What is Health Club Etiquette?

You may feel more at home in your health club if you know a few of the unwritten rules of etiquette. Here are some tips:

  • If someone’s using the weight machine that you want, ask whether you can work in. That’s a term for alternating sets with another person. Asking to work in is perfectly legitimate; no one has the right to camp out at one weight machine for a half-hour.

    Working in with someone is convenient if all you have to do is switch the pin in the weight stack. But it’s awkward if you have to readjust the seat or add or subtract weight plates. In those cases, waiting until the person is done is a better choice.

  • If someone is standing over your shoulder waiting to use the machine that you’re on, kindly ask that person to work in with you. Or tell the person how much longer you plan to use the machine. Say something like, “This is my last set. Then it’s all yours.”

  • If you need help adjusting a machine or you forget how to use it, turn to a staffer or a gym member with a kind face and say, “I’m new here. Can you help me?” If you aren’t 100 percent sure that you can safely complete your repetitions, ask someone to spot you.

  • If someone’s doing an exercise that you want to learn, find an appropriate break in that person’s workout and ask him to show you the exercise. Most people are happy to help — in fact, they’ll probably be flattered that you asked.

  • Remember not to leave barbells or machines loaded up with weight plates. You can’t assume the next person can or wants to lift the exact same weight you just lifted. Some men leave the bench press loaded up with a 45-pound plate on each side of the 45-pound bar — as if the minimum any human being would bench-press would be 135 pounds.

  • Don’t leave your dumbbells on the floor. Always put weights back on the rack and in the right order. Don’t stick the 15-pound dumbbells where the 10-pounders are supposed to go.

  • Don’t carry around your gym bag. That’s what lockers are for! Although most gyms post signs prohibiting gym bags on the weight-room floor, many people ignore this rule.

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