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[Fitness Lists] Gym Etiquette — 14 BIG Reasons Why You Might Be A Gym Idiot In 2015

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New Year’s Resolutionists — I respect the hustle and ambition, but read this before diving head first into a gym routine. It’ll help you avoid becoming the token “gym idiot” that everyone despises.

Whether it’s explosive, stomach-curdling BO, curling where you’re not supposed to, or painting every piece of equipment with freshly manufactured sweat, there’s always one person that the collective gym population would LOVE to banhammer forever. Don’t turn into THAT guy (or girl), especially if you’re new.

Unwritten rules exist. It’s gym culture.

We’ve compiled 14 BIG Reasons Why You Might Be A Gym Idiot In 2015; an etiquette guide, of sorts, to help clean up the gym floor and create a better all-around workout environment. Some of these infractions are so egregious that even the most level-headed gym junkie might erupt like a seismic volcano. Follow the rules and you’ll automatically look like a veteran.

What do you HATE most? Am I being too critical? Is there anything else that you would add?


1. You curl in the squat rack.

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I firmly believe that gyms need to hang signs like the one above. Squatting is confined to two places: squat racks and smith machines. Most gyms have 2-3 max.

You can do bicep curls in approximately 1,345,183 different places throughout the gym — WHY DO PEOPLE INSIST ON DOING THEM IN THE SQUAT RACK!? It’s stupid, inconsiderate, and lazy.

Stop it. There’s no quicker way to get dirty looks.


2. You’re not a gentleman.

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Remember rule #1 from Wedding Crashers — “Never leave a fellow Crasher behind. Crashers take care of their own.”

Just because you’re in a gym doesn’t mean that the manners and etiquette of being, you know, a man magically evaporate (that goes for women, too). Don’t just stand there like a neanderthal — HELP the cute girl unload the squat rack; especially if someone inevitably left it stacked with 8 plates (more on that later).

If someone’s clearly waiting for a machine, ask them if they’d like to work in. Spot someone if they’re struggling. You don’t need to be a certified trainer, but be a decent human being.

Maybe you’ll get a number, too.


3. You fill up your ENTIRE water bottle with a line behind you.

Regardless of whether it’s a water bottle, milk jug, or Camelback, filling your drinking apparatus up to the top takes forever.

If people are waiting in line, don’t be the person that makes 6 dehydrated people behind you suffer in agony — fill it up for 10 seconds and go to the end of the line and/or refill the rest later.


4. You offer unsolicited advice.

Unless someone approaches you and asks for help, do not critique their form. Do not feel like you’re entitled to assess their workout plan and offer what you feel is “more effective.” Do not tell anyone to turn their music down because you think blasting Skrillex will make them go deaf in 45 years.

The personal trainers hired by the gym don’t do it — why should you? Leave everyone else be and focus on your OWN workout. Case closed.


5. You use your phone while on equipment.

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No — you don’t own that bench press, squat rack, dip bar, or leg press. The gym’s a communal place with limited equipment, and most likely someone’s quietly waiting to use it as soon as you’re done (especially during peak hours)

Give them the same respect back; be alert, be aware, and do not dilly-dally on your phone in between sets if you’re using something. It slows everyone down. If you really need to shoot out a text or make a call, step aside and do it.

On top of that, you’re cheating yourself out of the best possible workout. Phone abuse = bleeding focus and intensity, which directly correlates to less-optimal results and immediately signals to everyone else that you’re a part of gym amateur hour.


6. You Hulk-slam weights down.

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Cool, you’re super strong and love Hulk-slamming the bar down after you do a barbell row. I love when magnitude 5 earthquakes ripple across the floor, down through the yoga studio on the bottom level.

There’s no reason to repeatedly slam weights down or throw them intentionally from mid-air; freaking out as if you’re Richard Sherman after the 2014 NFC Championship game. If it’s literally so heavy that you consistently can’t finish a movement, it’s not having any benefit anyway — drop it down (no pun intended).

And if you’re throwing dumbbells, there’s always the chance they’ll bounce on someone’s foot. Or phone, which they probably deserve.

