Gym Etiquette Rule #1 The Art of Working In
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image by W Brian Duncan

It’s February. The January rush has died down (sadly – I want people moving!). But there are still a few newbies hanging on. Good for them!

If you’re one of those rookies looking to get it right then it’s time we talk about gym etiquette. If you’re going to keep moving forward on this journey you need to know the rules. No, not the rules about when the gym is open and how to sign up for classes. I am talking about the rules of being a kind and considerate gym goer.

Rule #1 Practice sharing, otherwise known as “working in”.

There are only so many squat racks, assisted chin up machines and 10 lbs dumbbells to go around. We have to treat them like our crayons in kindergarten and let someone else use them when we aren’t. That doesn’t mean you have a new workout partner. It just means that each person can do a set while the other is resting. Here are your does and don’ts when practicing the Art of Working In.


  • Be polite. “May I do a set of presses with those dumbbells while you are resting?”. Or try “Are you using this bench? I would love to do a quick set of dips if it won’t disrupt your routine”. 99% of the time people will say yes and it won’t disrupt anyone’s flow.
  • Be aware. If someone is doing a fast and brutal circuit don’t stop her to ask for her kettlebell. Instead do a quick check for a similar piece of equipment or wait till she comes up for air or water.
  • Be clean. If you slip in for a set of leg presses, wipe down the seat after you’re done. Hopefully she will do the same for you before you trade places.


  • Hoard dumbbells. Yes, I understand the need for 2 or 3 different pairs for a workout. Have them near but be open to those working out around you who might need them too.
  • Hang your towel on a machine to reserve your spot. Accept that this isn’t your private gym. You may have to wait a moment to work in with someone else. Use that time to stretch or do a different exercise that doesn’t require any equipment. Jog in place or do jumping jacks to get your heart rate up for some bonus burn.
  • Take equipment from someone and not return it. If you asked to borrow a set of dumbbells and then go off to do walking lunges don’t forget to bring them back to the person you took them from. Don’t make her go hunting for them before she can do her next set.

Are you an expert in the art of working in? What’s your secret for sharing in the gym? Next week, we’ll talk about Rules #2 and #3 – Dress for Success and Noises in the Gym.

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