Nobody wants to be “that guy”. And yes, women can also be “that guy” if they’re not following the often unspoken code of gym etiquette.
Whether you’re new to the gym, or you’ve been going for a while, there is a set of unspoken rules that you should follow to ensure that going to the gym is a better experience for everyone.
The following list is essentially a brief guide to how to be courteous and considerate while working out around others.
Table of Contents
1. Clean up your sweat
Bringing a towel to the gym can be helpful to lay onto equipment as a barrier between it and your body.
Not everyone cleans up after themselves, so you’ll sometimes be met with a puddle of fresh sweat or even sticky residue where someone once was. This is not pleasant and can be avoided by simply wiping up after yourself. You can catch a lot of germs at the gym, so try to practice good hygiene and be safe.
It’s always a good idea to use the disinfectant usually provided by the gym to wipe down equipment before and after use.
2. Wear headphones
Chances are, other people don’t want to hear your music. If you plan to listen to your own music while you’re working out in a public space, then please wear headphones and keep the volume at a reasonable decibel.
Speakers, unreasonably loud music blasting from your headphones, and listening to your music through your phone without wearing headphones can be excessively disruptive to those around you.
3. Put equipment back
It’s generally a good rule of thumb to put equipment back where you got it from. For instance, if you took a step out of the aerobics room, then return it to the aerobics room when you’re finished.
Don’t leave random things lying around. You’re not at home, so while you’re sharing space with others it’s best to be courteous enough to clean up after yourself.
4. Re-rack your weights
After you’re finished using your weights, please put them back in their respective spots. Leaving a pair of 10lb dumbbells out may not be a big deal for someone else, but leaving a pair of 100lb dumbbells somewhere random is a big deal.
If you see someone leave their dumbbells on the floor and walk off, have a little fun and ask them if their mom forgot to teach them how to put their toys away once they finished playing.
5. Don’t leave plates
While leaving a plate or even 2 plates on a piece of workout equipment like a squat bar or leg press machine may be okay, it’s not okay to leave 20 plates loaded onto there. That’s just ridiculous and inconsiderate.
If you loaded a bunch of plates onto something, then please unload most of them to make the equipment accessible for the next person. Taking your plates off is also a good sign to let someone know that the equipment isn’t being used.
6. Avoid hovering
If someone is using a piece of equipment or occupying a space that you’d like to use, then it’s okay to ask them how much longer they’re going to be. However, you don’t want to hover, get into their space or stand there looking over their shoulder the whole time.
Give them a minute to finish whatever they’re doing, and then approach and ask. You can also use body language to point and raise an eyebrow, denoting that you’d like to know if they’re finished using something and to let them know you’re interested in whatever they’re using.
7. Feel out a spot
When you know you’re about to lift a weight that you may need help with in order to stay safe, you’ll probably want to ask for a “spot”. However, please remember that people are not in the gym solely to help you with your workout.
Be polite and ask nicely. If someone refuses to remove their headphones and speak to you or says “no”, then accept that and move on. You may have to skip your heavy set that day. Otherwise, you can ask a trainer or another employee to help you out.
8. Pay attention to space
Everyone’s personal space bubble is different. However, when you’re in the gym you also have to be aware of what people are doing around you in order to stay safe. When someone is in the middle of lifting weights or working out, give them an ample amount of room while walking around them.
Someone who is in the middle of an exercise should not be the one to get out of your way as you’re just walking by, provided they aren’t completely blocking a designated walkway.
As you’re choosing where you’ll be working out you may also want to consider how much space you’ll need.
9. Not a restaurant
Sometimes you may need a bite of something to replenish your energy levels. If you’re just pulling out a protein bar quickly, then that may be acceptable. Eating a full meal or bringing junk food into the workout area is not acceptable.
Usually, there are areas designated for eating. Keep your snacking and food consumption for those specific spots.
10. Limit social media
It can be helpful to film yourself to check your form, or take a selfie and track your progress. Just be mindful of what’s going on around you and try not to get in other people’s space or invade their privacy. People often don’t want to be a part of your post.
