Every gym has rules and standards of behavior that you agree to when signing your membership contract. But there’s also an unwritten code of conduct that governs how you operate when training with fellow gym-goers. In theory, this unspoken code should guide your weight room etiquette, assuming you’d rather be noticed for your clean-and-jerk form than for being an actual jerk.
While everyone has their own idiosyncrasies, an attempt at good manners goes a long way in sharing a communal exercise space. Below, trainers break down the weight room etiquette blunders that drive them crazy, and share some advice on how to be a more courteous lifter. Feel free to share this article with that guy who’s always ruining the vibes.
1. Hoarding Equipment
The top pet peeve amongst trainers: Hogging weight equipment (which includes not putting away weights when you’re done with them). “I’ve seen people grab dumbbells, a bar, and separate weights to complete their different circuits, all without going back to the rack,” says Soji James, C.P.T., a trainer for the Black-owned mental health and wellness performance company, 1AND1. Don’t be that person.
While jumping back and forth between multiple pairs of dumbbells, a squat rack, and a plyo box, for example, might not be that big of a deal during quieter hours, use all of that equipment at one time during busy hours and you’re tying up equipment that other people might want to use, says personal trainer Hannah Daugherty, C.P.T., Exercise With Style. Customizing a large personal circuit set-up can also clog up the workout area, causing safety issues for others who could trip over your gear.
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The fix for this is pretty straightforward: Grab the weights you need for a specific exercise and then put them back in their proper place before going for the next ones so that others can maximize their time at the gym, suggests James. And if you know you need two or three different pieces of equipment for your workout, aim to hit the weight room during off-hours, Daugherty adds. If this isn’t feasible, allow others to work on any of the equipment you’ve grabbed while you aren’t using it. (In other words, if you’re doing box jumps and someone wants your kettlebell, let them use it for a set while you jump.)
“People are often willing to work with others, and it can make the atmosphere in the weight room much lighter if everyone is sharing equipment that is needed,” Daugherty says.
2. Talking On The Phone
Talking loudly on your phone in the middle of the gym floor is bad form, says personal trainer Nancy Feinstein, C.P.T. Remember, many people are at the gym to get into the zone and don’t want to be distracted.
“If you need to take a call, move to the side or go to the lobby,” Feinstein says. “People do not come to the gym to hear the details of the deal you are working on or how your date went last night.”
Speaking of phone etiquette, scrolling endlessly on your phone while hogging a set of dumbbells or a piece of equipment is another faux pas, says Ellen Thompson, C.P.T., head personal trainer at Blink Fitness.
3. Taking Pictures or Filming With Others in The Background
Many gyms have a no photo and filming policy in place, but they don’t necessarily enforce it unless complaints are made, says personal trainer Leigha Verbeem, C.P.T. (This is the age of TikTok, after all!)
Even if you’re just recording videos to check your form or to share your workout with others, the gym-goer in the background may not know they’re in your video—and may not be cool with it, Verbeem says. And that whole “filming others making weight room mistakes and then posting the mocking footage online” thing? That’s just outright cruel, she says.
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If you are a fitness influencer or like being able to film your workouts, you might want to find a gym where cameras get the green light. “Some private gyms actually allow and encourage it,” Verbeem says. “You can either rent the space specifically for photoshoots or filming, or you can have a basic gym membership that encourages the fitness influencer style.”
There are still limits to this, though. Filming and social media photo shoots should never, ever occur in the locker room, Verbeem points out.
4. Not Respecting The “Lifter Bubble”
When people are doing barbell lifts that require focus, having distracting conversations close by is a no-no, says Jacob Penner, C.P.T., USAW-L1, trainer with Garage Gym Reviews. “When loud dialogue interrupts a focused brain, we see losses of coordination and movement error,” he says. “It’s unsafe and unpleasant for the lifter.”
To remedy this, he recommends everybody try to respect the “lifter bubble,” a six-foot radius surrounding anybody doing barbell lifts or anything that requires such balance and focus. Stay out of the bubble and even remove yourself from the lifter’s eye line to minimize any distractions, Penner says.