I've always been kind of creeped out by gyms; many people doing things and no one is talking.

I started working at a place with a gym that has lots of machines in a relatively small space. I have no idea what's going on but sometimes when I go there appears to be a class and ladies telling people what to do.

  • Should I not be in the gym at this time?
  • Should I try to figure out which equipment they're going to use and not use it?
  • Once I noticed the bosu ball was placed under the table, does this mean I shouldn't use it?
  • Since the class seems to be women only, is it frowned upon for a male to be working out in the gym at the same time?

It's hard to ask when the instructors are busy giving instructions and music is playing in the background.

Are there any common rules I should be aware of?

  • 5
    I am not sure if this question can be sufficiently answered here by us as we don't know the exact situation. Why haven't you asked in your gym what the rules are for those cases?
    – Baarn
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 9:53
  • 1
    I think this a question on general gym etiquette and do's and dont's. As for the specifics you have been asking - I believe that someone would have said something if you did something wrong.
    – K.L.
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 13:08
  • @Informaficker who the heck would I ask? There is no person who is employed by the gym itself. I'm serious, should I ask the building custodian?
    – Celeritas
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 16:17
  • 1
    The gym has no employees?
    – user4644
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 18:52
  • 1
    It seems like the gym is not very organized. Perhaps you could talk to somebody about formalizing some guidlines or schedules to make everything clearer for everyone.
    – user4644
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


I think everyone who has gone to the gym understands your situation, since we were all beginners at one time. Trying to figure out what a machine does can be kind of humiliating; what if you're using it wrong? For that reason I recommend talking to a personal trainer just to get a primer on the equipment. I have no conflicts of interest here -- a trainer can really help break the ice in the gym. If this isn't an option, it is easy to self-educate with videos these days.

In any case, here are some basic things I think everyone should know about using the gym, and how to act respectfully towards the establishment and other patrons:

  • Read the gym rules
    This is really important. If you don't read the gym rules, know that those around you probably have and aren't happy with you if you don't follow them. The rules will be posted conspicuously somewhere in the gym. Read them and follow them. Try to encourage others to do the same if you can.
  • Rack your weights
    This is a pet peeve of every experienced gym patron. Put the weight back where you found it. Also, nobody likes hunting down weights, or having to dig through plates when the 5lb plate is buried behind four 35lb plates. Keep it neat. Put your weight back where it belongs when you're done. Leave things more organized than the way you found them.
  • Use the equipment properly
    If there's a squat rack and you're doing curls in it, you're preventing someone from using the equipment as it was designed. For example, you don't need a power rack to do curls unless you're curling so much you physically can't pick the weight up off the ground.
  • Be respectful towards beginners
    You were a beginner once too. Help them if you can do it in a friendly and non-intimidating way. Be a friend to a beginner. Then spot them, teach them, help them, be their workout buddy. Let's all be friends here, right?
  • Share
    Don't hog the equipment. Let people work in if you're going to take a while. If you see someone who looks like they're waiting, ask them if they'd like to work in. If the gym is busy, be especially vigilant and try to be aware.
  • Communicate
    If a piece of equipment you'd like to use is not in use, but out of place, ask others if they are using it, or have seen anyone using it recently. Also, in general, ask if a piece of equipment is in use in a busy gym if you have the opportunity.
  • Clean up after yourself
    If you're sweaty, wipe it down with sanitizer! Even if you aren't, some gyms cultivate a very clean atmosphere. When in doubt, wipe it down.

A couple of minor points:

  • Yield to people carrying weights
    Encumbered people have the right of way. Give them space.
  • Don't hog the water fountain
    It's impolite to fill your water bottle in the water fountain when people are standing in line and just want a sip.

Basically it all comes down to respect. Respect the space in the way you'd like your own space to be respected by others, and everything will be fine!

  • 1
    So many people make me angry at the gym with their general lack of awareness and respect for others, yet somehow I think your list addresses everything I have a problem with. Well done.
    – Taylor K.
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 15:40
  • 3
    I would add to this list: unloading weights when done. It is very frustrating to find a unattended squat rack with the bar loaded. You then have to wait to see if they are getting water, finding another plate, talking to a P/T, or are done with the machine. By unloading the weights when you are done, you not only tell the next person that the machine is free, but also saves them the hassle of having to unload your weights (imagine a weak beginner having to unload a barbell after some jacked-up lifter finished a 300kg set and was too lazy to cleanup afterwards).
    – Moses
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 23:47

In general the attitude in a gym is: Everybody works out for themselves, so everybody keeps to themselves. This might give the idea there is no room for communication, but actually most often the opposite is true.

You'll find most people in a gym cooperative and knowledgeable, but ONLY when you start talking. If you're not talking, then you're assumed to work out for yourself and keep to yourself.

  • Based on my observations, the large majority of people who go to my gym do not talk to a single other person, with the possible exception of the receptionist. It wasn't always this way. If you were to get in a time machine and go back twenty years, gyms were very social places. A recent poll found that 22% of millennials have no friends. today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2019/07/30/… The decline of socializing in gyms is a big part of the reason why.
    – Chris
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 3:31

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