10 golden rules of gym etiquette

by Ryan Wagner

It’s no secret that this time of year brings in a lot of new faces in any gym. One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to join a gym. Memberships spike across the country. For many of us regulars, we tend to dread the onslaught of new members now using the equipment that we are so fond of. But anytime someone takes the leap and enters a gym – what can be a relatively frightening place for many people – that’s a good thing. And for us “regulars” I think we need to go the extra mile this January and help these new folks to feel welcome. That being said, the following is part tongue in cheek and part legitimate. Here are the 10 golden rules of gym etiquette.

  1. No curls in the squat rack

    Bicep curls are strictly forbidden in the squat rack. Enough said.

  2. Stay off your phone

    Unless you maintain an Instagram account with upwards of 10,000 followers, you don’t need to haul your phone around all over the gym. Exception: You use a workout app.

  3. Give people space

    Because distractions can be dangerous when lifting heavy weight, or even light weight. I understand that in busy gyms, space is at a premium, but do your best.

  4. Don’t distract anyone during a set

    Includes asking questions like “Dude, how many more sets do you have?” and making unnecessary noise. It can be annoying when I’m in the middle of a heavy bench set and I can hear (and feel) weights being stacked around me on the bench.

  5. It’s OK to watch people, but not to stare

    In any gym, it’s always the same thing – everyone is watching everyone. This is a major cause of gymtimidation, and I get it, when you’re a little unsure about your workout, it certainly doesn’t help to see all of those wandering eyes. But here’s a little inside information: We’re probably just watching what you’re doing for three seconds before we watch what someone else is doing. A gym can be a beehive of activity, it’s OK to look around…but not to stare.

  6. Lower your yoga mat to the floor gently

    When someone is lying on their back doing their exercises and then you come along and let your mat fall to the ground, it creates a local windstorm – and in that storm, all those nice little particles of dirt on the floor neatly land on your face. It’s gross.

  7. Don’t hog the equipment

    It’s OK to use, say, the squat rack for twenty minutes straight, but you have to earn it. If you’re doing sixteen sets of your so-volume-intense-this-just-might-work Bulgarian squat routine, and you’re keeping yourself honest with your rest periods, then by all means, stay right there and squat until you can’t drive home. However, if you’re taking a six minute rest and perusing your Instagram account while I’m hovering around and longingly looking at the barbell, then that’s a problem.

  8. No dropping the weights (unless they are really, really heavy)

    This is a common grievance for many novice lifters and one of the stereotypes of the typical muscle-bound type. Simply put, there’s a time and a place for dropping the weights: For instance, O-lifting, deadlifts, and dumbbells over 85 pounds. Otherwise, just give those weights a little guidance as you set them down, don’t leave it all up to gravity [Phil Heath: Please do whatever you want, including curling in the squat rack].

  9. Enjoy yourself

    If you aren’t enjoying the process, I think you owe it to yourself to keep looking until you find something that you really enjoy. It takes guts to join a gym and walk out there on the floor if you aren’t really “the fitness type.” But I hope you stick with it, fitness comes in so many different flavors these days.

  10. Try not to judge

    The gym is a little like a prison yard. Small factions form and there are different cliques. I know that it can feel like everyone there knows exactly what they are doing except for you, but trust me, it’s not true. Everyone in there is just doing their best, trying to become the best version of themselves.


If you’re starting a new movement program for 2017 next week, I wish you the best of luck. Fitness is awesome, it really is. 🙂

Please share this article, I’m sure that there is someone in your circle of friends who is on the verge of joining a gym!

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