How To Do a ‘Work In’ Workout So Someone Using the Equipment You Want Is Never an Exercise Stop Sign

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You’ve taken your pre-workout supplements, picked out your playlist, and you’re know you’re about to crush your training plan… only you get ready to start, and every machine and set of free weightsat the gym  is taken. Now what do you do? You could wait around for things to open up, but who knows how long that could take. Or you could ask someone if you can do a work-in workout with them.

For the unfamiliar, a work-in workout is when you share weights or machines with another person in the gym and while they are doing their sets you rest, and vice versa. “Typically, when we talk about working in, it will be on the strength floor with selectorized machines—where you put a pin in a weight stack—plate loaded machines with barbells, or dumbbells,” says Jana King, certified personal trainer, and president of Lifestyle Coordination studio in Los Angeles, California. “Because about one to three minutes of rest is typically needed between sets when strength training, it makes sense that two people can work on the same equipment by alternating their rest and work periods without either person being inconvenienced.”

How to ask someone if you can work in with them

When deciding on whether or not to work-in with someone using a machine or weights you’d like to use, King says it’s best to observe first. “Before approaching, watch the person do at least one set and wait until they start their rest to approach them,” she says.

When you do make the decision to ask someone if you can work-in, King suggests acknowledging the person first with an ice breaker before asking them how many sets they have left—a typical number of sets is anywhere from two to five, she says. If they only have one set left, you can wait for them to finish up, but don’t rush them. On the flip side, don’t feel rushed if you’re the person with one set left, but do be considerate to the person waiting. 

If they have more than one set, King says there are a few things to consider before asking, “Do you mind if I work in with you?”  to make sure the workout works for you both. 

How to pick the right person to tag team with

There are two important things when picking the right work-in partner to make the most of your time. First is to gauge if you can use the same weight and/or how difficult it would be to load/unload plates in order for you to work in. The second is to check out the height of the other person, depending on the type of equipment you are using because you don’t want to have to move the height of the barbell in a squat rack up and down between each set, for example, becasue it’ll eat up time and make both your workouts less efficient. 

“If you are the person who has the first right to the barbell or machine, it is acceptable for you to deny a work-in in this scenario, but again, be considerate that someone is waiting and try to keep further use to five to 10 minutes at a maximum,” King says.

Proper etiquette for a work-in workout

Once you’ve found a person that will allow you to work-in with them (woo-hoo), the most important thing is to be a courteous partner. Remember the Golden Rule, and treat others how you want to be treated. “Between each set you are returning the equipment back to the original condition of the person who was there first,” says King, who adds that you should wipe down and disinfect the equipment after you’re finished before trading off.   

Sharing space and working in together allows everyone to keep moving forward toward their fitness goals as efficiently as possible. Just be sure that you’re approaching people who are roughly at your fitness level (and height) and being polite when you ask them in your can work in with them. “Working in isn’t difficult,” King says, “especially when done with respect.” 

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