Are you doing everything wrong in the gym?

And no, we are not talking about your form, or how you’ve calculated your One Rep Max.

What we mean is … are you a dick?

This article is a catalog of grimness – cases and stories of cringeworthy bad gym etiquette. Read it, use it … learn from it.

Follow the lists below to make sure you don’t fall into any of these traps.

The Concept of Space

Dumbbell Rack

What is meant by this is the amount of people you see who take a pair of dumbbells off of the rack and then stand right there, doing their exercise. They are completely oblivious, or just ignorant, of that fact that there are other people there waiting to get to the dumbbell rack.


Another of these, particularly for the powerlifers, is when people stand on or too close to a platform when you are deadlifting. That is the deadlifter’s area, you get off it.


If someone is squatting don’t walk behind them, beside them or in front of them. It doesn’t matter if you’re “just getting a plate,” or whatever. That person needs their concentration, they have a big heavy weight on top of their spine after all. If they drop it then it is likely to hurt them or even you if you get in the way.


We’re not the sociability police here. There’s nowt wrong with being friendly [Editor: keep it out of the showers though guys].

However it’s remarkable how often someone will talk to another lifter when it’s not appropriate to do so. Avoid it when –


Most lifters will have a set, routine way of setting themselves up for a lift. This gets them ready both physically and mentally, meaning that any distraction at this point can mess things up for them. By messing up I don’t just mean they might miss the lift, they could result in an injury or accident of some other kind. Whatever you have to chat about can wait, their set up is too important!

During the lift

This one seems obvious. Why would you talk to someone when they’re bracing their core, with a big heavy weight in hand (or on their back), they’re hardly going to tell you their plans for tea.

If they’ve just missed a lift – They might be angry. Maybe just give them a minute or two …

Misusing Equipment

This is the butt of many an internet meme on lifter’s sites. People using the equipment incorrectly. Here are the classics;

Deadlift Platform

If someone is deadlifting then the last thing they need is to be distracted by someone doing bent over rows with their butt just in their eye line, or even someone walking onto their platform during their lift. Consider these things when deciding where to set up!

Squat rack

Go into any commercial gym and you won’t have to wait long until someone abuses the Squat Rack. Things that are okay to do in a squat rack

  • Squat, the clue is in the name.
  • Squat variations – pin squats, highbar/lowbar squats, pause squats, etc.
  • Lunges – or any movement where you have to place the bar on your upper back.
  • Shoulder press – this saves you cleaning the bar to the correct position.
  • Sometimes a bench press, some racks are made for a bench to go inside them.

Things that aren’t okay

  • Curling – just why? Go somewhere else, especially at peak times. It’s not unheard of for a gym with one squat rack to be abused by someone curling in it when people are waiting and wanting to squat.
  • Posing – there’s often a mirror by the rack. Use a locker room if you’re going to be in the way of someone training.
  • Walking too close – this one was mentioned earlier also, but always needs reiterating – if you need a plate from the rack, wait until the person has stopped lifting – do not squeeze between them and the rack or wall to get to it.


Anywhere else a bench would signify a nice sit down, maybe with a sandwich and a newspaper, or perhaps for a chat? However, in a gym they are vastly important. In the gym, a bench is used for a variety of exercises: Bench press and its variations; Skull crushers; Split squats; Pullovers; Flyes; and many more.

You might observe that not one of the list above includes somewhere for you to sit down on while texting or leaving your junk on. Obviously, the occasional rest is fine but don’t be obnoxious and take up the space from people actually wanting to use it.


They have a place to go back. SO put them back there after you are done with them.

Most gyms will have weight trees, pins on the side of racks or even mobile pins that plates can be left on. This means that if a weight is needed then a gym goer can find it quickly and easily and not waste 5-10 minutes of their session by scouring the gym floor for it.


This one is a little controversial as it’s hard to tell people off for this without risking insulting them. There are gyms which do have a strict ‘no b.o.’ policies, in which if someone complains about someone else they will be asked to leave.

Obviously, the smell is an issue for those around the perpetrator but this also counts for things such as leaving sweat on machines or benches. No one wants to sit or lie in that so it would be polite for you to wipe this off after your use of the equipment.

[Editor: It’s not just the person, I’ve been in locker rooms where someone pulls on an old, used set of gym clothes that have been lying in their kitbag for days. Nasty!]

Play nice

Many gyms now have a ‘don’t be a dick’ policy. They might word it slightly nicer than it is shown here but it is always generally the same thing.

By being polite and affable with others in the gym you will find that you will enjoy your time there more. In no way is this suggesting you should become best friends with everyone in your gym, but the better the environment the more it will rub off on you, your training and your results.

More and more gyms, particularly if they focus upon a particular niche or sport, will attempt to foster an atmosphere of familiarity and support. You may end up going to a competition and are then able to take a support group with you, they may help you in the training portion of this too.


Basically, what you need to do is:

  • Stay out of the way
  • Don’t talk to people too much or at the wrong times
  • Use the equipment correctly
  • Wash, wear clean clothes and keep the gym clean
  • Foster the kind of atmosphere you want to train in

Do all of these things and you, my son, will be a man.

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