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Rude, Crude, and Socially Unacceptable?

12 Tips for Good Gym Etiquette

Etiquette these days seems to be a dying practice. In a world where “Me first” has seemingly replaced good manners, it can be frustrating to have your gym experience spoiled by the rude, crude, and socially unacceptable.

Most of us just want to hit the gym and have a good workout. Maybe you’ve had a hard day at work or spent an hour on the freeway dealing with crazy drivers. The last thing you want is to have the same experience in your second home, the gym.

So, what is gym etiquette? Gym etiquette is a set of unwritten rules and common practices that govern how individuals should behave and interact with others in a gym. It seems like it should be common sense, but it is not! Adhering to proper gym etiquette is essential for creating a positive and respectful environment where everyone can enjoy their workouts.

Here are my 12 tips for good gym etiquette:

Cleanliness:  

Let’s talk hygiene. This can mean a lot of things. Let’s start with wiping down equipment after use, and/or using a towel if you are the sweaty type. It seems like most people have gotten better about this with Covid paranoia, but not all. No one wants to use a sweaty bench. Sharing is good, but not when it comes to sharing in your head and butt sweat!

It’s important to maintain good personal hygiene while using the gym. Take a shower! Use deodorant, and DO NOT put your gym clothes on from yesterday that were ripening in your gym bag overnight. Sounds ridiculous, but people do this all the time.

Stinky doesn’t necessarily come from just body odor. Splashing yourself with a bottle of cologne DOES NOT cover up body odor. Cologne and perfume should be avoided in the gym period. Why? There’s nothing like breathing hard and sucking up overwhelming perfume in your lungs to the point you can taste it in your mouth. I immediately get nauseous. Many people have asthma and other conditions that are triggered by strong smells. An over-perfumed person can stink up the gym for hours. No one should have to run from your smell to use the facility.

Respect personal space:

Some people are truly oblivious to this. Be mindful of the space around you. Avoid crowding others or invading their workout area. It isn’t uncommon to have someone plop their bench so close that you have to get up and move. Take note to allow sufficient distance between yourself and others.

Likewise, don’t stand in front of someone’s bench. That person probably needs to have enough room to get up off the bench with their bar or dumbbells and crowding them isn’t good for either of you.

If you see someone using the mirror for reference, let’s say, doing an overhead press with dumbbells… don’t block their view. Be mindful of others.

Don’t be an obnoxious “influencer”:

The other day two guys filming, and their groupies, decided to set up right next to my bench where I was training my client. Several cameras and tripods were set up. The dudes had no awareness that they kept backing up in my client’s space. One influencer rips his shirt off and starts posing for the camera. It was just obnoxious as they were totally oblivious to anyone else around them. I didn’t want to be in the background of their video, and neither did my client.

Avoiding cameras in the gym is now a daily occurrence and is annoying to most people. Be discreet with any filming. NEVER take selfies or film in the locker rooms. And don’t take pictures of other people just to humiliate them. There is nothing respectful about this behavior.

Respect Common Space:

How is this different than personal space? Sometimes people will plop their bench, dumbbells, bar, etc. in the walkway. Then when they are done, they leave it there.

My pet peeve? Blocking the dumbbell rack! There is an unspoken “No Fly Zone” walkway that should remain open in front of the dumbbell rack so people can retrieve and return dumbbells to the rack. No one should have to stand there and wait for you to finish your set to access the rack.

Daily I see people doing their lateral raises and curls standing up against the rack. I also see people scooting their bench so close that they prop their feet on the rack; or they are so close their dumbbells are on the floor blocking access. Grab your dumbbells and BACK UP! No one needs to inspect their pores and nose hairs while doing their set.

Sharing equipment:

During busy times, it’s common to need to share equipment with others. If someone is waiting to use a machine or weights you’re using, offer to alternate sets or allow them to work in between your sets. Don’t monopolize equipment for an extended period if others are waiting.

Most people superset exercises, which is fine. What isn’t fine is hogging 5 or 6 stations, like it is your own personal gym. Or, spending 10 minutes on your phone in between sets. This has become a bigger issue with the surge in “influencers” in the gym who film everything. Often, taking up several stations, filming, going back and forth in a leisurely manner. It is not unusual for me to be working with a client for an hour, and during the entire workout, be unable to use many areas because the same person is hogging the space the entire time.

On the flip side, learn what working in means, and when it is appropriate. If a big guy is on the leg press with 10 plates on each side, it isn’t reasonable to ask to work in when all you need on the machine is a 25# plate. Also, if you want to work in on a piece of equipment, take note of how many adjustments need to be made for you. If there is a tall person on a seated leg curl or leg extension that has several adjustments that need to be made to work for you, don’t ask to work in. It takes too long to adjust and slows the other person’s workout down too much. If only a minor adjustment is needed it is fine, just do them quickly, and do your set.

Also, don’t try to work in if you are doing sets of 100 or don’t know what a set is.

For example, one day I was super setting with another person on a leg extension and leg curl. I offered to let a woman work in. She very slowly adjusted the 4 adjustments on the seated leg curl machine and sat down. She was doing sets of 30. Well, she wasn’t actually doing sets. She would do 30 reps, keep her legs on top of the leg bar and count to 30, then do 30 more reps, count to 30, and so on. When I asked her to exit the machine in between her sets, she said she had 5 more to do and wouldn’t budge. I told her she wasn’t doing “sets” she was doing one set of 210. She got pissed and complained to the front desk.

Point being, if you want to work in, use good etiquette. Only ask when appropriate, and always ask politely. Don’t hover like a vulture. Only make minor adjustments quickly, sit down promptly, do a reasonable number of reps, and GET OFF!

