Gym Etiquette 101: Everything You Need To Know

Gym Etiquette 101: Everything You Need To Know

If you are a person well versed and experienced at the ins and outs of the local gym, you probably find yourself frustrated by newbies who break all of the unwritten rules that exist. Commonly referred to gym etiquette, these social niceties are expectations most gym members have regarding one another’s behavior.

Whether you are new to the gym or someone who has always just gone about your business without even thinking twice about your neighbor at the next machine, these are some things to consider.

Gym Etiquette 101

Things You Should Remember to Do:

 You should always wipe down and/or spray any items you have used when you are finished. This includes anything you have handles, come into incidental contact with, or clearly sweat on. You should be wiping down any handles, weights, seats, etc. before moving on to your next station.

 Each patron should put his or her weights back where they belong. This means racking up the free weights and not leaving them on the bar. In addition, put away any dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. that you have used. In fact, don’t stop there: put away anything you use (after you have cleaned it, of course!

 Remember to abide by any limits set by gym. This may include anything from 30-minute limits on a cardio machine or posted requests not to talk on the phone in the main workout area. If the rules are posted, all patrons should be respectful and follow.

 Treadmills are like urinals: use every other one. In other words, if there are open machines, don’t take the one right next to someone else. This gym etiquette rule is typically broken on cardio machines where someone will jump onto a treadmill right next to someone else when there is an empty row nearby. Most people prefer to work out with some margin. Be respectful of that.

 Please wear headphones to listen to your music or workout cues. Not everyone in the gym wants to hear what you are listening to.

Oh, sidenote: your music shouldn’t be coming through the headphones. If others can easily hear it, it’s too loud.

What Should You Not Do at the Gym?

X  If someone is wearing headphones, please don’t try to talk to them. Obviously there may be exceptions to that. If you are unsure if he or she is finished with a machine they are using as part of a set, go ahead and ask your question. However, for the most part, headphones are a non-verbal cue to leave the person alone. Take the cue.

X It is respectful to remember not to dominate equipment. We have seen everything from the person who uses a bench to house their water bottle and sweat towel, to the person who scatters personal belongs on four different machines to save them for the set they are engaging in. Which brings us to the next piece of advice regarding Super Sets.

X Don’t super-set or compound set using multiple pieces of equipment in a busy gym. A super-set is when you work between two or more pieces of equipment, each working a different muscle group. A compound set is where you go between two or more pieces of equipment working the same muscle group. Is this okay to do at a public gym? Of course. Is it okay to dominate multiple pieces of equipment in a busy gym,  o others can’t use them? No, it’s not.

X Some gyms actually have a rule and others don’t, but the consensus is that you should not talk on your phone in the main workout area. No-one wants to hear your entire conversation. This goes double for FaceTime and other video chat platforms.

X As long as we are discussing phones, your phone should be discreetly stowed away when you are in the locker room. Sure, we understand you might need to text someone quickly. But the “no photographs in the locker room” rule extends to selfies. It just is not cool to be operating a camera in a locker room. People have a right to feel like their privacy isn’t being invaded.

X Sure, selfies are all the vogue. If you feel the urge to take a workout selfie, that is your prerogative. However, be careful not to take pictures involving other gym-goers. Sure, this doesn’t mean you can’t take a selfie with your bestie if he or she is okay with it. But you should never, ever take a picture of someone else in the gym without their consent.

X When Rockay writers reached out to fitness enthusiasts about their preferences at the gym an overwhelming number of people were adamant about no perfume at the gym. It seems that the perfume that might smell great when you are out on a date is not appreciated when you are doing cardio or lifting weights near someone else.

And they didn’t only mention perfume, as long as we are on the topic. Some individuals are so sensitive to scents while working out, they ask that others be aware if their detergent and fabric softener have strong odors to them. When you sweat, these odors are emitted into the air around you. So, be wary of your workout clothes such as t-shirt, shorts or leggings, and fitness socks.

X Have you ever seen the person who gets their weights and then proceeds to start their workout while they stand right in front of free weight rack? That is also a big no-no. Get your items and get out of the way. People should not have to walk past you every time they want to grab another weight. Be courteous and take your items to an available space.

X While it is okay to rest for :60 seconds on the bench or piece of equipment you are currently using, it is not okay to rest longer than that between sets. It is certainly not acceptable to spend 5 minutes on your phone scrolling through social media or talking on the phone.


Since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, the world as we know it has changed dramatically. There are some things gym-goers should consider specifically as it pertains to this.

It should go without saying that you should respect any rules posted by the gym. Their house, their rules.

  • If you are sick you should stay home.
  • Wash your hands and/or sanitize upon entering the facility.
  • Avoid getting closer than 6 feet to another person, unless they reside within your household.
  • Don’t ask people to spot you on free weights. (again, unless you live together)
  • If there is a line of treadmills or ellipticals or other cardio machines, leave one empty between each patron.
  • Be patient if there is a limit on the number of people allowed within the facility or a certain room of the facility.
  • Above all, be kind.

Going to the gym is supposed to be a fun way for physical and emotional self-improvement. While your journey may seem deeply personal, if you are working out at a public facility we are all in the journey together. Following our gym etiquette can help to ensure that everyone has a great experience!

Author’s Note: Do try to give other people grace at the gym, especially those who may not know gym etiquette. I was once hammering out quarter-mile repeats on the treadmill when I suddenly found myself surrounded by little old ladies. I was actually fairly annoyed because there were many, many open machines. When I hopped off 30 minutes later, I heard a “Way to go, honey!” Followed by one of her friends who said, “We purposely came to workout by you because you look so strong. It makes us feel like we can be strong too.” My whole perspective changed. So the long and short of it is, above all else be nice. You never know who you are inspiring!