What does proper gym etiquette consist of? Well, below we have compiled a comprehensive guide of all factors you can face in the gym.
These aren't just aimed at beginners who have no clue about gym etiquette, but also aimed at adept gym goers who are definitely at fault for breaking some of these unspoken rules.
So whether you are new to the gym, have never been to a gym with a pool or don't know the rules of personal training in a gym, we have you covered with our complete list below!
Interested in turning your passion for the gym into a fitness career? Why not check out our certificate in Gym Instructing or REPs Accredited PT qualification or download your free course prospectus here, before you carry on reading!
1. Attend an Induction
A lot of gyms actually require you to go to an induction before you are allowed to use their equipment and facilities, however some may let you skip this induction but we advise you to always attend one. You can always check out OriGym's gym induction checklist if you're unsure of what to bring with you!
You might think you know how a gym works, but there are so many machines that could take you by surprise when you try to use them by yourself, even something simple like the leg press. Different branded machines operate in different ways, so you may even encounter issues with some of the most popular machines in the gym.
2. Gym Clothing Etiquette
First off as a rule of thumb, make sure to dress appropriately. This might seem quite basic, however a lot of people make the mistake of wearing clothes to impress rather than those that are comfortable. You should always be in comfortable clothes when working out, as it makes exercising smoother and you do not want to restrict yourself from doing any exercises.
We expand on footwear later on within the article, but flip flops in the weights room is not only bad gym etiquette, it's dangerous. It's a major health and safety hazard and unless you want to break a few toes, so it's wise to wear cushioned sneakers to the gym.
3. Practising Good Hygiene
Tying this into the dress appropriately section, being clean is a must! Nothing is worse than people who stink out the gym, so make sure that you are clean prior to entering the venue and that you are using anti-perspirant, as we all know it can get sweaty.
Also, make sure that you are using the anti-bacterial sprays provided in the gym to clean the equipment after use. This is essential for obvious easons, as Johnson et al write in their essay on health in the gym:
The spray bottles and paper towels provided at gyms are intended to keep you healthy, not to keep the cardio machines shiny. Before and after using a machine, disinfect the places that will be — or were — in contact with your body, such as elliptical handlebars or the bike seat.
That being said, if you don't want to be spreading or catching any germs, be sure to wipe down the machines!
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4. Make Yourself Aware of the Rules in your Gym!
These are normally in your contract or found online on the website, but if not, they most definitely will be posted all around your gym. Make sure to take time to read them!
They might seem boring or ‘over the top’ but most of the time these rules are there to keep gym goers and the workers safe. All gyms have different rules, and sometimes different branches of the same gym chain might have differing rules.
Examples of gym rules include:
- Food and drink is allowed to be consumed in the premises
- Phones can be prohibited whilst training!
- Like to barefoot workout? Most gyms require closed toe athletic shoes to be worn unless in situations such as yoga classes.
Always warm up!
This is our own addition to these gym rules, but it's more of a rule of thumb (and not technically set in stone by gyms themselves).
You should always make sure to warm up in the gym, as skipping this could be detrimental to your workout as it allows you to engage in intense exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation; allowing a quick blood flow to the muscles.
In support of this Fradkin et al have stated in their study on the importance of warming up:
Performing a warm-up prior to performance significantly reduced the injury risk.
This is because stretching the muscles prepares them for more intense physical activity and helps in fighting against workout acquired injuries to your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
5. Use a towel!
You should always bring a towel with you in case your gym does not offer them.
If they do, that's great! However, you should bring one on your first day just in case. No one likes a sweaty puddle left on a machine or sweat marks on handles after a workout. Let's be honest; we all sweat, but as long as you have a towel to wipe up after you it's not a problem.
6. Be A Helping Hand
No one hates more than unsolicited advice in the gym, however some people are genuinely trying to help you out if they think you are struggling. If someone offers up valuable advice, then accept it, as no one would approach you if they didn't know what they are talking about.
At the same time, if you ever find yourself in the position where you can offer someone valuable advice, you should give a helping hand. Again, only do this if you are trying to help, not in an ego-boosting way.
7. Wash Your Hands!
Sneezing into your hands and then proceeding to workout without washing them is not acceptable!
