Good Manners Maketh the Man: Gym Etiquette

Good manners are how you show the world your worth. Your gym might be a sweaty gruntfest, but common courtesy still counts. Heed these 10 tips.

By Clive Archer

Good Manners #1: Don’t Sweat It

As I lay under the 100kg bench press, a chill ran down my spine.

It was caused not by a fear of failing, but by the film of stale, icy sweat left by the last bencher. Being the human blotter for someone else’s stinky secretions is only marginally less nauseating than stepping in dog shit barefoot. If you don’t want to use your own towel to wipe down the equipment, use the paper towels and disinfectant spray supplied by the gym.

Good Manners #2: Mirror, mirror on the wall . . .

. . . who’s the most annoying of us all? The guy who keeps blocking your view, that’s who. News flash: the primary purpose of mirrors isn’t to help you practise your pose-down routines or dance-floor moves. They’re there to help that guy behind you — whose view of the mirror you’ve just obscured — to check his technique.

Good Manners #3: Take a load off

I once worked out at a gym that had a large sign that read “Replace Your Weights! Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here!” It was sound advice — training is tiring enough without having to lug around someone else’s unloaded plates. Also, scouring the gym for randomly scattered dumbbells is a pain.

Good Manners #4: Ignorance is bliss

No, it isn’t. It’s surprising how many people walk into a gym for the first time and start picking up heavy stuff without doing their homework first. Not only do you risk injuring yourself by training incorrectly, but you could drop a weight on someone’s foot or head. Get an instructor to show you the ropes or at least read a workout mag (the one you’re holding is an excellent choice) for tips on how to train properly.

Good Manners #5: Mobile menace

Only three people need to carry a phone at all times: an on-call bomb-disposal expert, the guy sitting in a nuclear-missile silo with the launch codes in his top pocket, and that spruiker who has managed to get you tickets to every Cold Chisel concert since 1990.

If you’re in the gym to work out, you don’t want to be subjected to someone’s mobile conversation about how wasted they got over the weekend. Do us all a favour and leave it in the locker room.  (See “Use it or Leave it”).

Good Manners #6: Annoying noises

A bit of grunting’s OK if you’re giving birth, shagging or Maria Sharapova is serving. In the gym, it’s just irritating. Zip it if you can.

Good Manners #7: A spot of bother

If you need a spot, most people will be happy to help, but don’t keep nagging others for assistance. And don’t ask for help unless you’re a few sets into an exercise. During a bench press, for example, a spotter’s job is to ensure you don’t crush your ribs, not lift the bar for you. If you’re struggling to complete two reps of your first set, you’re working way too heavy. Ideally, a spotter should only be asked to step in for your last set.

Good Manners #8: Use it or leave it

It really shouldn’t be necessary to have to ask you (repeatedly) how much longer you’re going to be lounging on the lat machine while you blab on the phone. If you’re planning on spending a fortnight on a piece of machinery, at least let someone else work in.

Good Manners #9: The naked truth

Wandering around the locker room tackle-out might be excusable if you’re a porn star, because buck nekkid is your natural state. As for the rest of you, spare us your hairy, fat, spotty arse and save the flesh cabaret for your girlfriend. She has to put up with it. We don’t.

Good Manners #10: She’s there to work out too

Just because that chick on the treadmill is wearing almost nothing and sweating provocatively doesn’t mean that she’s looking to hook up. For most women working out, being hit on by jerks at the gym is second only to breaking several fingernails on the Things That Really Piss Me Off Scale. Stick to your training and build the sort of buff body that’ll make her start talking to you.


Related: How to be more confident at the gym


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