Poor Gym Etiquette: Mistakes Not To Make

No gym is immune to them – they are people with poor gym etiquette! You’ve seen them, the ones who neglect to wipe down machines after marathon-length cardio sessions, dripping with sweat. The guys who scream during sets and the women who stake a claim for “their” spot in a group exercise class.

Every gym has at least a few rule benders, and sometimes a few gym etiquette reminders go a long way. Whether you have been at your gym since it opened and feel a little entitled to bend the rules here and there or are just beginning your gym experience, these rules will help keep you and the people around you safe and happy.

Some of these  issues may seem to you like common sense, but to others, well, not so much. So let’s take a look at some of my top poor etiquette issues found in gyms today.

1. Clean Up the Sweat

Perhaps the most disgusting of the poor etiquette list is the gym-goer who sweats profusely on a piece of equipment and walks away without wiping it clean. No one wants to lay down on a bench, or even place their hands on an elliptical machine that is covered in someone else’s sweat.

All gyms should provide paper towels and cleaner for members to wipe down equipment after each use. If you haven’t been taking the time to use it, it’s time to start. I’m not suggesting that it is any member’s responsibility to keep the gym clean, but common courtesy goes a long way.

2. Clean Up After Yourself

So, you need three different sets of free weights to complete the workout you are doing. This doesn’t give you the right to leave them on the floor next to bench for the next guy to trip over. Put your weights away in the spot where they belong.

Do you know what it’s like when you are searching for a pair of 20lb free weights and it’s the only weight not on the rack? It’s annoying as all get out and adds unnecessary time to your workout, not to mention that you or someone else could trip over weights that are left on the floor.

Also in line with cleaning up after yourself includes taking the 15 weighted plates you added to the squat bar so the next guy or girl, who may not be going for the Strongman Competition doesn’t have to remove all of them for you. It’s great that you can squat with 200lbs, but I can’t and I don’t feel like taking my time to pile up and re-stack your weights because you were too lazy to do it.

3. Trainers Should Be There for Everyone – Not Just the Cuties

It’s not just the gym members who are guilty of poor etiquette. I’ve worked at many gyms where the trainers are also guilty. Staff trainers usually have set hours when they are on the floor to help members. This means they are not in a specific training session, but are there to help all members if needed.

Even if this is not the case at your gym, if a trainer sees a member doing something incorrectly, they should take it upon themselves to help correct someone’s form to avoid injury. Unfortunately at many gyms, especially the larger chains, this isn’t always the case.

At one of the gyms that I used to teach classes at, the trainers were known for only helping the cute girls. It became a real joke at the gym as the members on the treadmills would place bets on who the trainers would come out of the office to “help.”

It’s common knowledge that a lot of gyms are pick-up joints. My husband used the old “steal your bench” move to start a conversation with me many years ago. But this doesn’t absolve personal trainers from doing their job and helping the people who need it.

4. Rest Periods that Take an Eternity

Rest periods between sets are a necessity. But, be mindful of the people around you waiting to use a machine or bench. Everyone expects a rest period, but not one that involves big conversations on your night out at the club or your last bad date.

Optimal rest periods are anywhere from 30 seconds to up to ten minutes for some power lifters. For those people doing normal sets, the normal rest period ranges from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. If you are doing power sets or a routine that calls for longer rest periods, show some consideration and get up off the machine during your rest.

Sitting at a leg extension for 10 minutes to rest while someone else is waiting can be rather infuriating.

5. Screaming During Sets

So you’re lifting your heaviest set yet . . . good for you! No one wants to hear you screaming through it, though. Everyone understands grunting through it, and most of us need a little grunting to get through the last two or three lifts, but when you are screaming to do a lift, it is really annoying to the other members.

To me, it’s like begging the other members to pay attention to you while you do your set. I’m at the gym to work out. I could care less what anyone else there is doing, unless of course it impacts my workout. But, when I have to turn up my iPod in order to tune out your screams, that’s bad etiquette on your part. I’m not even going to touch on the people who play their iPods loud enough to blow their ear drums out. That’s between them and their audiologists.

