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The 50 Commandments of Commercial Gym Etiquette

  1. Thou shalt re-rack dumbbells and plates and return equipment to where it belongs
  2. Thou shalt not eat, talk loudly on cell phones, or read while in the weight room
  3. Thou shalt not take excessively long rest periods while claiming a piece of equipment on account of texting, emailing, or engaging in social media
  4. Thou shalt respect other individuals’ space and maintain adequate distance from other lifters while they’re lifting
  5. Thou shalt not bump into a lifter or their barbell while they’re exercising (this is egregious and grounds for an ass-whooping)
  6. Thou shalt maintain adequate distance from the dumbbell rack when using the dumbbells in order to allow others to access or re-rack their dumbbells
  7. Thou shalt not drop thy weights * if Jesse Norris – arguably the world’s best deadlifter – can control his lowering, then so you can you (see example HERE)
  8. Thou shalt attempt to a reasonable degree to not hog equipment during busier times when others are waiting for the equipment to open up – thou shalt not claim the platform, squat rack, or both sides of the cable column for more than 20 minutes during peak gym hours
  9. Thou shalt not use in-demand equipment such as squat racks, platforms, and bench presses for performing isolation exercises that can be performed elsewhere – thou shalt not curl, shrug, or upright row in the squat rack or on the bench press station during busy times
  10. Thou shalt not claim multiple units of equipment for supersets, tri-sets, or giant sets during peak gym hours if equipment is limited * this is probably my biggest pet peeve of all…these methods are luxuries to be utilized during non-busy times, not essentials to be utilized during busier gym hours
  11. Thou shalt offer individuals waiting for equipment to work in whenever convenient and appropriate
  12. Thou shalt return weights and adjustments to previous settings when another lifter allows thee to work in with them
  13. Thou shalt not talk excessively to training partners or gym members in between sets when others are waiting for the equipment
  14. Thou shalt not utilize busy walkways to engage in exercises such as walking barbell lunges, sled pushes, or farmer’s walks during peak business hours
  15. Thou shalt maintain adequate personal hygiene; taking showers regularly, washing thy clothes, and wearing deodorant
  16. Thou shalt wipe away thy sweat off of equipment and carry a towel if prone to excessive sweating
  17. Thou shalt be reasonable and wait for equipment if it’s in use; refraining from appearing overly impatient and intimidating while the lifter is exercising
  18. Thou shalt not engage in complex/contrast training methods during peak gym hours if space does not permit
  19. Thou shalt not grunt excessively or scream while training
  20. Thou shalt wear appropriate clothing while training and ensure that shorts are long enough to conceal thy private parts; if thou art wearing ultra-skimpy attire and are practically falling out of your clothing, thou should not be surprised or offended if others stare at thee while thee performeth RDLs, bent over rows, cable pull-throughs, reverse hypers, hip thrusts, or seated hip ab/adductions
  21. Thou shalt never tell a joke or attempt to make a lifter laugh immediately prior to or during a set of heavy exercise, and thou shalt maintain an appropriate level of seriousness during training while avoiding either extremes of the “seriousness-continuum” (the gym is no place for clowns or drill sergeants)
  22. Thou shalt not leave they training journal, water bottles, or accessories on top of equipment that thou aren’t using
  23. Thou shalt attempt to learn the basics of spotting technique in a myriad of exercises and do thy best to provide a proper spot to individuals when asked
  24. Thou shalt not abuse your spotting privileges and shalt not require a spot for a majority of thy sets, nor shalt thou attempt a lift that is way too heavy for thy capabilities and overly rely on thy spotter, nor shalt thou ask an individual for a spot if they don’t appear well-versed in spotting techniques
  25. Thou shalt inform your spotter how thee prefer to be spotted; letting them know if thou want a lift-off, how many repetitions thou hope to perform, whether thou want help with forced repetitions, and/or whether thou want them to barely assist you with one extra rep
  26. Thou shalt not shadow-box or throw air-strikes in between sets (no air-punches, air-elbows, air-knees, or air kicks – the Affliction shirt thou art wearing provides sufficient clues to others that thou art an aspiring cage-fighter)
