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Five Practices of Gym Etiquette For Beginners

Updated on January 19, 2018
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Daniel enjoys paying monthly to use the gym down the road from his house.

Adventuring into Gym Culture

Joining a gym can be intimidating.

This is normal.

Anyone entering the world of weights and treadmills after a stint with kids, careers, and donuts has been there. It almost feels like entering a foreign culture.

Much like entering a new culture, assimilation into gym life begins with understanding its norms and customs.

This article explores five simple charges of gym etiquette that can help you find balance in your new environment.

Diets, workouts, and schedules are complex enough. Applying these straightforward tips will free up focus for your more important fitness endeavors.

1. Always Wipe Down Used Equipment

Do you feel that?

The burning sensation within your body?

Is it motivation?

No, it's staph. It's part of the infection you received following an intense set on the butterfly machine. Staph is completely preventable by following Rule #1 of Gym Culture:

Always Clean Your Equipment Following Use.

Staph is a bacteria that most of us carry at any given time. It's prone to harming us when we have open cuts or nicks that allows it to enter our blood stream.

The gym is a petri dish of germs and bacteria and a prime location for producing cuts and nicks. It's important to wipe down equipment both for you and for those that follow you.

Most gyms provide cleaning items:

  • Sani wipes
  • Spray bottles
  • Paper towels

It's up to us to use them. Preventing the transmission of pathogens is the responsibility of the user since gym workers rarely have the time or presence to properly clean the equipment between each person.

Enacting Rule #1 is simple:

  1. Use the equipment.
  2. Clean the equipment with the supplied cleaning items.
  3. Replace the equipment in its proper place (See Rule #2)
  4. Rejoice is promoting proactive health measures.

Snow angels are fun. Sweat angels are toxic. The first acclimation into gym culture is taking care of your gym mates with adequate sanitation.

2. Always Return Equipment to its Rightful Place

Repeat after me:

I (Your Name),

Will Always

Return My Equipment

To Its Rightful Place.

Now, close your eyes and visualize yourself placing a dumbbell back on its rack.

The clank of metal on metal as it seats back into is proper resting place? That's the sound of harmony reverberating throughout the universe. That's the power of Rule #2 of Gym Culture:

Always Return Equipment To Its Rightful Place

The heart of gym culture is always the same.

Do what's best for others.

Returning equipment to its rightful place shows a respect for other gym users time and space. It is often an act that goes unnoticed until someone fails to do it.

Here are some sins found in the Book of Gymnicus*:

  • Leaving loose weight plates on the floor.
  • Leaving weight plates on a work out bar.
  • Leaving dumbbells scattered across the floor.
  • Returning dumbbells to an incorrect spot.
  • Leaving resistance bands scattered across the floor.
  • Leaving exercise balls in inappropriate places.

While no one is physically hurt, this is one of the greatest causes of silent conflict between gym goers. Promote peace and refuse to have someone else clean up your mess.

Enacting Rule #2 is simple:

  1. Use equipment appropriately.
  2. Return plated weights to their designated racks.
  3. Return dumbbells to their designated racks.
  4. Return items to their designated places.
  5. Rejoice in your contribution to reduced hypertension in fellow gym mates.

*The Book of Gymnicus is not an actual book.

3. Have a Cell Phone Plan


What are three ways you can blow an hour in the gym without burning double digit calories?

That is correct.

If you're going to possess your cell phone you need Rule #3 of Gym Culture:

Always Have A Cell Phone Plan

Time is not only limited for you but also for everyone else around you. Five minutes lost to texting can mean the loss of an entire set.

In order for you to maximize your workout, your equipment use, and to not receive a punch to the face, your cell phone needs boundaries.

An adequate cell phone plan involves three components:

  1. Cell phone location
  2. Preparing Apps, Musics, and/or Podcasts
  3. Knowing your response protocol


1. Cell Phone Location

Deciding if your cell phone will be with you or secured is simple:

Do you need it during your workout?

  • Is it a workout aid?
  • Do you need to be available?

If neither of those are true, secure it somewhere safe and enjoy time away from tech.

2. Preparing Apps, Music, and Podcasts

Have all of your work out aids adequately prepared before entering the gym floor:

  • Music: Have a playlist ready that will cover the entire workout.
  • Podcast: Have your podcasts chosen and in queue. Always have one extra podcast chosen in case you dislike one that is playing.
  • Apps: Have all apps preset so no settings need to be managed mid-workout.

3. Know Your Response Protocol

Having a protocol ready if you need to take an important call, text, or email is one of the most important boundaries. You need to know which calls and texts will require attention during your workout and what you will do if you need to reply.

  • Choose your alert settings. (Silence or unique alerts for specific texts, messages, email notifications, etc)
  • Know who receives your attention during the work out. Ignore those who don't fit that priority.
  • Have a plan for when a reply is necessary. (Clean equipment and step outside, limit reply to a specific number of minutes, send an auto reply stating you will return a message at a later time, etc.)


Having set boundaries is crucial to your cell phone plan at the gym.

It's not uncommon to pause for an important text and somehow lose ten minutes to a cat page on Instagram.

4. Be Proactive With Body Odor

Gyms smell.

But that smell doesn't have to be offensive.

Maintaining good gym hygiene is Rule #4 of Gym Culture:

Be Proactive with Body Odor

Body odor is normal and if you're knocking out a liter of sweat per hour, you're expected to have some olfactory aura about you. However, it's important to respect the shared space of your gym mates.

Body odor occurs for a simple reason:

Bacteria on your body starts breaking down your sweat. This process creates the smell.

Different people have different odors due to body type, diet, genetics, clothing, and much more. If you're known to carry a strong fragrance, consider the following:

  • Wear an effective deodorant.
  • Wear clean workout clothes.
  • Wear sleeved shirts.

Many pieces of gym equipment are within close proximity to one another. Some workout stations may have four people on the same machine. It's important to address body odor because of these situations.

The key takeaway is this:

  • Be respectful of your shared space with others and mitigate a simple circumstance that may affect your self confidence.

Body odor can increase self awareness in a negative way. You're already self conscious about being in a new environment with new workouts. Being proactive with this benefits both you and your new community.

5. Reduce Excessive Sounds

What we do in life, echoes in eternity.

What we do in the gym should not echo equally.

This sets the stage for Rule #5 of Gym Culture:

Reduce Excessive Sounds

Excessive grunting and recreational raucous often distracts the people around you. If you find yourself registering decibels with your dumbbells, you're probably registering your name on someone's hit list.

Gym culture is different per gym so this isn't always universal. However, as a beginner, it's best to observe your environment before engaging it with auditory hostility.

As stated in previous sections, most of gym culture revolves around respecting the shared space with others.

This tip is simple:

  • Attempt to perform exercises without excessive grunting, yelling, or extracurricular noise.

Much love will come your way by respecting this auditory arena.


Gym culture can be intimidating.

Like any cultural immersion, it starts with understanding basic norms and customs.

The customs of gym culture revolve around a simple principle: respecting others.

By following the above advice, you're on the right path to respecting your new community and building confidence through cultural acclimation.

Once more:

  1. Always Wipe Down Used Equipment
  2. Always Return Equipment to its Rightful Place
  3. Have a Cell Phone Plan
  4. Be Proactive with Body Odor
  5. Reduce Excessive Sounds

Best of luck in your cultural journey!

Feel free to leave a comment describing your favorite "gym norm" and share the wealth of any additional gymtastic knowledge.


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