Gym Etiquette for the New-Year Newbies

Get the Basics…
  • If you’re new to the gym world and want to feel more confident on your first day, follow this helpful guide.
  • Always put equipment back where you got it.
  • Be aware of other gym patrons’ personal space, and ask if equipment is already in use.

With New Year’s Eve around the corner, you may have resolved to join a gym to get fit. That’s great! But, gym etiquette faux pas can leave a “newbie” like you in an embarrassing situation. Although there is nothing wrong with being new, if you can get a handle on the following code of conduct before you join, then all the better.

#1 – Read and Understand Your Gym’s Rules

Is a particular area for classes only? Can you walk into a class, or do you have to book it first? How long can you use the cardio machines? If you’re not sure, then ask a staff member (that is their job).

#2 – Make Sure You’re Clean

Yes, it’s easier to go to the gym straight after work, but no one likes working out next to someone who smells. If you have to get a quick shower at the gym before you work out, then so be it. In the same vein, don’t plaster on the deodorant or aftershave.

We don’t like smelly people, but we also don’t want to struggle to breathe when we inhale a mouthful of your aftershave.

Also, make sure you wash your workout clothes after each use.

#3 – Bring a Towel, and Use It

You might be happy to lie in a puddle of someone else’s sweat, but not us. Most gyms will even provide you with one, so there is no excuse not to wipe down the area/equipment you have been using after you finish. Some gyms will even provide disinfectant wipes or a spray to prevent the spread of germs.

#4 – If You Use Something, Put It Back

This one is my biggest pet peeve in the gym: plates lying on the floor, barbells loaded with weights, the 40lb-dumbbells in the 10lb-dumbbell spot, and the list goes on. If you use a weight or load a bar, put it back the way you found it. If you don’t remember where it goes, then ask. When you put plates away, please put them in order. 10lb-plates belong with other 10lb-plates, not with 45lb-plates.

#5 – Stick to Your Area

If you are at the gym to do some cardio, that’s fine; just make sure you stay in the correct area. No one wants to risk getting whipped in the face by a jump rope on their way to the leg press. Nor do you want to trip over some dumbbells when you are getting off the StairMaster.

#6 – Move Away from the Dumbbell Rack

Once you have collected your weights, move away from the rack to allow other people to do the same. It’s annoying and potentially dangerous to have to squeeze past someone to grab some dumbbells. If you are strong enough to pick them up, then you can take a few steps backward with them.

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#7 – Be Aware of Personal Space

If you don’t watch where you are going, you could get a lateral raise to the face. Try to keep an arm’s distance from people working out, which is both for their benefit and yours.

#8 – Keep Your Top On

You might want to check out your gains or see how shredded you look in the mirror, but no one else does. Save the posing for when you’re at home!

#9 – Don’t Drop Your Weights or Make Unnecessary Noises

Unless you are using CrossFit bumper plates, you shouldn’t be dropping your weights or letting them slam back down.

Dropping and slamming can damage weights and can even be dangerous, as they might bounce and hit someone.

You might think it sounds impressive to slam down heavy weights after your last set, but no one else does. The same goes for yelling when getting through a tough part of a lift. Sure, some noise is fine — even uncontrollable — but someone roaring out their reps can be distracting.

#10 – Make Sure Someone’s Not Using That Equipment

Check to see if anyone is near the equipment you want to use. If they are, then ask if they are using it. If there is a towel or gym bag next to it, then it might be in use.

#11 – Don’t Curl in the Squat Rack

We have all seen the gym memes, but it is a real issue. Make sure you are using the correct piece of equipment in the proper area. The squat rack is for squats, the overhead press, and maybe the chest press. Don’t be that guy.

#12 – Get Off Your Phone

Unless you are using it for music, timing, or a helpful fitness app, there is no need to be on your phone. If you need to take a call or send a text, then stop your workout and move to somewhere more appropriate. People may be waiting for you to finish with equipment while you are “flexing for the gram.” You are at the gym to train, not to update your social media.

Get Out There

Now that you’re well-versed in gym etiquette, you’re already less of a newbie. So get out there and confidently embrace the new year, a new gym membership, and, if you stick to your fitness goals, a new you!


David Baillie is a certified personal trainer with a diploma in nutrition and weight management. He is the founder of Front-Line Fitness, a fitness and nutrition company that specializes in helping people get into the best shape of their lives and live life to the fullest. David is a decorated British Military veteran and ex-private military contractor who spent 19 years working in some of the most hostile environments around the world. He believes that fitness should be challenging, functional, and fun! He takes a holistic approach to building healthier lifestyles rooted in the real world, where junk food and TV are the enemy. In his free time, David enjoys taking road trips across the USA with his fiancée in his bright yellow Chevy pick-up truck, affectionately known as Bumblebee. You can reach David at: [email protected]linefitness.com.