Today’s article comes from guest author Cameron Stache.  If you are paying attention to the free WorldFitnessNetwork forums, you have no doubt gotten familiar with Cameron.  But what you might not know is that Cameron currently works as a Fitness Coach/ Assistant Fitness Manager at the Rush Fitness Complex in Greensboro, NC.  He’s pursuing his Exercise Science degree and plans to use this degree to either work at a large college and be a strength and conditioning coach, or go into ergonomics. If you are interested in brands Cameron supports, check out .

pic: Practice good gym etiquette and you'll avoid the Bad Manners Nanny
Practice good gym etiquette and you’ll avoid the Bad Manners Nanny

We all have to share.  Sometimes it’s time, sometimes it’s money, and other times it’s just plain space.  It’s for this reason we have rules; although, occasionally they go by another fancy word… “etiquette.”  There are many different types of etiquette; restaurant etiquette, workplace etiquette, and yes there is workout etiquette.

Hey, I’m not going to lie to you, I like our Geico friends “The Cavemen.”  Sometimes it’s even fun to act like one myself.  Society, however, doesn’t feel so kindly about my friends for the most part.  Etiquette ensures that we don’t strangle each other with our socks.

If you read the super fine print on the back of your gym contract then you probably saw some of the common rules on the back.  Most of them aren’t a big secret and are listed on every home page of every bodybuilding/gym website known to man.  There are however, a few little known rules that even the most active gym goer may not know about.  Not only do I work out in a gym but I work and manage at a gym and train people – I know what it’s like, from multiple angles, when people don’t follow these basic rules.  The term “basic” implies that the rule will be found in pretty much every gym.  Some aren’t as clear-cut.  Planet Fitness for example has a “no grunting” policy.  I personally think if you aren’t grunting you aren’t working hard enough.  Whereas in a football training facility, for example, you hear screams.  In that scenario it just depends on location; not quite a “basic” rule then.

I have taken the liberty of enlightening you with most of these rules but, I need to state a few things first.  Not everyone has always been a member of a gym, so I will assume that you are a brand new, first day member of a health club.  Also, I am aware that if you looked you WILL be able to find more things than I point out.  I’m not trying to write a book, just an article.   So if you’ve got some more to add, jump into the Comments section.  And lastly, I know what it’s like to just be told “what” and not “why” so I will give you the point-of-view I have with some of these too.  I understand your reasons, I’ve been there.  Just please don’t take anything personal if you are the person I am describing.  There is no hostility being thrown, so don’t take it as such.  Furthermore, if I DO offend you, it’s probably because you needed to hear it anyways…

Cameron’s Basic Gym Etiquette Rules

(If you see a “more” link, click it to read the rest.)

