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Research Reveals the Top 11 Dos and Don’ts of Gym Etiquette

September 14 2023 7 min read

Whether it's hogging the equipment or talking loudly on the phone, have you ever wondered what really bothers people in the gym?

To uncover the most common annoyances, we've turned to Reddit threads where gym-goers share their gym etiquette tips. We sorted and grouped comments by the below categories and tallied the total upvotes (likes) to find the most essential rules that gym-goers live by.

Gym-goers share their gym etiquette tips

We've also spoken with Tim Andrews, Head of Fitness Product at Fitness First, providing valuable tips to help you navigate the gym environment more smoothly, ensuring a better experience for all.

The top 11 gym etiquette rules

Research by Fitness First revealed the key behaviour to avoid when hitting the gym is judging others, with 89,000 upvotes. Coming in at a close second with 81,000 upvotes, gym-goers also appreciate people not hogging the equipment.

Let's break down the full list of rules further.

1. Avoid passing judgement or critiquing fellow gym-goers (89,000 upvotes)

Our research found judging others is one of the worst things you can do at the gym.

It's not uncommon for people, especially newcomers, to experience some level of gym anxiety — also known as "gymtimidation" when they start the gym. Whether it's not knowing how to do an exercise correctly or worrying about people watching you, many of us have felt that unease at one point or another. That's why not judging others is so important for creating a supportive, comfortable and welcoming environment where everyone can feel at ease.

Tim explains: "While the gym is usually a friendly place, with people just wanting to get on with their workout, there are times when people unintentionally judge others. But it's crucial to remember that everyone's fitness journey is unique. Instead of hastily forming opinions or critiquing others, redirect your attention to your own workout and the goals you've set for yourself. Remember, judging others can significantly affect someone's confidence and even discourage them from returning to the gym."

2. Don’t hog the equipment (81,000 upvotes)

It's frustrating when you're ready to workout but lack the necessary equipment, only to spot someone surrounded by a collection of weights, a couple of steps and a few gym balls thrown in for good measure. Surely they can't be using all that equipment at the same time? 

Tim at Fitness First says, "We all have our favourite gym equipment, but taking over the squat rack, especially during peak times, isn’t the best choice. Being conscious of the gym's high-traffic hours and sharing equipment not only demonstrates good gym etiquette but also helps you avoid those disapproving stares or potential confrontations."

3. Put weights back where you found them (73,000 upvotes)

Keeping everything in its place is one of the top gym rules, supported by 73,000 upvotes. It's a simple act, but it really goes a long way! 

Tim tells us why: "Leaving weights scattered about after your workout isn't just about tidiness; they're a potential hazard. Nobody wants to trip over a stray dumbbell and injure themselves. Plus, the next person will have to waste time hunting for the weights they need instead of getting on with their workout.

And on the topic of weights: don't leave them stacked up on machines. It's not the next person's job to unload what you've left behind."

4. Clean up after yourself (52,000 upvotes)

We all know the frustration of approaching a sweaty machine, and with 52,000 votes, it's clearly a common pet peeve: cleaning up after yourself is a must. Nobody appreciates the person who neglects to wipe down the machines post-session or leaves a telltale sweat patch on the bench. 

"Always use a towel to wipe down the equipment after you've used it," says Tim. "And, if your gym doesn't offer disposable wipes or towels, make it a habit to bring one with you. This simple act not only prevents the spread of germs but also shows respect for the next person who will be using the equipment."

5. Concentrate on yourself (45,000 upvotes)

It can be tempting to sneak a glance at the person next to us, but with 45,000 upvotes, gym-goers have spoken: concentrate on yourself during your workout. Working out isn't about comparing or being overly conscious of others; it's about focusing on your own progress and goals. After all, every minute spent watching someone else is a minute not spent improving yourself. 

Tim says, "Try not to get swept up in what everyone else is doing, especially if it means lifting heavier weights than you're prepared for. It's not a competition, and starting off small not only minimises the risk of injury but also makes it more sustainable in the long run. There's no point in lifting heavy weights with poor form only to strain your back!"

