The 6 Unwritten Rules of the Gym

Follow Them or Face the Consequences

Are you the person in the gym that other people secretly hate? You are if you break these rules.

Broken Rules, Broken Skulls

Does this even need to be written? Sadly, yes. There’s just something about the gym that can turn an ordinary individual into a blithering asshole. As a gym owner, I see it every day.

You’ve probably seen a list of rules at your gym. They’re in place to placate the lawyers and to keep you from hurting yourself. Pretty basic stuff.

The unwritten rules, however, came into being during the 70’s and 80’s, when most gym members were bodybuilders. These were big dudes, some of whom were one Halotestin away from going ape-shit on someone. So, a code of conduct had to be established to maintain order and minimize the number of shattered skulls.

Back then, people followed the rules, both written and unwritten, and bodybuilders were able to train together with very few issues. It’s when the “normal people” started coming to the gym that the problems started. Here are the unwritten rules for them.

1. Put Your Shit Away

I know it’s already written. The unwritten part is that you f*cking follow it without being told!

The gym is a shared place. Mr. Olympia has to put away his weights just the same as the next guy. I have a great picture of Kai Green in my gym wiping down the stepmill he’d just used. Anyone with any sense of decency would happily rack his weights – in their proper place – in anticipation of his fellow iron brother using them next.

No one wants to search a 50,000 square foot facility for a pair of 40’s because you’re an entitled dickhead who thinks someone is going to come along behind you and put away your shit. I’ve found dumbbells not only in the sauna, but the parking lot, by the pool, in the spin room, in the boxing ring, at the foot of the stairs, and on treadmills. So far the only place I haven’t found dumbbells is the roof, but I’m not ruling out that one day I will.

Putting away your shit not only means racking the dumbbells when you’re done, but also handles, bars, end clips, bands, chains AND the weight plates. And if you’re the guy sliding three 45-pound plates over the horns on a weight tree or a machine, burying a five-pound plate? Well, f*ck you. That is the laziest thing in the world. You have ostensibly rendered that plate useless. Dickhead.

2. Treat the Gym Like Your Home (Or Better)

Would you spit on your living room floor? Then don’t spit on the gym floor. Would you leave your empty water bottle for someone else to pick up? Then don’t do it in the gym. If the 10 grams of creatine you took gave you explosive diarrhea and you blow out your toilet at home, do you leave your shit running down the sides of the bowl for someone else to clean? Then don’t do it in the gym bathroom.

Gym owners don’t hire people to follow you around and make sure you don’t act like a shaved ape. If you treat the gym like your home – and you should – everyone will enjoy a better gym.

And if you really are a filthy animal? Then you’re dismissed. Your business isn’t worth it. Few, if any, gym owners are going to tolerate anyone abusing their gym or its equipment. If you’re an inconsiderate mongrel with no manners who needs to pin three 45-pound plates to a weight stack and let it slam so hard it shakes the floor and bends the pin every rep, then you’re too big and strong to train in my gym. I can’t imagine anyone else would want you either. Stay in your garage.

3. Don’t Flirt. Or At Least Don’t Be Creepy

While the gym is an easy way to find common ground with a potential mate, that’s not the intended purpose. Most people go to the gym to train, or at least they should. And even if someone is nice to you, it doesn’t mean that they’re comfortable with your advances. It just means they’re afraid of hurting your feelings because you reek of desperation and it’s sad.

If a woman has her earbuds in, a hat pulled down close to her eyes, and doesn’t make eye contact with anyone (my wife calls it “bitch face”), she’s probably not going to appreciate you going up and interrupting her in the middle of her timed set so you can suavely ask her if she’s getting ready for a show, or something equally transparent.

Clearly, she’s not interested in talking. If you cross that line be prepared to be labeled an asshole. And if she’s married or is otherwise attached, you’re causing yourself a problem you might not be able to get out of.

And don’t relentlessly hit on the front desk girl. She’s trapped there and she’s paid to be friendly and nice to you. Don’t take advantage of that and make her uncomfortable. It’s a lame move and displays weak game on your part.

Ladies, if a guy is trying to focus on his workout consider leaving him alone. If he’s not a douche, he’ll respect you more when you focus on your workout too. Don’t go to the gym to try and find a man, go there to better yourself. Flirtatiousness doesn’t make you seem hot, it just makes you seem easy.

Now, some men and woman do go the gym just to look for hook-ups. They’re pretty easy to spot. So you people just find each other, make some bad choices together, and leave everyone else alone.

4. Don’t Steal From the Gym or Other Members

Stealing transcends the individual’s loss and actually hurts all the gym’s members. How? Think about it this way: If you steal personal belongings from other members then you’re creating a narrative which will eventually seep into the public domain and label the gym a bad place. News travels fast online and bad reviews grow spiders. A string of thefts can seriously hurt a business. Guess where you get to train when your gym closes down?

Stealing from the gym (pins, bands, handles, weight plates and dumbbells) is as curious as it is pathetic. I can assume that the morons stealing carabiners (the clips that attach handles to cable machines) have a nice place for their keys. Just don’t be stupid enough, like one of my members, to stroll into the gym with his keys clipped to the strap of his bag with a very familiar looking clip. Yes, we had a little talk.

Doesn’t it piss you off though? You grab the handle you want to use, get to the cable machine, and the carabineer is gone! Or the pin! Thieves suck. And yes, we now have to wire-tie the carabiners and chain the pins to the weight stack. It doesn’t matter though, because a douchebag will find another way to do his thing.

5. Don’t Block the Mirrors

If someone’s going heavy, don’t get between them and the mirror. The mirror is sacred. The heavier the weight, the more sacred it gets. Not for vanity’s sake, but as a tool.

For many lifts, your form is going to be more controllable if you can see what you’re doing. Seasoned lifters know this and that’s why we stay out of the way of someone doing a heavy set in the mirror. For anyone else, that means don’t get between them and the mirror! If you want a pair of dumbbells and they’re right in front of a guy doing seated shoulder presses with a pair of 90’s, you wait. If you have a pair you actually want to put away, right in front of him, that’s right, you wait.

That’s what he’d do for you. Doesn’t matter who’s bigger or how much weight is involved. And God help you if you block someone’s mirror to take a selfie. Breaking this rule can definitely, and certainly has, ended with hands being thrown.

And don’t be the guy who grabs a pair of dumbbells and does his set three inches in front of the rack. There’s a two-foot-no-man’s-land in front of the mirror. Only cross that path to grab or put away your dumbbells and get out.

6. Never Distract Anyone Doing a Set

Don’t rack weights on the horns of a machine, bench, or rack currently in use. Don’t grab a handle from under a guy’s feet. Don’t bump into someone who’s in mid-lift, get too close to them, or interrupt them to ask something.

This even applies to “nice” things like spotting them without their request, or unsolicited encouragement. Don’t do anything to distract someone during a set. Being distracted during a heavy set is a great way to get hurt. And distracting the wrong guy during his set is a great way to get yourself hurt.

And don’t walk up to a rack someone’s using and assume you’re welcome to it. Don’t take the last pair of plates off before asking if he or she is going to use them. Same goes for end clips, chains, bands, whatever. And absolutely don’t ask in the middle of his set!

Also, don’t automatically assume you can work in with him or her and dump all your stuff. Some people do timed workouts, circuits, supersets, whatever, and can’t fit you in. Sorry, first come first served.