In addition, checking your social media should probably be kept to a minimum, especially if someone is waiting for you to finish using a piece of equipment and you’re just hanging out scrolling through social media long after you’ve adequately rested between sets.
11. Take care of equipment
Unless you’re on a surface that’s made for dropping weights, like an Olympic lifting platform, then it’s not okay to just drop your weights and throw them around. This can damage equipment and is dangerous for you and the people around you.
On a similar note, learn how to use machines appropriately, and don’t slam the weight stacks haphazardly as this can cause the cable to snap or incur premature wear and tear.
12. Locker room no-go
It’s great to be confident. It’s even better to be comfortable in your own skin. It’s not great to terrorize the other people in the locker room with your rampant nudity.
Not everyone is comfortable with the nude human figure. So, please exercise some modesty and keep it to the bare minimum, no pun intended, by at least wearing a towel for the most part.
13. Appropriate attire
Everyone is free to wear what they like, as long as it abides by the dress code. However, some gyms forgo the whole dress code deal and encourage you to wear whatever you want. Either way, there’s a level of appropriateness that you may want to maintain.
Guys, please don’t wear super short shorts that allow you to “hang out” all over the place. Glancing over to see you in your full glory while you’re leg is up on a bench is just not in good taste.
Ladies, please be cognizant of your personal areas and keep them covered as well. If falling out of your top is a concern, you may want to wear a bigger top or a more supportive sports bra.
As a general rule, you may just want to make sure that you wear appropriate undergarments.
14. Huffing and puffing
A certain level of noise while working out is completely normal. Grunting while exerting a lot of force can actually be helpful at times. However, if you’re just being loud and trying to garner attention, then please stop.
The gym is not the place to fluff your tail feathers and draw attention to yourself by being irritatingly loud about what you’re doing. Grunting so loudly that everyone is paying attention to you may be a sign that you’re being disruptive.
15. No creeping
Try not to stare at people or watch others like they’re a riveting show on TV. It’s uncomfortable and distracting. That isn’t what the mirrors are there for, and it can just be downright creepy.
16. Don’t be a hog
Using more than a piece or two of equipment can become a bit excessive, especially if the gym is crowded. Try to be aware of the space around you and be courteous about sharing equipment.
Taking over a whole section of the gym so that you can run your own personal obstacle course is not okay. Unless the gym is empty and nobody is around. Then do your thing.
17. Be kind (or at least mature)
It’s understandable that everyone may not have been raised with the best manners or etiquette. However, as an adult, it is your choice to treat others with kindness and at the very least a modicum of respect or consideration. Please don’t be rude just to be rude. It makes for a very unpleasant environment.
If someone steps out of line, then it’s appropriate to let them know without immediately starting a fistfight. You can also walk away or report them to a gym employee who may ask them to leave.
18. Don’t doddle
Especially when the gym is crowded during peak times, please don’t just hang out on equipment and rest for 15 minutes in between sets. If you do need to rest for longer periods of time, then let people work in with you and share the equipment or space.
One of the most obnoxious things someone can do is hang all over a piece of equipment that they aren’t even using and prevent other people from getting through their workout in a timely manner.
19. Cell phone situations
One of the most annoying things is listening to someone’s full phone conversation while they’re taking up space on a piece of equipment that you’re waiting for. If you need to take a call or make a call, then step outside or at least away from the workout area to do so.
Silencing your phone or setting it to vibration mode while you’re working out is another way to be courteous to your fellow gym-goers.
20. Mark your territory
No, I don’t mean urinate everywhere.
That would violate so many rules let alone simple hygiene.
However, if you’re on a piece of equipment and need to take a restroom break and actually run to the bathroom to relieve yourself then it can be helpful to leave your water bottle, towel, or something to show that you’re occupying a piece of equipment.
People probably aren’t paying attention to what you’re doing at all times, so they may not be aware you’re using a bench or machine and assume it’s free if they don’t see anyone there for a few seconds.
