How can I make someone give me the weights they're not using at the gym?

Last night I went to the gym and there was one of the regular guys there hogging about 8 different sets of dumbbells and two barbells and I needed to use one of the dumbbell sets he had so I went up to him and I asked him if I could borrow the 20kg dumbbells and he said "No sorry I am using the 20kg dumbbells" so I said "Ok" and left to do a different exercise while I waited for him to be done with the 20kg dumbbells (I needed these specifically because they are the perfect weight for my exercise that I needed to do).

I waited about 30 minutes, and occasionally glanced over and he used the 20kg dumbbells ONCE during this time.

After 30 minutes he took the dumbbells back to the rack and I could finally use the 20kg dumbbells but my real question is: if someone is just holding the weights in their area and not using them how can I make them give them to me?

  • 7
    The gym has just one set of 20k dumbbells?
    – user2135
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 14:35
  • 2
    Get yourself up to 22 man, don't hang around and wait that amount of time. Or alternatively go down to 18. If he is hogging, say, 14-30 kgs then that's tricky and that's the time to go to the mats and do sit ups or indeed get on the treadmil and watch a bit of sky sports.
    – asymptotic
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 14:09

6 Answers 6


Although hoarding a pair (and especially multiple pairs) of dumbbells is indeed quite rude, there isn't much you can do to make them do something.

However, I've found that simply asking

Hey, how many sets you got left [with the 20kg dumbbells]?

can be very effective. Honestly, that approach has worked both for me and on me (I admit, there's been times I didn't realize someone wanted the weight I was using, it happens). If you just ask if they are using the weight and walk away, it's much easier to dismiss you. By asking about the number of sets instead you accomplish a few things:

  1. You acknowledge that they are currently using them and you don't want to just take them and recognize it may be a few minutes.
  2. You force them to think about their workout and decide whether they actually need them or just might need them.
  3. You encourage a slightly deeper level of engagement with you as a human being, which usually makes people more willing to be considerate
  4. You let them know that using the dumbbells is an important enough part of your planned workout that you will adjust your exercises around as needed to ensure that happens (i.e. you're not just wandering aimlessly doing what you feel like).
  5. You get them thinking a bit more along the lines of "Oh, I promised that guy that I have X sets left, I should get it done".

Of course, some people are naturally inconsiderate, but in my experience most people don't want to be a jerk and will try to adjust their workout, within reason, or at least give you a good faith estimate.


There are a few options open to you in this case:

  • Ask if he minds if you "work in". Generally if you say "I have X sets of Y reps to do, do you mind if I work in?", meaning that you use them together, you do a set and then he does a set, etc. This is also common if two people want to use the same machine.
  • Ask when he will be finished. Again, you can say "I need them for about 10 minutes, do you know when they will be available?"
  • Temporarily use an alternative - Such as, if you are doing bicep curls, use a preloaded barbell instead, or possibly a preacher bench or machine.

In the short term, there isn't a lot you can do if he refuses to let you use the equipment. However, most gyms that I have been in try to keep at least 2 or 3 sets of the most popular weights for dumbbells, see if there are others on the rack or if someone else also has a set.

If it happens again, one possibility is that you can politely say "The last time I asked, you hardly used the dumbbells as you indicated. I only need them for a short period, I'm willing to alternate or return them to you when I'm done". He may still refuse, however.

In the long term, if this is a recurring problem, then I would say something to the gym staff. Point out that it is impacting your workouts, and if it continues you will need to seek another gym. (This impact is lessened, however, if you are under a contract for a certain period of time).


There are really only three things to do in cases like this:

  1. Ask politely (seems like you've already done this)
  2. Escalate to the gym staff - ask if it's appropriate for people to hog the equipment they're not specifically using. Often times, situations like this are covered in the written rules of the place.
  3. If they do nothing, suck it up or change the gym you use.

I agree that this guy's behaviour is quite rude, but there is really nothing that you, as a customer, can do to make other people give you the equipment.

  • 2
    Escalate is really your second choice? You don't think there's anything else in between there?
    – user5547
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 20:14
  • 3
    @fredsbend I agree with you, this answer is ridiculous
    – user2135
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 20:29
  • 1
    At the time I answered, the question was phrased "How to make someone give me their weights". I would probably have answered differently if it was worded as it currently is.
    – Neo
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 9:29

You could add a timeframe for how long you will need them. That way he has an idea of when he'll get them back.

It also leads into a reply with when and how long the other guy will be needing them in case there is a conflict. Which in turn can lead into more detailed negotiation.


Ask him what's his rest time between sets.

Unless he answers something like 30 seconds (or whatever would be too short for you to do your set without bothering him) then tell him you are going to work in.

Pick the dumbbells as soon as he's done with his own set, do yours, and put them back where he had them. If you need a bench, bring it closer to this spot.

If you don't want to bother... pick 18 or 22.


Gym etiquette 101: Don't hog the machines/weights.

From Huffington Post 13 Rules of Gym Etiquette for 2015:

When someone asks if they can “work in with you,” the polite answer is “yes.”

If you're actually using it, as in, the weight is in your hands, obviously the answer is no, and rightly so. If you're switching between this thing and that thing, as is common in many workout routines, sharing the machine or weight is perfectly reasonable.

So what do you do? Well, point out that you notice he's doing a rotation and that you're going to use it while he's off on another thing. This is sometimes called "working in". That's very typical gym etiquette. If he presses the issue that the weights just need to sit on the floor while he's doing something else, you can press back or just let it go.

Press back: Phrases like "I think we can share it" as you pick it up, or "You're actually not really using it" again as you pick it up can be a very powerful message. The words combined with the action leave them speechless and inactive, usually, because you're already taking them. He's left with physical force if he wants them back. And when you're done sharing, thank him for sharing. That's polite and demonstrates that you command the situation. If he makes a verbal fuss, ignore him, do your lift, put them back on the ground where they were. If it gets physical (which it almost never ever will), throw the weight on his foot and run away. I'm kind of joking at the end here, but completely serious about just taking the weights despite his complaints.

Let it go: Well, that's you're choice, but then you don't get to use the weights and will have to adjust your workout.

Contraindication: The weights in question are of the kind that you load yourself, like barbells for squats or bench press. Presumably, you want to load a different weight amount, and loading and unloading before and after every set is not a smart way to get a good workout. But dumbbells and machines inherently do not have this problem.

A nice blog post about gym etiquette: Don’t Break These 29 Unwritten [gym etiquette] Rules. The following rules stand out:

  • Put Equipment Away!
  • Step away from the dumbbells. [to do your lift]
  • Check if the equipment is free first

    “Working in” with someone

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.