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What Are the 20 Most Basic Gym Rules to Follow?

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

As with anything in life, there are rules in the gym that we're all expected to follow. Some of these will be written in the contract, others will be unwritten but mutually agreed upon.

Failure to follow these rules will lead to us getting in trouble, humiliated, or sometimes even kicked out of the gym. It's important that we all know what the most common rules are, and why they're important to follow.

This will help us stay on the good side of the others in our gyms, and help keep the gym a safe and enjoyable place to be for everyone.

Empty gym at night full of treadmills and workout equipment and basic gym rules

The Top 20 Gym Rules to Follow

(In no particular order)

Don't Hog Equipment

One of the most annoying things in the gym is to see the piece of equipment that you need being taken up by somebody that's also using three other machines at the same time. If you're supersetting exercises together, make sure you do it as quick as you can and find ways to allow others to use your equipment as well if you're going to be a while.

Supersetting exercises can often take upwards of 10-15 minutes, and this is going to lead to frustration and irritation in the others that also want to be using your equipment.

For example, don't take up a bench press and a squat rack at the same time. Even if you're doing some kind of specific or special training, just don't. It's incredibly inconsiderate. Especially if the gym is crowded such as during peak hours right after work.

If you've experienced this before, you'll know exactly why it's important not to hog equipment. Quite a lot of the time, someone else is waiting to use your piece of equipment if you go to a commercial gym in a popular location.

Put Your Weights Back

Nobody ever likes to have to rerack plates that they didn't use, or kick dumbbells randomly lying on the floor in the middle of the free weights section. If you're done with your weights, put them back!

You might be tired after your workout. Maybe it's time to go home. But every time you don't put your weights back, someone else has to do it for you. And especially if you're a stronger person, lifting weight that most aren't strong enough for, this can be even more irritating and even potentially dangerous for others.

Always put your weights back after you're done. Nobody wants to clean up after you.

Don't Block Someone's View of the Mirror

When we lift in the free weights section, or on a machine, it's good to look in the mirror and check our form as we go through the ranges of motion. However, during crowded hours in the gym, it's quite common for others to block our view of the mirror and stand in the way.

Sometimes, this can't really be helped, as gym do tend to get quite busy during peak hours right before and after work. However, we should always try our best not to block the mirror for others. It's annoying, and you wouldn't like it if it happened to you either.

Don't Talk to Someone During Their Set

Next up, always try not to talk to someone during their set, unless they're in immediate danger or putting someone else in immediate risk.

Many people have to mentally prepare before a set, and really hone in on their technique, what they're going to do and visualizing how the set will feel.

Talking to them during their sets can cause distraction and a loss of their focus on their weights. This can really throw others off and cause the rest of their set to go downhill. Maybe they'd built up a good tempo and were on track to breaking a new set PR.

The point is, it draws attention away from what they're trying to accomplish, and is often very frustrating to deal with. Don't do it unless you really have to.

Always Check if You're Allowed to Drop Weights/Deadlift

Some gyms are located right above office buildings, or in places where making too much noise will quickly cause problems for surrounding buildings/tenants. For this reason, some gyms do not allow members to deadlift or drop weights loudly on the ground.

Female athlete deadlifting in a gym and making lots of noise

You've likely seen videos of people getting incredibly upset at others deadlifting in the gym and dropping their weights on the ground. Most of the time, they are overreacting. However, if your gym is located right next to an office building, or there's some other valid reason why you can't make to much noise, then you need to follow those rules.

If you're unsure, simply ask your gym supervisor or manager! They'll be able to tell you right away whether you're allowed to deadlift/drop weights.

Wipe Down Equipment

Nobody likes to finally get onto a piece of equipment after waiting 10 minutes, just to see that the previous user hadn't wiped it down and had left it completely covered in sweat. Always wipe down your equipment after using it.

This is not only being considerate to the others in your gym, but it's also important to sanitation and health reasons as well. Especially during times like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Big Plates Before Small Plates

It's also important that you always put your big plates on before your small plates. Whether you're putting plates back onto the rack of a machine, or you're loading your barbell, you should always put the big plates on before smaller plates.

This makes it easier for you and others to grab the weights that they actually need, and also just looks more visually appealing.

Yes. It does matter.

Respect Others' Personal Space

Personal space is important in almost any public space that you go to. The gym is no different.

