Gym etiquette 101: avoid doing THESE 10 things in a gym (for everyone's sake)

We'll make the first day in the gym a little bit easier for you

Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym (woman running on treadmill)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gyms can be quite intimidating, even for people who have been frequenting them for a while, let alone to newcomers. Gym etiquette can be rather confusing and there are quite few unspoken rules in pretty much every gym, so getting lost in the dos and don'ts is commonplace. In this listicle, we collected ten things you shouldn't do in the gym, especially if don't want to be that person everyone knows for all the wrong reasons.

Once you've done poring through the list below, please check out our handy guide on how to pack a gym bag (opens in new tab) or the one about the top 5 gym machines for beginners (opens in new tab). Not to mention our best workout shoes (opens in new tab) guide or the best full body workout (opens in new tab) routine.

Without further ado, let's see the list of 10 things you should avoid doing in the gym!

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Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

Keep quiet

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. DON'T make loud noises as you work out

We are all in the gym to have a good session, undoubtedly. Sometimes, a gym session might even involve lifting pretty heavy weights – I know, crazy! And also sometimes, as you exhale, you might make a sound, a groan maybe. But what you shouldn't do is to shout every single time you finish a rep, because it A) won't help at all and B) it will disturb other people in the gym trying to concentrate on their own session.

I'm not saying you should not make any noise, but try to avoid the attention-seeking loud groans and the rattling of the weights before or after you used them. Also, dropping the weights on the floor is also considered rude and just bad practice in general.

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Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

Put those dumbbells back where they came from

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2. DON'T leave weights laying around

Talking about dropping weights: one of the worst sins you can commit in a gym is not to re-rack the weights after you used them. Keeping the gym tidy will make your and other gym-goers experience way better, not to mention the reduced risk of health and safety issues.

Most usually, weights are located close to the free weight area (they are in the free weight area) so taking the weights back to the rack shouldn't take longer than a few seconds, literally.

Even better, by carrying the weights back, especially the dumbbells, you can sneak in some extra exercising as well: farmer's carry is good for the traps and shoulders too. Free pro tip right there for you.

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Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

You won't need the whole rack of dumbbells for the full duration of your workout

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3. DON'T hoard weights

And whilst we are in the free weight area, there is another habit you should try to avoid: hoarding weights. Collecting all the weights you are going to use for the whole session and letting them hang around for 20+ minutes takes those weights out of the circulation.

What's the worst that could happen? They won't be available when you need them. What you can do is to get one size lighter or heavier weights and do more/less reps with those weights. You still get the same pump if you do the same volume (more info on this in the volume tips for better abs (opens in new tab) article) and it will also be less annoying for everyone else in the gym.

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Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

One side for your face, the other to wipe off the seat pad

(Image credit: Getty)

4. DON'T leave equipment without wiping them off

There are really only three things you need in the gym: a towel (travel towels (opens in new tab) are great for this purpose), a gym water bottle (opens in new tab) and something to track your workout with, like a running watch (opens in new tab) or a smartphone (opens in new tab). All three items are essential but a towel is probably the most important item of the lot, because there is most usually at least one water fountain in gyms and you can always just freestyle your workout, but nothing will replace a towel.

Why do you need a towel? For two reasons: to keep your sweat off the machines and to keep other people's sweat away from your skin. Gym machines are used by thousands of people and you really don't want to rub your sweaty skin against the pads other people have sat on/leaned against before you.

Best to use a towel that has two different-coloured sides; this way you'll know which one was against the machine and which against your skin. Also, once you finished using a machine, use the towel to wipe off any excess moisture from the pads. And, most importantly, wash your gym towel regularly.

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Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

Just don't

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. DON'T take selfies in the mirror for 30 minutes

Gym selfies have been in existence ever since smartphones became a handbag staple, and it's completely understandable that we take photos of our bodies just after a good workout session: our muscles are pumped, they look pretty good, might as well snap a quick selfie in the mirror, right?

