Dr. Erin Nitschke by Dr. Erin Nitschke

A fitness facility is a place to get your sweat on and torch some calories; however, the rules of the road still apply. Fitness pros and recreational gym goers should always display appropriate behavior and gym etiquette during all workout sessions. Unfortunately, not every member of the gym will keep proper etiquette at the forefront of his or her attention.

To keep the gym experience safe and worthwhile for you and those around you, behave mindfully and don’t become “that guy” or “that gal” who fails to keep common courtesy rules in check.

Sloppy Joe or Jane

Nothing creates a more dangerous training atmosphere like an unkempt space. It’s not only rude to leave weights and other equipment scattered around a workout space, but it sets the stage for completely avoidable accidents and injuries to occur.

Always re-rack your weights and tidy up the space you are using. If you pile on the plates for the squat or bench press, remove them and put them back where you found them. The same rule applies for dumbbells (or any other moveable piece of exercise equipment). Use them and then store them. This not only keeps the weight room safe for everyone, but it allows all participants to have equal access to equipment.

Hoggy Harry or Harriette

Weight training takes time and, depending on the type of routine a person is performing, multiple sets are generally required. It’s okay to use a weight machine, squat rack or other piece of equipment to perform multiple sets. Just be mindful of other users and their time and allow someone to work in. It’s the polite action to take and the other person will appreciate the courtesy and the favor is more than likely to be returned. Consider this a “pay it forward” principle for the gym.  

Social Butterfly

The gym is a great place to meet friends and have brief conversations—emphasis on the word “brief.” If you do not like giving up precious time to launch into full conversations during your workouts, respect others’ workout time and space. If you have a desire to exchange pleasantries with an acquaintance, wait until they are on a rest period. Also, take cell phone conversations out in the hall or to the locker room. Allow others to concentrate on their exercise session and not on your conversation.


Gyms have mirrors for several reasons: They make a space look bigger and allow weight lifters and personal trainers to monitor and correct form throughout a workout. The mirrors are not there for personal admiration of one’s physique. Take the selfie someplace else, but please don’t take up valuable real estate to snap a pre- or post-workout picture.

Bob the Blocker

Few gym behaviors aggravate individuals more than the person who stands in front of the weight racks to perform a set of curls or lateral raises. Standing in front of the weights precludes others from grabbing the weights they need to accomplish their own set of exercises. The lesson here—take the set of dumbbells you need, step way back and keep the space in front of the racks clear for through traffic.

Slammy Sammy

There’s no scientific benefit associated with banging the weights together at the end of a repetition. Rather, this behavior is actually damaging to the equipment, whether it’s dumbbells or selectorized/machine weights. This habit isn’t just unnecessarily loud, it’s simply unnecessary. A good practice to follow is to gently return the weights to their resting position or, if performing a free weight exercise (think chest fly or dumbbell bench), complete the repetition slightly before the weights touch.

Stinky Steve or Sweaty Betty

Sweating is expected during a workout, particularly if it’s an intense one. It is also expected by other patrons and gym managers for equipment users to wipe down the bench, cardio machine or other surface after use. Doing so reduces the likelihood of spreading infections and illnesses (MRSA, ringworm, etc.). Plus, no one really wants to use a dirty or sweaty piece of equipment that isn’t properly cleaned. Equally as important to cleaning the equipment is making sure your personal hygiene is handled. Keep three or four sets of gym clothes available throughout the week, wash them regularly, and keep deodorant in your locker or bag.

Exercising proper etiquette while exercising creates a safe, pleasant and user-friendly environment in which all patrons can enjoy their experience and derive the benefits of an effective and fun workout. In short, there’s no downside to having good manners.

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