Do your gym ethics suck?

This list is the stuff that used to be known and understood by all serious lifters that trained in purpose-oriented gyms.  Those types of gyms where people trained, not where they went to work out.


In 2011,  I wrote The Private Gym Bill of Rights after speaking with several gym owners who were fed up with all the BS they had to deal with.


This is kind of funny now because a few weeks ago I had the owner of one of these facilities tell me:


"Man, I used to get pissed off when they would leave spit cups sitting in the corner of the gym. Man, I would do anything to get those days back"



This lead to a conversation about how many basic ethics we grew up in the gym with have been lost. It can be debated as to why, but after speaking to dozens of private and small gym owners, we feel this post needs to be written.


* Because some of these things are so basic and natural to us it took longer to compile the list than we thought it would. You don't often think about these violations until they happen but when they do, it's like nails on a chalk board. For this reason if there is anything that should be on this list that we failed to include, please post it as a comment.


There are also some new ones that have been added due to the changing meathead culture.


This all started from a video I saw from Steve Goggins.


1. Do not leave someone hanging

If there is someone in the gym who is working up to a heavy work set and you know them, train with them, or even make small talk with them, do NOT leave them hanging for their last set. There is nothing worse than working up to your top set and thinking you will have spotters and discovering they bailed.  This just isn't right. I can't even explain why as it was something that simply would have been considered a common courtesy.  If you had an emergency, that's one thing,.


But just bailing is wrong!


If you want to leave, it's good etiquette to ask "I'm getting ready to head out, you gonna be good?"


With this in mind and to shorten the length of this list; if someone is taking their work set and you are not mid-set, STOP and watch. You can walk over to spot but if they already have a spotter then just stop and watch. Again, I can't tell you why - but it's respectful and the right thing to do. Not to mention as a new or intermediate lifter you can learn a TON by watching lifters better than you. There are many things your online trainer can't teach you and one those is how to approach and set up for work sets.  With Instagram all you see is the lift- not the couple minutes before, the set up, wedging, bracing, breathing, etc. These are all great habits lifters need to learn to train safe and become stronger.


I am not saying the entire gym needs to stop when someone is taking a big weight but other lifters who are serious or aspire to be should; not just to show respect to the lifter but also to see what they can learn from by watching.



Screaming Fitness Instructor


2. Don't ask questions while someone is doing a set


This happens all the time. I have no idea when this started but when someone if doing a set the only thing that should be said to them is encouragement or verbal cues. That's it.  Maybe counting, but that's border line and annoying as hell to many lifters.  Asking things like "did you see that chick that just walked in?" is fucked up. When you train, train.




3. Shut the fuck up

To piggy back on #2, shut the fuck up while "training". The rule is you can talk while warming up but once the serious training begins, only a minimal amount of talking between sets is acceptable. This keeps your mind focused on the task at hand and keeps rest periods in check. If you want to have a discussion, leave it for after you are done training or while you are doing mindless accessory work.



4. Don't film or take pictures of other people without permission

Go ahead and film as much of your own training as you want as this has zero affect on anyone else - that is until you start filming other people without their permission. There are many reasons to not film others without permission that I don't want to go into here but use your head.


joey smith squat 4


5. Don't walk in front of people who are lifting

Don't walk in front of someone while they are squatting, pulling, doing overheads or any other heavy movement. If you have to, do it in a way that ensures you are out of their field of vision. This is just good old school gym ethics. This is one of the first things I remember teaching my kids when they were in the weight room. "Never walk in front of a lifter lifting big weights and don't cross their path between the chalk box and the bar".   I have seen MANY videos with GROUPS of kids standing right in front of a squatter, yelling in their face. I've even seen several coaches doing this - meanwhile there is nobody spotting either side of the bar.  WTF!




6. Stay the fuck out of another person's gym bag

Just having to list this is messed up. This is their personal shit, not yours. Don't go grabbing shit out of their bag without asking. I'm just going to end this one here.


7. Don't bring or talk about steroids in the gym

I don't give a shit  about what peptides, SARMS, or whatever the fuck else  the new cool thing is, leave the shit out of the gym. Give the owner the respect of plausible deniability because at the end of the day, the shit isn't legal. If you have to speak about it make sure the group you are in is trusted and you're not overheard. If you take or deal - keep the shit out of the gym entirely.





8. Don't be an asshole

Look, I know this is hard to do. We all go to the gym to train and there are many days we are there to work our own issues out under the bar. We all have bad days and the gym helps us cope and deal with them. There are also many that do treat their training like their job and don't want or desire distractions.


So, there are two sides to this. First, for those who do take their training seriously, realize many will think you are a dick because you won't be smiling and speaking to everyone- you may even be ignoring them. This is normal for people to feel this way and I am not going to tell you to change but just be aware of it because there is a fine line between being serious and being a total dick. Don't be the total dick. The way to do this is to actually care about the training of others who share the same gym as you.


On the other side, those who think these lifters are dicks. ask yourself- what did they say to you to be a dick? Usually nothing, so all they really did was keep to themselves. The issue could be more in your perception than what they did or didn't do.