  1. Check-in with the front desk. I’m aware you may have forgotten your barcode keytag/check-in object; however, it is a liability for you to work out without checking in.  Just tell the person you forgot your key tag; unless it’s a habit the person isn’t going to make you pay.  Don’t be the person just trying to “sneak in.” Even if you manage to make it in, depending on the size of the club hundreds of people may have just seen it from the other side of the desk.  If it’s small, they will more than likely find you anyways.  It’s not worth being kicked out.
  2. USE YOUR TOWEL. The signs are up for a reason.  Yes, I’m aware you may forget once in a while.  But again, don’t make a habit of it.  Paper towels work, as most gyms that supply them have them as sanitizing wipes.  Honestly, they probably work better.  But, since this is one of the more common rules, so I’m not going to elaborate more.
  3. Share equipment. If you see, or even think, someone else might use/ be using the equipment you want to start on, then ask to share or rotate out.  If you are super-setting and can’t rotate, just ask around before you do.  They pay just as much, if not more than you and you don’t own the gym.  Now, if you are looking to use the squat rack to do biceps curls, think twice.  Seriously, don’t work in on equipment when there are better options that don’t interrupt someone else’s flow.
  4. DO NOT SLAM WEIGHTS. Yes, I know they get dropped from time to time.  I’m also aware that there are rubber bumpers made for that.  However, try to keep it to a minimum.  It’s a distraction to other members, and while you may not hurt anybody you can crack the concrete floor underneath.  This is just money that could have been spent on much nicer things, like equipment.
  5. Re-rack weights. Don’t let grandma get stuck taking 1,000 lbs. off of the leg press machine.  If you don’t have the energy to take it off afterwards then you went too heavy.  While I know you MAY be coming back for a circuit, keep your eye on it and at least help the other member out.  FURTHERMORE, (Guys, I’m talking to you here.) if you DO see grandma, or even grandpa having to take off the massive amount of weight, help her.  I do feel the need to interject: smaller weights go up top, heavier weights on the bottom.  If you don’t re-rack weight properly it causes a build-up of trapped weights (smaller weight behind a large one) that disrupts everyone else’s work outs.  Not to mention it takes the fitness professionals (a/k/a employees) about 2 hours to fix it every day.  I’m aware you pay for that, but how would you feel?  They are there to help you, not do your laundry and take out your trash.
  6. Re-rack Dumbbells. I’m there to workout, not run around the gym looking for weights.  And again, if you don’t fix it guess who does.  Lighter dumbbells to up top, left being the lightest, right being the heaviest; heavier on bottom rack, lighter to heavy from left to right.
  7. Use Collars. Even if you think you can handle the weight you are using, use collars with your weight.  It doesn’t take much lateral movement to send the plates to the side, thus changing weight distribution and adding leverage to a single side.  Safety first.  Besides you don’t want to look like an idiot.
  8. Take care of the equipment. While I’m well aware that you pay for equipment use, take care of it.  This is still not your house.  If you go to a hotel and break a lamp, is it o.k. just because you paid to use it?  A great example of this is putting a short band (tubing) under your bench with the handles connected to the bar ends.   It’s an interesting technique to increase the resistance so that it gets harder as you lift.  But, most bands were not made to stretch that far.  They will break.  Also, it a very unrealistic movement.  If you break the bands, then they have to be replaced.  If you want to do it, buy your own bands.
  9. Don’t stare. People come in all shapes and sizes.  Don’t stare.  You never know what it might do to their confidence.  They are trying.  Not to mention, I’m a pretty fast guy, and I’ve seen guys twice my size run circles around me.  Ladies have a tendency to glare at others that they feel more attractive than them.  This is also irritating.  Guys do it as well, but let’s face it, you ladies are far worse than we are.
  10. Don’t critique, unless asked. If it’s a safety thing, go ahead and say something.  And make sure you are positive.  I may do something that may seem unsafe from the outside, but have progressed to it, therefore safely controlling what I may be doing.  So if you are SURE you know about the situation feel free to offer advice, otherwise, shut up.  You never know how much somebody knows.  If somebody walks up to critique me because I’m smaller than them I’m liable to make them feel like an idiot in front of the whole gym.  Despite popular belief, there is a time and place for variations.  Maybe even adding momentum for an exercise.  While it may not be a typical person’s need, some people do.  You don’t want to say the wrong thing.  Besides, nine times out of ten no one cares how much you know.  If they wanted your help they’d ask.
  11. Don’t sing. Enough said.
  12. Turn the music down. Believe it or not, people don’t want to hear your music through your headphones.  It may sound good to you, but outside those  headphones it sounds like a hoedown meets MC Hammer.
  13. The time limit exists for a reason. Putting your towel over the timer on cardio doesn’t fool anyone.  If it’s not crowded, feel free to continue.  If it is, move on.
  14. Dress appropriately. No jeans, button up shirts, etc.  Athletic wear please.  And girls, it’s a gym, not a nightclub.  While I’m aware, for example, your clothes are shorter and tighter, don’t be ridiculous.  It’s a major distraction for the guys (maybe some girls), and irritates other females.
  15. No cell phones. If you are having a baby (and we all know it’s just your wife, not both of you, but that’s a different article altogether) you can keep a phone on you.  But I don’t want to hear you talking the whole time.  If you can, you aren’t working out hard enough anyways.
  16. Personal hygiene please. I really don’t want to smell you from across the gym.  I’m having a rough enough time breathing, and while I appreciate your confidence I don’t want to see you walk around naked.  Changing is one thing.  I really don’t want to see you having a conversation with a full frontal view.  We have towels for a reason.  Also, shower before entering the pool please.
  17. Don’t harass or make-fun of other members. Everyone starts somewhere.  If I was working and I saw it I would have you thrown out, no questions asked.

So these are the basics.  Any questions?  And if you’ve got some I missed (and I’m sure you can barely contain yourself because you’ve got more rules you want to add), then join in on the comments below.  This could be a really fun discussion on some of these!

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