Weightifting Etiquette 101

If you’re visiting a weightlifting club for the first time, you may feel like there’s a secret code of conduct happening around you. However, not to worry. Gym etiquette in weightlifting facilities can be boiled down to a few simple rules: don’t be disrespectful, egotistical, or hazardous.

That being said, some weightlifters and weightlifting clubs may be more specific about their preferences. In this week’s post, we lay out 10 easy-to-follow guidelines to be your most respectful (and safe) self in a new facility. 

1. Just ask

One of the first things people do when they get to the gym is claim a platform and a barbell. If you’re unsure which platform to use, find the owner or coach and ask. “Is there a platform that I should or shouldn’t use?” You will learn overtime whether or not certain lifters use the same platform every time they lift. Maybe a platform is currently empty, but it is “reserved” for the national lifter prepping for a big competition. You’ll also want to ask which bar you can use. Though usually locked, some barbells may be personally owned. Additionally, some barbells may spin better than others and should be reserved for the competition lifts (rather than squats or presses). Again, just ask. Lastly, if you need a specific weight and you don’t see it on a rack, but you do see it next to someone’s platform, ask if you can use it before you grab it. They may not be using it this second, but they might need it for their next 3 sets. Simple stuff, right?

2. Don’t walk in front of someone setting up or mid-lift

Everyone’s preferences differ, but as a rule of thumb, don’t walk in front of someone’s line of vision when they’re setting up for a lift or are mid-lift. Respect their focus, even if they are doing what looks like a warm-up set. A shift in focus not only puts a lifter at risk of losing a lift, but it also presents a safety hazard for both you and the lifter. You never want to surprise someone with several hundred pounds over their head. That weight could come straight down on them or directly towards you if they miss it forward. Get in the habit of waiting before crossing in front of a platform while someone is lifting, even if it’s just light weight. It’ll eventually become second-nature. 

3. Don’t talk to someone as they’re setting up or as they’re lifting

On a similar note, try to avoid initiating a conversation with a person who is setting up to lift. It takes a certain mindset to approach a loaded barbell, and it’s easy to get pulled out of that. Beyond that (and this should go without saying), don’t talk to someone mid-lift. The Olympic lifts require intense focus, and losing that may not only cost a lift, but also put them in danger. A clean and jerk takes approximately 4 seconds to complete. The conversation can wait. 

4. Personal space

Last on this topic: allow lifters personal space. If you’re sharing a platform with someone, remove yourself (and your barbell, depending on preferences/movement) from the platform when the other person is lifting. There should only be one person on the platform at all times, even if you’re doing more simple movements like pulls or presses. This is for safety reasons first, and focus second. 

5. To drop or not drop the weights

If you’re at a weightlifting gym, chances are, you can drop the weights. Bringing a loaded barbell to the ground can be dangerous, especially if the weight is heavy. But before you lift, just look around and make sure others are doing it as well (or again, just ask). Let me be clear with this, however. You should *never* drop an empty barbell from overhead. Barbells are very expensive and they are breakable. There is no reason to drop them, other than laziness. Respect the barbell and the person who owns it. Similarly, some gyms may have rules about which plates you can and cannot drop. If you’re at a gym with large 2.5 or 5kg plastic plates, you likely will not be allowed to drop these. They are more fragile than the bumper plates (and make a terribly loud noise when dropped). Further, some gym owners may prefer you do not drop the 10kg plates, since they are thinner and more likely to crack over time. Just ask!

6. Respect the bar

Never slam a loaded bar. Even if it’s a PR. It’s damaging to the plates and the bar, and it makes you look like an asshole. Don’t be that person. Especially if you’re a visitor or a newbie. And this should go without saying, but don’t kick the bar or throw it across the room when you get pissed off that you missed a lift. This needs no further explanation. 

7. No ego lifting

We mentioned this in our “How to be Coachable” post, but don’t throw on more weight than you can handle for the sake of showing off. Remember that everyone is there to improve themselves, not prove something to others. Additionally, if someone is taking the time to give you constructive criticism/advice, be open! Ask questions, try to understand what they’re saying, and follow up with them. Training with others helps you learn and grow in ways you may not have otherwise if training alone. Take advantage of it.

8. Encourage other lifters

No need to overdo it. But if someone is setting up for what seems like a big lift or a PR attempt, give them some encouragement. Hyping someone up for a lift goes a long way. And it helps you create bonds with the people you’re training with.

9. Don’t stand in front of someone’s video

This one is relatively new with the uprise of social media and virtual coaching, but try not to stand in front of someone’s video setup as they’re lifting. If you are, you’re likely also in their line of vision.

10. Put your weights back

Lastly, don’t forget to put your weights back, both throughout your training session and after. Use your own judgement, but if the weight selection is limited, don’t hog all the plates. Put the weights you’re not using (or won’t be using for some time) back on the rack. And at the end of your training session, put your weights back where you got them.