A beginner's guide to gym etiquette

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

I love nothing more than seeing beginning lifters figuring their way around the gym, and I’ll never make fun of people who are learning. But good God, the things I sometimes see — so often from people who look like they should know better. Here are seven highly important tips to follow if you don’t want to look like a fool.

1. Please share machines
You don't own the gym; this is a shared space, so you're gonna have to share stuff. When I ask "how many sets do you have left," if the answer isn't "one" the answer should be "do you want to work-in with me?" If you don't offer that courtesy, I am in fact judging you harshly. If I proceed to ask you if I can work in, and you say something to the tune of "oh but I only have two more sets then a drop set, and then I'm doing a different thing after" I will in fact be stealing a strand of your hair so I can cast a hex on you later.

2. Do not bench in the squat-only rack
You aren't supposed to do this. Not only in the courtesy sense, but the squat racks by the mirrors are literally not equipped to allow you to do this. If you hadn't noticed, the bench-squat combo racks in the middle of the room have special little tracks that the wheels of the bench fix onto, meaning that you won't be sliding around during the movement.

3. Do not pull up in the squat-only rack
Respectfully, do you lack shame? There is a set of exclusively pull-up/dip bars no fewer than fifty feet away. How arrogant must you be to think you deserve to occupy a piece of highly specialized equipment to do something that you can do just as effectively on a damn playground? Get real.

4. For the love of God, use safety bars or get a spotter
I'm an avid proponent of using safety bars for every applicable exercise, not only for my own peace of mind but also because I don't like asking for a spot. I have, on multiple occasions, had to help lift the weight off of someone doing incline bench press who had neither a spotter nor safety bars. I once worked-in with someone who consistently took off the safety bars after me and refused my offer to spot; to this day I still thank God that they accidentally left the safety bars on during the set in which they lost control of the bar above their neck.

5. Queue for the benches, please
The first person who gets there should get the first bench that opens. I once waited at the little pillar (you know the one) for ten minutes, only for some opportunist to swoop in on a newly available bench before I could move. And the worst part is, I couldn't even be mad at them because the line I was trying to form was completely informal. I was naïve enough to believe that other bench-waiters would respect the queue.

6. Only take one set of dumbbells at a time, you're not an octopus
Look, I get it. You probably watched some gym tik tok with a Schwarzenegger voiceover where some big huge guy in a YungLa tank top explained why you need to do supersets and drop sets and whosiwhat sets in order to get the optimal striations on your rear deltoid. Fine, that sounds great, I hope you get those hypertrophy gains from drinking your BCAA-infused Myoprotein shake within the anabolic window once you finish lifting. But you only have two arms, so why do you have seventeen dumbbells scattered around your bench like some tentacled beast? Have some decency.

7. Have fun!
I promise I’m not being facetious, this is the last but most important tip. Odds are you’re lifting for fun (and I include the student athletes — let’s be real none of you are going to ever get a salary for your sport), so stop taking it so seriously. Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk of injury and don’t be rude to people. It’s not that hard.