Proper Gym Etiquette | Basic Guidelines and What Men Should (And Shouldn't) Wear To The Gym

Learn some proper gym etiquette you should follow whenever you hit the gym. 

proper gym etiquette
It’s 6:30am this Saturday morning, an hour from now I’ll be hitting the gym. As I was just preparing, I remembered something that happened last weekend at the gym and I decided I would quickly share it and then give some important tips just before I head out.

Last week Saturday, my day started just like any of my workout days, I woke up at 6am, had my bath, got to the kitchen, took my shaker bottle, poured in some low-fat milk into the shaker bottle, added 2 scoops of protein shakes powder ….and when I was done preparing, I grabbed my sports bag and headed off to my gym – M&Q Fitness and Wellness Centre

That morning, during my warm up session on the treadmill, I saw a guy (a new face in the gym) through the mirror facing me, walk in through the door wearing  jeans trousers, a dress shirt, and loafers. With the way he was dressed, I thought he was maybe an engineer that came to service the gym equipment or to replace a faulty light bulb.

proper gym etiquette

While I was still warming up on the treadmill with Linkin Park’s – In the End track blasting through my headphones and giving me all the encouragement I need, I saw him approaching where I was.

Also Read: Your Ultimate Gym Playlist: Top 35 Workout Songs

When he stepped onto the treadmill next to mine, I then knew this guy wasn’t about to test if the machine was working, rather he actually came to the gym to work out …I thought to myself “and he came dressed like this?”, “isn’t he aware there is a general dress code for work out?”, “isn’t he aware of the risks of wearing such “heavy” outfit or was he here to show off and impress the ladies”, “are the gym instructors not seeing this”…while I was still carried away in thoughts, I noticed the guy fiddling with the machine’s settings obviously ready to start working out.

I was quite astonished…This wasn’t right in any way. There I realized right there that a lot of men need to know about Gym Etiquette! I started thinking about writing this piece.

Well, the gym instructor eventually “kicked” him out “politely” for dressing inappropriately. I lowered the volume of the song still blasting through my earphones and could hear one of them telling him they won’t allow him workout for that day, and that next time he should wear something more appropriate for working out.

Today I am sure some guys don’t know what is appropriate, so first I’m gonna talk about the Basic Guideline or you can call it TO-DO List, then followed by what you should (and shouldn’t) wear to the gym.


proper gym etiquette


I know a lot of people who are guilty of this one and I have this to say to you guys – Just because you will eventually end up sweaty at the end of your workout session does not mean you should leave your house for the gym without cleaning up. Brush your teeth, shower, use deodorant and put on some fresh clothing before heading off to the gym. When you don’t shower, you could develop a foul smell MUCH quicker than if you had showered. Also, note that re-wearing previously worn clothes to the gym is not a good idea.


Exercising on an empty stomach isn’t a good idea. You’re a fit dude (I get), but if you want your body to continue performing like a Bugatti Veyron, then you’ve gotta put in the high-octane fuel—and that means eating the right foods at least 30-45 minutes before your workouts. Not eating before a workout can result in low blood sugar, which leads to weakness, light-headedness, and fatigue. Avoid Fatty food and junks entirely before going to the gym as this can be counterproductive and could leave you feeling full, sluggish and queasy. You could have oats, yoghurt, a piece of fruit, a sports beverage or some 100-percent fruit juice.


Never wear a wrist watch unless it’s a sports watch to time your routines. Keep your wedding ring at home, I know your wife insists you must wear it at all times but do remind her it’s a GYM and you have nothing to “prove” there :). Ok forget it, you have a lot to prove, besides you have this one time to stir up thoughts in ladies wondering “Is he married” and they can’t tell because it’s a GYM, No Rings! I also know in one of my articles I talked about Never Leaving Your Home with Your Wrist bare, well not when you are going to the GYM. I know they are lovely pieces, but keep those fine bracelets in the pigeon hole of your car or at home, the only thing you need to impress the ladies at the gym is your ripped body.


Wiping up your sweat is a proper gym etiquette. Almost all gyms today provide antibacterial wipes for members to wipe down gym equipment as they see fit. Whether you are done with a cardio machine or any piece of equipment and you left behind a serious pool of sweat, please wipe it down with the antibacterial wipes. There is nothing more gross and frustrating than getting to your exercise machine of choice to find it covered in someone else’s sweat.


When the gym becomes very busy as mine has been of recent especially on weekends, it becomes difficult to complete your routine given the traffic. If you are using a bench, and are combining with other exercises performed all over the gym or are taking long breaks between each set, allow others to work in on the equipment with you. If you see someone holding onto a piece of equipment that you need to use, just approach politely and ask: “Do you mind if I work in with you?”


