1. Form, form, form.
A general rule of weight training is form before weight. If you can’t lift something with good form, you shouldn’t try. Using good form and technique while in the gym is one of the best ways to keep yourself free from injury. Use strict form with every exercise and not only will you get better and stronger at each exercise, you’ll also have more longevity than most of the other lifters in your gym and spend less time on the bench from injury.
2. Use a spotter or gym partner.
There are many reasons for training with a partner but one of the best is that it keeps you safe while training. A spotter, especially on exercises such as the bench press or squats, where you’re potentially under a lot of weight, should be mandatory when lifting heavy. (And this is without even mentioning how a spotter can help you achieve lifting goals.) A spotter can also check your form to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for a major injury and step in before it’s too late.
3. Stay hydrated.
A no-brainer, right? You get hot and sweaty at the gym and you need water to replenish what you sweat out. Plus, some gyms are not as air-conditioned as you might like. Whether you like to sip on an intra-workout or top up your water with BCAAs, you need to be taking in fluids while you work out.
4. Be aware of your surroundings.
We often like to be ‘in the zone’ while working out: earbuds in, eyes focused straight ahead and concentrating on getting the work done. However, not paying attention to what’s around you can be bad news. You don’t want to walk into someone’s dumbbell flyes or get kicked in the head by a hanging knee-up because you were too focused on making a beeline for the squat racks. Keep your eyes open.
5. Put your weights back.
This overlaps with gym etiquette but re-racking your weights goes a long way towards making the gym a safer place. Leaving heavy weights on the floor is just asking for accidents and injury. Ever stubbed your toe on an errant dumbbell in the gym? Imagine falling head over heels from tripping on a barbell that hasn’t been re-racked.
6. Always use a towel.
This one isn’t about injury but general health. Gyms are notorious places for picking up nasties from other people’s bodily fluids; studies have found that both weights and cardio equipment can be transmitters of viruses. So make sure you always have a towel with you to put on any equipment you use (and to wipe yourself down if you’re dripping with sweat) to protect yourself from gym germs. These days most gyms have it as a requirement of entry anyway, but you do still see the occasional idiot making the gym less safe for others.