14 Important Gym Etiquette Rules All Gymgoers Should Follow

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People who have a rebellious personality will argue that rules are meant to be broken, but the truth is that most rules are established for a reason and that obeying them increases the safety, enjoyment, and effectiveness of an activity.

The same can be said for a lot of unspoken rules, such as etiquette rules.

If you’re a beginner who has newly taken up going to the gym (good for you!), you might be surprised to learn that there are gym etiquette rules.

Knowing the spoken and unspoken important gym etiquette rules will not only help you fit in and appear to be much more of an advanced athlete than your novice level of experience and fitness may indicate, but it will also help ensure safety, hygiene, and courtesy to you and your fellow gymgoers.

In this article, we will cover the top rules of gym etiquette that every beginner (and veteran gym user!) should know.

We will cover: 

  • Why Are Gym Etiquette Rules Important?
  • 14 Gym Etiquette Rules

Let’s dive in! 

A rack of dumbbells.

Why Are Gym Etiquette Rules Important?

Although we tend to think of “etiquette rules” as just being a matter of importance for preserving common decency, which is important in its own right, gym etiquette rules can actually enhance safety, so they are especially important to follow.

For example, one important gym etiquette rule is to always wipe down and disinfect your cardio machine, weight bench, or exercise mat after you use it.

Sweat can harbor bacteria, fungi, and viruses that can be transmitted to the next user if not properly disinfected.

By properly cleaning off your used exercise equipment, you can help prevent the spread of germs.

Well, let’s get to it!

A person helping someone out at the gym.

14 Gym Etiquette Rules

Here are 14 rules of gym etiquette that will spare you from being the rude person at your gym that everyone dislikes being around.

#1: Ask Before Cutting In

In a perfect world, all of us would have free and unlimited access to all of the exercise equipment at the gym without having to wait our turn or suss out if other gymgoers are using the equipment.

However, more often than not, you will be at the gym at a time when other members are also getting in their workouts.

It’s very important to ask before using a piece of equipment or weight that another fellow member is using or is potentially using.

It is often relatively clear whether a cardio machine is in use, but sometimes someone may step off a treadmill or elliptical machine to adjust their shoes or quickly run to the bathroom.

An empty gym.

Therefore, unless you see the individual wiping down their machine and clearly wrapping up to move on to the next phase of their workout or leave the gym, it’s important to ask before cutting in and assuming the machine is free and clear for your use.

With strength training equipment, it’s often much less obvious whether someone is in the middle of using a bench, dumbbells, weights, etc., because they may be transitioning exercises or switching weights.

Do not go and grab dumbbells off the floor in front of a bench and start curling them before asking the previous user, or whoever is close by, if they are done using them.

Similarly, if someone has a barbell set up on a squat rack with various weight plates on them, do not remove the collars and strip out the plates that you need before ensuring that someone forgot to re-rack their weights (more on that later!) and the rack and weights are indeed free.

Most importantly, if the squat rack is actively in use and someone is squatting or bench pressing, do not approach the squat rack and remove the weight plates that are stored on the sides of the rack. You might accidentally bump the weightlifter or be bumped yourself, which can be extremely dangerous.

Weights at a gym.

#2: Re-Rack Your Weights

We already hinted at this, but you should always re-rack your weights, which means you need to put them back in their proper storage position, whether on a dumbbell rack or squat rack for weight plates.

Leaving your weights around is not only disrespectful because it means that the next person who wants to use them has to hunt around the gym to locate the weights they are looking for, but it is also a potential tripping hazard for people who are not expecting to see random dumbbells on the ground.

If you load up a barbell with weight plates, always fully strip the bar and put all of the weights back.

#3: Put Equipment Back

Extending beyond just dumbbells and weights themselves, it’s important to put back all of the equipment where you found it, including benches, plyometric boxes, medicine balls, stability balls, and jump ropes. 

It’s not fair to your fellow gym members to have to go on a scavenger hunt for the piece of equipment they are looking for.

Gym equipment on the floor.

#4: Don’t Drop Weights

Overall, you should try to limit excessive noise, including dramatic grunting and dropping weights. 

Sudden or loud noises can startle and distract other exercisers who are trying to focus on their own workout.

#5: Use a Towel

Many gyms offer a free towel service, but if your gym does not, make sure that you always bring and use a towel, especially when sitting or lying down on exercise benches.

Again, sweat harbors a lot of bacteria and viruses, and many of these microbes actually love the non-porous surfaces in gyms, such as on the handles of dumbbells.

For example, one study found that 63 percent of gym equipment had evidence of the presence of rhinovirus—the virus that causes the common cold—with an even higher prevalence on strength training equipment compared with cardio machines (73% vs. 51%).

A person with good gym etiquette, wiping down a kettlebell.

#6: Wipe Down Equipment After Use

As mentioned, it’s very important to wipe down all of the equipment you use after you are done.

It’s not only gross to find sweat all over a bench that you’re about to sit on, but cleaning the equipment also helps to prevent the spread of germs.

#7: Keep the Selfie Snapping to a Minimum

Sure, we all feel proud of ourselves when we get our workout in or hit a big PR, but snapping selfies willy-nilly can be problematic and disrespectful to your fellow members if you’re holding up their workout by standing near equipment or mirrors they need while you try to find your best angle.

Additionally, no one wants to accidentally be in the background of someone’s gym selfie, so try to make sure that if you are going to snap a quick pic, no one else is in the frame.

This is especially important when you are in the locker room.

A person on a rowing machine.

#8: You Shouldn’t Mark Your Territory

Don’t leave your towel, purse or bag, or other personal belongings draped over a cardio machine or exercise bench, and then go off doing another exercise in the gym, expecting your towel to reserve your spot.

You should only be “reserving“ the equipment you are using at the moment.

Related: Top 30 Funniest Gym Quotes

#9: Don’t Hover

Make sure to give people ample room while they are working out. Don’t hover or loiter around a piece of equipment just because you want to use it. 

You can make your intentions known by politely requesting that the person using the equipment informs you when they are done, but don’t hover around breathing down their neck or stare at them while they try to bang out their sets.

People on treadmills.

#10: Share

We all learned it in preschool or the first years of primary school: sharing is caring.

Try not to hog equipment, particularly during busy peak hours at the gym. 

Allow other users to rotate in between sets, and keep your cardio time to whatever limits your gym has set so that other members can have an opportunity to work out as well.

#11: Don’t Talk On the Phone

Unless it is an emergency or a brief, important phone call, do not talk on the phone on the gym floor.

It is disrespectful if you are having a loud, one-sided conversation, particularly if it causes you to stop exercising and put a temporary hold on the equipment that you are using.

A person lifting a barbell.

#12: Be Aware

Most people like to pop in their earbuds or AirPods these days and tune out everyone else during their workout, but it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings for safety and respect. 

If you are a social person, try to keep chit-chat and gossip to a minimum, or be mindful of where you and your buddies are chatting, ensuring that you are not obstructing the view of mirrors or access to equipment that your fellow gym members may need.

#13: Offer Support

If you are more experienced or stronger and see a beginner struggling with an exercise or needing to work with a spotter, offer your help.

#14: Give and Take

If someone offers to spot you or let you cut in between sets and work with them, offer the same courtesy in return (and you should even if they don’t!).

Overall, gym etiquette rules ultimately boil down to being kind, courteous, and polite in an effort to fairly share the common space with others.

New to the gym and suffering from gym anxiety? Don’t worry; you are not alone. Check out our article on gym anxiety for some tips on how to make your gym visits more enjoyable.

A person picking up a dumbbell.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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