9 Tips for Proper Gym Etiquette

I pride myself as a longstanding gym goer who’s been to a good amount of gyms in my lifetime. Each gym has its own unique vibe and energy. Some are sleek and modern, fitted with the latest workout machines, while others are a more ‘underground’ with plenty of iron, the kind of place where it’s “go hard or go home”.

Regardless of what a gym looks like, the people who use it are what determines what a gym feels like.

The truth is not all gyms have the most desirable people to exercise around, and that can make it hard to push through a good day’s workout. You can probably guess the kind of people I’m talking about. Fat-shamers, grunters and screamers, aggressive testosterone-fueled individuals with little to no patience who treat the gym as their own personal workout space, equipment hogs, people who don’t put the weights back, or don’t wipe down the machines after use. These are just a few of the types that can rapidly take the luster off going to the gym.

This excuses uninformed newbies–but once you’ve been working out for a few weeks, you should have a clue.

If you’re a newbie newbie gym goer, or even and old hand, here’s some advice to help you get the most out of you gym experience while at the same time making sure others can as well.

Clean Up After Yourself

Don’t leave your sweat all over the mat, seat, or bench. Use a towel to clean up after yourself. Think about how you feel when you go to use a peice of equipment and the last user left it coated with sweat.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Spot

Everyone in the gym is trying to accomplish the same goal; get more fit. You’re fighting the same fight all your fellow gym-goers are. It’s not uncommon to see people over-estimate their strength, or lose a rep or two due to a bad day or lack of sleep.

If you’re too embarrassed to ask for a spot on the bench-press, how embarrassed will you be if you get stuck under it?

There’s nothing wrong with asking for a spot. Just keep in mind that you’re expected to return the favor, and that both situations can be a great way to meet new people.

Put Equipment Back Where It Belongs

This is a universally understood gym rule that people universally don’t seem to understand.

Re-rack your weights. Put the dumbbells back on the stand. Return the mat to the stack. Put the kettle bells back against the wall.

If you don’t put equipment back where it belongs, you’re building up a bad reputation for yourself. Although it might be that no one will mention it, everyone notices.

The rule is simple: whatever you use put back when you’re finished.

Don’t Be Afraid to ask for Help

This doesn’t refer to just asking for a spot. If you don’t know how to use a particular piece of equipment, or don’t know the proper form for an exercise, ask.

Most gyms have employees who are eager to help. In addition to these employees, most gyms also have seasoned iron vets who enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience.

If you’re not sure, ask. People like to help.

Put your Phone Away

Want to listen to music? Fine. Feel the overwhelming compulsion to take a constant stream of selfies, or to engage in social media? Not fine.

We’ve probably all seen the gym goer who shows up, does a few sets, and then seem to focus more on their Facebook page than their workout. Maybe they’re taking pictures of themselves working out, or chatting with friends, or doing something else with that tiny screen that makes them oblivious to everyone and everything around them.

Spending excessive amount of time on your phone while at a gym bad. You’re there to work out, not socialize through your ever-present media device..

Don’t Interrupt Others Mid-Set

If someone’s mid-set and you have the urge to say something to them, don’t. While some people might enjoy the social aspect of the gym, no one wants to be distracted mid-set. Save your comments and questions for when a person is between sets, or before or after the workout.

And keep in mind that some people might not want to socialize at all. While they might not mind answering a questions or two about exercise or fitness, they’re there to workout and unwind. Save the small talk and social questions for another time.

Don’t Hog Equipment

This is especially important if there are a limited number of whatever you are using. Get on it, do your sets, and don’t dally.

This also means using the equipment for it’s intended purpose. There joke about the guys doing curls in the squat rack is a joke for a reason, and it’s not a funny one. No one wants to sit around waiting to do squats while someone is doing curl in the only squat rack in the place.

Dress Appropriately

I remember seeing a woman show up to the gym wearing heels. What? And what about the woman who wear as little as possible as tight as she can get it? Or the men who seem compelled to take off their shirts? Also–and sorry for seeming as though I’m picking on the ladies–you’re going tot he gym, not the club.

Most gyms have clothing standards posted. Overly revealing clothing it out. Dress shoes are out. No shirt is out. And you don’t need all that makeup either, or that cologne. Axe body spray isn’t supposed to be used as a disinfectant.

Pick loose, comfortable, breathable clothes and keep the accessories in the locker or at home.

Don’t Hold Contests

I see this very frequently with younger, teen-age lifters. They aren’t there to work out as much as they are there to see who’s stronger. If that’s what you want to do, sign up for a local power lifting meet. While there’s nothing wrong with trying a 1 rep max (1RM), these groups seem ed determined to out-do each other with not concern for form or safety.

Seeing a bunch of rambunctious teens trying to outdo each other is

  • distracting
  • not the proper way to work out
  • risky when it comes to injury
  • annoying to the rest of the gym

While it’s fun to workout with friends, being overly competing and loud while you are doing it is out.


Gyms are public spaces in that anyone can join. The people there are like you, fellow gym-goers striving to look better and be healthier.

Being courteous of others is the golden rule to stick to. Newcomers, don’t be afraid to to ask for help. Keeping quiet can lead to injury or embarrassment or both.


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