26 Fitness Terms Every Gymgoer Needs to Know

Kevin Gray
by Kevin Gray
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26 Fitness Terms Every Gymgoer Needs to Know

Walking into the gym can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to working out or coming off a long hiatus. And beyond the physical intimidation — both from the exercise itself and the other people in the gym — you might hear lingo being batted around like some kind of secret code.

But don’t worry. First, the gym doesn’t have to be a scary place. In fact, there are plenty of people, from trainers to savvy friends, who’d be happy to help you along the way. And second: We’ve got the lingo covered with our handy guide to common gym terms below. Take a look, and you’ll be talking the talk in no time.

AMRAP

This term may sound like a health insurance company, but it’s simply an acronym for performing “as many reps as possible” in a given amount of time. AMRAP is a popular method for CrossFitters, but can be employed by anyone during a workout.

BARBELL

The long metal bar used in weight lifting. Plates slide onto each end, so the weight can be customized to each individual. Common exercises that utilize a barbell include the bench press, deadlift and squat.

BODYWEIGHT EXERCISE

An exercise that uses your own bodyweight as the only form of resistance, as opposed to exercises that rely on weighted objects like barbells and dumbbells.

CARDIO

This shortened word for cardiovascular exercise refers to any activity that raises your heart rate and breathing rate, while improving the function of your circulatory system (heart, blood and blood vessels). Often, gyms are divided into areas containing weights in one section, and cardio machines like treadmills, bikes and ellipticals in another.

CIRCUIT

Consider this a series of exercises. In a typical circuit workout, you’ll complete one activity, like jumping jacks, before moving onto another, like pushups. Put together as many exercises as you want, do them all back-to-back, and that’s your circuit.

COLLAR

These circular, locking mechanisms slide onto barbells to keep the weights from sliding off.

DUMBBELL

A type of free-weight comprised of a short handle and weighted ends that is used for strength training exercises. Dumbbells come in many different sizes and can range from one pound to more than 100 pounds.

ECCENTRIC CONTRACTION

A way to mix up your strength training and intensity. This kind of muscle contraction means tension increases as the muscle lengthens.

FREE-WEIGHTS

Any piece of equipment — including barbells and dumbbells — that isn’t fixed to a machine or cable, so it can be moved freely in any direction. Because there is no external stability or support, free-weights usually require you to exert more effort and engage smaller, stabilizer muscles in addition to the primary muscle group being targeted.

HIIT

An acronym for “high-intensity interval training.” Think workouts consisting of several different high-intensity exercises and short recovery periods.

INTERVAL TRAINING

A type of exercise that employs specific periods of activity and rest — for example, 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Interval training can encompass several training disciplines, including circuit training and HIIT.

ISOMETRIC

This refers to exercises in which you hold a position of tension and remain there for a period of time. Common examples include holding a plank or a squat.

KETTLEBELL

A cast-iron, ball-shaped weight with a single handle that can be used for a wide variety of exercises.

MAX

This term refers to the maximum amount of weight you can lift one time — for example, on the bench press. Do you need to try a one-rep-max? No. But lots of people do and then discuss it.

MAXIMUM HEART RATE

You’ll often see this word on cardio machines. It refers to the maximum rate at which your heart can beat for one minute, and it varies person to person.

PLATE

You know those round weights that slide onto barbells? Those are plates. Most gyms will include a variety of sizes — typically 5, 10, 25, 35 and 45 pounds.

PLYOMETRICS

Plyometrics are explosive exercises that exert maximum effort in short bursts, with the goal to build strength, speed and power. Most plyometric moves involve jumping, like box jumps, squat jumps and burpees but may also include upper-body exercises, like clap pushups or medicine ball throws.

RACK YOUR WEIGHTS

This is gym lingo for “pick up after yourself.” After you’re done using a barbell, squat rack or any other piece of equipment that requires weight plates, you should put those plates back onto the racks from whence they came.

RECOVERY

A recovery period is your rest time between exercises. You can also have recovery days, when you choose not to workout.

REP

Just a shortened word for repetition. If you do 10 reps, you’re simply doing an exercise 10 times.

SET

This refers to how many times you complete a series of reps.

SPOT

Everyone needs a little help on occasion and receiving a spot is just that. Someone acts as your spotter to ensure your safety while lifting weights. The spotter often helps you un-rack and re-rack the weight, and might step in to offer a bit of strength if you’re struggling.

STRENGTH TRAINING

Any activity with the purpose to build strength and muscle mass. This can encompass all manner of bodyweight exercises, weightlifting, resistance bands, plyometrics and more. The term is often used to differentiate from cardio-based workouts.

SUPERSET

If you pair two exercises together, and do them back-to-back without resting in-between, you’re doing a superset. Any two exercises can be combined into a superset, but one popular option is to pair exercises that target different muscle groups — like back and legs — so one muscle group can rest while the other works.

TARGET HEART RATE

Your target heart rate is the range in which you want to keep your heart rate during exercise, and can generally be considered the rate at which your heart receives the most benefit without working too hard. It’s calculated as a percentage of your maximum heart rate, and the range can vary widely depending on one’s health, age and fitness level.

WORK IN

“Can I work in with you?” You might hear this or say it yourself, when the gym is crowded. It just means someone wants to get a turn on a machine or other piece of equipment while you’re resting between sets.

About the Author

Kevin Gray
Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer who spends the majority of his weekends on a bike. His less healthy pursuits can be found at Bevvy and Cocktail Enthusiast.

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