This post was originally written to be published by Rapid Personal Training on their site. Since then the business has closed down, and so I have decided to re-publish any content that I produced for Rapid PT here so that everyone can still have access to it.
Joining a new gym can be tough sometimes.
Firstly you don’t know anyone. Nor are you yet familiar with the layout of the gym. And then there’s not knowing what the specific set of rules are. All of these can combine to create anxiety that could easily be overcome with a good tour and a quick refresher on proper gym etiquette.
Sadly this doesn’t happen at a lot places – particularly not the brief on proper gym etiquette – and judging from a lot of what I see on gym floors, it’s sorely needed.
In an attempt to enlighten new gym members on proper etiquette, here are some quick and easy tips to becoming a respectable member of the gym community.
Let’s get this out of the way first – we all stink sometimes. This is especially true when we’re thrust into what’s effectively a giant sweat box, and put through vigorous exercise for an hour.
In situations like this, deodorant becomes necessary to prevent our odour from sneaking across the room and slapping our fellow gym members in the face.
If you’ve spent any serious amount of time in a gym, you’ve no doubt felt the ill effects of getting slapped in such a manner, and you empathise that it’s not a pleasant experience.
So it’s really simple. Wear deodorant every time you train, especially if you train in a singlet – everyone else will thank you for it.
As equally annoying as getting slapped in the face with B.O. is setting up for your next exercise and realising that there lies a pool of someone’s sweat deep enough to bathe a small child in.
Towels act as a barrier between your sweat suffocating the piece of equipment you’re on, and it staying relatively clean. Even with a towel, a good practice is to wipe the equipment down with a clean wipe after each use, but if nothing else, you need to be using a towel.
If everyone uses a towel, it’s a more pleasant experience for everyone. If we end up degenerating into the Wild West, then expect that karma will come full circle and you’ll left cleaning up someone else’s sweat at some point.
3) Offensive Language
I understand that offensive language may not offend you. I’m right there with you – listen to me speak for more than 5-minutes and you’ll quickly realise that I’m not one to shy away from the use of the occasional curse word.
On the gym floor, however, I’m very conscious of the words I use. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent much of my professional career deriving the income from this environment, but on the gym floor we’re thrown into sharing a close space with many people, some of whom may be offended by my use of bad language.
Being considerate of what you say in this space, therefore, is really a courtesy to other gym members. Certainly leaking the occasional word here or there isn’t that big of a deal, but if every second or third word you use is cursing, you really need to look at yourself (and your vocabulary).
I’m obviously not telling you to never use this kind of language, but more so to be considerate of those around you when in a confined space.
4) Putting Weights Away
There’s nothing worse than walking into one of our gyms at 5:15am, and realising that I have 30-minutes of tidying the gym floor ahead of me before I can kick off my session.
What’s equally annoying is when members ask me where certain pieces of equipment are, and I need to launch a full scale search party for them because they weren’t put away where they were supposed to be.
The theory behind how the system should work is really simple – you use a piece of equipment, and then once you’re finished with it you put it back exactly where you found it. If everyone follows that logic, the gym should never need any tidying.
Judging by the warzone that I walk into most mornings, however, its obvious that some of us aren’t following the system, and it’s not me that I’m worried about having to put other people’s weights away – no, I’m worried about the 55yo female gym user who is left unracking six, 20kg plates a side on the leg press because the guy who used it before her wasn’t bothered enough to clean up after himself.
5) Slamming Weights
Dropping barbells from waist height, throwing dumbbells sideways after finishing a set of bench presses, letting the weight stacks on the machines slam with every rep, and other general acts of gym floor peacocking not only make you look like the world’s biggest douche, but highlight your complete lack of respect for the gym’s equipment.
Here’s the thing – gym equipment is designed to handle a certain degree of misuse. I mean, there’s nothing delicate about using human flesh to hurl pieces of iron through the air as you battle against gravity, but there is a point.
You don’t have to slam your weights; in fact, there are often benefits to controlling them on the way down.
Over the course of a year, the number of bent barbells, broken collars, dents in the floor, damaged weight plates, and many other pieces of equipment that I see destroyed (and these things should have a lifespan of many years) by inconsiderate gym users would astound you.
It’s a phenomenon that causes gym owners to not want to purchase new equipment for the gym, which makes the rest of us miss out.
So please respect the gym equipment.
6) Letting People Work In
Some pieces of equipment are in high demand, particularly during peak periods.
Allowing other members to use the piece of equipment you’re using in between your sets creates a friendly atmosphere, which is also let’s everyone quickly and efficiently get through their training session.
The easiest pieces of equipment to do this on are obviously the machines (which only need a pin setting adjustment), but you can also share the racks, barbells, and free benches as long as there aren’t too many adjustments needing to be done between sets.
Be generous to others when they need to work in, and they’ll repay you in kind.
7) Taking Up Multiple Pieces Of Equipment At Once
As a follow on from the previous point, taking up multiple pieces of equipment at one time, particularly if you’re not willing to let others work in with you, can be a huge annoyance to your fellow gym members.
I’m not sure about you, but for me, waiting patiently to use a piece of equipment as the guy who’s claimed it bounces between five other machines is enough to make want to walk into the closest bathroom and scream at the top of my lungs.
And I do understand that some programs call for you to use alternating sets, super sets, or giant sets (where you need to use two to four pieces of equipment at a time), and you’re perfectly fine to follow them, but unless you become really good at sharing, it’s going to be a problem if you want to do said programs during peak periods.
