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Body Building Etiquette: How to Behave At the Gym
By Jean Lam

Just because the gym isn't the place for socializing doesn't mean you can act like you're alone while you're there. The gym is a public place, and you must share the equipment and space with others. Most of the unspoken rules of gym etiquette are common sense-wipe down your machines after you use them; put back your weights; don't hog the machines. Others may surprise you. Here are a few rules for how to behave at the gym.

Put weights back after you use them. Don't leave your weights on the bar or your dumbbells on the floor after you use them. It's not the staff's job to pick up after you. Chances are, another patron will have to do it-and some of them might not be able to lift the hundred-pound weights you left on the bar. Be courteous and put your weights away after your workout.

Careful with the equipment. When using exercise equipment, don't let the weights bang around too violently. If you bang the equipment constantly, eventually something will break. If you don't get hurt, the next person to use it might. Raise and lower your weights in a slow, controlled manner. If you can't, the weight you're lifting is too heavy and you should reduce it.

Don't damage gym property. Some people drop heavy dumbbells on the floor when they're finished with a set. Don't do this. It can damage the floor and chip the weights. At all times, have respect for the gym's facilities and property-don't break anything.

Share the workout machines. Whether you're doing a series of reps on one machine or you're jumping from machine to machine, share. Don't drape your towel over a machine to save your place while you go get a drink of water; someone else may want to use that machine. If someone wants to use a machine you're using for multiple reps, offer to "work in" or alternate reps with the other person. If someone asks to work in on a machine with you, always agree.

Wipe down after working out. Nobody wants to work out on a machine or bench you just sweated all over. Carry a towel with you and wipe off the machine or bench you used when you're done. Put a towel down on benches and seats you use; it's much more hygienic. If your gym has disinfectant spray, use it. The people who use the equipment after you do will thank you.

Don't walk in front of the mirror. Many people use the mirror to maintain proper form. This is crucial, especially for those lifting heavy weights. If you walk in front of the mirror while they're working out, you could break their concentration or cause them to lose form. Walk around behind someone who's working out in front of a mirror, or wait until the person is done with his reps.

Only you should be able to hear your music. Many people work out to music on their headphones or Mp3 players. But the person next to you may not have headphones, and he may not want to hear your workout music, either. Make sure your music isn't turned on so high that everyone in the gym can hear it. And don't sing aloud to the songs on your iPod-you're there to work out, not perform.

Keep socializing to a minimum. There's nothing wrong with a brief conversation here and there. But most people don't go to the gym to talk; they want to do their workout and get out. If you must ask someone a question, wait until she's done with her reps; nobody will want to talk to you while lifting. Don't try to strike up long conversations with other lifters at the gym. Avoid hitting on others at the gym; save your smooth moves for the bar.

Don't broadcast your pain. Working out is difficult-we all know that. But don't be the guy who insists on letting everyone know just how hard a time he's having. Loud groaning and grunting is distracting to the other members, and cursing and swearing while you work out may offend the people around you. Even if you feel you can't help making noise while you work out, try. The people at the gym with you will definitely appreciate your silence.

Ask before working in. It's common courtesy at the gym to allow anyone who asks to work in on a machine with you to do so. But it's also common courtesy to ask if you want to jump in with someone else; don't just do it. If you do, you could break the other person's rhythm-or change his weights unexpectedly, which could lead to injury. Make sure the other person agrees before jumping in.

Keep it clean. There's always someone at the gym you can smell coming a mile away. This person smells like he hasn't washed his workout clothes in a month; his sneakers smell like old feet; and nobody wants to use the machines when he's done. Don't be that guy. Wash your workout clothes regularly. Make sure your shoes don't smell. Wear deodorant to the gym. Don't wear perfume or cologne to the gym-sweat enhances the smell of these products, and they make some people ill.

Most of the rules of gym etiquette involve treating people courteously: pick up after yourself, don't do anything to distract others, and don't keep others waiting to use a machine. Be polite and follow these rules of gym etiquette, and you'll never be "that guy" at the gym.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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