11 Tips on Proper Gym Etiquette, According to Trainers

Sport & Activity

New to the gym or haven't been in a while? Check out these recommendations to make your workout as pleasant as possible—for you and everyone else.

Last updated: May 13, 2022
5 min read
11 Trainer Tips on Proper Gym Etiquette

One of the major advantages to a gym membership is that all the equipment and machines you could want are at your fingertips. And when it's not busy (or maybe even when it is), you might even imagine it's a personal home gym—except it's not.

"Gym etiquette is something that seems to have softened", said Rocky Snyder, CSCS, author of strength-training guide "Return to Center". "Whenever there is an increased interest and a higher number of people pursuing any activity, there is always the chance that time-tested rules may not always be followed".

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If you haven't been to the gym in a while, or if it's an entirely new adventure, it's worth brushing up on your fitness manners before your first visit. Check out these tips from four gym and fitness professionals on how to be courteous to fellow gym-goers.

11 Tips To Mastering Proper Gym Etiquette

  1. 1.Return equipment to its original place.

    That goes for anything, from dumbbells to weight plates to resistance bands. "If you grabbed it from somewhere, put it back when you're done". Snyder said. "Consider it part of your workout".

  2. 2.Allow others to work at your station between your sets.

    If you're performing a couple of sets of an exercise on a machine or weight bench and you have a very short rest time between them, then it's fine to stay put. But, if you have a longer rest period—enough time for someone else to do a set—then sitting idle at the machine is "camping", Snyder said. Let someone waiting jump or "work" in for a set during your recovery time, he said.

  3. 3.Avoid doing a photo shoot during your workout.

    Even if you have a robust following on social media, think twice before filming every detail of your workout. While videos can be helpful for seeing your form, they often result in staying on equipment longer than necessary and you may not be aware of what else you're filming, said Ellen Thompson, CPT, head personal trainer at Blink Fitness.

    "This puts other members who would not like to be filmed during their workouts in an uncomfortable position", she said.

  4. 4.Scroll on your phone off the floor.

    On its own, using social media, checking your emails and texting your friends at the gym isn't bad etiquette—but it's disrespectful if you're on your phone while blocking equipment or camping between sets, Thompson said.

  5. 5.Lower weights instead of dropping them to the ground.

    You just did an overhead press and, sure, it's tempting to let the whole barbell drop to the floor, but try to resist.

    "Dropping weights is not only counter-productive to getting the full benefit of the movement, it could also startle someone else lifting heavy, causing injury mid-movement", Thompson said.

    Plus, you might damage equipment or workout areas, resulting in all members losing access because of replacement or repairs.

  6. 6.Keep equipment and surfaces clean.

    One of the most courteous gestures you can make to fellow gym-goers is cleaning the machine or equipment you used after your workout is complete. Thompson notes that, ever since gyms have reopened, people have recently been more inclined to wipe down equipment more regularly.

    "We're also seeing more members clean their machines before use, not just after", she said. "And we're seeing them toss the wipes in bins instead of leaving them on or near machines".

  7. 7.Use one machine at a time.

    Some gym members tie up multiple machines at the same time, often by putting towels on them and jumping from one to the next, said Tom Holland, CSCS, exercise physiologist, author of "Beat the Gym" and host of the Fitness Disrupted podcast.

    "This prevents others from using the machine while you're somewhere else and this is a big no-no", he said. "Like you learnt at school, sharing is caring. You can't play with three toys at once and you shouldn't tie up multiple machines, either".

    If you plan on doing a circuit, invite any other fellow gym-goers to use the machines when you're using another piece of equipment.

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  8. 8.Invest in headphones if you want to listen to your own music.

    There's a new trend of blasting music through phone speakers, Holland said. That can feel intrusive and distracting to people around you, even if they're wearing headphones. And if the gym already plays music, it makes the space extra noisy.

  9. 9.Step away from the dumbbell rack.

    Holland said there should be a sign over the rack, reading: "Please step back a metre". If you stand closer, it prevents others from accessing the weights they need.

  10. 10.Give tips only when asked (and if qualified).

    If someone asks for suggestions on how to improve their Deadlift—great. (Though if you're not certified to offer such guidance, consider tag-teaming with a trainer in the gym.)

    Unsolicited advice, though? Not great, said Aaron Leventhal, CSCS, owner of Fit Studios in St Louis Park, Minn.

    "Please do not give anyone tips on their form", he said. "In terms of liability, it's a horrible idea, but also it just becomes awkward or frustrating for the other person".

    This can be especially true when considering different dynamics such as gender, race or age.

  11. 11.Communicate.

    Not sure if someone is hovering because they want to work in for a set? Feel uncomfortable being in the background of someone's video? Want to know if a fellow gym-goer is done with a piece of equipment? Ask. In general, etiquette is about acknowledging other people, seeing them as equals and respecting what they need. That kind of thoughtfulness can go a long way towards building a sense of camaraderie and community in the gym.

    Words by Elizabeth Millard

11 Trainer Tips on Proper Gym Etiquette

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