8) Allowing Space For Other People To Lift Safely
One of the hazards of partaking in resistance training is that, should something go wrong, you can (quite seriously) injure yourself.
It’s for that reason that we need to be careful around other gym members when they’re completing their sets. Too often do I see rookie members trying to squeeze past people as they’re lifting, and it’d only take a minor bump or stumble for everything to turn pear-shaped.
By starting to think of everyone who’s completing a set as having an imaginary bubble around them, and then avoiding entering the bubble as you move around them, you can allow the lifter enough space to execute their set, without bumping into them, or giving them the heebie jeebies as they watch you come in close out the corner of their eye.
9) Giving Unsolicited Advice
This one is a hard one to manage properly.
On one hand, sometimes it’s easy to spot when someone could benefit from your advice. On the other hand, however, even if that advice is coming from a place of genuine concern, sometimes it’s not received very well (particularly if it’s unsolicited).
With their highly educated eyes, it’d be easy for our trainers to critique everyone’s technique on the gym floor. They could probably walk through the gym and find adjustments to make on 90% of the population in there, but they don’t.
They don’t just walk up to anyone, let them know that they’re technique is wrong (or not totally right), and then begin correcting it. This is because we as human beings don’t often take unsolicited advice very well, particularly when it’s delivered with all the subtlety of a brick in a sock.
Don’t get me wrong, we do give advice, but when we give it we follow a structure that allows us to seek the proper understanding of why someone is executing the exercise in that particular fashion (sometimes there’s a good reason for it), and then we seek permission to offer our opinion. Should the member say yes, then we’ll give them our advice, but not before.
If something is looking dangerous then that’s a different story altogether, but generally speaking, be careful when giving advice, and only give it if you’ve approached it the right way and if you’re qualified to do so.
10) Judging People On Their Own Journey
It should be obvious that not everyone in the gym is going to be a cover model.
Each gym member has their own goals, their own preferences, their own injury history, and they’re all starting from a different base of experience.
Judging others, looking down on them for whatever reason you deem appropriate, is absolutely unacceptable. Unless you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes, you don’t get the right to belittle them for where they’re at physically.
Just remember that everyone is here to better themselves. When they could have stayed in bed, they got up and made into the gym (while thousands of other people didn’t). That effort should be celebrated, not ridiculed.
11) Bicep Curls In The Squat Rack
Everyone loves big arms, but there’s a place to do your arm training, and it’s never in the squat rack.
The squat rack is for (surprise surprise) squats, and other large, compound movement, and not for you to get a sweet pump in your biceps.
Squat racks are a limited resource in the gym, and every time you steal one for exercises that can be done elsewhere, you rob someone else of their gainz.
And that’s a big no-no. Don’t do it. Ever.
12) Being A Creep
Creeps. They’re everywhere, especially in gyms.
Even though you may not be a genuine creep, you may be doing things that are creepy and just not be aware of it.
Ogling members is a common one. Whether it’s because you admire their physique (one for both men and women), because you think that they’re ridiculously good looking, or because they’re doing something that you’ve never seen before, ogling is a creepy act.
If you catch yourself staring at the same person over and over again, and you make eye contact with them more than twice without smiling and saying hello, then you’re probably coming across as a creep.
So either stop staring or introduce yourself and cut down the weird barrier.
Beyond that, you’ve got the genuine creeps, and it pains me to say it, but it’s mostly guys who are guilty of that. If you find you and your buddies following a girl around the gym – going to the water fountain at the same time, using equipment in the same area, and being snickering dudes – then you need to reassess what you’re doing.
Everyone needs to feel comfortable in his or her gym, especially women, and having a group of three or four Neanderthals drooling over them isn’t particularly inviting.
13) Recording or Snapchatting Videos Of Other Members
Following on from the previous point, this is one that has arisen with the progression of technology.
I’ll lead into this point with stating that I, of all people, enjoy a good Gym Fail video compilation. You know the videos; they’re the ones that show people in the gym doing stupid things that tend to backfire on them fast.
As much as I find these amusing, a part of me also cringes at the fact that we now have people recording what other people are doing on the gym floor, and I find that really creepy.
It’s not cool, and again, it doesn’t make for an inviting environment.
14) Unnecessary Noise
A little bit of noise is the by-product of a tough training session, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
No one cares about a little bit of grunting through a hard set, that’s normal, but I’m referring to are the gym goers who’d rival Maria Sharapova in a volume match – and they’re out there.
Grunting, screaming, and shouting at the top of their voice on the gym floor. It’s distracting and unnecessary. These are the people who instantly have everyone on the gym floor looking at them as soon as they begin their set.
Apart from being a distraction, it’s also a fire hazard, as these members would easily overshadow any fire alarm that may be going off during their set.
So if you think that might be what you’re like, tone it down just a little bit. Please.
15) Wearing Jeans While Training
This isn’t an issue of etiquette so much as it’s a fashion and functional disaster and is often exacerbated by being paired with a good ‘ol Bonds singlet.
Seeing this first hand is not only like witnessing a lime-green kangaroo hop its way through a busy CBD area while singing Jumpin’ Jack Flash, but it’s obvious that the jeans are limiting your range of motion, and let’s be honest, it can’t be comfortable to be sweating inside there.
Look, I get it; you don’t want people looking at your legs. The good news is that this can also be accomplished by wearing a relatively new invention known as track pants. They’ll hide your legs, as well as be comfortable to train in.
More importantly, you won’t look like you only got half-dressed for a casual dinner.