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Davis, California

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Column: Gym etiquette

I wanted to hold off on writing this until I became ridiculously buff. But that day might not come for a long time.

We enjoy life by the help and society of others, but there’s a time and place for everything. You may be used to being a social butterfly who flaps your wings and has jolly conversations in the meadow. Get used to not doing that shit at all.

Don’t accept a single call or start a single conversation, because your conversation will probably be stupid and will definitely piss people off. Some lifters are carrying massive loads, and they need to be able to focus.

It also helps if you don’t say ‘hi’ to people and don’t try to help them. While unsolicited assistance may seem nice, it really isn’t, because it comes off as condescending and emasculating. If someone’s doing something dangerous or specifically asking for insight, then by all means, help them. But otherwise, just let them suffer.

When I was waiting at the pull-up bar, one broscientist was doing pull-ups with a 35-pound plate dangling from his weight belt. He did many reps and it was most impressive, but when he finished, he undid his belt and let the weight clatter to the floor. He then proceeded to screech like an orangutan being touched inappropriately. That guy’s existence angered me so much that I had to head upstairs and run a mile on the indoor track to blow off steam.

Basically, don’t be a cock. You may be much stronger and more experienced than some of the scrubs who populate the gym (i.e., me), but you shouldn’t be openly condescending.

Many people are too intimidated to go to the gym, and it’s kind of depressing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s the effort that counts more than anything else.

One guy at the ARC didn’t appear to understand that. When I was doing warm-up sets for bench pressing, he snorted, “Wow. What bitch weights.”

When I moved up the weight for work sets, he began scoffing, “You can’t do that.” I proved him wrong, and got up from the bench to adjust the weight. At that point, he rolled onto the bench (without asking if he could tag in), and started trying to lift it, snorting, “This shit’s easy.”

On the third rep, he got trapped under the bar. I’m generally kind of an asshole, and I wasn’t in a very charitable mood, so I sort of pretended I had something in my eye and walked away from the bench.

That pointlessly long anecdote was a classic example of shitty gym etiquette on both ends.

Talking shit is a bad idea, and respect goes a long way. Re-rack the weights so that other people don’t have to clean up your shit. And while it will sound hypocritical coming from me, do your best to be tolerant and accommodating. The gym gets crowded and waiting sucks, but try not to rush anyone.

Working in is one of the best ways to keep things moving efficiently, so do your best to accommodate other people. It’s kind of annoying when you already have a claim to the equipment, but you’ll appreciate it when you’re on the other side of the equation.

And please take care of yourself. If you’re going to the gym, you already do to an extent, but it’s worth emphasizing.

I was so dehydrated one time at the gym that I headed to the water fountain and forgot where I was going. I zoned out and ended up staring for 30 seconds at two guys lifting weights. Drool began to collect around the left corner of my mouth, but I was so out of it that I just kept staring.

One of them noticed and awkwardly asked, “Uh … what are you doing, dude?” I tried to laugh it off like a boss, but it was still uncomfortable, and it could’ve been avoided if I had stayed hydrated.

And while it may seem counterintuitive to shower before coming to the gym, at least make sure you don’t smell like shit when you go. It’s not a big deal if you smell bad and you’re just lifting by yourself. But when you bench-press and your spotter’s dick sweat smells like week-old salami, you fully appreciate the value of proper hygiene.

Email BENJAMIN CHANG at bcchang@ucdavis.edu.


  1. This piece was so ridiculous. You are advocating gym etiquette, and yet you left a person struggling with weight on a bench, which is dangerous and rude. Also, your example of that person insulting you about your weights was not very credible. How did that situation even arise? Did you really do nothing to antagonize that person? I have been to the ARC hundreds of times and I have never seen anything close to that kind of discourteousness. It just makes no sense, anyway – people are often at the ARC doing low weights on benches or with other equipment when they are starting, and it’s not as though you are the only person doing low weights. Even if this example were true, it’s so incredibly rare for that to happen that it would be absurd to claim that this is some general ongoing problem.




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