*DOES NOT APPLY — a small drop at the bottom of deadlifts is natural, just don’t slam the bar down. And occasionally you might have to unintentionally drop the weight if your body fails. It’s okay, it happens.


7. You hoard equipment.

Pick one piece of equipment, bang out your sets, and then move on to something else. I’m all for circuit training, but know your surroundings — sometimes it’s not practical to occupy both a barbell and cable station for your bench press–cable crossover superset.

You don’t have the right to occupy 2-3 machines at once if the gym’s packed; if it’s a barren wasteland, go crazy.


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Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto

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  • Random

    I truly dislike people who spend a ridiculous amount of time primping and preening in front of the mirror and then pick up 10lb weights as if they are actually doing something and make sure that there is no sweat after their “workout” amateur hour indeed (see rule #4).

  • Me

    Dude, get a life.
    I can understand all the “don’t use more than one machine at a time” and “clean your machine up after you’re done” and all. But let people look at themselves if they want. Let people fill their water bottle. I doubt that anyone will die, while waiting an extra minute.
    Live and let live, please.
    Rules like these make me hate going to the gym. Can’t you just go abdominatrix yourself somewhere in quiet and leave the rest of us alone?

    • I live part of my life in the gym — these things bother me (and mostly everyone else). I’m not saying that all 14 are universally unacceptable, I’m just not a fan.
      If that’s the case, you’re better off staying home!

  • foolish mortal

    I hate people that spend so much time worrying about what everyone is else doing at the gym. Seriously throw these rules out the window and let people do what they want. Why do you care what other people do?

    • By virtue of rule # 3, I couldn’t care less about what anyone else is doing. The only time I care is when other people’s obliviousness and/or lack of awareness slows down my workout. 

    • Mike

      Why do I care?  Because I don’t want to delay my leg workout just because some mindless idiot has to finish doing his 18th set of curls in the squat rack.  I would also vastly prefer not to waste time looking for certain weights just because people don’t know how to put them back in the right place.  Not even one minute.  I value my time and if you hate me for that, fine.  
      Sure, people should be able to do what they want, but at some point it becomes a matter of disrespect towards other gym-goers and also the staff members.  Take a little more time out of your day to put your weights away, and maybe that 90-lb girl that works at the gym won’t have to injure herself trying to put dumbbells twice her size back in the right place.    

  • whiney

    Hey Bryan maybe you should start working out at home or start going to the gym at 3am. When I workout I am so focused on what I am doing that I dont even notice other people. If someone is in my way I just work around them. Maybe we should add rule 15. Dont join a public gym if you are gonna whine about the public working out there.

  • Heyo

  • Johnny #5

    I’m surprised no one has responded to this yet.
    I somewhat disagree with #5, and entirely with #8
    #5 – When DL’ing, you are supposed to touch the ground with your weights. Some advice for deadlifting is to not just focus on weight lifted, but speed+form. Watch a pro lifter DL low to moderate weight. They don’t do it slowly. The only times you ever see them go slow is when they are DLing absurd amounts of weight. Putting the wieghts down fast means they will probably make some noise touching the ground. I do agree that they should not be ‘slammed’ down, though. We all can detect when it’s way louder than it should be.
    #8 If I take the weights somewhere else, then that’s a lot of time wasted that people won’t be able to use them between my sets. If I go somewhere else, I’ll just take up space there. The dumbbell rack is always long for a reason – so other people can use other dumbbells. I shouldn’t have to walk 15 ft away with 200+ lbs of dumbbells to do 5 shrugs then come back, drop the weights off, go somewhere else for 30 seconds, then come back again, pick up the weights, walk away again, etc, for 3 or more sets. All the traffic to and from would just take up more space for a longer amount of time. Some gyms don’t even have the space for everyone who wants to use dumbbells to go off onto their own piece of land.
    Everything else is golden though. These rules should be blown up and pasted all along the hallways, locker rooms, and walls of every gym.

    • Hey Johnny — this is about 2 years old, so I’m always up to revisit what I ranted about in the past.

      For #5 — I’m talking about a legitimate, overblown SLAM. There’s always a time and a place to drop weights — especially for heavy deadlifts like you mentioned — but there’s also a limit. I’ve seen people put force behind the drop, basically as if it’s on purpose, which just gets absurd.

