#167 – Gym Etiquette for the Civilized Bro


Those who have listened for a while know that we here at Barbell Logic are big proponents of the home gym. It absolves you of having to witness the travesties of Big Box commercial gyms, silly exercises and a distinct lack of trainingnone the least. Yet even in the silliest of gyms, and especially in serious home gyms, there are a few points of decorum to abide by to carry yourself as a serious, respectful (and respected) lifter.


It should be obvious — and we know we’re preaching to the choir with Barbell Logic listeners — but rule #1 of gym etiquette is simply to respect the gym, and clean up after yourself. Training is hard work, and there’s sweat, chalk, and occasionally blood (or other) involved. Cleaning up after yourself, wiping down the bench after your work set, wiping up excess chalk that has spilled on the floor, brushing the bars after use; these simple actions not only demonstrate your respect and signal that you are a serious trainee, they also help create the X factor that all good gyms have: an atmosphere that makes you want to train hard, invites camaraderie, and shows respect to all lifters. Even if you workout a gym with no X factor and no hope for one… it’s just what decent people do.

Other points of etiquette may not be as self-evident to new lifters. How do you put up weights properly, for instance? People make this mistake all the time. Iron plates should be placed on the weight tree or storage rack facing outwards, so that the lettering can be see from the outside. When it’s time to put weights on the bar, they should face inwards, with the lettering pointing toward the center of the bar. This is especially important when using the heavier 25 and 45lb plates. When the plate is facing inwards on the bar, it’s easy to wrap your hands around the edges, get a firm grip with four fingers on the inside edge or dish of the plate (most iron plates have deep dishing to aid with grip), and secure your grip with thumbs on the flat back surface. If the plate is facing outwards, it’s difficult to pull it off the bar, and your fingers have much less purchase on the bar. Consequently, you’re more likely to drop the plate — hopefully not on your foot — when you slide it off the bar. The same is true of plate storage — it’s much easier to separate a plate from the stack when your fingers can grip the dish facing outwards.

By the same token, use the equipment with care, especially barbells. You probably won’t ever bend a barbell, but you can break the delicate bushings or bearings in the sleeve by being careless and dropping the bar on it’s end. The knurl can also be damaged by dropping the bar uncontrolled on the pins of the power rack. So don’t bail on squats by throwing the bar off your back (this is a doubly bad idea if you ever wish to compete in power/strengthlifting, as dumping the bar is grounds for immediate DQ), don’t drop your deadlifts from the lockout position, and be mindful of which bar you are using when doing things like rack pulls. If possible, use a designated rack pull bar, which may already be slightly bent or have worn knurling. Plate-loaded dumbbells must also be used with care, as they are frequently broken by gym members dropping them on the plate edge rather than setting them down perpendicular to the floor. In general, plate loaded dumbbells should never be put on the ground. They should be taken out of the rack, guided down into the bench position (if you are doing a bench exercise), and guided back into the rack immediately after the set. If you are doing dumbbell snatches or other exercises from the ground, set the dumbbell down gently on the floor. C’mon, you’re strong, you can lower the thing in a controlled manner.

The weight room is a place to train hard, connect with other likeminded trainees, and to have some fun, but remember for many of us it’s a sanctuary. It’s the place where we can go and forget the rest of the world and take some time for ourselves. It may be the only hour of the day someone gets to themselves. So treat your gym with respect, treat others with respect, and foster the kind of training environment you want to have. And if you’re still stuck lifting at a Big Box commercial gym… just do it because you’re a decent person.


  1. Aaron Bohlman 12 months ago

    I’m halfway through the show and I’m at the ‘non unsolicited advice’ part, which I generally agree with. However, I’m in a public gym and every single time I’m in the squat rack area I have to witness generally (though not always) shouty, loud imbeciles doing quarter squats. I mean we’re talking those idiots who stick 3 plates on and then just bob up and down like they’re on a calf raise machine. It hurts the very fibre of my being to watch people squat in this way.

    Whilst I don’t especially want to start something with those kinds of idiots, there are a couple of younger lads who clearly just don’t know what they’re doing and keep loading up the bar, shaking little a shitting dog as they unrack it because it’s clearly too heavy for them, and then they proceed to do these little bobby quarter squats. In this situation I consider it more of a safety issue and feel morally obliged to go over and say, “hey guys, why not drop the weight down and squat a bit deeper?” but you don’t want to be ‘that guy’. Thoughts? Wisdom?

    • Author
      trent 12 months ago

      I’ll quote Rip here: “Find a new gym.” Until those young men ask you for help, I doubt you’ll have much influence on them. I know when I was 16 I wouldn’t listen to anyone. Nevertheless, I did a lot of stupid things in the high school weight room and I managed to not wreck myself even with atrocious technique and programming. The data comports with this… injury rates for recreational lifting are very, very low, even with all the ridiculous things people tend to do in the weight room. Put another plate on your squat and perhaps people will start approaching you for advice. -Producer Trent

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