Most gyms have the primary gym etiquettes and safety rules posted on the walls. Some of these rules are for safety, others for hygiene, others revolve around common courtesy. Please do your best to follow them.
Safety and Gym Etiquettes
Before diving into the actual training principles and techniques that encompass the sport of bodybuilding, a discussion on safety and proper gym etiquettes is required.
This post has been written with your safety in mind. If you follow our directions properly, you should never experience an injury or life-threatening situation while training in the gym.
But there is only so much I can tell you; ultimately your safety and conduct is in your own hands.
Here are the top rules for safety and gym etiquettes:
“Many are guilty of complacency when it comes to a proper warmup – even me. Now that I am getting back to basics, I urge you to do the same. Don’t let an injury put you at a disadvantage and delay your gains. By planning ahead and taking the time to adequately prepare for training you won’t need to take time off.”– John Rodrigues, Bodybuilder and Athlete
1. ALWAYS WARM UP
The vast majority of injuries are caused when people dive right into their maximum poundage before their muscles are properly warmed up.
Think of your muscles as elastic bands. Elastic bands lose their flexibility when cooled.
Conversely, they’ll stretch better when warmed. Muscles behave in a similar manner.
Do a short 5- to 10-minute cardio session to warm up the body in general and a few light warmup sets for each of the muscles you plan to train that day.
Most importantly, never, ever start a workout with your heaviest weight!
2. WHERE POSSIBLE, USE A SPOTTER
For those not familiar with the term, a spotter is a friend, partner, or stranger for that matter, who stands behind you on exercises that could potentially leave you trapped under a barbell.
People have been found dead in their basements, a barbell loaded with a couple of hundred pounds trapped across their necks.
Exercises such as squats and bench presses should not be performed using heavy weight unless you have a trusted spotter behind you.
You probably won’t need a spotter on most machine exercises as they’re usually designed with safety in mind (the Smith machine being a possible exception).
Likewise, dumbbells are safe at any weight as they can be easily dropped if you run into trouble.
3. USE COLLARS ON YOUR BARBELL EXERCISES
You can think of collars as bolts or pins that lock the weight plates on the ends of a barbell as you lift and lower.
Even with the best technique, you will normally have a slight tilt to the bar, at least during one part of any given exercise.
If the bar tilts too much, the plates may slide off that side and then the bar will violently fall in the opposite direction (since that end is now heavier).
Depending on the weight and exercise, you could potentially break a wrist, or worse. For the sake of a few extra seconds, put a set of collars on the bar.
4. WHEN NECESSARY, USE A WEIGHTLIFTING BELT
You can consider a weightlifting belt as your shin guard or baseball glove. Other sports have protective gear, so why not bodybuilding?
Certain exercises place tremendous stress on the spine. A wide (four to six inches) piece of leather will protect your lower back on such exercises as squats, deadlifts, and various pressing and rowing movements.
However, don’t use the belt on all exercises, or even on your light warmup sets – if you become dependent on it your lower back muscles will never strengthen.
The belt should be used only as a protection device on risky exercises.
5. RETURN YOUR WEIGHTS TO THEIR PROPER RACKS – Gym Etiquettes
Nothing is more annoying than having to look all over the gym for a set of dumbells for your next set, except maybe when you have to take five minutes to strip a couple of hundred pounds off a leg press machine before you can use it.
Putting back all the plates and dumbells ensures that other gym members won’t have to waste time looking around the gym for them.
There is also a more practical reason for putting your weights away – safety. Having weight plates or dumbells all over the floor is an accident waiting to happen.
Someone could easily trip and injure themselves. Most gym employees will enforce this rule, but why wait to be told? You’re not a child anymore.
Please take it upon yourself to clean up after your workout and follow gym etiquettes.
6. NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR ADVICE
As comprehensive as this book is, there will be times when you’re unsure of an exercise. Most gym instructors are certified and know their stuff.
Take advantage of their expertise anytime you have a bodybuilding-related question. If an instructor is not available, study some of the regular members.
It won’t be long before you spot who the experienced trainers are. Usually all it takes is one glance, but don’t go by size alone – some average-sized individuals know more about bodybuilding than the 250-pounders.
Watch for those with strict technique and confidence.
7. GOOD TECHNIQUE IS SUPERIOR
Perform all the exercises using proper form. While there are a few advanced bodybuilding techniques that involve what could be termed “loose training,” in general using strict style is the best way to train, especially at the beginner or intermediate levels.
It prevents injuries and will provide the most muscle gains from your training.
8. USE WEIGHT SUPPORTS AND RACKS WHERE NECESSARY
Most exercises can be performed with just the barbells or dumbells themselves. There are, however, a few that could leave you in a dangerous situation if you were to lose control.
Two examples are the bench press and squat. At some point, everyone will attempt an extra rep on one of these exercises and fail.
A proper squat or bench press rack has a series of pins or supports arranged at different levels to catch the weight if you can’t return it to the starting position.
Besides, it doesn’t look cool when your face is lobster-red and your eyes are bulging out of your head because a couple of hundred pounds is lying across your spine or neck, so use the racks!
9. DON’T THROW YOUR WEIGHT AROUND – Gym Etiquettes
Proper form is important when performing any exercise, but this holds especially true for biceps training, specifically in curling movements.
Don’t be one of those guys who boost the weight up from their hips. For a curl to be effective, the burden of the resistance must rest solely on your biceps.
The key to proper form when curling is to pin your upper arms against your body while preventing yourself from leaning back.
10. WIPE DOWN YOUR BENCH AFTER USE – Gym Etiquettes
Human sweat carries hundreds of germs. It’s pretty disgusting to go to a bench or machine and see a layer of someone else’s sweat dripping all over it!
Most gyms have towels or paper towels available for wiping down equipment.
Take a few seconds to wipe off your sweat when you’re finished with that bench or piece of equipment.
Laying your towel down before using the bench is also a great gym etiquettes and idea.
11. WEAR THE PROPER TRAINING ATTIRE – Gym Etiquettes
Some gyms can be very strict about attire, but most large fitness centers will leave it up to the members.
If you’re training in the summer and your gym is not air conditioned, wear something light, such as a T-shirt and pair of shorts.
Conversely, if your gym is on the cool side, keep a sweatshirt on until your muscles are fully warmed up.
In terms of footwear, always have a good pair of sneakers. Many exercises will place a great deal of stress on your ankles and you’ll need solid support to protect the small muscles and bones in this region.
Besides, a weight plate could slip out of your hand as you’re putting it on the bar or weight rack. These are some minor gym etiquettes to follow.
It would be great to have more between your foot and the plate than a sock!
12. NEVER STOP LEARNING
The fact that you’re reading this article is a start. As in most sports, success in bodybuilding will require the application of new knowledge.
Don’t just learn a few exercises and think you know it all. Even the reigning Mr. Olympia is continually learning how to get the most out of his training or how to improve his diet.
More knowledge will not only improve your health and physique, it will also help prevent injury.
Most injuries are not caused by lifting too much weight, but by using improper technique – whether from ignorance or stupidity.
No matter what shape you think you are in, we strongly urge you to get a physical.
A physical will give you an indication of how physically conditioned you are, and you will discover any concerns you should be aware of.
Your doctor will likely send you for some blood work. This is routine and will be a quick and relatively painless procedure.
Getting your cholesterol and liver enzyme levels checked is the first step in determining how healthy you are. You should also get a physical stress test.
“Hey, you want to work up a sweat. Good for you. Just don’t expect me to be thrilled about doing the backstroke in the pond you’ve just made when it’s my turn to use the bench.”