Gym etiquette: How to become a respectable member of the iron society

Gym etiquette: How to become a respectable member of the iron society

Whether you are new to the gym or a veteran gym-goer, there are a few basic rules all lifters must follow in order to be a respectable member of the iron society.

1. Rack your weights

If you use something, put it back where you found it. This one is very well-known and very intuitive. I don’t care if you’ve never stepped foot in a gym before; this is basic human decency. Besides, every gym has a sign reminding you to do it, so pleading ignorance is not an option.

Littering weights around the gym is wrong for a host of reasons, but leaving your weights on the bar is just as bad. Maybe the next person to use it will be an old lady who can’t (and shouldn’t have to) put away your 45-pound plates.

2. Wipe off your sweat

You don’t have to wipe off every piece of equipment you use, but if you get something wet (or even slightly damp), clean it off. And no, the gym towel is not sufficient; if you leave a stain, use a sanitary wipe.

If you’re like me and hate cleaning off gym equipment, then just prevent it from being a possibility. Tailor your workout routine around squats, deadlifts, floor presses, and pull-ups.

3. Personal space

If there are 10 open treadmills, you must leave at least one between yourself and the next person. It’s polite.

Unless it is absolutely necessary, you shouldn’t be within six feet of someone at the gym. This isn’t just polite; it’s also wise. People go to the gym to literally swing and throw around weights. Keep a safe distance.

4. Yes, you can work in

No one who’s using something at the gym wants to share it, but let’s face the facts: it’s 6 p.m., space is limited, and you’re both trying to get a workout in. Looks like you’re gym buddies.

Be friendly about it, too. If you’re about to have a prolonged interaction with someone, take your headphones out.

5. Yes, I can spot you

This doesn’t involve interrupting your workout. If you are doing some HIIT, nobody is going to ask you to spot them, anyway. If someone asks while you are doing anything else, politely tell them you will after that set and then spot them during your rest.

If you say no, and that person gets hurt, you’re partly at fault. It sucks, but that is the reality. Size doesn’t matter here. A 100-pound female can spot the biggest guy in the gym, because he should really only need at most like 20 pounds of help.

On the other side of the coin, don’t ask for a spotter if you need lots of help or want to do negatives or something that will make the other person do a lot of heavy lifting. If that type of thing is required for you to safely exercise, either make a friend or BYOS (bring your own spotter). Don’t tell a stranger to do it.

6. Don’t smell terrible

Look, you are at the gym. There are going to be some smells. But that is no excuse to let hygiene fall by the wayside.

·      Wear clean-ish clothes. You don’t have to shower and get dressed for the gym, but if you wouldn’t wear it outside, don’t wear it there.

·      Don’t have a stinky gym bag; there are products for that.

·      Clean shaker bottles, because old supplements smell nasty.

·      Use the plastic bags at the gym for wet clothing.

7. Keep your advice to yourself

Everybody loves when a person with no expertise tells them they’re doing something wrong. Don’t give your weightlifting advice to people who didn’t ask for it.

If you think someone is going to hurt himself or herself, tell one of the gym’s staff members. 

8. Don’t block traffic or the dumbbell rack

Be aware of where you choose to do your exercises. If you are standing too close to the dumbbell rack, you are getting in the way of other people’s workouts. Grab your DBs and take a few steps back.

If are standing in the walking lanes, you are just simply in the way.


This list is far from the end-all, be-all of good gym etiquette, but these eight practices will establish you as an upstanding citizen of the iron society.

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