Use equipment properly:

Familiarize yourself with the proper use of equipment. If you’re unsure about how to use a machine, ask a staff member or trainer for assistance or observe others before attempting to use it. Well, maybe don’t observe everyone, but observe someone who looks like they know what they are doing.

Don’t slam the weight stack down at the end or in between every rep. Don’t just let go of the pulldown bar, or cable row handle, or let go of the cross-cable handles at the end of your set allowing the weight stack to slam down. I got hit in the eye one time when the person just let go of the handles after their set of a cable chest fly. The handle bounced around violently and hit me in the face.

It is also very startling for other people trying to concentrate then suddenly CRASH! This includes throwing your dumbbells on the floor after your set. There’s no need for it. I know some people like to be sure everyone hears and sees them, but it breaks the dumbbells. One pair of 100# dumbbells can cost $400 to $800. Throwing iron plates up against the equipment scratches the equipment. Using iron plates for Olympic lifting when you are dropping from overhead is a no-no. This should be done with bumper plates.

When performing deadlifts, control the weight going down. If you are deadlifting and can’t control the negative motion, use bumpers. People crack the iron plates crashing them on the ground.

To learn proper lifting technique, consult with a professional. Your favorite “influencer” is not necessarily a qualified professional.

Use equipment for the right purpose:

What do I mean when I say use the equipment for the right purpose? Obviously, equipment can be used creatively if you know what you are doing. However, if you aren’t benching, don’t take up a flat bench rack to do crunches. If you don’t need the power cage, don’t lie in the middle of it using it for your own personal stretching device. There are other places to do these activities.

Also, if you aren’t using a bench or piece of equipment, don’t pile your stuff up on it like it’s your coffee table. People will assume that piece of equipment is in use when it is not. Gym bags should really be kept off the floor, and not on the equipment. Most gyms have a cubby or shelf to stash your bag.

Be mindful of noise:

I’ve already talked about excessive weight slamming. What about other invasive noise.? Use headphones if listening to music or watching videos to minimize disturbance to those around you.

Just remember when you have headphones on, you often can’t hear how loud you are crashing plates, or how loud you are talking. Avoid loud conversations in workout areas. Some people talk so loudly to one another, I swear I could hear them outside in my car. Don’t yell across the gym in a conversation with other people. It becomes a chain reaction, just bringing the noise level higher and higher.

You must respect other people’s focus. Many people come to the gym to concentrate on their workouts. Avoid unnecessary interruptions and be mindful of others’ concentration.

Time limits on equipment:

If your gym has time limits on certain equipment, such as cardio machines, be considerate and adhere to those limits. Respect the needs of others who are waiting for their turn. Also, on the flip side, don’t sit there and stare at someone using a piece of cardio equipment, just because it is your favorite spot.

Re-rack your weights:

After using free weights or plates, always return them to their proper storage locations. Leaving weights scattered around the gym floor can be hazardous and inconvenient for others.

Some people never put their toys away. It is rude to expect other people to clean up after you. Wandering around the gym looking for a dumbbell, bar, or handle that has been left where the last person used it is one of the biggest frustrations when I’m working with clients. It is just a waste of their workout time.

Also, take all your plates off any plate-loading machine you use. So, you can leg press 12 plates, but can’t remove them? Your workout is no more important than the next person. There are many people in the gym who can’t physically remove your 12 plates off that leg press, and they shouldn’t have to, just to use that piece of equipment. When I’m training a client, it sucks up my client’s time, having to unrack everyone’s else’s weights. It isn’t my job, and it is not good gym etiquette.

Be open to assistance:

If a professional trainer offers you advice or help, be open-minded and receptive. They aren’t trying to embarrass you. I cringe having to watch a potential disaster or injury due to faulty form but am hesitant to offer unsolicited advice. Some people are receptive, and some people will yell at you.

I only offer advice if someone is going to hurt themselves. Since I would estimate over 75% of the people in the gym have not so great form, I don’t run around correcting everyone.

Also, respect personal boundaries. There is always the person in the gym who likes to point out everyone’s weak points. I assure you, the person is already aware. That’s why they are in the gym working it.

Wear appropriate attire:

Most gyms have a dress code that promotes safety and hygiene. It really should go a little farther than that. Excuse me for being blunt and just saying it like it is. A little modesty would be appreciated by most.

Some girls really love displaying their boobs, or like having several inches of their butt cheeks hanging out of their shorty shorts. It is clearly seen as an advertisement. Body proud is great, but exposing too much in the gym is not. If you want to do mostly nude photos, do it in private not in a public space.

Check to see if your leggings are see-through. We’ve nicknamed the Power Squat machine the butthole machine. One popular unintended use of the machine is for a kind of Good Morning exercise. Once you lean over it clearly displays your butthole and vagina for the world to see. Well, Good Morning to you! It’s not what people need to see.

Wear underwear. I’ve seen way too many vaginas of girls wearing floppy shorts with no underwear. This goes for guys too. No one wants to see your junk sitting next to you on the seat. The popularity of long baggy shorts for guys alleviated that for a while, but lately shorty shorts for men have seen a resurgence. If you are a legging-wearing guy, wear appropriate undergarments or shorts over your leggings. You may believe otherwise, but women don’t want to see your penis.

Again, a little modesty can go a long way. I’m not a prude, but everything has its place. The gym shouldn’t be the place for porn. Don’t complain about guys ogling at you if your goods are on full display. For guys who like to show their junk, women think you are a creep. Appropriate workout wear is always best.

As you can see, gym etiquette goes far beyond just saying please and thank you. Gym etiquette is about being considerate, respectful, and mindful of others’ needs and comfort. By following these guidelines, you can contribute to a positive and welcoming gym environment for everyone.

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