Gym Etiquette: Be a Hero Where You Lift

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Help yourself by helping others

Being selfish and rude is easy, especially when you’re exhausted. Being a person of integrity takes work. Thankfully, you read this blog. That makes you awesome. For people like us, the gym is a temple to muscle, health, and well-being. But for others, the gym is an intimidating labyrinth of self-doubt, a thundering clatter-storm of dropped weights and a dungeon of butt cheek sweat marks on every possible empty seat. We can lead the offenders to a new way. A way where going to the gym is an all-you-can-eat-buffet of gains and camaraderie. Let’s break down the three C’s of Gym Etiquette: Courtesy, Cleanliness, and Compassion.



I can’t get any writing down when my desk is cluttered. Neither can my wife. I can’t even do super important things like paint Warhammer miniatures unless my hobby area is organized. How could I be expected to change my entire body if my gym looked like a freshman theater major’s laundry hamper? Some people, not you, leave weights lying around after they work out. Those people are terrible. You, however, are a champion of the gym and it is your sacred duty to help make the workouts of other acolytes of gains easier. It’s not your mess, but since when does a hero only worry about his or her own mess?

Decluttering a weight room has a sneaky side benefit as well: you’ll get a nice warm-up going. Now, not every gym is a disaster zone, but I can pretty much guarantee you that a couple 45 plates will be leaned against a wall or there’ll be some dumbells in the wrong order. Also, if your gym has an EZ-curl rack it probably could stand to be reorganized. Not only are you getting your muscles warmed up but you’re creating a more inviting workout space for your fellow human beings. It’s a pretty sweet deal.


Great sweaty muscles, bro -- just remember to wipe down the machine, yeah?
Great sweaty muscles, bro — just remember to wipe down the machine, yeah?


They say cleanliness is next to godliness and I’m pretty sure they mean gods like Thor, Odin, Poseidon, Athena, The Morrigan, Durga and the like. These are gods that spend all day kicking ass and smelling like an Old Spice commercial. You want to be in this club. How many times have you been on a treadmill next to some dude whose sneakers belch up some kind of soggy foot fart every time his heel smacks the track? Did it make you want to keep working out?  What about that weight bench that has salt-mine-level sodium buildup of butt sweat? Think anyone is going to be inspired to max press on that thing?  This isn’t a Soviet-era political prison. This is a gym.

Once again we can lead by example. Making a point to visibly wipe down your equipment can remind others that they need to do the same. Also, consider bringing a small, clean towel with you. It can come in super handy if you start to sweat like Conan on the Wheel of Pain during your workout. Which is a good thing, you want to sweat — it means you’re doing it right. You just don’t want it to sound like it’s raining inside the gym. Also, I’ve always noticed a palpable sense of relief and relaxation when people see that I have a sweat towel with me. Like they understand I’m a symbol of justice, a wild west sheriff hunting down my own sweat stains. Also, it doesn’t hurt to smell decent either. I know we’re all there to get sweaty but there is such a thing as too much BO at the gym. There’s also definitely cologne/perfume overcompensation. Just follow this simple rule of thumb: if your gym nickname is Mustard Gas or Dumpster Burrito, then maybe take either the cologne or body odor down a notch.



Albert Einstein once said, “Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge.”. I think it’s obvious he was talking about spotting some jacked dude at the gym before he crushes his larynx with a barbell. We live in a self-centered world. We reinforce this self-centeredness with headphones, personalized social media timelines, and Netflix “picks for you.” However, the reality is that we’re all part of the same cultural ecosystem and a little kindness can go a long way. Especially when people are trying to get swoll

The first time I put two big plates on each side of the barbell for my work weight on the bench (a  proud accomplishment for a man who once asked to stay home from school with a bad case of “Nintendo thumb”) I was legitimately scared. I was also super self-conscious about asking for a spot. I knew I could do more and push myself harder if I had a spot but I was embarrassed to ask. Luckily, a dude saw my facial expression and asked if I need a spot. I was able to put the weight up and felt like a champ. I also didn’t suffer the embarrassment of having to bail solo on the weight. After that, I started keeping my eye open and volunteering to spot whenever I could. For whatever reason, just vocally offering seems to “loosen” up the smaller than average weight room I work out in. And other people observe this and reciprocate the offer. It’s better to break the ice than break a clavicle.

I’ve also noticed that there’s some instant camaraderie with people that spot each other. That also makes going to the gym more fun. You have friends there. It’s like Cheers for barbarians trying to buff their strength stats, not for sad lonely booze hounds.

I don’t know about you but I’m starting with the man (flexing and making thunderbolt noises at my own biceps) in the mirror. A great experience at the gym is in all of our hands. Plus, it’s nice to leave places better than we found them. That includes the places we get our swoll on. We’re already transforming our lives through fitness, so we can also start to change the world… one fifteen pound dumbbell dangerously careening across the weight room floor at a time.