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  • Jonny

Navigating the Minefield of Gym Etiquette - Exercise Series

Updated: Oct 2, 2019



As if there isn’t enough to think about when going to the gym ey? Correct form, correct rest periods, correct this and that, and now some moron is telling you there’s also some form of etiquette at the gym too?!


There’s no need to let it daunt you though. This is far less important than keeping correct form, this is more of a polite way to let you know how you should act in the gym, and when to step in to help someone (people may often look like they are about to pass out – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want help). In fact, in one of Eddie Hall’s recent videos, he not only pushed himself so hard that he had a little accident, but he also blacked out. Luckily he blacked out just after he managed to secure the weight, otherwise that could have been catastrophic (he was leg pressing 1000kg).

I thought it might be helpful to give a mini guide, so that those of you who do get social anxiety and are a little apprehensive can stroll in there like you own the damn place.


What should you do if someone approaches you and asks for a “spot”


If some random person comes up to you and asks you to spot them, this simply means can you go to where they are lifting, and get ready to help them lift the weight. Spotting is a technique in itself, and a topic I will cover later at some point. What I would first do, is tell them that you don’t really know how to spot them on that lift, then they may guide you for that particular lift, in which case great, or even better they may ask someone more experienced. Awkward social situation avoided… result!


If they do show you how to spot, then knowing when to help them with the weight is crucial. People asking for a spot are going to be really pushing themselves to the limit… it might look like they are struggling, but you should only help them at the very moment they do fail, or indicate they need you to take the weight. To know when they have failed, is the moment the weight starts going the wrong way. For example, if someone starts bench pressing, they still might be able to get the rep if it looks like they’ve become stationary. The only point they definitely won’t get the rep is if the bar starts going back towards their chest. It’s at this split second that you jump in to help.


How many weights is it acceptable to have around you?


We’ve all seen pictures of people with every single dumbbell around them, you may have even come across someone who does that. Don’t be that person, that person is a moron. Just get the weight you are using at that time. If you are super setting (doing one lift followed immediately by another) then it’s acceptable to have two different sets of weights. What’s not acceptable is doing a set with 35kg say, resting 2 minutes, a set on 30, resting 2 minutes a set on 25, resting 2 mins a set on 20 etc and having all of those weights littered around your bench. Not only is it a bad move, but it’s also dangerous for you and others when lifting. You want to have as clear a space as possible so you can drop the weights if need be. Dropping the weights brings me nicely onto my next point.


Should I throw the weights down and make as much noise as possible?


Being a part of a grass roots type gym, you sometimes get the person who throws the weights down and makes loud noises so the whole gym needs to see what weight they just lifted. It’s beyond me why people feel the need to do this, not only does it make them look like an arse, but it also puts people off of their own lifts. You need good mental concentration when lifting weights, you need to be in your own zone. If someone throws down the weights really loudly and shouts something incoherent, then you’ve been put off of your game. So, don’t be that person. If you need to drop your weights to avoid injury, that’s more than encouraged – that’s a must. However, there’s a difference between needing to drop it and throwing it at the ground.


Why is that weirdo asking how many sets I have left?


This could be one of two reasons, they could be trying to strike up a conversation, and the only way they know how is gym speak. Or, what’s more likely, is that they want to use the machine you are currently using. Now, this isn’t a trick, they genuinely just are basically trying to find out how long you are going to be on the machine. It might be in your nature to offer the machine to them, but don’t stop what you are doing. If you have 5 sets to go, then tell them sorry, I’ve still got 5. They won’t be offended.


I’m British, and we have the reputation for being overly polite (this is only true in some circumstances – there’s still many nasty Brits), but it is in my nature to offer something up, even if it means it messes up my routine. After a few times of doing this, you realise that’s not helping anyone. You’ll end up never getting your workout done! So be polite, but also tell them straight how many sets you have. If you want to offer something to them, then you can tell them they can jump in with you if you don’t mind sharing with them. This is sometimes a great way to make new friends!


Should I talk to other people?


Well, this is really up to you, and your own social skills. In the grassroots type gym I go to, it’s a nice little community, you see the same people there every day, so you end up talking to people, chatting away and getting to know everyone. Some people however may feel intimidated by strangers approaching them and striking up a conversation. This is more often the case in the more commercial gyms, so gauge it by your everyday life experiences. If they have headphones on and avoiding eye contact, they probably don’t want to talk to you, sorry! That being said, if you are wanting a bit of help whilst you’re in the gym, then ask someone who looks experienced.


The more experienced people will actually enjoy being able to share their expertise. In their head they will think oh, they’ve looked at me and thought I look like I know what I’m talking about- nice. It could well be that you’ve asked them to help as they were the nearest person to you, but they don’t need to know that! Staff and members alike will really be more than happy to help guide you. What people don’t like is unsolicited hitting on. Most people are at the gym to better themselves, they don’t need some creepy person asking them out – the gym is a safe place.


These are just a few little etiquette tips to get you by as you start going to the gym – hope it helps!! Remember, if you want a beginners guide to lifting weights – it’s here.