Just like most places that you frequent, the gym has its own set of rules and behavior that athletes should abide by. Part of it is about good manners, plain and simple. But it’s also about keeping everyone in the gym safe. So, what does gym etiquette say? Here are just a few rules you should always keep in mind.
Gym Etiquette 101: 10 Rules to Follow
1. Never Walk in Front of or Behind an Athlete When They’re Doing a Big Lift
Imagine setting up on the bar, taking a big breath in, and bracing yourself for a huge lift… and then someone walks right in front of you.
Distracting? Uh, yeah. You could say that.
Going for a big lift requires precise concentration. So, if you notice someone setting up on the bar, that’s your hint to pause and let them do their lift, before moving across their field of vision or getting in their “bubble.”
As for walking behind someone when they’re about to attempt a big lift, this is more for safety reasons. They can’t see you and probably aren’t even paying attention to what’s happening behind them. What if they drop the barbell? What if they stumble backward? Clear the platform! Let them finish their lift with the space they need to do so safely.
If it’s lighter weight, then you’re probably okay. And worst case scenario, if you don’t know (which is totally understandable), just wait until the athlete has completed the set.
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2. Ask Before You Drop Equipment — Especially From Overhead
What kind of flooring does your gym have? Is it safe to drop a barbell from overhead? If not, you could damage the floor and the equipment.
What about dumbbells? Is it ever okay to drop those, or does your gym manager prefer you set them down?
Nothing makes people cringe like the sound of equipment hitting the floor when it’s not supposed to. Before you do a workout that you know will have you dumping weight, double-check with someone on the staff that you’re clear to do that.
3. If Someone is Wearing Headphones, Leave Them Alone
Universally, headphones in someone’s ears mean, “I’m in my own world. Please come back another time.” This is not code for, “I have music blaring in my ears, so please try harder to get my attention.
For some people, training is their social time. And that’s great! For others, they just want to be left the heck alone. And that’s just fine too.
If you pass an athlete wearing headphones or earbuds, leave them be and let them do their thing.
4. Put Your Stuff Away
While the gym might feel like home, it’s not your home in the sense that you can leave your stuff around however you please.
The owner of your gym has spent a great deal of time, energy, and money to stock your facility with excellent equipment. So, you should treat the gym and everything in it with respect. This means cleaning up after yourself.
Not only is this respectful but it’ll also make it easier for other athletes to get what they need when you’re done using it.
5. If You’re Asked to Wipe Your Equipment Down, Do It
Every gym is different, so this might not apply to you. But if you walk right past a sign that asks you to wipe down your equipment, and they provide disinfectant and paper towels, don’t casually ignore it.
Gyms are naturally dirty places. Filthy, in fact. When everyone pitches in to wipe down their own stuff after using it, it helps cut back on germs. (Super important, especially in the age of COVID-19.)
6. Be Mindful When Making Noise
During a heavy lift or a particularly grueling WOD, it’s only natural to grunt or otherwise make a little noise. Sometimes, you just can’t help it. And it many cases, it’s beneficial for your performance.
But we’ve all seen that one person who excessively screams, moans, and perhaps even drops an expletive or two. Don’t be that person.
7. Stay Off Your Cell Phone
This one is a biggie, because so many people are guilty of it.
Many of us are attached to our phones, and it doesn’t stop even for our sweat sesh — but it should.
When you’re buried in your phone, you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. And the last place you want to be oblivious to your surroundings is at the gym. It can be rude, but it can also be downright dangerous.
Now, if you’re jotting down notes for your workout or getting ready to film a lift, that’s one thing. But if you’re obsessively checking Instagram in between sets, put it away for now and focus on your training.
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8. Avoid Giving Unsolicited Advice
Does anything bug athletes more than people giving them advice when they never asked for it?!
Unless someone approaches you and explicitly states, “I’m having trouble with X. Can you give me some pointers?” you’re probably better off keeping your thoughts to yourself. Even though you probably mean well, it can come across as obnoxious to the other person.
9. Make Sure You’re Using the Equipment the Right Way
Here’s an example: You wouldn’t want to use an Olympic weightlifting bar for bench pressing. First, it means that someone who actually wants to do the Olympic lifts can’t use that bar. Second, it’s not safe. Olympic bars spin. You don’t want this for benching.
This bit of gym etiquette is also for those athletes doing curls in the squat rack. We see you.
If you accidentally misuse a piece of equipment, don’t be ashamed! It happens, and we’re all learning. It’s always wise to ask a coach or staff member for help if you’re unsure.
10. Be Mindful of How Much Chalk You Use
If people can see you coming a mile away from the cloud of chalk that precedes you, then you’re using too much.
If athletes can always tell where you’ve trained by the chalk handprints covering every inch of the surface, you’re using too much.
Honestly, it only takes a little bit to get the job done!
What other gym etiquette rule would you add to this list?