What Does Re-Racking Weights Mean? Gym Etiquette Explained

Published By: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
May 18, 2022

Among the various unspoken (or even occasionally spoken) rules of gym etiquette is that of always re-racking your weight; a convention wherein an individual must return their equipment back to its proper place after they are finished using it.

While this may seem like simple standard tidiness, it is in fact quite important in regards to saving time and energy for other gym-users, as well as ensuring that the exerciser does not accidentally injure others by leaving their weights lying about.

For the most part, re-racking weights simply requires the individual to return the weight plates back to their rack, their dumbbells back to the dumbbell rack, and any other forms of basic courtesy towards the next person wishing to use said equipment.

Gym Etiquette in Regards to Re-Racking Weights

re-racking weights

The majority of gyms have a designated area wherein a certain type of equipment is meant to be returned to or “re-racked” once an exerciser has completed their usage of said equipment.

Generally, there is a certain order to how said equipment is to be re-racked, such as lighter weight plates being on top or on separate pegs than the heavier weight plates when returning them to a plate rack, or heavier dumbbells being placed on the lower portions of a dumbbell rack.

These rather specific rules are so as to ensure that individuals of less physical strength output can access the equipment and weights appropriate for them without having to move the heavier equipment itself - of which may be potentially injurious or waste their time and energy.

This is all the more applicable in regards to barbells or adjustable dumbbells, wherein leaving large amounts of weight plates attached to the bar will require that the next individual remove said weight plates prior to beginning their set - taking up their time and energy, and potentially hurting them if they are not strong enough to maneuver the loaded equipment properly.

Does Re-Racking Weight also Apply to other Kinds of Gym Equipment?

Yes - though the term re-racking weight specifically mentions weight itself, general gym etiquette dictates that the exerciser also return whatever equipment they are using to its proper place once it is no longer in use.

This can account for practically any sort of equipment available in a gym, such as an adjustable bench, a pair of dumbbells, a kettlebell, a plyometric jump box or any other number of gym equipment that may be moved out of its proper place when the exerciser wishes to make use of it.

Of course, different kinds of gym equipment will also be re-racked in different places and in different ways, such as barbells and dumbbells having a specific rack and order in which they are stored, while other types of equipment such as benches simply require being returned to the last place they were found in.

Does Every Gym Re-Rack the Same?

The place, manner and sort of equipment involved in re-racking of weights will differ from gym to gym and location to location, with certain areas or gym branches possessing a more lax etiquette culture wherein re-racking is more of a suggestion than a common courtesy.

As a basic rule, if an exerciser is new to their particular gym, it is best to assume that re-racking weights is the standard and that they must pick up after themselves after completing their exercises; as doing so will not only save their reputation within said gym but also show a standard level of respect between them and other gym goers.

If the exerciser is unsure of how or where to return their equipment when choosing to re-rack their weights, they may ask any available staff member or other gym goer - though it is usually quite obvious where a particular type of equipment is meant to be returned to, as said equipment are always grouped together or otherwise related to their own station or rack.

Can Machine Weights be Re-Racked?

For the most part, cable machines and other forms of resistance exercise machines with adjustable (but not detachable) weights do not require re-racking.

This is because of the ease and simplicity of how machines may change their total level of resistance or weight, with the next exerciser simply needing to move the pin from one weight adjustment to the other so as to prepare for their next set.

machine re-rack

This is also applicable in the case of a machine’s padding, handles or other attached implements being set to a certain angle or position - of which will also simply require a tiny adjustment by the next exerciser to use said machine.

As such, while the term re-racking weights refers to practically every other kind of gym equipment available, it will not usually apply to the majority of exercise machines, save for the case of the cable machine’s pulley handle attachments.

How to Re-Rack Various Gym Equipment

While we have established that re-racking one’s weight after use is a standard part of gym etiquette, we have yet to cover specifically how to do so; with each kind of gym equipment generally having its own place and manner of re-racking accordingly.

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are returned to their associated dumbbell rack, usually in a lightest to heaviest order wherein the lightest dumbbells are placed leftmost and at the highest docket of the rack, while the heaviest dumbbells are placed at the lowest and rightmost side of the rack, with each increment of weight proceeding in a sideways fashion.

Pre-Weighted Barbells and Pre-Weighted EZ Bars

Pre-weighted barbells and EZ bars are returned to their associated rack with the lightest barbells being placed at the highest rung and the heaviest pre-weighted barbells being found on the bottom.

Unloaded Barbells

Though the manner and place of where standard unloaded barbells are re-racked will depend between gyms, barbells are either left in a designated part of the gym, left entirely unloaded on the powercage or squat rack - or otherwise placed on a succeeding barbell rack specifically meant for unloaded barbells.

Kettlebells

Much like dumbbells, kettlebells are usually placed in a kettlebell rack with the lightest kettlebells being placed on the leftmost side and on the top level (if possible) while the heaviest kettlebells are placed on the rightmost and lowest side.

Weight Plates

Weight plates are usually stored on a rack specifically made for weight plates, with lighter plates being stored on a separate peg at a higher level while heavier plates are placed on the lower pegs of the weight plate rack.

It is important for individuals to not place two weight plates of different weights on the same peg, as doing so will require other gym goers to remove the first weight plate in order to reach the second one - wasting their time and energy, even if the plates have summarily been returned to the rack for the most part.

References

1. Peterson, James A. Ph.D., FACSM 10 Common-Sense Safety Tips for Exercise Enthusiasts, ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: March 2009 - Volume 13 - Issue 2 - p 46 doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e3181998c64

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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