A Quick Lesson in Gym Etiquette
If you have been going to the gym consistently, you might start to pick up on gym etiquette naturally or learn the hard way (like me in some cases). For example, in the cardio section of the gym, if there is a whole row of open treadmills, you will most likely feel some irritation when someone chooses the machine right next to you. Bumping sweaty elbows with a stranger is the last thing you want when you are in your zone.
The same goes for the weight section. I personally learned gym etiquette through mistakes I have made and the mistakes of others and watching peoples reactions. It also helped to have gym buddies that informed me of simple gym crimes that should be avoided at all costs. The stakes are even higher for women as we do not want to fill female stereotypes on the weight floor.
A Short Lesson on Gym Crimes and Etiquette on the Weight Floor
1. The Traffic Blocker- Working Off the Rack
Dumbbell racks are logically lined up along a mirror or wall. Two to three feet in front of that, an invisible highway of foot traffic exists. When doing bicep curls or lateral raises, it is easy to get into the habit of grabbing the weights you want and doing your set right there in front of the rack. This, to many, is a big no-no. Take 3 steps back and show respect for lifters who need to squeeze in for their weights. If you don’t, two situations will play out:
- They will stand in the distance and impatiently stare at you while waiting for you to finish (awkward)
- They will butt in and disrupt your focus, possibly ruining that entire set, or worse, your pump if you let them.
Instead of doing your one-arm rows leaning over the rack, try a bench or chair back.
2. The Dumbbell Thief
- This one is tricky. If you’re following a workout plan, sometimes you are required to superset exercises. Be aware that if your exercises requires multiple dumbbells and you’re dragging half the rack to random places on the weight floor, you may get the stink eye. There is nothing worse than going to a rack and finding ONE fifty pound weight or stumbling over random weights on the floor. If you notice this when you go with your buddies, encourage your fellow fitness friends to re-rack their weights. It sounds nicer coming from a friend than an irritated stranger.
3. Mirror Mirror On the Wall- Blocking Line of Sight
The number one gym crime I unknowingly committed was blocking the line of sight between hard core lifters and their muscles in the mirror. I used to think, “Well that’s vain! Can’t you simply focus your set and work out?” After years of lifting, my views have changed. When you’re working on a targeted muscle group or “weak point”, a line of sight to the mirror can help mind muscle connection. The mirror is motivation, the mirror is encouragement. The mirror that I once used to avoid became a guide while lifting. If someone blatantly steps in front of me and hogs the mirror, my blood boils. Frankly, I don’t want to stare at your ass while I am trying to lift heavy things. Slide to the right! Slight to the left! Get out of the line of sight.
- When your gym has limited benches or squat racks, those pieces of equipment turn into a gym version of The Hunger Games! To be courteous to other gym goers, get in, kill your sets and get out! Unfortunately, the conversationalist in the gym will find large chunks of time to talk to regulars or conduct business on the phone between sets. Resting between sets is important, but conversationalists have straight up philosophical conversations while making sure to leave a shaker cup and towel on the rack, claiming their turf. Usually the culprit here is a gym regular who feels very at home in that squat rack. Unless you have the balls to ask to jump in or ask how many sets they have left, there isn’t much we can do to address this issue. I just make sure that I don’t do the same.
There is always going to be someone who has gone to the gym longer than you and has picked up tricks along the way. My piece of small advice is to simply observe behavior. I am constantly learning new things, taking in information, learning life lessons and gym etiquette etc. in the gym. Think about what irritates you when you’re working out and avoid those behaviors. Will we make mistakes? Most definitely. As long as we don’t commit these gym crimes knowingly, it’s all good. Happy lifting!