The 10 commandments of the gym

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We've never been one's to dish out rules that all gym goers must live by, that would make the whole experience far too rigid. But we think you'd all agree that there are certain things that occur in the gym, on a regular basis, that should just be stampled out. We'd even go as far as saying that all gyms should give leaflets out when members sign up with the below written in bold. They could even plaster them all over the changing rooms, and toilets, and the gym floor, and on the bottom of the swimming pool - ok, maybe we've gone OTT, but you get the idea. Keep to the below 10 commandments and we can all live a happier, frustration free life at the gym. 

Thou shalt not worry about what everyone else is doing

As an informed reader of this site, you will have arrived at the gym with a workout plan. So there’s no need to slip a couple of extra plates on the bench press and risk a crushed trachea just because that girl on the cross-trainer might be looking. Even if she is, the chances are she won’t be impressed.

Thou shalt honour the full range of motion

A squat is only a squat if your upper thighs are parallel to the ground at the bottom, and a pull-up only counts if your chin clears the bar at the top. If you’re not doing full ROM, you’re not going to get the benefits from your programme.
Thou shalt not use thy mobile phone

Obviously it’s fine to use it for timing intervals or rest periods, but turn the ringer off. Chatting when you’re in the gym takes the focus away from your workout and makes it less effective. And taking up a workout station while you’re discussing your social life with your mates is totally unacceptable.   

Thou shalt offer to let people work in

When someone politely asks, ‘Excuse me, how many sets do you have left?’, it’s not acceptable to simply grunt ‘Ten’ – you should follow it with ‘…but you can work in if you like’. Allowing someone to share the bit of kit you’re on is common courtesy, unless you’re on a programme that requires metronomic precision on rest periods that last less than 60 seconds. Which, let’s be honest, you probably aren’t.
Thou shalt wipe up thine own sweat

Sweating is good – even encouraged – but leaving a puddle behind on the incline bench isn’t the best way to endear yourself to fellow gym-goers. Your gym ought to provide sweat towels, or even just paper towels, so you can clean up after yourself. Use them.

Thou shalt not gaze at thine own reflection

A quick glance in the mirror to check out your form is fine. A lingering appraisal of your entire physique – including a cheeky lift of the shirt to check how the six-pack’s coming along – is not. Get a full-length mirror for your house if you’re that bothered.
Thou shalt put thy weights back after use

Nothing marks you out as a gym newbie like pulling all the dumb-bells out of the rack and then leaving them scattered across the floor for other people to trip over, or leaving so much weight on the Olympic bar that smaller gym users can’t move it. Think of putting your weights back tidily as a way of warming down.

Thou shalt watch where thou art going

You’d pay attention to your surroundings on a building site, so why should your attention wander when you’re in another environment with bits of metal moving quite quickly at head height? When you’re around other gym-goers, be aware of what they’re doing – at best you might get a wedgie from an errant deadlift, at worst you’ll be concussed by a wayward power clean.
Thou shalt not curl in the squat rack

Yes, it’s a conveniently marked space with a mirror in front of it. Yes, it’s easier to rest the bar on the uprights than pick it up from the floor at the start of every set. But the squat rack is for squats – or super-heavy bent-over rows – and using it for anything else is like swearing in a church. During a wedding service. Avoid at all costs.

Thou shalt not covet thy fellow gym-goer’s ass

Admittedly, seeing members of the opposite sex in Lycra and crop-tops can be difficult to ignore. But unless you’re wearing shades to the gym (you shouldn’t be – that’s the eleventh commandment) staring at girls is still creepy, even when they’re on a treadmill. Besides which, excessive gawping is almost certainly going to distract you from what’s going on around you and cause your rest intervals to take too long.

Joel Snape

From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.

With contributions from