate - you don’t want to know the number of ways they can get you back for this misdemeanour.
5. Be adaptable
Consider adapting your workout according to what’s happening in the gym. If you find that you’re always waiting for the pec deck on Mondays, lat pulldown on Tuesdays, and leg press on Wednesdays, it’s likely your gym has fallen into a ‘Chest, Back, Leg’ rhythm. Your body responds to change, that’s what weight training is all about. If everyone else in your gym seems to be doing mirror muscles (chest and biceps) on Mondays, change your routine so you’re not always waiting for machines. You’ll get through your workout faster, and you can’t be accused of tailgating everyone else.
6. Wear deodorant
If you have some ethical, humanitarian, or religious reason for not wearing deodorant, consider swimming instead of weight-training. Choosing not to wear deodorant when you’re exercising in a room full of other people is just plain rude. If you’re under the misguided belief that the pheromones in your sweat will attract a mate, hire a squash court together where you can sweat it out as consenting adults.
7. Be aware
Work on your proprioception skills. There are usually two types of people around the free weights area - the ones getting in everyone else’s way, and the one’s trying to avoid the ones getting in everyone else’s way. Everyone wants to be in front of the mirror, but don’t stand so close that others can’t get to the dumbbells beneath the mirror.
Make sure you have enough space around you before you launch into a set of lat raises. Likewise, take extra care when you’re in the free weights area to not step into a flying dumbbell or distract people while they’re doing a set.
8. Don’t scream
Poor Monica Seles will always be better known for her screaming than her tennis. Small grunts are acceptable when you’re trying to get out that final rep, but screaming is unnecessary and it breaks the concentration of other members.
9. Respect ‘the zone’
Speaking of concentration, don’t interrupt people when they’re doing a set, even if it’s just a warm-up. Many people like to get ‘in the zone’ when they’re training, and your interruption can ruin their concentration. If you want to share the machine, wait until they’ve finished their set, and then ask politely if they mind if you work with them.
10. Play nice
Regular gym goers start to form a community, so try and get along with each other. We call it ‘my gym’ but it’s their gym too. When it comes down to it, good gym etiquette is respecting the space you’re in and the people around you. Be nice, be responsible, and you really can’t go wrong.