A Guide to Gym Etiquette

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There are Guidelines for Gym Etiquette

The January gym population explosion is among the most mind-boggling mammalian migration patterns in modern history. Seemingly overnight, your peaceful, stress-free workout area morphs into a no-holds-barred feeding frenzy where mob rule supersedes basic human dignity in ways no man has witnessed since the pre-Neolithic age. There are sweat-soaked benches, mismatched weight trees, hogged squat racks, and dropped dumbbells galore. To put it mildly, morality is decaying before our very eyes.

However, with these 10 Commandments of Gym Etiquette, we can come together and bring these gyms back from the brink of destruction. Whether you are new to the gym, or a veteran in need of a refresher course, use this list as a solution to a set of very serious problems. The gym is an awesome place to make friends, build social skills, and learn new techniques for gaining muscle and/or burning fat from seasoned experts. But, if you ignore these rules of thumb, you could irreparably tarnish your reputation.

A Guide to Gym Etiquette

The 10 Commandments of gym etiquette

  1. Learn the layout. If you are new to the gym or just this particular gym, first take some time to understand the lay of the land. Where are people stretching/deadlifting/jumping rope? Ask an employee if you must. Good gyms have a certain flow to them, and as a new face you will already be on people’s radar, so damming up that seamless flow is an easy way to get the communal stink eye from the regulars.
  2. Don’t talk on your cell. Upon any condition short of your wife’s live narration of her delivering your firstborn child, speaking on your cell phone in the middle of the weight room is tantamount to disrupting a religious sacrament with the newest hit single from Da Baby. Step outside or shoot them a text.
  3. Smell clean. Deodorant and laundry detergent are as optional as your next breath. This isn’t Mad Max; we abide by a little thing called “decency.”
  4. Learn when to use outside vs inside cables. If you need to use a set of cables at their highest position, then consider using the OUTSIDE set, instead of the interior. Often, the exterior cable is locked in the high position, so with no inconvenience to yourself, you could afford the opportunity of the interior cables to someone who may need to use them in a lower position. Also, if you are using the interior set, step to the side and face the cable diagonally, so as to free up the inside space for someone to perform pull-ups or hanging leg raises. Again, this creates zero inconvenience to you and allows someone else to continue their session without interruption.
  5. Clean your equipment. If you are not willing to trudge barefoot through a field of broken glass to clean your sweaty bench after you finish with it, then the gym is simply no place for you.
  6. RE-RACK WEIGHTS TO THEIR PROPER LOCATION!!!!! Placing a 25 lb. plate onto a stack of 45’s is not only unorganized but inconsiderate. Now the next person who needs a 45 must complete the job YOU were tasked with before continuing with their workout.
  7. Limit rest periods during prime-time hours. No matter what piece of equipment you may be using, there is likely someone eyeing you from across the room, waiting politely for you to finish so they can assume the exercise. If they catch you scrolling through Twitter or chatting up one of the trainers for five whole minutes between sets, then I wouldn’t count on being invited to their birthday party next year. In fact, there may even be a life-sized piñata of your face as the main event.
  8. Set the weights down gently. Outside of specific powerlifting/CrossFit gyms which are equipped with bumper plates and other padded materials, you should NEVER drop a set of dumbbells or a loaded barbell onto the gym floor. Not only are you increasing the likelihood of the weight tumbling away from your feet and injuring someone, but this is also how bars and handles become warped.
  9. Pick spotters wisely. If you need a spotter, pick someone who is taking some time to recover between sets, not someone going ballistic for 40 minutes straight without even taking a stroll to the water fountain. Check out my previous article for more insight into properly selecting and communicating with a spotter.
  10. Understand what earphones mean. Earphones in means “buzz off.” A head nod and knuckle bump suffice as acknowledgment and well-wishes. If this person desires a conversation, they will make this intention crystal clear. NEVER ruin somebody’s pump with the latest drama from the Kardashians without an explicit invitation.

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Actionable Steps


Read the longer version

Read the longer version! There are many other important rules that we left off our list, so check out these articles for a more in-depth look: Ultimate Guide to Gym Etiquette by Greatist, and Good and Bad Gym Etiquette by BodyBuilding.com.


Remember the game

Etch these commandments deep into your subconscious so that they become second nature. Be honest with yourself regarding which rules you have neglected to follow and make a pact to change.


Follow these every time

Carry out these guidelines every single time you step foot in the gym. You never know who is watching, and leading by example is the easiest way to facilitate change without authority.


Share with a friend

The more seeds we plant, the faster this movement of civility will spread.

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About the Author

John DeLuca

John DeLuca


After a brief stint in the Men’s Physique competition realm, and even winning first place in his final show, John decided to use his expertise to help normal, everyday people create the body they’ve always desired. His book, “The Busy Body: Principles for Building a Great Physique without Missing out on Life” is the culmination of over a decade of honing his craft. John is currently an RN in the Cardio-Thoracic Surgery ICU at Duke Hospital.
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