If you’re like most guys, your daily gym trip is defined by routine.  You’ve planned what time you’re going to work out, what body part you’re working on and exactly how much time you’ll need.  But regardless of how much time you spend planning, there’s no way to avoid a crowded gym.  Especially if you work out after work.  There’s nothing more crushing than planning a sick circuit and arriving to a weight room where every bench is taken.  When you find yourself in this situation, keep the following tips in mind.

Claim Your Spot

Once a bench opens up, don’t hesitate to claim it.  Make sure you take over the space with some kind of visual marker.  Toss your towel down or leave your training notebook there so everyone else knows that you’re using it.  Odds are, you aren’t the only one staking out equipment, and there’s someone waiting in the wings to steal that bench the second it looks available.

Make Friends

In a perfect world, the gym will start to clear out the longer you stay and you’ll be able to circle back to the leg press.  In reality, the gym might stay active the entire time you’re working out.  If that equipment hog has been on the machine you’re eyeing for 45 minutes, it’s time to tap his shoulder and work in with him.  When you work in, you and the equipment hog will alternate sets until one of you finishes and moves on.  It’s not ideal, but hey, you’ve got to work out.

Watch the Mirror

More people in the weight room means less space for movement.  Without noticing it, you can easily end up blocking the mirror for a fellow lifter.  Before you get settled in a new spot, take a quick glance around to make sure you’re not obscuring someone’s view.  Contrary to popular belief, that mirror isn’t just a way for guys for stare at their own muscles.  It’s one of the only ways to check and correct their form.  Getting in someone’s way could possibly lead to injury if he can’t see what he’s doing.

Be Flexible

Be prepared to make some adjustments to your planned workout.  You may love your chest day routine but you won’t be able to execute it exactly as it’s written down.  You should be open to rearranging the lifts or even choosing substitute exercises that work the same muscle group.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

When the gym is packed, you need to think economically about your workout.  If you’ve found the only available bench, complete all the exercises that require the bench while you have it.  Don’t put yourself through the stress of trying to set up a circuit workout with limited equipment.  Get everything done that you can while you have the bench.  Then move on.

Working out in a crowded gym is a pain and there’s often no way to avoid it.  But with some easy adjustments, you can still break a sweat without sacrificing the quality of your session.