Do You Need to Wear A Face Covering At The Gym?

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As we all know, on the 25th of July, gyms across the UK with throw open their doors, ready to welcome back throngs of bodybuilders, powerlifters, runners and people who like to wear Gym Shark clothes and take pictures of themselves in the mirror.

What we might not know is how different things are going be, and alongside stuff like;

  • Increased cleaning and sanitation
  • Enforced social distancing
  • Limited numbers allowed in at any one time
  • No use of changing rooms

the elephant in the room is of course, face coverings, and more specifically the requirement to wear one.

We know that face coverings will be a legal requirement in shops (but not bars or restaurants) from 24th July, but as yet we have no indication of whether or not they will be advised or compulsory in gyms.

Gyms after all, are enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult, the issue is that wearing a mask while working out could severely impact your training; gyms in other countries such as the UAE require people to wear face coverings, so it’s entirely possible that the UK could go down the same route.


The main obvious is disadvantage is restricted airflow. By their very nature, face coverings are designed to do just that – filter out particles in the air and stop you from breathing them in. This of course also means that they stop you breathing in as much oxygen – that thing you need for your body to work properly.

When performing high intensity activity such as sprints, or heavy, explosive movements like squats or deadlifts, OR even resistance exercises that target small muscle groups but go on for an extended periods of time (e.g. high-rep sets), the body’s requirement for oxygen will increase in order to fuel the muscle contractions. If you are able to breath in less oxygen, the muscles will receive less oxygenated blood and will tire quicker, meaning you workouts could be sub-optimal.


Under Armour have released a sports-specific mask that claims to allow increased airflow over traditional masks, if this is the case, and you’re serious about your training and or do a lot of intense exercise in the gym one of these might well be a sound investment.

Under Armour Sports Mask


A few years back there was a trend for wearing altitude masks in the gym. As far as I can tell, no one that wore one actually knew why they were wearing one. They were meant to simulate high-altitude training – they didn’t of course because you can’t alter the air pressure and oxygen content of the air with a mask – simply the total amount of oxygen you can breathe in. Lets not re-kindle that trend. See this study for more on elevation masks


Until the government make an announcement, we won’t know the policy on masks in the gym; there is some conflicting advice at the moment however given the requirement to wear masks in shops from the 24th July and the reopening of gyms on the 25th. Watch this space, and we’ll update you as soon as we know more.

Joe is an online coach and qualified personal trainer of 15 years who helps busy, professional men and women lose weight and build muscle.

Having a 9-5 desk-job, Joe understands the struggles of juggling a hectic life with trying to maintain a good physique.

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