The following are some general rules of etiquette that should be observed in a gym. In everything, apply the Golden Rule.
1. Bring a towel
Most commercial gyms do not provide towels. You’ll need it to wipe your sweat off the equipment after using it. Sometimes you may need it to wipe someone else’s sweat off the equipment before you can start using it. So be prepared. I tend to sweat a lot when working out, so I always wear a hoodie to help keep me from sweating all over the place. This also allows me to save my towel for wiping down the equipment instead of myself.
2. Care for the equipment
Please, always wipe off the equipment. The gym is a place to work hard and sweat, and that’s okay, but nobody wants to lay in someone else’s sweat or have to clean the equipment before they can use it. Even if you are not sweating it is still courteous to wipe the equipment off. This also goes a long way toward caring for the gym equipment. When equipment is broken or needs to be replaced it can take a while, so treat everything as if it were your own.
3. Re-rack the weights
When you are done using a particular set of dumbbells or plates make sure you return them to the dumbbell rack or weight tree. This is particularly important if you lift heavy. Not everyone can lift what you can, and they may have trouble carrying the weight. In addition, it burns energy and takes time that someone may need for their workout when they have to remove another person’s weight plates before they can continue their own workout.
4. Return equipment to the proper place
In general, you should feel free to move equipment around that you need to use. Just make sure to return it when you are done. Nearly everyday you can walk into my gym and find a bench that was left in the squat rack or smith machine that someone else was using. It can be very annoying to have to move equipment around that you do not need for your workout. Also, the weight tree and dumbbell rack can quickly become disorganized when weights are not returned to the designated spot and in the proper order, lightest to heaviest. Use the equipment that is available, thats what it’s there for, just return it to the proper place when you are done.
5. Respect space, don’t walk in front of or interrupt someone performing a set
Exercise requires concentration and a mind-to-muscle connection. People look at themselves in the mirror to check their form as they perform a set, but this also enables them to make the mind-to-muscle connection since they can both see and feel each contraction. Walking in front of someone when they are performing can break their concentration, which defeats the reason they are in the gym. Respect a person’s space and allow them to finish their set before walking in front of them. They will likely give you a head nod or wave when they reach their break and don’t mind you getting in their space.
6. Don’t exercise in front of the dumbbell rack
Following on number five, just know that people need a reasonable amount of space to get to the shared equipment, so it is not a good idea to exercise directly in front of it. This is particularly true for the dumbbell rack. Okay, I get it, if you are running the rack then this is unavoidable, but make the effort to be respectful of others. Also, don’t bench press or curl in the squat rack.
7. Check with others before grabbing a piece of equipment
Just ask the people within a few feet of the equipment if anyone is using it. If they say no, feel free to jump on it. This is important because some people do super-sets or compound-sets, which may require them to use more than one piece of equipment at a time. Also, if someone is using a piece of equipment you may be able to “work-in” with them, meaning you take turns using it between each other’s set breaks.
8. Don’t talk on your phone on the gym floor or in the locker room
This is really just considered rude. Just like walking in front of someone concentrating on performing a set, talking on a cell phone can be very distracting. Taking calls during your workout can also ruin your own results. Unless you are a doctor, EMT, or Firefighter on call, it can probably wait.
9. Try to keep the grunts to a minimum
It is perfectly acceptable to grunt during a heavy lift or briefly celebrate a success, but try to keep it to a minimum. If you need to grunt on every rep you may need to consider that you are lifting too heavy, and it can be very distracting for others. Screaming is never acceptable.
10. Wear fresh clothes each visit
You certainly don’t want to be the smelly person in the gym, whether the smell is staunchly old clothes or CK One. Just wear fresh, unscented clothing that is gym appropriate. And don’t wear a hat indoors (flipping up your hoodie is okay, sometimes it’s like a switch that puts you in lift mode).
11. Be nice to the new guy
The Arnold Schwarzenegger and bodybuilder documentary “Pumping Iron” from 1977 has a great scene where Schwarzenegger, in his signature massive frame, is working out at Gold’s Gym, and in the background is an scrawny guy doing lat pull-downs. To me, this harkens back to a day when the gym was for everybody, and everybody was welcome. It is terribly unfortunate that a lot of people feel intimidated to go to the gym. I once had a Soldier tell me that he wanted to get in shape BEFORE he started going to the gym; in his mind only people that looked like they work out actually go to the gym, and nobody else was welcome. So be nice to the new guy and make them feel welcome no matter what their starting point. We all need a cheer leader once in a while no matter where we are on our barbell journey.