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July 30, 2020 5 min read

Back in the day a newbie would get schooled in the ways of the gym from the rough, tough, old fashioned metal heads. The frequent flyers didn't give a shit if they offended anyone by their blunt, and often vulgar, teachings. If you were green it was going to be a hard ride unless you followed the pecking order of the gym and learned, or earned, your place. There was a routine, a system, a lot of unwritten rules and it wasn't an option to not follow them. That way worked, and that way should still work, except now every salmon colored shorts wearing-cry if they don't get their way-my daddy bought me the newest iPhone-6th generation yacht club skipper has a lawyer and they aren't afraid to use them. This type of entitlement might work at community funded facilities and/or corporate gyms but rest assure, it will not fly at a privately owned strength gym. The etiquette is unique. It is raw and genuine. It applies to everyone and excludes no one. It does not favor the rich over the poor. It can make or break your reputation. And it looks something like this:

  • Pay your dues: Like, actually pay a membership. Don't try to rip off the owners or "try it for a day first". If you are going in to the establishment with the intent of touching a weight then pay your way. Whether it be a day pass or a monthly fee, just pay it. You can't go to a drive thru and shovel three extra large combo meals down your gullet and "decide if you like it" before you buy it. No. Doesn't happen that way. A gym provides you with a service, which you choose to use, so pay to play. Also, don't try to sneak a friend in then pretend like you didn't know any better or feel that you hold the authority to make such calls. 
  • Now, pay your other dues: Not everything is about you. For example, the huge guy gearing up for his heavy squat takes all priority at the time. If he wants the specialty bar that you are using for *I cringe when I say this* rack pulls then give up the damn bar. (In fact, learn which bar to be using in the first place.) Then get out of his way. Your time will come when everyone will be jumping in to help you when you need a hype crew for a big lift so until that happens, pay your dues, be considerate, lend a hand, and don't throw a tantrum if you have to wait 20 extra seconds between sets because his spotters are "crowding your area". Just politely move and wait your turn. There's a big chance that the guy who can squat a house has been at that gym for months, years, even decades, so don't challenge him or his routine during training sessions. Even long term, loyal gym goers will abide by the rules and never take advantage of others (especially employees and owners). They've learned the hard way and expect others to do the same. They view their iron playground as a sacred place that deserves the utmost respect. The best members keep an eye out for their second home and will always report shenanigans to the owners/staff. Trust me on this. There are eyes everywhere. Don't start no shit, won't be no shit. 
  • Get to know your crowd: Everyone has a preferred time of day to train. When you choose a specific time there is a very high likelihood that you will begin to recognize a few of the same faces. People are creatures of habit so this task should be relatively simple. Remember who you see on a daily basis and pay attention to what they do. It won't take away from your concentration, it will enhance it. If you get to know the routines of those around you then you will help to create a better flow in the gym.
  • Read their faces: If someone has not made eye contact with you then do not approach them for a gab fest. You'll probably get ignored, and if you do, take that as a free pass. Don't push your luck. Maybe they will talk when the work is finished, or maybe they won't, but either way don't get offended. A lot of serious lifters just like to get their training done and leave. They enjoy focusing on the task at hand. It is therapeutic for many of them so don't take that experience away from them or alter it in any way by insisting on interrupting their ironclad zen. If you have a comment, swallow it. If you have advice, shove it. If you have a question, Google it. And for the love of Arnold, if they have headphones on DO NOT bother them. However, if someone has open body language, is engaging in eye contact, and seems responsive to conversation then by all means chat away! It is also advised to listen if they talk, especially if it's about anything weight room related. You might learn a thing or two and should do your best to remember it. Useful knowledge is spewed from these titans whether it be verbal or non-verbal. Pay attention. You'll fit in easier and feel better about your own contributions to the weight room (like putting away your weights and equipment!) 
  • Stay out of sight: If someone is lifting, don't stand right in front of them. Facing them or not, don't do it. It's rude and distracting to have someone standing front and center when attempting any kind of lift. This is such a simple fix and all it requires is 3 to 4 steps to the left or right, i.e. out of direct line of vision. People will return the favor when it's your time for a big lift and trust me, you'll appreciate it. 
  • Help when asked: If someone needs or wants your help then pitch in and do something. This usually entails spotting a lift, recording a set, watching technique, loading/unloading a bar, pulling up an elbow sleeve, etc. If you are being asked to do any of these things then you are respected enough to be considered for the position. Good for you! Don't f**k it up! 
  • If you don't know, ask: This particular item on the list really fires me up. If you don't know something and you don't know how to Google said thing then just ask. Ask someone who is available at the time to field questions. Not the guy we previously mentioned who is about to squat 4 refrigerators. Ask a fellow member between sets, ask the staff, ask an owner. Need help finding something or properly performing an exercise? Just freaking ask! It's much better to swallow a piece of humble pie and admit you don't know something than pretending that you do and confirming to everyone in the room that you are not proficient in weightlifting. We will know anyway so just get ahead of the potential embarrassment. This is an easy thing to do but if you have a narcissistic type of personality then it may be difficult for you. However, if you don't ask, and just assume, you'll wind up hurting yourself, someone else, a piece of gym equipment, or breaking something; then you're most likely actively pursuing a rules violation. Any good gym should require some sort of punishment like a scolding, fine, and/or membership suspension. And you, the violator, should take responsibility for your actions and own up to the consequences. The biggest worry in this matter is injury to you or someone else. It's a liability nightmare for the gym and ends up hurting more than just one person in the end. Pocket your pride. 

End Rant.