Open Gym Etiquette

By Will Kuenzel

Before getting too deep into this I will say to consult with your gym to see exactly what your membership entails. Different gyms have different rules and provide various services.

I have owned and operated Lowcountry Strength for over ten years in different capacities. It started out in my garage. We moved into a small warehouse space for two years before finally settling into our current home within Charleston Krav Maga. When it was just my garage, it was purely by my invite only. When we moved into the warehouse space, I opened it up to current members to invite their friends. Now that we have a bit more open gym atmosphere, there is more traffic that comes through. Over time I have seen a lot of different people come and go, both good and bad. Some I miss, and others I wish I had removed much more quickly. At the end of the day, the gym is home to quite a collection of different types of people. Despite everybody’s differences, it isn’t that hard for us to work and train together, but we need to be mindful a few critical pieces of etiquette.

I’m a straightforward man. I have straightforward gym rules and as such also have a straightforward philosophy on gym etiquette. Be respectful and clean up after yourself. Keep it simple, and it makes it easier to remember and abide.

Be Respectful 

Respect is a two-way street. Give and receive. You don’t take respect. You are given respect because of how you act. The gym can be full of people at any given time. It’s respectful to be mindful of just how much space you’re taking up. Remember, you’re not paying any more money to be there than anybody else. Your time spent in the gym does not afford you the ability to monopolize or bully those that are new. I’ve never actually seen anyone that was born in the gym. I even own the gym and will be more than polite to others. There are pieces of the gym that have my name on it, but because I have chosen to be a part of the gym, I respect the needs of others to use my equipment. A quick rundown that is not exclusive to this list, just a list of examples and in no particular order:

  • Don’t run others off the equipment
  • Ask to work in on equipment
  • Don’t monopolize the equipment, or an area
  • Don’t oogle the ladies
  • Ask if they are finished before grabbing their equipment
  • Keep cell phone use to a minimum
  • Be mindful of your surroundings (don’t stand in the sled lane)
  • If you’re new, ask questions
  • If you’re experienced, offer help (this doesn’t mean always mean unsolicited advice)


This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list. It’s meant to get you thinking about how you should act in the gym. Be courteous. It’s a confined space, and many people have to use it. Despite what your mom and society have said, you’re not the center of the universe. You must cohabitate with others. It makes your life and the lives of those around you easier when we all get along.

Along the same lines of being respectful to others is also being respectful of the equipment. Know the use of the equipment and don’t abuse it. Don’t use a deadlift bar to do rack pulls. Use only appropriate med balls to do slams. Simply put – don’t misuse the equipment. Most gyms spend a good deal of money on the equipment to make sure that is can withstand a proper beating. That being said, don’t feel the need to test it. I’ve always said that if you can break a piece of equipment while using it for what it was intended, then I’ll be impressed. You break a piece of equipment doing something that it was not designed for; then you buy it. If, or when, you have questions about the proper use of equipment, always ask. Most gym owners are more than happy to help. Hell, most gym members are as well. We all had to start somewhere, and we should be glad to return the help to the new members that were once bestowed upon us. Be respectful of others and the equipment.

Clean Up After Yourself

Clean can have different meanings to different people. I will admit that I have a bit higher standard than most when it comes to being clean. I do realize that not everybody shares my thoughts on it. I do, however, actively try to get people to see things my way. I keep a tidy gym. I keep a very tidy gym. If you walk into my gym and there are plates on the bar, then someone had better be using it, or I’m in the process of hunting down the offender to bring them back and help them unload their plates.

Very much in line with being respectful is to clean up after yourself. You don’t know who is going to be using the equipment after you. I have clients up in their 70’s and 80’s. They’ll come in early before their session and do some bird dogs and then push the sled a bit. If there are still several 45lb plates sitting on the sled, then it inhibits their ability to get their warm-up done. Be respectful to the next person and don’t ask them to clean up your mess. Some might not even be able to clean it up, and it wouldn’t be for lack of effort. By cleaning up after yourself, this will signify that you’re finished with the equipment. This will allow the next person to come and use the equipment without having to chase you down and ask you if you are done.

Want to know why chalk is banned in almost 90% of gyms; because the gym staff is not maids. They’re not paid to go behind you and clean up after you. It’s easier just to ban chalk than ask people to clean it up or use it sparingly. I emphasize chalk because most of my members know how to use it. They don’t throw like Lebron James or color with it like a 3-year-old. I can take a picture of my deadlift platform that I haven’t cleaned, and you can barely see the chalk. I will contend that a gym isn’t a library and doesn’t have to be in pristine condition. Work is getting done in the gym, but that does not mean that it needs to be treated like a dumpster.

One final point about cleaning up after yourself, wipe down the equipment when you’re done. I provide cleaning wipes for the gym. I expect you to become a hot and sweaty mess; it’s just no one else wants to share it with you. Be polite to the next person and give the equipment a good wipe. Just like you don’t want to lay down in someone else’s pool of sweat (or maybe you do, I don’t if you’re into that) they do not want to lay down in yours. Again, referencing respect, think about the next person when you’re finished. It doesn’t have to be a scrub down, give it a quick wipe and move on.

Every gym is different. Some might have a cleaning service. Some might have adjustable rates that allow you to pay more to get more benefits. Be aware of what you’re paying for. Be mindful of the services. Be aware that you’re going to have to share. Being in such proximity to others requires us to be respectful of others and the equipment. To keep cost low, we must utilize the equipment properly so that it can last and clean up after ourselves. The less work for the gym staff and owners then the lower the cost. If you want to pay more, find a place where you can. If not, please remember these points of gym etiquette, and everybody will have a better gym-going experience.

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Low Country Strength

Will Kuenzel is the owner of Lowcountry Strength ( in Charleston, SC. Will started his athletic endeavors as a pole vault; finishing up his collegiate career with a best vault of 16’9” at a whopping 160lbs. He the track and field world to pursue bodybuilding, his first show in 2005, he won 1st place in Men’s Novice as a middle weight. One year later he took 2nd as a Men’s Junior heavy weight. Since 2007 he has been a competitive powerlifter and totaling elite as a 220lber. His best lifts in multiply equipment are a 710lbs squat, a 605lbs bench press, a 615lbs deadlift and a 1930 total. In 2008 Will started Lowcountry Strength out of his garage. Since then it has moved into a 16,000 sq/ft facility and shares space with a mixed martial arts studio. With all disciplines of powerlifting, strongman, MMA, jiu jitsu and other sports in the Charleston area getting trained under one roof, Will heads up the strength and conditioning for a wide variety of athletes and clients.

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