Focus on your routine and let the rest of the gym blur into the background. Your progress will thank you.

6. Be mindful of those around you (22,000 upvotes)

Tim says, "While it's natural to get lost in your routine, you must remember to give others space, especially near the dumbbell racks. Stepping back a bit ensures everyone has room to select their weights comfortably. 

On the same note, if you're waiting for a machine or a set of weights, patience is key. Hovering closely can make someone feel uncomfortable and rush their set. A bit of understanding goes a long way! 

As for those gym catch-ups, try to keep them brief, especially during peak hours. Lengthy chats, especially if they block access to equipment or pathways, can prevent others from getting their workout done and be frustrating."

7. Don’t hit on gym-goers (15,000 upvotes)

The gym is for working out, not picking up dates for the weekend.

Tim says, "The gym might feel like a social space given the number of people you see regularly. And sure, you might even strike up some friendships or feel a sense of community. But it's not the place for unsolicited advances. Especially during those bustling peak hours, most people are focused on their routines and want to move on with their day.

If you admire someone's dedication or form, asking a quick question or two is usually fine, but keep it respectful."

8. Limit your phone usage (13,000 upvotes)

It's best to keep phone usage to a minimum during workouts.

Tim explains why: "The gym is all about focus, and sitting on a machine while you're deep into a call or snapping endless selfies isn't the best use of the equipment. Plus, having a loud conversation beside someone can be quite distracting when they’re trying to get into the zone.

And yes, sometimes you may need to quickly switch a song or glance at a message. But lounging on a machine while scrolling on your phone isn't the best move, especially during peak hours. Remember, others might be eyeing that machine, waiting for their turn."

9. Dress appropriately (11,000 upvotes)

Dressing appropriately is a must when it comes to gym etiquette because it affects the experience of every gym-goer. It's a shared space and everyone's comfort matters. 

Tim says, "I've seen all sorts of gym attire over the years. And that's made one thing clear: while we all sweat during a workout, starting off with clean clothes and putting on a bit of deodorant can help limit any unpleasant smells, showing respect for those around you. 

In terms of attire, it's not about being fashionable but ensuring safety, practicality, and decency. Trainers that provide good support and grip are needed to prevent injuries. And trust me, if your shorts have seen better days or they're constantly sliding down, it's a sign to invest in a new pair."

10. Use the equipment properly (11,000 upvotes)

Here's an unspoken gym rule: if a piece of equipment is designed for a specific exercise, it's generally best to stick with that intended use.

Tim explains why: "It can get quite frustrating when people don't use equipment as intended. For example, deciding to do sit-ups on a bench press, even though you can do them comfortably on a mat anywhere else, may not be a big deal when the gym is empty. But when someone's eagerly waiting to use the machine for its intended purpose, it's just inconsiderate."

11. Have a goal you’re working towards (7,000 upvotes)

While it may not fall under the category of strict gym etiquette, having a clear fitness goal is undeniably one of the most essential principles of the gym.

Tim says, "There's nothing more disheartening than witnessing someone's enthusiastic start in the gym during the first few weeks of January dwindle, only to never see them again. That's precisely why having clear goals is so crucial; they increase your likelihood of consistently showing up at the gym and achieving tangible results."

"It's all about defining what you want to accomplish, whether it's shedding a few pounds, gaining muscle, supporting your mental wellbeing, or simply boosting your energy levels. When you define your fitness goals, you can build a focused routine that gets you the results you want. After all, different goals require different strategies and workouts."

If you need help building the perfect fitness routine, our personal trainers at Fitness First have the knowledge and skills to create one specific to your goals. We provide all new members with a free 30-minute personal training session to get you started.

Learn more about Fitness First

At Fitness First, we offer a wide range of fitness classes and personal training sessions, no matter what your fitness level. To experience our fantastic facilities and meet our team of experts, book a free club visit today.

Or for more advice and tips from our experts, check out our blog.