6. Getting Between a Man and His Reflection

Some people are just oblivious. If a guy is standing in front of a mirror lifting weights, it is likely that he isn’t just checking himself out – although I certainly can’t speak for everyone. We all have seen the members at the gym who clearly are there to see themselves and be seen by others.

Most people, though, use the mirrors at the gym to check and modify their form and technique during exercise. Whether it is during a group exercise class or in the weight room, it is poor etiquette to grab a pair of weights and stand directly in front of someone.

7. Party of Four (or More)

Statistics show that people who begin workout with a partner tend to stick with a workout program longer than someone who begins a program alone. Working out with a friend can be great in that you have someone to help spot, motivate, and encourage you.

What’s not so great is when you are moving from machine to machine without your workout group. When your workout partnership becomes three, four, five, etc. the time spent per machine gets longer and longer with the increased talking and socializing.

I’m not saying leave someone out of your group, but if you have more than three, split up into smaller groups as you go through the gym equipment.

8. It’s My Spot, Dammit!

Yes, you’ve taken the same step class for 10 years. You’ve always had the same spot. Front row, just to the left of the instructor. You are pretty much a fixture in the class at this point, but here’s the problem: the new person who just walked in doesn’t know that.

Myself being a creature of habit, I do understand people’s preference to take a class from the same spot. For me, when I’m not teaching a class, I find that I like to be in the back row for change. Some people like to be up front so they can hear or see better.

Others just get used to following cues based on being on the right or left side of the room. I get that. But a little flexibility goes a long way. When that new girl shows up and places her step in your spot, think twice about putting your step two inches from hers in an effort to teach her a lesson.

9. Dropping Your Weights

I’ve heard both sides on this one. My gripe was to say that people should avoid throwing their weights to the floor after completing a set. On top of in annoyance of having to hear the constant slamming, it is not going to end well if those weights drop onto someone’s foot.

Now advocates of of the throw down will say that when you are completing a set at your maximum weight, that your muscles are too fatigued to gently place the weights down. Let’s agree to find a happy medium and not throw the weight for effect. Do you best to control them on the way down to avoid the slamming and possible  injuries that could come from hitting someone with them.

10. Time Limits Are Made for Everyone

Not all gyms have 20 treadmills and 30 elliptical machines to keep everyone going during their busiest times. Most gyms adhere to time limits on popular cardio machines to ensure everyone gets a chance. If your gym’s time limit is 20 minutes per person (provided there is someone waiting to use the machine), then you’re not fooling anyone by placing your towel over the timer.

It just serves to infuriate the people around you by insinuating that they don’t know how to tell time. A treadmill may not be your absolute fave, but if there is a line for the elliptical and you’ve done your allotted time, do the right thing and find another machine to use.

A Little Common Sense + A Little Common Courtesy

You might be reading this list thinking it is all common sense, but unfortunately these bad gym habits happen all the time. With a little common courtesy, gyms can be safer, cleaner, and a lot less frustrating. There are plenty of people in this world that feel “the rules” don’t apply to them — I’m here to tell you at the gym, they do!

Everyone needs a gentle reminder now and then. Consider yourself reminded!

Feel free to post your own gym etiquette gripes. I’m sure if it’s frustrating to you, it’s likely bothering someone else as well.


Dr. Steroids

Introducing our esteemed author at SteroidsLive, Johnathan Reed, a seasoned fitness enthusiast with a passion for empowering others on their journey to optimal health and performance. With years of experience in the fitness industry and a background in sports science, Johnathan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his writing. Dedicated to providing accurate, evidence-based information, he strives to educate and inspire readers to achieve their fitness goals safely and effectively. Through his engaging and informative articles, Johnathan aims to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals seeking to transform their bodies and improve their overall well-being. Join him on the path to success at SteroidsLive, where fitness meets knowledge.