Here’s how to face the problem of female bullies at the gym and how to manage them.

Is there even a such thing as gym bullies who are women? This depends on how you define “bully.”

Much of gym bullying may occur in the locker room where there wouldn’t be many, if any, witnesses.

So how do you deal with a female gym bully?

I’m a big proponent of the concept of empowerment. That’s why I won’t recommend that the targeted individual ignore the “bully.”

I’m going to offer a perspective based on common sense and having lived long enough to observe a phenomenon among humans:

  • Ignoring bully behavior will NOT make it go away.
  • Ignoring bully behavior will NOT empower you.

In all seriousness, if you become aware that a woman is making snide comments about you deliberately loud enough for you to hear, march right over to her and speak honestly about what’s on your mind about the situation.

Don’t tell her she’s hurting your feelings, because this is exactly what her goal is.

Instead, put her on the spot. She does not expect you to step right up to her.

This may seem impossible to do, but this kind of reaction from the victim of the “bully” has a very high success rate at stopping the negative behavior.

There’s nothing to fear. She can’t get your membership revoked, and you’re probably more likely to get struck by a meteor on the way to your car in the parking lot than by her fist.

Just go up to her and tell it like it is, even if there’s other people with her. Put the bully on the spot and watch her crumble.

She is not prepared to respond intelligently, and she knows this.

There’s a second strategy for dealing with the woman gym bully. And that’s to get strong. Focus on making your body stronger and stronger.


There’s something about knowing you can bench press or deadlift 135 pounds that makes you invulnerable to hurt feelings from a bully. This air of confidence about you, in turn, will make the bully retreat.

The bully likes to see hurt in your face. You can’t pretend not to show hurt if you feel hurt. You’ll be showing it alright if you’re feeling it.

But if you’re strong, it’s not likely you’ll get hurt feelings from a mean woman, even if she’s a size 6 and you’re a 16.

And by the way, getting strong does NOT mean getting big. You won’t bulk up without intending to.


Finally, consider the possibility that you’re actually not being bullied at all, that it only seems that way.

For example, two women may be looking your way, smiling and snickering, speaking softly.

This doesn’t mean they’re making fun of you. They may be talking about something unrelated and just waiting to use the equipment you’re on.

If a woman grabs the equipment you’re using, maybe she truly didn’t know you were using it.

This happens all the time. Someone leaves their equipment for just a moment to get water, then returns and sees someone using it.

Another example of “pseudo-bullying” is when a gym member points out behavior on your part that’s inappropriate.

They’re not trying to bully you, but may find your infraction to be quite annoying.

Examples are:

  • leaving your sweat on equipment
  • leaving litter behind on the treadmill
  • coming into the gym drenched in fragrance and hijacking the air
  • hogging the entire bench in the locker room with your personal belongings
  • not flushing the toilet
  • leaving water puddles all over a bench.

If someone points these things out to you, they’re not trying to be a bully.

Etiquette should be practiced inside a gym, and some members are quite vocal about correcting someone’s lack of etiquette.

If you encounter more of a real bully at the gym, which would most likely be a woman pressuring you to finish up on a piece of equipment, inform her that you’re going to finish your sets, but she’s welcome to work in with you. Do not give up the equipment to her!

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.