  27. Thou shalt not stand in the mirror-path or walk through a lifter’s mirror-path when a lifter is in the middle of a heavy set and is using the mirror to watch his or her form
  28. Though shalt ask around to confirm if equipment is not in use when arriving at a piece of equipment that is abandoned yet loaded with weights
  29. Thou shalt avoid performing crazy exercises during peak hours that require excessive space or the use of many pieces of equipment, and thou shalt try to the best of thine abilities to find suitable alternatives
  30. Thou shalt not flex thy muscles excessively or pose in front of the mirror – there is no need for thou to lift up your shirt to see thine abs, thou can do that in the locker room or at home
  31. Thou shalt ask experienced lifters for advice during opportune moments but shalt not abuse this privilege
  32. Thou shalt pony up advice when asked (if and only if thou possess sufficient expertise), but thou shalt not appoint thyself as “form-police” and patrol the gym in search of violators in efforts to satisfy thy need to feel important by providing unsolicited advice
  33. Thou shalt not lie to others about how much weight thy hoisted back in the day in an attempt to “one-up” other lifters
  34. Thou shalt not flirt excessively with other lifters regardless of gender – this is especially true if the individual is wearing their visor low and wearing ear-phones, as clearly they don’t want to be bothered
  35. Thou shalt control thy temper and attempt to maintain a positive demeanor
  36. Thou shalt not crank thy neck laterally to watch form in the mirror from the side view while lifting
  37. Thou shalt understand how to position thyself symmetrically while using a barbell and shalt use the bar spacings to assist with such symmetry
  38. Thou shalt use chalk when necessary but shalt take precautions to avoid making a mess
  39. Thou shalt not fill up thy entire water bottle when others are waiting for the drinking fountain
  40. Thou shalt not place a giant gym bag where gym-goers traverse during peak gym hours
  41. Thou shalt not hog cardio equipment and shalt attempt to complete thy session within 30 minutes during peak gym hours
  42. Thou shalt not believe that thy method of training is far superior to everyone else’s, nor shalt thou shun all other methods simply because they don’t coincide with thy personal goals and preferences
  43. Thou shalt place initial plates onto barbells with the smooth sides facing outwards and the carved part facing inwards; thereby respecting tradition and paying homage to thine iron hoisting ancestors (note that this only applies to the first plates placed onto the barbell; subsequent plates can be loaded either way)
  44. Thou shalt attempt to use the same brand, color, and size of plates if possible on each side of the barbell and try to maintain symmetry; thereby respecting tradition and paying homage to thine iron hoisting ancestors
  45. Thou shalt attempt to work together and cooperate with other lifters; using common sense, having common courtesy, and respecting one another
  46. Thou shalt be reliable, punctual, encouraging, motivating, focusing, and supportive to thy training partner if thou choose to obtain one
  47. Thou shalt attempt to train during non-peak hours if thou find thyself frustrated with the commandments listed above or are following a “needy” program such as GVT (or, thou can join a specialized gym or outfit thine own garage gym if thou art excessively needy with thy training)
  48. Thou shalt appreciate safety, thou shalt always use collars to prevent plates from slipping off of the barbell, and thou shalt avoid performing ballistics or explosive lifts such as kettlebell swings with the implement aimed toward other individuals
  49. Thou shalt attempt to learn proper exercise form and shalt understand and avoid common form mistakes such as turning lateral raises into shoulder external rotation movements, rolling the shoulders while shrugging, heaving excessively during curls, bouncing the bar off the chest when benching, half range benching, performing quarter squats, roundback deadlifts, and upright bent over rows
  50. Thou shalt attempt to learn and understand the basics of program design; and if attempting to be athletic thou must perform mostly compound free-weight movements with targeted single joint movements sprinkled into the equation, maintain a balance between pushing and pulling for the upper and lower bodies, and refraining from ignoring work for the posterior chain, single leg stability, and rotary core


