Exploring Gym Equipment and Workouts People Avoid

Whether you consider yourself a “fitness junkie,” or if the closest you get to being active is putting on yoga pants to go to the grocery store, it’s completely normal to feel anxious about going to the gym.

Fear of judgment, failure, or even whether other people are staring at your sweat stains might be coming between you and your fitness goals. It’s not an uncommon feeling, and sometimes the key to kicking those self-conscious doubts to the curb is knowing exactly what to expect from your workout experience.

That can be easier said than done in a sea of confusing workout equipment, though. From the seemingly endless number of buttons on the treadmill to the dreaded weight floor, we asked over 1,000 people to tell us which equipment they avoided at the gym and why. From the self-identified fit to the unfit, we’re breaking down which workouts and machines people are running from and what’s got them so confused. Before you consider putting off the gym this week, read on to see what could be holding you back.

Finding Your Workout Comfort Zone

When asked to self-identify as either “fit” or “unfit,” men had a more positive outlook on their physical health. Sixty-five percent of men rated themselves as fit – compared to 50 percent of women – and were more likely to suggest they knew what they were doing when it came to the gym.

Studies have found that “gymtimidation” is more likely to happen to women than men, and women are more than twice as likely to cancel their memberships (or not join a gym at all) due to feelings of intimidation. Body shaming, insecurities, and general self-doubt are all common reasons why some women avoid the gym entirely.

Whether they really know how to operate all of that equipment at the gym, or they’ve adopted a “fake it until you make it” mentality, even unfit men were more confident in their workout know-how than women who were less than positive of their personal fitness. Fifty-three percent of women who considered themselves unfit said they were only slightly sure of themselves at the gym compared to 31 percent of unfit men. That discomfort could also be keeping them from trying new exercises.

Hard Pass on Workout Machines

So which parts of the gym are the most avoided according to men and women? As it turns out, cardio equipment can be just as uncomfortable for some people as figuring out what to do with free weights.

The bench press with the bar, squat rack, and pull-up bar were all avoided sections of the gym according to men and women, regardless of their perceived level of fitness. Without a helpful diagram explaining how weights work, it can be hard for someone to know where to start on the weight room floor. Still, it might be something worth learning more about. Whether you’re trying to lose a couple of pounds or want to start putting on more muscle mass, there are plenty of benefits to incorporating free weights into your workout routine regardless of your fitness goals.

Weights weren’t the only gym equipment some people turned a blind eye to. Both fit and unfit men listed cardio machines like the Stair climber, elliptical, and treadmill as their most avoided devices in the gym.

Overcoming the Learning Curve

Men and women may have different reasons as to why they prefer to skip certain gym equipment regardless of how fit they are.

Whether it was avoiding the weight room floor or cardio equipment, 28 percent of fit men said they avoided some gym equipment for fear of hurting themselves. And despite their boosted confidence, 23 percent of fit men and 32 percent of unfit men said their primary reason for staying clear of certain machines was because they didn’t feel comfortable with other people watching them work out.

Twenty-nine percent of unfit women were concerned with being watched while working out, while 34 percent felt the exercises were too difficult for them. Women were also less likely to be embarrassed by the gym equipment, but they were more likely to admit they simply didn’t know how to use the machines or weights.

Evading Workout Experiences

Sure, women are more likely to avoid lifting weights at the gym, but there are plenty of exercises men don’t feel comfortable with either.

Perhaps because they were more likely to feel embarrassed about certain workouts or afraid other people would watch them, 17 percent of fit men and 15 percent of unfit men admitted they avoided taking classes at the gym. More than 1 in 4 also confessed they dodged hiring a personal trainer.

Finding Your Comfort Zone

When it comes to feeling “fit,” there’s no explicit definition or instructions you have to follow. Your workout routine may consist of hitting up the gym several times a week or just going for a long walk around the block. Your fitness journey is about finding what works for you and your goals.

Both men and women have their hesitations when it comes to working out, and those feelings of anxiety could be holding them back. While women were more likely to feel unsure about the equipment they didn’t know how to operate, men were more embarrassed about being seen on certain machines. In both cases, men and women (regardless of their fitness levels) also admitted there were workouts they simply weren’t giving a fair shot.

Instead of bypassing the machines that make you feel uncomfortable, try working out in small groups to help boost your confidence, learning more about the equipment before trying to use it, and even meditating on your workout to get you in the right mindset. Whatever it takes, you should never let the workout jitters hold you back from feeling confident about your body.


We surveyed 1,009 people who’ve visited a gym in the past to discern their gym habits. Respondents were asked to pick the one piece of equipment they avoided most as well as the one exercise they avoided the most. They were presented with a preset list of options.

Respondents were also shown a preset list of reasons why they avoided each piece of equipment and asked to pick the top reason.

For perceived fitness levels, respondents were given a scale. For this study, we combined the following options to be categorized as “unfit”:

  • Very unfit
  • Unfit
  • Slightly unfit

We categorized the following options to be considered “fit”:

  • Very fit
  • Fit
  • Slightly fit

We did not show the respondents who selected “Neither fit nor unfit.”

The average age of respondents was 34.98 with a standard deviation of 11.28. Fifty-two percent of respondents were men and 48 percent were women.

Fair Use Statement

Know someone who hates going to the gym or tries to avoid certain exercises? Feel free to share this project with them as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes and you link back to the author.