How to Behave Around Women at the Gym

woman holding manWorking Out Alongside the Ladies: 3 Key Tips

Alright fellas, there is a super hot infiltration of these amazingly strong and badass women in the free weight section of the gym lately. No judgments; as a heterosexual woman, I too, get giddy when I see these rare and beautiful creatures. I understand how adding a new element to the status quo, like a woman to the free weight section, can change the dynamic. And that change is palpable at times. I had to give myself a pre-workout pep talk almost every day for the first year of lifting because the free weight section is that intimidating. As I got more comfortable and confident, I was able to identify why it was so scary. There are too many men who do not know how handle themselves when a person with lady parts enters the lion’s den that is the free weight section. So I would like to provide a short “how to” guide for behavior around women at the gym.

Here Are My Top 3 Tips For Men

1. Suppress Alpha Behavior

gorilla alpha male lifting weightsSo, there you are- in the gym, minding your own business, totally killing that workout, bro. And all of a sudden a woman starts setting up in your general vicinity. Please suppress every ounce of primal instinct you have. Mostly because your primal instinct makes you look like a giant tool. Do not do the creeper stare-down. Do not slam weights around or move in otherwise aggressive manners. Do not start grunting, huffing, dragging you knuckles on the floor and beating your chest between sets like a house-broken gorilla.

Instead, you should focus on your own workout minus the attention seeking behaviors. If you need that kind of external validation in the gym, I speculate you are working out for some maladaptive reasons. I understand the power of the grunt. Sometimes you need that “dig deep” roar to get that last rep. Sometimes you need to psych yourself up if you are going for that new PR. Sometimes a very visceral sigh of relief escapes when you realize you just finished the last rep of the last set and now you get to go home and eat. I get it. But moderation, my dear lamb chops. You will not get the attention you want by turning into a giant douche. And no, negative attention is not just as good as any attention. Act like a douche, we assume you are a douche. Act humble and dedicated to your fitness goals, and you get respect.

2. Do Not Underestimate Her

strong proud woman flexing musclesRegardless of what program they follow, most people know what they are doing in the gym. Some go with a specific and dogmatic plan. Others have a rough outline, but even then, they know what they are doing. Please do not offer unsolicited advice or training tips to a woman. She knows her goals. She also knows how to use the internet to research how to achieve those goals. She also knows how to hire a trainer or coach if she wants an interactive workout. So you really should go back to your workout and let her get on with hers.

If she asks for help- training tips, a spot, form check- totally different. Be polite and assist to the best of your ability, but follow social contracts. Do not present half-truths or broscience. Do not compliment her form if it isn’t textbook. The only exception I can see in this “No advice” rule is in the event you see someone (man or woman) using dangerous form or technique. We have an obligation in this social contract to look out for each other. If you see someone about to walk into traffic, you’d try to stop them. Same goes for the gym. If you see someone doing something that can result in injury, diplomatically express concern and offer safe suggestions. Your intent is genuine and sincere and hopefully is received as such. If she tells you to kiss off, you fulfilled your end of the social contract.

Last but not least- please, for the love of [insert corresponding religious icon here], do not say “Wow, you’re really strong for a girl…” It is insulting. If you are impressed, be impressed independent of one’s gender. I am not strong for a girl. I am just strong.

3. Feminization, Objectification and Romance

woman working out with makeup onLots to cover in this one, so pay attention! We are not out to turn the free weight section into a pink, girly haven. All we want is a clean and orderly place to work out. We do not want to spend the first few minutes of our precious gym time racking your weights. We definitely don’t want to have to step around the puddles of sweat or spilled drinks (I hope that is all that is). Despite the role of other women in your lives, we are not your mommy or a surrogate mommy figure. Clean up after yourself. And do not assume we only want the adorable color coded light dumbbells. Some of us want the big plates and lift without gloves. So if you are done with the squat rack, please step aside.

On some special occasions I see what I like to call LA Fitness Barbie. She has perfect make up, perfect hair, perfect gym shoes with no signs of wear. She doesn’t look like a disaster when she sweats. And she is almost always wearing super short shorts and one of those padded push up sports bras. You know, the kind that doesn’t smash the girls into a uniboob. Although this is not the gym attire I chose, I know some women feel most confident when they are satisfied with their physical appearance. She did not select that attire for your viewing pleasure. This is what she needs to feel strong and confident. I can appreciate the beauty of the human body and some bodies deserve a second look. But remember what I said before about the creeper stare-down. Keep your focus on your workout before you make an ass of yourself.

There are some who say a man should never flirt with a woman at the gym. As a closeted romantic, I disagree. Once upon a time a young man passed me a note at the gym. It said “I don’t want to interrupt your workout, but I would like to meet for coffee sometime if you are interested” and included his name and phone number. This took me back to my middle school days of passing notes between classes. At the time, I was way too busy expanding my business, buying a home and training for a figure competition to add dating to my life. But I really admire his approach. Meeting new people as adults in organic ways is difficult. If you develop a casual rapport with a pretty lady at the gym and want to pursue a romantic interest, go for it; you already know you have at least one thing in common and can expand from there. If she rejects you, I applaud your effort and bravery. If she accepts your invitation, make an effort to find conversation topics beyond the gym. If you do take the risk of dating someone at the gym and it does not work out, I advise you each come to a custody agreement of the gym. Decide who gets what times on what days to avoid awkward tension. It’ll be like Marla and Tyler dividing up the support groups in Fight Club.


There it is. I know there are many more behaviors to address, but these are most in need of immediate attention. So many fitness professionals have helped educate women on the benefits and importance of resistance training and embracing the concept of free weights. Now that we are there, help us feel welcome. Typically women just want to get into the gym, kick ass, and go on with her day. Think of all the times you crossed paths with some hyperbolic gym rat stereotype. He annoyed you, right? So don’t be “that guy” around ladies who lift.

About Donna Wilt

Donna is a licensed massage therapist and owner of Advanced Therapeutics Massage and Bodywork. She is a life-long health and fitness enthusiast and uses the principles and biomechanics from training to aid in her clients’ treatment plans. Donna has competed and placed in figure competitions and works as a consultant in figure and bikini contest prep.

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  1. Great article Donna! Funny and insightful without being to harsh on the menfolk. As a lady who lifts, I appreciate you calling it like it is and giving the guys some much-needed pointers. I live in a small town and work out at a pretty chill gym, but I can only imagine how crazy the free weight setting could get in a more crowded and bro-heavy area….

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