The Do’s and Don’ts of Gym Etiquette

A few weeks ago I had a reader ask me if I could do a post about gym etiquette, and I thought that was a brilliant idea! Everyone is afraid of looking like a newbie in the gym. I’ve been there, pro competitors have been there, and you’ve probably been there as well. The mistakes, mishaps, and misfortunes I’m covering in this post are made by everyone – from the newbies to the pros – so don’t feel like the world will come crashing down if you make one of these mistakes. Nobody’s perfect, but you can strive to be the best version of yourself.

Don't want to look like a newbie in the gym? Follow these gym etiquette do's and don'ts to keep you and the rest of the gym happy!

I remember the first time I ever walked in to the weights section of my campus gym. I was terrified. Yeah I’d trained all summer, but that was with a trainer. That was in a private training studio. This, this was the big leagues. Muscular guys everywhere, so many people knowing what they were doing, and I felt like all eyes were on me. You know those scenes in movies where a character walks in and everyone stops what they’re doing and stares? That’s exactly how I felt. The last thing I wanted was to look like a fool in front of all those people, let alone all the hot guys.

If you felt that way or feel that way when you walk into the gym, you’re not alone. Every single person has felt that way at some point in the gym. First off, no one is staring at you. Everyone is more concerned with how they look and not making a fool of themselves to even notice you. Secondly, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone will look like a newbie at some point in their gym career. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it.

Alright, enough about my first time in the gym… let’s get into it!

One set at a time

If the gym is dead, by all means use two sets of dumbbells so you can get in some supersets, but if the gym is packed, and you’re over there hogging dumbbells, people will dislike you. While I understand the whole idea of supersets and drop sets, there is a time and a place for that. Peak gym hours are not that time.

Use one set of dumbbells at a time. Let some other people get in their workout as well.

Re-rack your weights

Really? How hard is it to match up the number on the weight to the number on the dumbbell rack?

Once one person puts their weights back in the wrong place, it sets off a domino effect of people putting weights wherever they please because the spot where their weights go is already taken. Also, please don’t leave the dumbbells just lying around the gym. No one wants to be wandering around the gym to try and find the match for the single dumbbell that is on the rack.

Re-rack your weights, please.

Wipe down the machines

No one wants to workout in another person’s sweat. Be courteous and always wipe down the bench or machine once you’re done using it.

Use Deodorant

Honestly you’d think this one would be a no-brainer, but to some, I guess this is news. Deodorant is a must. No one wants to be smelling you, and you probably don’t want to be smelling anyone else either.

Now, we all forget every once in a while, so keep an extra stick in your gym bag/purse/backpack so you’re never left feeing that “oh my gosh I forgot to put on deodorant” panic ever again.

Related: Creating the Perfect Gym Bag

There’s a thing called personal space

Be conscious of what other’s are doing. If you see someone doing bent over reverse flys, don’t go stand right next to them. They need their space to perform the exercise properly and not injure you in the process. If you don’t want someone standing close to you, someone else probably feels the same.

This also goes for any kind of cardio equipment. It never fails that there’s a line of treadmills open, and someone will almost always choose the machine right next to mine. Like really? Please let me sweat in peace.

Don’t hog the mirror

This is my biggest pet peeve. Don’t stand right in front of the dumbbell racks and the mirror to do your lifts. I get that you want to look in the mirror, but also standing a foot away from it is doing nothing. When people do this, not only are they taking up valuable mirror space, they’re also blocking the weight rack.

Take a few steps back, let others have access to the weights, and do your lifts. A little space between you and the mirror isn’t going to kill you.

Utilize the lockers

Lockers are great! I know I don’t want to be lugging my backpack around the gym because it’s a lot to make sure no one is stealing it, it’s not in the way of others, and not forgetting it as I go from machine to machine.

Most gyms have day lockers that you can use for free, and some of them may even have electronic locks so you never have to worry about forgetting yours!

The key to gym etiquette is the key to life: treat others the way you want to be treated. Respect the gym equipment, respect the people in the gym, and respect the wonderfulness that is the gym.

~abigail gray

  • Totally agree about wiping down machines! I can only imagine what germs people leave behind…my school keeps plenty of cleaning spray and paper towels in every gym…thank goodness!

    paige / eyeliner wings & pretty things

  • This is a great post! Walking into the gym alone (even just to the elliptical) is always stressful for me, but knowing these tips should help me lift with more confidence.
    – katrina // Yours Truly, Katrina

  • Ugh yes about the personal space one! I was actually doing bent over reverse flys yesterday when some girl decided to come stand right to my left. Like really? Then I had to scoot to the right and worry about being in another guy’s space!