The issue arises when you spend more time taking photos in the mirror than actually doing a workout. It's the same issue as with loud moaning: taking selfies from every angle will disturb other gym goers. You might do the absolute worst and try to snap the best image of you squatting in the squat rack, hogging said rack.

Keep image taking time to the minimum and ideally, move away from the crowded areas or try to do extensive selfie sessions when the gym is less busy.

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Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

Squat racks should be used for doing squats

(Image credit: Leon Poultney)

6. DON'T chill in the squat rack between/after use

It's in the name: squat racks should mainly be used for doing weighted squats. Not bicep curls, maybe overhead extensions or even hanging leg raises. Squat racks are big gym machines and therefore there aren't many in most gyms; so it can be quite frustrating when you are waiting for your turn in the squat rack, just to see some random bloke sitting in there busy texting somebody.

The issue with weighted squats – and we are talking about the ones performed with a barbell, not goblet squats or even bodyweight squats – is that you need a steady frame to store the barbell on between sets. Barbells are loaded with more weights that you can safely lift onto your shoulders, so the frame is essential.

Many other exercises can be performed outside the squat rack, including the rack pull, which is a great beginner deadlift alternative (more on this subject here: how to deadlift (opens in new tab) correctly). You can use a pair of aerobic steppers to elevate the barbells slightly.

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Gym etiquette 101: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

Battle rope is a great exercise, as long as it is being done in the correct area

(Image credit: Fitbit)

7. DON'T do aerobic/stretching/HIIT exercises where they aren't supposed to be done

Whilst we are at aerobic exercises, it is also recommended not to do them outside the designated areas. There is a reason why battle ropes are kept over at the HIIT area: it takes up quite lot of space and it will disturb other people if you tried to perform this exercise anywhere else.

You definitely want to steer clear away from the free weight area with any non-weight lifting related exercises. It is not only annoying but also dangerous: doing burpees and jumping jacks around people who try to lift heavy weights will put your and others' well-being in jeopardy.

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Gym etiquette: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

Farmer's carry is one of the few exercises you can do with weights outside the free weight area

(Image credit: Getty Images)

8. DON'T take weights off to other areas

You not only shouldn't move your calisthenics exercise into the free weight area, you also don't want to move weights away from the free weight area. It is bad enough when people don't re-rack their dumbbells, it's way worse when they leave it on the other side of the gym.

There are a few exceptions, of course: some exercises will require you to carry weights back and forth, like the excellent farmer's walk, but even after doing such exercises, you should always bring back the weights where you picked them up from, as soon as you finished with the exercise.

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Gym etiquette 101: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

Land a helping hand to inexperienced gym-goers

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9. DON'T shame/mock inexperienced gym-goers

You'll see a lot of new faces in the gym on a regular basis and this is especially apparent at the beginning of the year. Many people will wonder aimlessly around gyms in January, trying to find the correct machines and even if they did, they will be a bit lost on how to use correctly.

Given how detached we are from reaching out to other people when we are confused, we'd much rather just perform exercises incorrectly and use machines the wrong way instead of asking for help. The worst thing a more experienced gym goer can do is to mock these people who are clearly embarrassed and baffled.

This is largely frustrating since buff gym dudes are more than happy to give advice, even if they haven't been asked, let alone if they were. All you need to do is ask someone who looks like they know what they are doing and they will be happy to help.

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Gym etiquette 101: 10 things you should NOT do in a gym

It's best to keep your private parts...private

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10. DON'T walk around naked in the changing room

And finally, let's not forget about the changing rooms: in general, try to keep your pants on when in the changing rooms and avoid being nude for extended periods of time. Of course, while at the gym, you might want to shower and change clothing and that is absolutely fine.

What is not fine is walking around naked in the changing room, making other people uncomfortable around you. The way it should be, you get undressed, towel goes on, shower, dry your body and put clean clothing on. You shouldn't be too exposed for longer than a minute or so. If you follow these easy steps, you can save other people some 'cannot be unseen' memories.

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab).