Remember the first time you stepped foot into a weight room? Jacked guys threw around heavy barbells, hip-hop music bellowed from the speakers, everyone grunted and strutting. You might have been utterly terrified.
Navigating the chaos of a gym as a beginner isn't easy. You might have questions: How long is too long to stay on a machine? Can I use more than one piece of equipment at a time? Is it OK to ask that guy when he'll be done?
To bring some order to the mayhem and feel more confident at the gym, it's helpful to know the basic code of conduct for gym-goers -- easy but important things you can do to keep everyone, including yourself, safe and happy.
The rules of the gym are the same as the general rules of life: Clean up after yourself, share when necessary and don't be obnoxious.
Put everything back where it belongs
This might be the number-one gym etiquette rule. Don't leave a trail of equipment behind you: If you use something, put it back. You learned this in kindergarten.
Don't hog the equipment
In crowded gyms, equipment is like gold. This is especially true for limited equipment, such as squat racks and bench press racks. If you're going to squat, then squat -- don't make people wait for you to take the perfect selfie or finish talking with a friend. If there's no one around, feel free to use what you want. But the minute people start piling in, be willing to share.
Wipe things down after you use them
Everyone else at the gym is begging you. Please wipe your sweat off of machines, barbells, floor mats and anything else you use. Even if you "didn't sweat that much," wipe it down. This is basic gym etiquette and reduces the smear of sweaty germs all across the equipment.
Respect personal space
Gyms get crowded, especially during the first few months of the year. But no matter how many people you're battling, you should still make an effort to respect everyone's personal space.
Not only is it uncomfortable to exercise in close proximity with a stranger, but it's dangerous -- one failed attempt at an overhead press could spell broken feet for both of you.
Be flexible about your routine if the gym is crowded
Can't get into the squat rack first thing? Instead of hovering two inches away from the person who's currently using it, figure out a way to modify your routine. You'll save time and avoid awkwardness, and you might end up challenging yourself in a new way (it's too easy to get stuck in the same workout routine).
You can always ask the person how much longer they'll use the squat rack. If they say five minutes, great: Do someand wait. If they say 30 minutes, don't waste your time and do something else first.
Try to avoid using two pieces of equipment that are far away. Supersets andare great but don't run from the chin-up bar to the bench press rack over and over again. Trust me, few things are as frustrating as setting up a piece of workout equipment, only to have someone fly in from across the gym and say they were using that.
Plan your workouts
Make things so, so much easier for yourself by planning your workouts before you go to the gym. Knowing what you're doing before you start will save you a lot of fiddling around and make your workouts go by much quicker.
Instead of spending 10 minutes flipping through YouTube workout channels to find out what exercise goes best with a deadlift, you'll already know because you did your research ahead of time.
Be mindful of your surroundings
The gym can be a dangerous place if you aren't alert. Just as you should, stay aware in the weight room, too. For example, don't start a set of kettlebell swings without first making sure you have adequate space -- and look out for anyone else swinging a kettlebell or other weight when walking from one place to another.
Make sure walkways are clear before moving stations and keep an eye out for machines that have plate-loaded arms. Sometimes, in poorly laid-out gyms, those machines can swing out at you from what seems like a safe place to stand.
One more thing
respect the weights! The only competition is with yourself so ignore what mr arnold lookalike is bench pressing and compete with your limitations. Its takes time and dedication to be able to place another plate on the bar. Rome wasn't built in a day...and nor was your deadlift personal best!