9 Mistakes to Avoid in the Powerlifting Gym

You know what's important for improving as a powerlifter? Etiquette.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Some old school lifters love a dark grimy gym, but reality bites when you come home with a staph infection or the flu.

As a former gym owner, I value cleanliness as much as strength. I’ve trained in over a dozen different powerlifting gyms and another well over fifty commercial gyms.

The rules of each space are a little different and every small gym has a different vibe. If you aren’t sure about a rule, ask an employee

The common theme of every gym should be respect: for other lifters, for the equipment, and for the training environment. 

So whether you’re smashing pounds of iron or kilos of bumper plates, remember these:


1. Rack your weights!

Don’t leave your barbell loaded. Don’t leave your dumbbells out. Put the bar back where you found it. 

2. Blood, sweat and loogies 

When training hard you’re likely to shed some skin (and more), especially when scraping your shins in a deadlift. Clean it up! Spit outside or in the garbage can, not in the water fountain. Oh, and those little ammonia packs? They go in the garbage, not on the floor. 

3. Do not interrupt a lifter — especially not to hit on them 

My last set is not going to get any easier because Joey asked for my digits right before I hit it. And I don’t care that you think I should go heavier. Maybe my program doesn’t call for it. Maybe I just got dumped. Maybe it’s none of your business

OK, safety emergencies are different. If Alex misses a bench rep and needs you to lift the bar off his chest, do it. 

4. Don’t hand out unsolicited lifting advice

Even if you fancy yourself an expert. If you’re not the gym owner, or other employee, don’t walk around handing out bro science tips unless a) I ask you, or b) I pay you to train me. 

“But it’s okay for me to hand out these tips because I hold a state record,” you might say. “Or won the world championship, or because you once took a picture with C.C. Holcomb.” 

Doesn’t matter. Some of us go to the gym for “me” time, not to talk to strangers. 

No matter how good your advice is, unless I ask, don’t interrupt me to share it


Lebron James called and said that move is tired. If you spill it outside the bowl, clean it up. Brush the chalk off the knurling. Use a disinfectant to wipe whatever you touched, and then DRY it off. Moisture on metal: bad


6. Clean your knee sleeves, it’s time

I soak mine in 3 cups hot water, 1 cup white vinegar, 3 tablespoons Pine Sol.

Hygiene is a sensitive topic. Smells are like Goldilocks. Perfume and cologne are at one end of the spectrum and stinky gear or dirty clothes are at the other. Take a shower once in awhile. Wear deodorant. Wash your gym clothes. DO NOT wear cologne to the gym. 

Got a shirt that won’t stop stinking? Try throwing a cup of white vinegar in with the wash

[Related: Our list of the best knee sleeves on the market]

7. Entourage lifters: be nice 

If the gym is your social club, cool. It’s not the case for everyone. So move your bags out of the way, don’t sit on an empty platform or hog the only squat rack while you take 10 minute breaks to tell a story to your lifting buddies. 

8. Don’t go to the gym sick and cough all over shit

If you’re contagious, skip a workout or do some bodyweight work at home. And stop lying, calling it “allergies”. If you feel gross, skip the gym. Wash your hands when you get to the gym. Wash them again before you leave..

And if your gym doesn’t keep paper towels and soap stocked for washing your hands, call them out. They should. 

[Related: Should I work out when I’m sick?]

9. Don’t hog the equipment

Taking up 5 different stations for your circuit while the gym is jam packed is rude. Adapt your workout for the setting. During peak gym time, maybe just superset two exercises instead of six. 


Wrapping Up

There you have it: tips to become a better powerlifter. Got another pet peeve I left out? Share it in the comments. And feel free to pass this post along to your gym’s top offender.

Feature image from Elizabeth Saunders Instagram page: @teamlissmash