Because many people (mostly guys) feel the need to compete with others at the gym, safety is very often overlooked. It is very scary when safety is overlooked by one person hence causing a serious injury on another. Here are some safety basics:

– Always put collars on barbells to avoid weight plates from falling off onto your or someone else’s toes
– Only pick up the weight you can handle!
– When running on a treadmill, ensure you can handle the speed you just set, and also concentrate – avoid looking all around you  (treadmill falls are dangerous and can be very embarrassing)
– If lifting heavier loads, particularly when doing exercises such as squats, bench press, shoulder press, etc. (any exercise where you can get trapped under your weights or when weights are lifted over your head) always ask someone experienced to spot you. In that way, they are able to assist when you are having difficulty lifting.


proper gym etiquette
When coming to exercise at a gym, some sort of athletic garb is most appropriate; running shoes, shorts, and a t-shirt is an ensemble that always works well.

Here is a brief list of things that should and should not be worn at the gym


a. What to wear:

Shorts are a very comfortable choice, you could also go for 3/4 shorts that stop just below your knee. Some people prefer to wear longer pants (i.e. track pants).

b. What not to wear:

– Jeans: This is just inappropriate. Most kinds of exercises, such as abs workout routines, squats or lunges may be particularly difficult to execute wearing jeans.

– Short-shorts: If you are male, wearing short shorts that are loose, combined with a lack of underwear, is NOT the right attire for many exercises – lunges, deadlifts, squats come to mind. Forget it if your intention is getting female attention, I’ve said it before and I say it again, if you’ve got a ripped body you don’t need short- shorts to get the attention you need from ladies.


a. What to wear:

T-shirts are the way to go, especially if they are made from a dry-fit or moisture-wicking material that will keep you nice and dry despite sweating. Some people prefer to cut off sleeves (I’m included in this category) or basketball jerseys – all are fair game.

b. What not to wear:

– Dress shirts: there are occasions that call for a crisp buttoned shirt – like a job interview. Hey! the gym is not that place.


a. What to wear:

Any sort of athletic shoe (excluding soccer cleats, golf shoes, etc.) will do – whatever you find comfortable. However, a good all around running shoe will suffice for most activities.

b. What not to wear:

– Sandals/flip-flops: Aside from looking “funny” wearing sandals or flip flops, when in an area with lots of heavy objects being tossed about (especially by people with poor gym etiquette) you want your feet covered and at least somewhat protected.

– Barefoot: This is sort of like the above, but takes a “special” type of person to pull off.

– Boots: Ok, so on the other extreme you have someone so worried about the foot injury that they decide steel-toe work boots are the only footwear appropriate for the job. While I commend you for being so concerned with safety – workboots really aren’t meant for athletic performance, not do they look reasonable with a pair of shorts.


a. What to wear:

For a male, nothing! Absolutely nothing…For females with long hair, a headband will do.

b. What not to wear:

– Toques – unless your gym operates at sub-zero temperatures, keeping you head warm is not an issue

– Bandanas – Ok, we all know you are a tough guy, but please leave the bandana at home.

– Face caps – I see this a lot. But let’s think about it for a second, I am guaranteed to sweat, do I really need a cap to absorb that sweat and make my head smell?

– Goggles – unless you are playing squash or doing laps in the pool, goggles are not necessary while doing bicep curls. You also don’t need eye glasses.


Accessories are generally not necessary. A few optional ones are below.

a. What to wear: 

Towel: A towel is usually a good idea, although you do get this in gyms, I suggest you come with yours if you can.

Weight Lifting Gloves: Some people also like wearing weight-lifting gloves to avoid excessive callous formation on their hands – so yeah that is also acceptable.

Earphone: Avoid very big ones if you can, keep the ear buds small and subtle during your workout. They need to stay put even when you are running, lifting weights or jumping.

Stop Watch/Sports Watch: Used for tracking your reps and routines during work out

b. What not to wear

Everything else not in the list above.



Hope this  helps shine some light on appropriate gym attire and etiquette. If you’ve seen poor etiquette and ridiculous outfits at the gym before, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. What is the weirdest/inappropriate thing you saw someone wearing at the gym?

While you are still thinking about this, I really need to quickly head off to the gym right now and I hope I won’t catch some guy running on the treadmill while wearing jeans today.

Until next time gentleman, Stay Fit and Stay Classy!

Yours in Style,

Kobi O. Mbagwu (Mr. Kobi)
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Mr. Kobi

I am Mr. Kobi, a professional style consultant, menswear blogger & entrepreneur who uses fashion to change people’s lives. My personal goal is to help gentlemen dress better, live well, do well and develop a unique personal style that matches with their lifestyle and goals. I believe that success can be built through style. I believe that fashion is a tool that can be used to change people’s lives positively. I strongly believe that if you dress well, you look good, and if you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you worry less, and the less you worry the more you are able to stay motivated and focused in your goals pursuit and by so doing you are able to live a more fulfilling and successful life.
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  4. in addition, men shouldn’t wear track-pants with inscription on the butt. i once saw a young man with “Rules the world” written on his backside with an arrow pointing for those who missed the point. epic fail. i still laugh at the memory till today

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