The “10 Commandments” of Workout Safety and Gym Etiquette

Over the years of working out, I’ve seen some truly thoughtless & dangerous activities unfold in the gym. Here are “10 Commandments” to keep yourself and others in the gym safe and happy.

Rule #1: Use Weights that You can Properly Handle.

This man is asking to be seriously injured or killed, AND he is not building his muscles because his spotters (2 on each end and 1 in the middle) are doing all the work. He needs to lower the weights, and either do it himself or ALMOST do it himself with a spotter.

Rule #2: Use Good Form before You Go Heavy.

Using good form not only helps you to maximize your gains, but it helps prevent serious injuries. Always learn and practice proper form before trying to go too heavy.

Rule #3: Be Alert and Aware in the Gym.

Lifting weights is usually safe, but not if you’re not paying attention or unaware of your surroundings. I know of a guy who needed to surgically re-attach one of his fingers because someone had rolled a dumbbell close to his bench while he was doing dumbbell flys, and when he finished his set and put the weights down beside him, he caught his fingers between the dumbbells. Always be aware of what’s going on around you, so that you don’t get hurt, and just as importantly, don’t hurt others.

Rule #4: Re-rack your weights!

This is a common-sense rule related to cleaning up after yourself and being considerate to others. When you are done with equipment, strip it down and rack it where it’s supposed to go. Leaving lots of weights on equipment is very rude, as it’s difficult for people, especially women, to use the weights after you’re done. Leaving your workout area looking like a grenade exploded at a quarry or a metal fabrication shop is NOT acceptable either. Would you like to work out in an environment like the one below? The answer is no, and neither would I. Rule #5: Let others “Work In” with You. Nobody appreciates a “Gym Hog.” You don’t own the machines, and others need to get their workouts too. As such, be good about letting others work in on “your” machine while you are resting.

Rule #6: Towel Down Your Equipment After Use!

It’s never cool or sanitary to be slipping and sliding all over a piece of equipment that someone else just used. Be courteous and sanitary by using a towel and then wiping down whatever equipment you used. Rule #7: Manage Your Personal Hygiene! I don’t need to explain this one. We all know the guy that leaves his scent all over the gym and the equipment. Don’t be him. Take showers, use deodorant, and clean the equipment to wipe off your scent after use.

Rule #8: Don’t Loiter ON or AROUND Equipment.

It’s okay to chat with people, but be courteous to others and do your chatting away from the equipment. Getting on a long cell phone conversation while hogging up the bench press or treadmill during peak hours can result in death stares from other members.

Rule #9: Listen to Your Body.

Your body is really good about “talking” to you, and you need to get better at listening. Sometimes your body tells you that you should stop working out for the day because your muscles, ligaments, or organs are straining, and injury is imminent. Other times, your body requires you to take an extended time off from working out because you’ve “over-trained” for an extended period of time, and you’re better off resting for 1~2 weeks. Of course, the challenge here is to discern whether you really need to stop working out, or whether you’re just being lazy and inventing excuses to go home to ESPN and glazed donuts. I’ll give you a personal example. When I was in my mid-20’s (a long time ago), I didn’t listen to my body very often… One day, I was bench pressing, and my body felt strange. Throughout several light warm-up sets, my muscles felt super tight and felt like they were being over-stretched. I considered stopping my workout, but I thought that I’d be a “man” about it and work through the weird discomfort. So I decided to use 405 pounds (my 1-rep max bench press at the time) and do super heavy negative reps, which is where you take the barbell and let the weight down onto your chest very slowly over 10 seconds while struggling against the weight the whole way. I also had a random, novice guy at the gym spotting me because I thought it would be simple, just like most other days. But on my way down, I felt the muscle fibers in my pecs separate, and I sustained micro-tears. In addition, the guy spotting me was not very strong, so I had to pick the weight back up and rack it mostly on my own with a damaged pec, which made the injury worse. Overall, this injury set me back for months. In contrast, I’m much older and a little bit wiser today, so I’m very sensitive about what my body tells me. For example, last week, I felt a pinch in my rotator cuff while trying to bench press… I immediately recognized the signs of imminent injury, and I decided to take some time off from working out, especially since I had been working out so hard for the last 4~5 months. Actually, yesterday was my first full day back to training, since taking a break 1.5 weeks ago.

Rule #10: Be Courteous and Friendly!

Open the door for other members, provide a spot for others, smile at people, let others work in, etc… these are all common sense rules, right? Please follow them, as it makes the gym a much more pleasant experience for everyone and allows you to make friends. Following these 10 rules will help keep you safe, give you the results you are seeking, and continue to let your gym experiences be positive.

Kim, Paul (2012). The “10 Commandments” of Workout Safety and Gym Etiquette. Retrieved from

Tags: , ,

Comments & Responses

Comments are closed.