Usually in every gym there are a plethora of hand sanitizing stations scattered around the gym, but it's even better to bring your own. You wouldn't want to pick up a dumbbell knowing that someone has just sneezed into their hands and trained with it... it's unsanitary and downright gross.
8. Proper Cell Phone Gym Etiquette
It's an unspoken rule in most gyms that it's meant to be an anti-phone space. Essentially, you should not be using your phone for anything other than listening to music or to aid your workout. Otherwise, you could be breaking proper cell phone gym etiquette.
There is nothing worse than people sitting on equipment and scrolling through their socials or texting, especially if they're taking up a popular piece of gym equipment. You’re at the gym to achieve something, and doing anything other than that is plain right rude to those waiting to use the equipment.
9. Territory Claiming
This is a thing that is rife in the gym. The gym is not your personal workout studio, and leaving your towel or other items or benches and other equipment is bad gym etiquette.
Remember; this is not Benidorm at 8am and you're not claiming your sun lounger for the day, so allow people to use equipment in between your rests even if you are only going to fill your water up or use the bathroom.
Additionally, claiming multiple pieces of equipment to facilitate your circuits or superset is unacceptable at times when the gym is busy with other members.
10. Give People Space
It is so off-putting for people if they are on a treadmill and the whole row is empty, only for a person to decide to workout on the free one right next to them. Unless they are your gym buddies then give people their own space.
Weights Room Etiquette
11. Hogging Equipment
This is for those who need to be told it's not okay to stay on the same machine for over half an hour. Of course, if the gym is empty this can be okay, but if you use popular equipment during peak times, expect to use it briefly. There are normally set times for how long you can occupy machinery, so take note and adhere to this!
A given sign of you overstaying your welcome is piercing eyes aimed in your direction, or several people hovering nearby. If you see this and you have been on the machine for a while then this is your cue to get off or at least share in between rest gaps.
12. Put Your Weights Back.
The biggest bane of any gym goer's life is going to a machine and finding several loads of weights left on it, as it takes time out of their workout to return these and load up with their own.
Not only is it impolite, but some people may not physically be able to move your weights off the equipment if it's an insane KG, and this is unfair. Again, the gym is not your home, so don't treat it this way!
This is probably the most broken rule in the gym, and one of the most important rules to take note of considering the fact that proper gym etiquette is to always leave the place as you found it.
This goes hand in hand with the point on hogging equipment. Accumulating a tiny pile of weights and dumbbells around you like a bird's nest can cause a hazard for people trying to get around you, or can cause confusion when people try to locate a certain weight of dumbbell and they are scattered across the gym like an easter egg hunt.
14. Partner Up
If you're planning on lifting heavy you should always have a spotter just incase something manages to go wrong. We know not everyone has a gym partner but if you see someone who looks approachable at the gym, ask them to spot, or even better, offer to spot for them. We're sure they would then feel inclined to return the favour.
15. Stop with the Excessive Noises
We recognise that sometimes you can’t help a little noise and it is normally allowed in gyms to let a little noise out sometimes, but letting out screams and loud grunts in a communal gym is a no go, and some gyms even have anti-noise policies.
The gym itself can be too much too handle with the clanks and noises of machines, so you shouldn't be adding to it with unnecessary sounds as it can become very distracting to other people working out.
Nothing is worse than someone who has been eyeing up your equipment when you've just jumped on it, or keeps staring over as you are about to finish. It’s okay to come up and ask instead of glaring over, but it's not a good look to circle around like a vulture, and it's better to just ask and then sit and wait or come back over.
Gym Class Etiquette
17. Show up on time
The number one rule when it comes to gym class etiquette is to be on time! There is nothing more disruptive to the class than latecomers.
18. Don't show up without booking in
In addition to our number one rule is the number one pet peeve for class trainers. This is people not booking onto classes and just showing up regardless.
The system is in place to accommodate for a certain amount of spaces, not only to ensure that there is a fair amount of people for the room. It also shows the popularity of the classes.
For instance, if a zumba class keeps filling up quickly then a gym will add more classes. If people turn up and make the class overbooked, people will be turned down who have actually booked onto the class.
19. Put Equipment Back at the End
It is not in the instructor's job description to tidy away after people in their classes. You are not a child and you’re expected to clean up after yourself. Simple gym etiquette rule; if you've grabbed the equipment you can put it back.
This only does not apply if the instructor has asked for equipment to be left for the next class, in which they have normally set up the classroom themselves.
20. Don't Be Afraid To Stand At The Front
The front can be daunting if you are a beginner at the class, however the front is usually the best place to learn. Being so close to the instructor means you can see and hear instructions for the exercises more clearly. If you are struggling with some of the exercises, then chances are the instructor is going to come over and help you to correct your form, meaning you'll gain the most from the class.
21. Give People Space
Always a staple in class etiquette, give people room to move. Not only is it polite, it's to be expected.
For people to be able to fully participate in the class, they might be holding back from executing certain exercises just because they might bump or hit into you. Believe us, even if you are always polite when being bumped into, there's nothing more aggravating when it's down to the person next to you for standing too close. Even if the class is full to capacity there is still a structure for everyone to have an adequate amount of space.
Gym Swimming Pool Etiquette
If you are lucky enough to have a gym with a pool, this comes with a few rules. Swimming in a communal space has a lot of common courtesy that is to be expected that now everyone may be aware of.
22. Shower Before you Enter the Pool
Showering before you swim is important for keeping both you and the pool cleaner. It stops you from bringing in chemicals, makeup, body products, etc. by having a quick rinse before you get in. Take this advice as one of the most important rules of gym swimming pool etiquette!
Always take the empty lane first. This is a simple rule to abide by as there is absolutely no point in sharing a lane with someone if there is one open. This will come across as rude and downright weird unless it's your friend or training partner.
24. Give Other Swimmers Space.
Unless the pool is full to capacity (a typical scene on Monday-Fridays at 6 o'clock) – give the other swimmers an adequate amount of space. Don’t swim on the heels of the other swimmers.
25. Splitting The Lane
If there are no free lanes in the pool it's common for two swimmers to split a lane with either side being split, or a circle could be in place. This is something that should be asked before jumping in the lane, it's not something that is widely known and some swimmers will be confused by this especially if they are also new to swimming in a gym pool, or to proper gym etiquette in the first place.
26. Being The 3rd Swimmer To The Lane
If you are the third person to a lane, chances are you are going to have to wait. Bearing in mind a lane is normally meant for one swimmer, by splitting it space is already cramped, so don't just jump in and hope the lane will become a circle. Remember to ask first, but be prepared to wait your turn!
NOTE: Always check the direction of the circle before joining in, you don't want to start a traffic jam in the middle of the pool!
If you are taking a long rest you should move completely away from the lane into a free area on the side of the pool, or the jacuzzi for instance. But if you are taking short rests in between laps for breath, take a rest in the corner or end of the lane to ensure you are least disruptive to the other swimmers still resting.
You don't want to break one of the most important rules of gym pool etiquette by getting in the other swimmers' way...
28. Lane Speed
Normally if it is a three lane pool then the lanes are split to a fast, medium and slow pace. So choose your lane wisely. Better yet, if you are unsure if there is a person in the lane already you can see what the set pace is, so join which lane you think is most appropriate for your level or pace you want to go that day. If you go too slow in a fast lane you are going to affect other swimmers and vice versa.
29. Bikini vs Costume
Whilst you can wear what you want to the pool it's probably in your best interest to wear a swimming costume if you aim to exercise, as it allows you to swim faster without the worry of any accidental slip outs.
Gym Sauna Etiquette
Same as with the pool, do not enter without first being in the shower or pool, which will make for a better experience for all involved.
One of the first rules of gym sauna etiquette in the UK is; don’t go in the nude. Saunas work best with minimal clothing but that does not mean complete nudity, you should either wear swimwear or wrap up in a towel. This makes it sanitary for other users.
32. Silence In The Sauna
Unless the sauna is miraculously free (it usually isn't) and you are with your pal, feel free to chat away.
However, if there are other people in your prescence then you shouldn't chat at all, as this would be breaking sauna etiquette in the gym. The sauna is a place to relax, where people like to be in silence and unwind. Some people do bring in earphones, which are harmless if the volume isn't at an obnoxious level, but electric equipment should be minimised unless it is waterproof as it could be damaged.
33. Do Be Quick.
Saunas are always small in nature, so a lot of times when it's peak time at the gym they can be overcrowded. So, take no longer than 20 minutes to ensure there is space for others who want to use it. P.S, when you leave the sauna do this in a hasty manner as the longer the doors are open, the more hot air escapes.