In fact, it might even be more important in the gym, as you could get in the weight of weights that someone else is using, and risk injury/harm to you or others around you.

For example, if you get too close to someone that's clean and jerking 100kg (225lb), they'll either be forced to stop their set so that you can pass safely, or risk hitting you with their weights.

It's either very inconsiderate to others around you, or poses a threat to our safety. Neither is good, and you should always try to avoid getting into the personal space of others if you can.

Always Check Whether Equipment is Free

It's also important for you to check whether equipment is really free before jumping onto it. Sometimes it does happen by accident. And that's totally fine. However, you should always just take a moment to check.

For example, if there is a water bottle sitting on top of a bench, there's a pretty good chance that somebody is still using it. Likewise, if there is a towel draped over the seat of a machine, it's probably not free.

It can cause inconveniences and interrupt workouts if you don't check, and save quite a lot of time, for just a couple seconds of precaution.

Never Save Equipment for More Than a Minute

This is pretty similar gym rule to hogging equipment, but never save your equipment for more than a minute. For example, if you're going to the toilet and put your bottle on the bench, don't keep it there for more than a minute.

It's simply annoying for everyone to see that they can't use this piece of equipment, even though you're not using it either. Simply wipe it down, and come back at a later time. If it's being used, you'll have to wait your turn.

Don't Curl in the Squat Rack

There is an ongoing joke about curling in the squat rack. However, it's not just about curling either. It's talking about doing anything that could be done elsewhere inside the squat rack.

For example, doing dumbbell goblet squats in the squat rack simply makes no sense. You could do that in the bathroom and get the exact same effect. However, there are certain exercises that can only be done safely/easily in a squat rack, such as a barbell squat.

So don't take up an entire squat rack to do an exercise (such as curls) if you don't need to. It's incredibly frustrating for the people that actually need the squat rack.

Never Give Unsolicited Advice

Even if you're a personal trainer, people do not like receiving advice that they didn't ask for. You probably wouldn't either.

Whether it's advice about someone's form, the weight that they're lifting or something else, don't give them advice that they didn't ask for. Unless you feel that you absolutely need to, such as a situation where they're putting themselves or someone else in extreme danger.

For example, if somebody forgot to put a clip on one side of the barbell and are squatting a heavy load, then yes, it makes sense to tell them. But even then, be kind about it.

Be Careful with Equipment

Fit and muscular man doing cable chest flyes to isolate his pecs and build muscle

Next up, you have to be careful with the equipment you're using. Obviously, try not to break anything.

Don't try to lift too heavy on a barbell back squat. Dropping it onto the safety pins when it's loaded heavily can cause the bar to bounce and bend severely, damaging the bar forever.

Safety comes first, but this kind of thing can be avoided by simply being careful and smart about what you do. And never use equipment in a way that it's not intended to be used. Don't try to do a downwards chest press on a lat pulldown. Trust us, we've seen it before.

Not taking care of equipment not only causes inconveniences for the gym, but for others around you wanting to use that equipment as well.

Always Agree on Everything When Giving/Getting a Spot

It's important that you agree with everything before the set when you're either spotting someone, or have asked someone to spot you.

  • Did you/they want a spot in the first place?

  • Do you/they want help with the lift off?

  • What's the rep goal for this set?

This sort of thing is so simple, yet many people do not agree on with their spotters and end up either wasting time, or wasting energy and leading to conflicts.

Female athlete bench pressing barbell with man behind her ready to assist if she needs it

Don't Make Too Much Noise

You've probably seen or heard it before if you've lifted consistently for a while. Every gym has that guy or girl that grunts super loud on every rep, and disrupts everyone around them.

If you think this is cool, stop immediately. It's not.

A little bit of noise is fine. That's normal and expected when we work hard. However, too much and being too loud can be extremely disruptive or distracting to the others around us can have a negative impact on their workouts.

Don't Sit on Your Phone the Whole Time

If you're taking up a piece of equipment in the gym, don't be on your phone the whole time. This is going to cause huge inconveniences to people and put their workouts on hold, while you text your friends about what you're going to be doing the coming weekend.

If you're going to take up a piece of equipment, then you should be using it for its intended use. Going on your phone in between sets is fine. But if you're resting upwards of 5 minutes between sets for no good reason, then you're likely on your phone too much.

Never do Anything in a Rush