  • Juliet says:

    I wanted to clap at the end of reading this. heh. Fabulous.

  • Meaghan says:

    #51: If thou chooses to break one of the previous commandments, thou may be screwed with using any of the tactics in this video:

    • Bret says:

      That was so freakin’ funny! “Let Jesus do the work” was my favorite…and the guy singing on the bike. He actually had a good voice.

  • allie says:

    Classic!! Hilarious! I love thy list, kudos to thee. Faves: 31 and 45.

  • Stephen Clipp says:

    I could never figure guys who’d act offended when, before spotting them, I’d ask ‘How many are you going for here?’ I mean, duh, big difference between a heavy triple and a set of 10. Also, acting offended because they wanted 10, could only do 2.5, and apparently expected me to do the rest (and somehow send them the results, I guess).

  • Dan Daly, CSCS says:

    Lol, you beat me to this. Can you get copies of this printed and framed to hang in gyms across the country? 🙂

  • Mike says:

    Awesome list. #5 really pisses me off. My gym even put up signs to prevent this, but nobody pays attention.

    About #44. I read somewhere that York started this. However, I read that the last plate should have the smooth side in (letters out) so that the brand could be always be seen, from inside the bar to the outside. Is this true?

  • Will says:

    Amen!….except 27…I like doing that a little bit sometimes!

    • Bret says:

      Nooooo! You’re that guy Will. We need to stop this lest we start seeing guys shooting double leg takedowns, throwing spinning back fists, or cranking out flip kicks right after sets of heavy squats.

  • Teresa Merrick says:

    #26 and #43–don’t use “thy” when you should have used “thou”.

  • Jeff Cubos says:

    Thou shall not do quadruped rockback exercises while wearing lululemon pants within my viewing distance if I’m performing a max effort exercise…please wait until my rest period!

  • Richard Dowd says:

    This is brilliant but shame its so true. I have bookmarked this and think I’m going to print some copies off and put them up in the commercial gym I use 🙂

  • Krista says:

    hahaha bret, this is awesome! thanks for the laugh this AM!

  • Gabby says:

    One day I think there needs to be a flash-mob of trainers that hit-up some of these public gyms up and cause a scene. Change the balance around and show em how it’s done…just for one day! Right after work, in the middle of jersy shore’s team practice. People think that once you’re really in shape that you turn into an asshole/idiot because of the stuff they see in public gyms…yet are also copying there lead for workout routine and technique. Grab all your friends, go have fun and give people a chance to see what really works.

  • Nick Horton says:

    You’d think that #4 would be blatantly obvious, but it isn’t:

    “Thou shalt not bump into a lifter or their barbell while they’re exercising”

    Our Oly club started in a commercial gym before we got our own place. I can’t tell you how often someone would walk right on the platform WHILE one of us was lifting! Never walk into another mans snatch … that’s all I’m sayin’. Dangerous!!

    • Bret says:

      Hilarious Nick. This phenomenon just blows me away…it’s so common sensical. And little punk kids do it to me – I’d never have done that to a bigger lifter like me when I was younger, I had way too much respect. Punks these days don’t have a clue!

      • Daniel says:

        LOL I set up some steps to elavate the barbell slighly for cleans, because the plates in our gym are very small and some punk start sitting on the steps.

        The list is funny, but I am not too worried at all about doing anything that makes me look funny. You made a point about shadow boxing and humping the air. I don’t do those things, but some guy on the internet taught me to hump barbells for glute development.

        I also don’t see any problem with hording the squat rack for an hour even, if the other members are going to use it for barbell curls and shrugs anyway.

        • Heather says:

          “I don’t do those things, but some guy on the internet taught me to hump barbells for glute development. ”


  • Sean B says:

    Great list! I’ve been guilty of —

    #6 (somewhat, on the last rep of heavy deads – nothing egregious though)

    #8 (sometimes I use the squat rack for ~25 minutes during the morning or lunchtime. I do let anyone work in, though.)

    #14 (only a few times, and only because there used to be literally only one adequately-long walkway)

    #17 – a few times when really annoying guys wouldn’t let me work in for no apparent reason

    #28 – sometimes have little choice due to space constraints/trying to avoid breaking other commandments (such as #3 and #5)

    #40 – however my gym has a really fast-pouring water cooler, so no big deal.


    #10 annoys me because it’s often impossible to ask these guys to work in. They are nowhere to be found until they rotate back 2 minutes later.

    #15 – someone in my gym today smelled like a homeless man – seriously. Some BO is OK but there is a certain point where you reach “uncivilized.”

    #44-45 – last week, I tried to teach these to a guy I let work in with me on squats. Unfortunately, he “forgot” after every set so I had to redo his side three times.

  • Brent Schaffrick says:

    You missed a couple:

    1. No cellphones. STFU.
    2. Wipe off your stanky sweat.
    3. Do not stare at my ass when I am squatting, deadlifting or rowing.

  • Lol Bret, that punk bumping into you must’ve really pissed you off. This is one helluva list. Though the cellphone is my tracker, music player and stopwatch so that ain’t going anywhere.

    This shit was classic: “Thou shalt not shadow-box or throw air-strikes in between sets” Haha.

