10 Tips for Proper Gym Etiquette

Do you inadvertently offend others at the gym?

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #35

Over at the Get-Fit Guy Twitter page, Andrew recently wrote that he was “fired up” about a guy at the gym who took weights off the dumbbell rack and proceeded to do shoulder raises directly in front of the mirror, blocking access to the dumbbell rack for everyone else. What do you think? Was this right or wrong? Is there some type of rule system in place for proper gym etiquette?

10 Tips for Proper Gym Etiquette

As a matter-of-fact, there is gym etiquette, but often it’s not posted at all, or it’s on a very small sign tucked away in the corner of the gym. So in this article, you learn 10 quick and dirty tips for gym etiquette that will help you know what to expect of your fellow gym goers and how to act at a gym so that the only thing you worry about during your workout is your workout.

#1: Wipe Up After Yourself

Most gyms have towels available at the front desk or somewhere near all the exercise equipment. These towels are not there just in case you spill a big cup of soda, or need to teasingly towel-whip a workout buddy. They are there so that you can:

A) wipe annoying sweat from your forehead, forearms, neck or anywhere else it tends to collect and

B) wipe up any nasty, stinky wet puddles that you leave on the exercise equipment or floor.

If your gym doesn’t have towels then bring your own, or just use an old t-shirt. And yes, when you wipe up sweat, you are expected to use disinfectant spray if your gym has provided it or made it readily accessible in the workout area.

#2: It’s OK to Spot and Be Spotted

Often, when lifting heavy weights, you or another exerciser may need a “spot,” which is assistance or a helpful hand when performing the exercise. If there are absolutely no personal trainers or gym employees available to help you, it is OK to ask someone else for help provided that:

A) you are 100% confident that they have the physical capability to help you

B) you will politely understand if they say no

C) you do not have to interrupt their exercise routine to ask. In other words, if you are about to attempt a new personal record bench press, do not go tap a scrawny teenager on the shoulder as they are deeply involved in an exercise with their headphones attached.

Similarly, if someone asks you for help, it is fine to politely decline if

A) you do not feel physically capable

B) you are busy with your own exercise routine

C) a personal trainer or gym employee is obviously available in the workout area.

#3: Give Others Space

Often, dumbbells, barbells and other pieces of equipment are on racks or shelves. When you get one of these items from its location, back away at least 4-6 feet so that others can go get their own equipment while you’re doing your exercise. If there is absolutely no physical way to do this, then go find the owner of your gym and tell them to read this article, because they are legally required to include a minimum of 3 feet of space between equipment and enough room to perform exercises without impeding the movement of gym traffic.

#4: Leave It How You Found It, Usually

If you are using weight machines or equipment that has weight stacks or special settings and you are not completely sure whether someone else was using the equipment or is in the process of using the equipment, then you must leave it how you found it. If nobody appears to be using it, it is fine for you to change the adjustments and to do your sets or your exercises, but once you are finished, leave it how you found it. That means that you should return the stack to it’s original weight, seat height to it’s original height, and make any other necessary adjustments, unless you are 100% confident that nobody else is in the process of using the equipment.

#5: Have Good Hygiene

Nobody likes to smell sulfurous cigarette residue, heavy body odor, or stinky farts while they’re exercising. Please shower or use deodorant prior to exercising in public areas and if you need to break wind, politely enter the restroom, do your business, and then continue with your workout. If your exercise session includes a pool or a post-workout hot tub soak, you must shower beforehand, with soap. When it comes to gym etiquette, Pigpen is not a good role model.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.