      I think you meant #9 (lifting in front of the rack) — UGH, I HATE when people do this, especially on shorter racks. But to be fair, my issue isn’t with people that do this with 100+ LB dumbbells (that’s pretty rare and frankly, very acceptable IMO). It’s the people that do endless sets with 20/30/40/50 lbs — usually curls — that I can’t handle. More traffic goes through lighter weights than anything else, and often, 4-6 sets can be blocked off at a time.

      That gets particularly annoying if you’re rattling off super sets/drop sets and don’t want to horde weights.

      Love you input!


      • GymRant

        I just want to say that taking one to two steps back from the rack isn’t too much to ask regardless how much weight is being lifted. Also, another thing I could add is that when taking said steps back from the rack, someone comes and stands in between you and the rack for extended periods of time (either lifting or wavering between which weights to use, the 20 or 22.5 lbs… hmmm)… not only blocking the rack, but now the view of the mirror you weren’t coincidentally looking into while lifting. Am I crazy for thinking that’s rude? Why can’t these be a part of the contract people sign when they join a gym?!

        • Completely agree. The mirror’s really helpful for getting form down — it’s SO irritating when people block the view.

    • AJP

      Rack your weights, no one cares about your superset…… the gym isn’t just for you.

  • johnny #51

    i love this post. everyone should be forced to read this before allowed to sign gym agreements

  • AJP

    the arm curl in the squat rack makes me mental, and usually it’s some guy doing a 30 rep superset. I wish I had a real gym near me, because health clubs are full of pansies.

  • Dave Keirstead

    15. You decide a bench is your own personal water bottle/equipment table.

  • Patrick

    I take issue with #4. If you see a newbie who is clearly going to hurt him/herself with too much weight, awful form, or both, you have a duty to step in if you know what you’re doing. I most commonly see this scenario with people new to squatting using WAY too much weight on the squat rack – often without a spotter.

    • I think there’s a line. If there’s a blatant risk of injury or someone’s failing mid-lift, I completely agree. Agreed on squats; bench press is also really common.

  • Nice post, made me chuckle 🙂

    • Hehe that was definitely at least half of my objective, glad you enjoyed it! Some of these are so ridiculous when you actually think about them.

  • Yogo

    Don’t check your abs!!! The idiot at my gym who checks her abs after every single set!! And yes all you can is the flabby belly, piss off!! hahaha good read 🙂

    • Hahaha thanks Yogo. I just don’t get it…you wouldn’t do that anywhere else in public.

  • Gr8jimmy

    Well don’t forget about those guys, whom do pushups and after every 15seconds they touch their chest and feel more wide and also check by curving fingers on pumped pecs…. I visited gym today and saw 11guys doing it, and gym was crowded by 28

  • Michelle Smith

    I know this is an old article but you missed one of the worst offenders, imho. The cologne/perfume wearer who apparently bathed in the stuff just before coming in to the gym. I wouldn’t want to smell that much cologne/perfume under ideal circumstances but in a gym where I’m breathing heavy? No way! If I can smell you before I’m close enough to touch you, it’s too much!

    • Omg, AXE overload especially is brutal. I feel like my nose is going to explode. Totally agree and hate this one.

    • BartenderJoe Gee

      ya, we have some a holes in the men’s locker room that use a spray as a shower substitute. Gives me a headache and a coughing fit

  • Krayz German

    The first part of #2 and #3 entirely is wrong here. People who load the weights on the bar need and should take the weights off themselves, and if you are in line for water to fill your container–then fill it as much as you like. You waited in line like everyone else, fill it as you wish. You load the weights you unload the weights, cute, fat, or ugly.

    • #2 I generally agree, but there’s no reason why you can’t help someone if the weights were left there and/or they’re struggling to get ’em off. It’s common courtesy.

      Can agree to disagree on #3. I get waiting in line, but if someone’s clearly struggling behind you, let them get a quick drink.

      Just my opinion.

    • BartenderJoe Gee

      ya, I think they need to bring a bottle as well to fill instead of whining in line for a sip every 5 minutes