When it comes to working out, we’re not all strongmen like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (aka The Mountain). Many of us could go our entire lives and still not know our lat pull-downs from our incline benches from our deadlifts. Which is to say, there’s no shame in not knowing your way around a gym, or how to start the process of getting in shape. Just remember, before you sweat, be sure to sweat the small stuff.
When I’m in the gym, I’m never quite sure what the etiquette is around how long I can take on a machine or on the free weights before I piss off the regulars who are waiting to do the same. Any thoughts?
Ahh, the age-old dilemma: Do I take the time I need in the gym to get my pump on, or do I give way to others waiting for me to finish?
It can be tempting to go with option one, because hey, you’ve paid your hard-earned cash to be at that gym. And so, you owe it to yourself to get your workout in properly and at your own pace, and no one, not even Arnold himself, should be able to side-eye you into moving on before you’re goddamn good and ready. After all, despite its intimidating appearance, the gym is supposed to be a welcoming place free of judgement and territorialism.
And actually, you’d be right. You should be able to get your pump on at your own pace without feeling intimidated or pressured to quit before you’re done — on the machines, the dumbbells or the recumbent bike (lol, no one will bother you there, anyways). But! If you’re camping out for 20 minutes on the bicep curl, and that’s why people are getting pushy, sorry, bro, you’re doing it wrong. “No one should linger on machines — they’re assistance exercises and designed to be used at a brisk pace,” says MEL contributing writer and competitive powerlifter Oliver Lee Bateman. “I rarely sit for more than 45 to 60 seconds on a machine.”
Another way to think about it: The amount of time you spend resting between sets should be tied directly to how long it takes you to complete the set itself. “A polite amount of time to rest should be roughly double the time of the working set,” explains Jeff Jalaba, a personal trainer in L.A. “So if you lift for 30 seconds, a minute is an appropriate amount of rest.”
According to Bateman, you can work a little longer on the free weights, however. “I’ll take three to five minutes between sets in the squat cage or when using a bench. But at the same time, I don’t wander away and just leave my stuff there while I do something else. I’ll spend less time between sets on the leg press, maybe one to two minutes, because it’s not as rigorous an exercise as bench, deadlift or squat.”
If you are taking a bit more time than you should, someone might ask if they can switch off with you on whatever machine or weight you’re currently occupying. In gym-speak, this is referred to as “working in,” and is frowned upon “because it’s uncomfortable and extremely pushy,” says Bateman. But if it does happen, you can either let them work in, or if you’re close to being done, politely let them know how much longer you’ll need.
Some final words of advice from Bateman: “Try to be fairly unobtrusive. Acting like you own the gym is true lummox/lunkhead behavior. Also, never offer unsolicited advice or make uninvited small talk.”
Now get in there and take your sweet ass… I mean, get in there and take the exact amount of time suggested above.