  • Janice says:

    I am going to print out a few copies of this list and keep leaving them around my gym for a few weeks. Maybe the ppl who keep committing numbers; #1, #2, #3, #5, #14 and #43 will get a clue…

  • Andrew says:

    This is the greatest thing ever created! I am guilty of #17, but only because others are violating #9 –> QUIT CURLING IN THE SQUAT RACK!

  • Craig says:


    Today a guy was hammer curling 20’s between the flat bench and weight rack. His towel, straps and notebook were on the bench. After his set he placed the weights on the bench, recorded his set, and rested… Over and over again. Thou shall not use a bench to place your belongings and weights.

  • John says:

    Hi Bret.
    I didn’t know where to put this question so I’ll put it here. Your EMG articles are my favourite. Have you ever considered doing EMG work on the olympic lifts? Maybe if your technique is not good you could test some competitive lifters? I would be fascinated to see what muscles would bear the most load.
    All the best.

  • sarah says:

    clarification of #6 thou shalt not drop thy weights flagrantly or for attention. but if thou HAS to drop thy weights, thou should have the freedom to do so without reprimand fear of an alarm going off.

  • #40!!! YAH!!

    Thou shalt not try to pick up on a chick in the middle of her pull-ups set, or any set for that matter. Thou must assume by her very presence that she’s as serious as you are about her workout and wishes not to be interrupted by douchebags.

    Thou shalt not insist on continuing to make ‘new’ conversation with someone wearing headphones, thereby forcing them to take them in and out over and over or impolitely ignore your ass completely just to get their workout done.

    Thou shalt not consider the gym to be the place to unload on every friend and acquaintance about how awful one’s life has been lately, nor sit on the dumbbell rack or hover over lifter for excessive time periods while doing so. Thou must get a freaking life.


  • Teri says:

    If the first commandment on your list was the only thing that changed at the gym I attend, that would be enough for me! Good stuff.

  • Barath says:

    No. 27 was golden. No. 44 I did not know, so learned something new today. A wonderful, wonderful post.

  • Mark says:

    Disagree with #44. Carved part goes in on the first plate, then out on all the rest. Just like at a PL contest.

    Also kind of disagree with #8 as long as others can work in.

  • Adam says:

    I might disagree with a couple of these
    1) Do I have to put away other people’s mess? e.g. if I jump on the leg press and someone left 6 plates on, and I add another 9, do I put away all 15 or just my 9? just wondering.
    2) As long as I’m not being a jerk and not being in anyone’s face or talking at a reasonable volume, why can’t I talk on a cell phone? We let people talk to each other, why is talking into a small box at the same volume somehow verboten?
    11) Disagree, maybe you mean always accept someone asking to work in during peak hours. It’s not my job to volunteer that info is someone is just going to glare at me and not ask. Be polite and ask, and I’ll be polite and say no problem.
    33) Conversely, don’t volunteer advice unless asked. I HATE it when people walk up and feel like they’re advice is needed, wanted, or appreciated.

  • Andy says:

    How about:
    Thou shalt not stand in front of the locker room entrance in full nudity especially one leg on the bench exposing the loins. All the old dudes are guilty of this one.

  • JohnBoy says:

    This is so f*****g true!!
    I’d add ‘thou shalt always use ‘collars’ to prevent plates slipping off when using free weights’
    and ‘thou shalt not walk back into the changing room drenched from the pool or showers thereby leaving a soaking wet trail across the changing room floor thou shalt instead take thy towell into the pool or showers and dry off BEFORE returning to the changing room’
    also ‘thou shalt refrain from excessively loud spitting in the showers’.and ‘thou shalt not substitute underpants for swimwear’.

  • Mike says:

    Being a recent victim of gym etiquette (I hate supersetters!), I had to see this list. Only thing confusing me is #44, since most plates these days have carving on both sides.

    Being a public gym goer for 25 + years I’ve seen nearly all of these violated at some time, and glad to find out that I’m not the only one who hates boxers and loud grunters in the gym.

    Now at least I know that I’m not a violator on anything, though I don’t like when others ask to work in (ultra ultra rarely happens) because I don’t bother others. I either wait or find an alternative.

  • Billy Smith says:

    You didn’t say it outright but it isn’t possible to circuit train during a gyms busier hours without interfering with others. Not to mention they don’t clean up between sets, for others to work in. A behavior regardless of if you sweat or not is a must

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