Gym Etiquette 101

One of the first things that anyone who goes regularly to any gym to work out with heavy weights needs to learn is simple gym etiquette. I can't quite believe that there are people who go to the same gyms that I do who don't get this, but the reality is that there are plenty of muppets at the gym who think that they know what they're doing, and plainly don't. This extends to their gym etiquette, or lack thereof.

People often think that the rudest arseholes at the gym are the meatheads who grunt loudly, drop heavy weights, hum/lip-sync/growl along to loud music, lift absurdly heavy weights for short sets, pant a lot to oxygenate themselves, and swig protein shakes all the time. (That's a pretty accurate description of me, by the way, except I drink nothing but water at the gym.)  In fact, these guys are often the most polite and decent ones at the gym. They know what it takes to get strong, they will give you pointers if you ask for them, they will NEVER turn down a request for a spotter, and they always put the weights back after they're done using them- often cleaning off the chalk residue if they've been deadlifting, too. Meatheads are actually a bit of a blessing in disguise, provided you don't antagonise them.

The real jerk-offs are the complete noobs who have no idea what the hell they're doing, and the manboobz who take up Smith machines to the left and right of the squat racks and then insist on nicking your weights.

If you fall into either category, wise up, fast. You'll make unnecessary enemies of the very guys that you're trying to emulate, most of whom will make you look like a pussy on their worst day.

Here are five simple things that you can do to make your experience at the gym a lot more pleasant- and stop annoying the real powerlifters while you're at it:
  1. NEVER interrupt a lifter during a set. Ever. For ANY reason. The moment that someone is in the hole squatting 335lbs is NOT the time to ask if you can borrow the 10lb weight. (You probably can't anyway, because it's going to be used in the very next set.) Nor is it the time to walk into his field of vision and start doing jumping jacks. That is the moment to stay perfectly still and avoid making a nuisance of yourself. Powerlifting requires skill, balance, discipline- and no distractions. When we see some skinny twerp who thinks he can squat 225lbs in a Smith machine walking up and trying to nick one of our weights in the middle of a set, our instinctive reaction is to pulverise his foot, not help him out.
  2. Leave the weights on the rack alone. Powerlifters tend to like symmetry both on the bar and on the rack. We like having our weights balanced on both sides of the rack, it helps us mentally keep track of our sets and our progress. Don't think that we're going to be very friendly or happy if you walk up and just take one of them- thereby upsetting the balance that we have tried to achieve.
  3. Put the damn weights back when you're done! Seriously, how hard is this to do?!? The morons who leave weight plates scattered around, or dumbbells littered all over the mats, are the ones that annoy us real lifters beyond all measure. All you're doing is making it more difficult for the rest of us to get things done. We're the ones who have to go around scavenging for weights, wondering if someone else is using them, and we're the ones who have to do your job when it comes to putting things back.
  4. Clean off the bar when you're done. Especially if you sweat a lot. Just grab an anti-bacterial wipe or towel (most decent gyms will have these) and wipe off the bar. It takes like 5 seconds, and it's a small gesture, but it means a lot to guys like me. It shows that you care about the equipment, you care about the health and well-being of others at the gym, and you're serious about being there. You will win our respect for doing this- and our annoyance if you don't, particularly if you've torn a callus and left blood on the bar. We hate that.
  5. Shut your trap. The gym is not a social club, at least not for blokes like me. We're there to work, and work hard. We're not there to socialise. If we've got the belt, the headphones, the chalked-up hands, and the intense stare, we are there to work out. Leave us the hell alone and we will happily reciprocate. We are not interested in catching up about news, sports, politics, or women. That's for outside the bloody gym.
Respect and honour the men at the gym who you want to emulate, and that respect will be returned to you. These simple rules are easy enough to follow and will ensure that you both give and receive respect. Do not forget them.

And if you ever happen to be at my gym and you want a spot, by all means, please ask, I will be more than happy to oblige. Just leave my bloody weights alone!

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