The ultimate gym etiquette guide

While most gym etiquette rules are based on common sense and would apply in any context, there are also a few unwritten gym rules that a newcomer may not know.

By following these guidelines, we can make the gym a more enjoyable environment for all.

The gym basics

Every gym or gym chain has their own set of rules that governs member conduct and behavior in the facility.

#1. Read the rules

As a contracted gym member, it’s your responsibility to know the facility’s rules and regulations and abide by them.

They’re meant to ensure your safety and that of your fellow gym members, while also helping to create an enjoyable environment and experience for everyone.

#2. Be mindful of your surroundings & fellow gym-goers

There’s a lot going on in a gym, especially over peak periods like before or after work on weekends or early weekend mornings. It’s easy to tune out when you’ve got your headphones on or you’re engaged in your workout, but this can become dangerous if you’re not alert.

Be particularly mindful while traversing the free weights section as there are often dumbbells and weight plates on the ground, which can be tripping hazards.

#3. Replace your weights

These potential tripping hazards wouldn’t be as prolific if more people put away their weights after use.

Always place your dumbbells back in their designated (generally labelled) spot on the rack, unload your squat bar or leg press machine and place the weight plates back onto their pegs.

On that point, it is vital to learn how to safely unload bars. It is best to strip one plate at a time in an alternating fashion to maintain balance and prevent the bar from tipping.

Similar principles apply for stretching mats, stability balls, foam rollers and kettlebells. Everything has a place and should be put back where it belongs to make it easier for other patrons to find the equipment they want.

#4. Don’t hog equipment

Performing giant sets using multiple moves and various pieces of equipment might keep your training interesting and effective, but when gyms are busy you may deny someone else the opportunity to complete their planned workout.

Keeping a bar, dumbbells and a bench aside and unused as you cycle through different exercise stations is certainly not acceptable gym etiquette. Reserve these workouts for quieter gym times or offer to share the equipment or exercise station.

#5. If in doubt, always ask

If you find a piece of gym equipment you need and it is close to another gym member, be courteous and ask whether they’re using before picking it up. Assuming that an idle bench or machine is not in use can cause unnecessary acrimony.

#6. Don’t arm curl in the squat rack

Certain sections are designed to accommodate specific exercises. The squat rack, for example, is specially designed to make it easier and safer to perform this compound exercise under heavy loads.

If gym members use the space for other exercises, it can inconvenience those who need these specific structures to perform their exercises effectively.

#7. Don’t exceed the assigned time limits

Usage restrictions on cardio equipment are there to ensure every member is able to get an effective workout during peak periods. Exceeding these times is selfish and disrespectful to the rules and to the other gym members.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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