9. Leave the gossip on social media

Whatever, you know what I mean. Fucking train, nobody in the gym cares about someone else's high squat on Facebook. The gym is where you go to get your work in, not to talk about the work others may or may not be doing.


10.  Put your shit away

I used to have gym OCD really badly and then learned to just get over it so I'm not the guy who gets pissed if everything is not in the right place. But everything should be put back where it was found. I can't begin to count all the lost time I have spent trying to find shoulder saver pads, chain clips, my belt, and other items in the gym. I also can't count the number of times I've walked in the gym to see 405, 495, or 585 loaded on the deadlift platform. I'm cool now if things are just cleaned up, but I don't think there is ever an excuse for bars to remain loaded- ever.



To not tear your shit down is just being lazy and disrespectful.



11. If you break something, leave a note or let the gym manager/ owner know

There is nothing worse than coming in to find that the cable on the lat machine popped  off the pulley and is stuck between the pulley and steel. This isn't a matter where the owner will make you fix it, they just want to know so they can get it fixed or budget for it to be replaced.



pin pulls

12.  Don't dump or drop the bars

Use safety pins and straps when you can. Don't drop the damn deadlift, lower it with some type of control. With this in mind know what bars are used for what lifts. Don't do pin pulls with a squat bar, squat with a deadlift bar, and so on. Bars are not cheap and should last a long time. Doing shit like dumping a squat, pin pulls, and dropping deadlifts voids many warranties so you are not just ruining the bar, you're making it very expensive to replace.




13. Stop borrowing other people's shit

It's one thing to borrow a belt and wraps from time to time or to see how they work for you, but it's another to always have to borrow stuff from other people. If you can't afford the stuff, ask around enough and I'm sure you will find someone who has something old that they will give you.




14.  Pay your dues on time

Better yet, pay early.  Most of these gyms are barely getting by and it sucks when the owner has to track people down every month to pay dues. I personally know how this one feels. I used to ask for $20.00 a month to cover the heat (and that still didn't cover it) and it became such a pain in the ass with people not paying that it wasn't worth my time or stress to deal with it so I stopped asking and became much more (VERY)  selective on who I would allow in the gym.  I'm not in the gym business but the gym is still a large expense for elitefts. We still have to equip it, pay rent, insurance, and utilities. Elitefts is fortunate to have the products we sell support the gym and all the education we provide. Other places do not have this so if you do train at one, PAY YOUR DUES. Everyone matters and every dollar matters.


If you are the top dog in the gym, this doesn't entitle you to a free gym membership. Actually, you probably have a better relationship with the manger or owners than most people. Why not support them as I am sure they have supported you in one way or another. Be the one to set the example by always paying early. When you don't pay, this sends a message to everyone else that they don't need to pay either. Set the example and others will follow. Then when it's time for that new squat bar you want, the owner will be more likely to get it for you.



15. Leave your phone on the table

This one is debatable based on the gym owner. Some don't care how many videos and selfies you take. Others want you to leave the damn phone on the desk or locker.  I really don't care  as I've gotten a call once in my life that if I didn't answer and call 911 someone close to me would be dead right now. I have my phone next to me at all times (or in hearing range)  unless I am with my family. At the same time, it drives me insane when people film every set they do when there are experienced coaches in the gym. Many need to film their lifts for the coach they are working with so I really don't care as long as it's not distracting others or slowing a training group down. Whatever the rules of the gym are - follow them. If you don't like it, find another gym.  Personally what works for me is to use my phone to run the music through the gym and leave it on the table. If I get a call I will hear it over the speakers


Personally what works for me is to use my phone to run the music though the gym and leave it on the table. If I get a call I will hear it over the speakers. If I am not training at my own gym I will leave my phone and the desk and ask them to find me if I get a call from a VIP number. 


16. If you use a coach and your gym is owned and run by a coach, let them know

I would much rather know if someone is working with a coach than not know. If they are, I don't want to spend my time looking at their form and technique or providing advice. This is why: we know we can help and have done so over the past couple years that online coaching has become popular. But when you offer advice (even when asked) and it's completely disregarded because their coach doesn't agree, it's a waste of my time and a disservice to others in the gym that may require more of my help (or the help of the other gym owners I spoke to). We (other gym owners)  have no issue with you having a coach but don't want to take time away from others if our help isn't required or will be disregarded.



At the same time, if you're using a good coach, most of us already know the methods and techniques they use. If we know who it is we can help reinforce what they are trying to do with you. The take away is to be open about this. You're not going to hurt our feelings.


The last point on this is; the best coach you could be using may be sitting right behind the desk of the gym you train at,  or already training in the same gym you do. I could easily list 20 or more gyms owned by retired lifters who were very good or great in their time. They've owned these gyms for decades and have helped coach and teach thousands of lifters. It boggles my mind that many lifters today will walk right past these people and click open their phone to use a cookie cutter program designed by someone with less than 5 years experience.


Then again, maybe they won't be so inclined to help if you spend your entire session snap chatting every exercise, won't shut up, dump barbells, walking in front of others who are squatting, don't pay your dues on time, borrow other people's shit, break the cables, don't tear down your deadlifts and show little respect to others in the gym.



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