21. Check your ego
Ego-lifting can be dangerous in that you stop paying attention to what you can handle in order to pay attention to how much you’re impressing the people around you.
Tip: Focus on your form and only lift the weight that you can handle, and do exercises that you can perform with proper technique.
The gym is not a talent show and you aren’t there to impress anyone or show off. Be safe and keep your focus on what you’re doing, which should be trying to progress in a safe manner based on your capabilities.
22. Inside voices
It can be really fun to work out with a group of buddies, but not everyone feels that way, and being super loud about it can be disruptive to other people trying to work out around you. By all means, enjoy yourself, laugh, and have fun.
Just try to be cognizant of the area you’re in and keep the level of your voice down if you’re around a lot of people in a tight area.
23. The mirror rule
People standing in front of the mirror working out are often trying to watch their form. If you can avoid walking between them and the mirror, then that would be the most considerate thing to do.
Grabbing a pair of dumbbells or other equipment is fine, just be quick about it and don’t hang out in their line of sight.
24. Ask first
While it’s easy to assume that just because a piece of equipment is unoccupied for a minute it’s actually unoccupied, sometimes people step away briefly to return the equipment, use the restroom, answer their phone, etc.
Before jumping onto a piece of equipment, check to see if there’s anything personal left behind to denote that it’s taken. It also helps to take a moment to look around. People who have stepped away for a second will usually try to keep an eye out.
If they do come back in a reasonable amount of time, then ask to work in with them instead of just taking it over.
25. Not that kind of club
Have you ever seen someone walk into a gym and wondered if they were there to work out or to walk around and look good?
It’s totally acceptable to want to look and feel your best while working out. Looking and feeling disheveled can sometimes be a deterrent when you’re already not feeling super confident about going to the gym.
However, the gym is not a club or bar where you need to get dressed up in your best outfit just to walk around and strut your stuff. You’re there to work out, not impress anyone.
26. Report broken equipment
Please don’t assume that someone else will do it, because everyone else may be assuming the same thing too. Take the initiative and let the front desk person, a trainer, or any staff member know when equipment is malfunctioning or broken.
You don’t have to interrupt your workout to go on a voyage to find an employee. Mentioning it on your way out of the gym is just fine.
27. Get in and get out
The gym is for working out, not socializing. But some people seem to forget this and like to spend time walking around speaking to everyone and hanging out. While it’s nice to be friendly, there’s a limit to what’s appropriate.
Friendliness can make for a nice workout environment where you feel like you’re welcome and part of a “gym family”, but for a lot of people, it’s a sanctuary to focus on their goals and themselves. So, keep the socializing to a minimum and let people do what they’re in there to do, exercise their bodies, not their jaws.
28. Learn and teach
Nobody likes a know-it-all. And nobody knows it all. So don’t act as though you do. Be open to learning about different types of workout styles, techniques, and philosophies.
Conversely, if you see someone about to mess themselves up doing something absolutely crazy, it’s okay to nicely start a conversation and potentially help them learn something new. We were all beginners once.
29. Soulmate sabotage
There are a lot of good-looking people who go to the gym, but that doesn’t mean they’re there just waiting to get hit on. Most people are trying to get in, work out, and leave.
However, if you do see someone who tickles your fancy try using basic body language cues first to feel out the situation (smile, nod, wave, etc).
If the person seems responsive, then maybe introduce yourself and start a brief conversation. At the very least, you can make a new gym friend. But don’t go to the gym just to find dates and hit on people. It’s obnoxious.
30. Don’t skip leg day
If you’re a guy, you were probably hoping I would forget this one, weren’t you?
You don’t ever want to neglect one part of your musculature, especially not half of it. Your legs make up a large portion of the muscles in your body, so skipping out on working those muscles can lead to “ice cream cone body syndrome”.
This happens when your upper body is overdeveloped in comparison to your lower half and can make you look like Johnny Bravo.
Exercising your legs has a lot of benefits. So, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re adding leg exercises to your routine.
Oh, and if you’re a lady, please, don’t forget that there are other parts of the body other than your glute area.