34. Do What You Feel Comfortable
The sauna is not for everybody, trust us. So don't feel like you should try and stake out for the whole 20 minutes, a lot of people can't tolerate the sauna and only pop in for a few minutes.
Whilst quite a relaxing place, it can also be dangerous, if you stay in for too long you are most likely going to feel faint or pass out as your body can only withstand a certain temperature and amount of dehydration.
Gym Shower Etiquette
35. Keep Nakedness To The Minimum
Although you may be comfortable with being naked in all your glory, a lot of people aren't, so don't be strolling about in the locker room post-shower like you're on the runway. It's polite gym changing room etiquette to be suited and booted as quickly as you can after showering.
36. No Peeing In The Shower
Although you might do this at home, it's unthinkable gym shower etiquette. No one wants your backwash of pee in their shower with them.
37. Forgetting Flip Flops
Do not forget to bring flip flops or some type of waterproof protection shoe, this is essential for the locker/shower room and pool areas, as you are protecting yourself as well as others (especially as athletes foot is rife in areas like the gym).
No personal grooming in the shower!
The shower is strictly for cleaning yourself after a workout, so save the shaving for home, it clogs the drains and the showers are normally a communal floor, so its gross the hairs can travel to other cubicles. When practicing good gym etiquette, you should not be hogging the shower with personal grooming (yes, this includes clipping your nails).
Personal Training Etiquette
If you are lucky enough to have become a newly qualified personal trainer and you've got a few clients booked in, here are some rules on personal training etiquette you should find helpful:
39. Be Considerate Of Clients
Remember to always be careful and considerate when taking into account a client's gender. If you are a male personal trainer you should not be grabbing and supporting female clients the same way you would with a male client.
For example, if you are using a pull up bar with a female client - you should be spotting via incentive areas of the body such as the elbows instead of the hips.
40. Don't Date Your Clients!
Clients are not your possible love interests. Don't overstep the boundary, it's not professional as they say to never mix ‘business with pleasure’. It can become messy and things like this can even result in lawsuits, so it's better to be safe than sorry. If you break up with a client who goes to the gym it can also end up with some awkward run ins.
41. Keep On Time
Remember you are selling yourself as a business, if you are constantly running late or cutting clients short they're not gonna be happy, and chances are they are not gonna stick around. This can look bad as they can complain about you to their friends, putting potential clients off doing business with you.
And also, vice versa; if a client is always running late or cancelling last minute you should be charging them still and cutting their sessions short. Don't stop your customers who are on time from starting and finishing their allocated slot just because your other client was late, they should be understanding of this.
42. Dont Ask People To Move Along
When it comes to personal training etiquette one number one rule is that it is not acceptable to ask other gym goers to move from a machine or using equipment for the use of your client.
The gym is a shared space which other people pay to use, as well as your client, just because you are a personal trainer and in the middle of a session does not mean you get priority with equipment. If the gym is going to be busy for your client’s slot you should plan ahead, so if the machine in your routine is taken there is a back up plan until it's free. You should have proper gym etiquette when waiting for a machine!
43. Know Your Worth
It's easy for clients to overstep their boundary with personal trainers, asking for favours such as “can I bring my friend along to the session?”, or asking for you to update a meal plan for free.
Make sure to charge for these services that you provide and be upfront about it! Such as; “Yeah sure, your friend can come along but she will have to pay the fee for a plus one”.
Remember this is your business and livelihood you are professionally trained and no one would expect to go to other services such as a hairdresser and expect a free haircut.
Before you go!
Hopefully, now you've got a good understanding on good gym etiquette and how to execute it!
If you abide by the things we've listed in this article, you really shouldn't run into any problems in the gym, unless it's someone else who is breaking these rules (and annoying you in the process!).
- Pierce, K. (1998). EXERCISES OF THE MONTH: Horizontal Row & Dumbbell/Weight Swing. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING JOURNAL, 20(2), p.50.
- Fradkin, A., Gabbe, B. and Cameron, P. (2006). Does warming up prevent injury in sport?. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 9(3), pp.214-220.
- Johnson, T.D., 2011. Stay healthy and infection-free at the gym.