So You’re New to the Workout World: Here’s a List of Terms You’ll Hear

by | Updated: July 24th, 2017 | Read time: 5 minutes

If you have a trainer, you probably hear these terms all the time. But if you don’t, you may be walking around the gym, or working out at home, without a clue… and that’s OK! However, as you continue your fitness journey, it’s a good idea to expand your knowledge beyond the basics.

As you up your weight, perform different movements and begin to use new machines, unfamiliar words and phrases may present themselves. Whether you’re into strength training, yoga or CrossFit, the following list of fitness-related lingo (including some slang words) will loop you into what’s going on around you in the exercise world.

Fitness Trainer Teaching Female Client Proper Form and Common Gym Terms |

Fitness Lingo from A to Z

Ass to grass: You’ll hear this most inside a CrossFit gym, meaning to “get low.” This term denotes a full-depth squat.

Barbell: A long bar that usually weighs 35 or 45 pounds. Weight is loaded on both ends of a barbell to increase the resistance.

Bench: Frequently used as a verb referring to a “bench press” exercise.

Bulking: Process of adding muscle mass to the body through strength training exercises and nutrition.

Cables: Pulley system attached to various machines and workout systems. Typically, one attaches a bar, rope or handle of choice onto the cable and sets desired weight resistance for strength training.

Cardio bunny: Person who spends entire workout on cardio equipment. (If this is you, check out our 3 HIIT workouts to beat cardio boredom.)

Circuit training: An exercise performed for a certain number of reps or amount of time before moving on to the next exercise. This type of training is not necessarily based on how many reps one can do in total, it is more about how many reps one can do in a certain amount of time.

Compound exercises: Exercises that engage multiple muscles. Examples: bench press, squat or deadlifts.

Cutting up: Shedding excess body fat while retaining maximum muscularity.

Decline: This happens when the bench or equipment being used is placed in a manner where your upper body is in a diagonally downward position.

Downward dog: A common yoga posture often referred to as a resting pose. Body looks like an inverted “V” shape.

Dumbbell: A free-weight (see below) typically comprised of a handle in between two weights. They can be used at the same time or individually.

EZ bar: A short barbell with the two humps in it (sort of like a zig-zag), designed for a more comfortable grip.

Failure: Getting to the point of physical exhaustion. Usually occurs in a set to build muscle.

Form: The act of performing an exercise in the appropriate way. You always want to maintain proper form and execute exercises correctly.

Free weights: A category of equipment: dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls and basically anything that can be grabbed to do a variety of exercises. If it’s not attached to a machine or pulley it is a “free weight.”

Gains: Refers to progress—when one increases in muscle size and weight.

Gym rat: A person who spends hours in the gym. These are the folks you run into whenever you visit the gym—morning, noon and night.

HIIT: Acronym for “high intensity interval training.” An example of a HIIT workout could be sprinting as fast as you can for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest, followed by 30 seconds of jumping jacks, 30 seconds rest and repeating these intervals for 10-15 minutes. Doing this type of workout encourages your body to continue to burn calories (which can be fat), even after you have finished exercising.

Incline: This happens when the bench or equipment being used is placed where your upper body is in a diagonally upward position.

Interval training: Style of training that involves alternating between bursts of intense activity and bursts of lighter activity. Example: walking for 1 minute followed by sprinting for 1 minute.

Isolation: Focusing on working an individual muscle without secondary or assisting muscle groups being engaged. This provides maximum definition to muscles.

Maxing out: Lifting heavy weights for one rep.

Muscle memory: When various muscle-related tasks are easier to perform after a previous workout—even if the exercise has not been performed for a while. Strength trainers, runners, yogis, CrossFitters and dancers experience a quick return of muscle mass and strength even after long periods of inactivity.

Namaste: A respectful greeting, which translates to “I bow to you.” This Sanskrit term is used to close a yoga practice. You’ll typically hear a yoga teacher say a variation of “the light within me bows to the light within you, Namaste.”

Plate: The weights that go on either end of a barbell or adjustable dumbbell. Plates usually weigh 5, 10, 25, 35 and 45 pounds. 

Plateau: A plateau is an extended period of progress, whether in the gym or with diet, which is halted. If the lifter has been lifting the same exact weight for a couple months, or the dieter cannot lose weight, they have probably plateaued.

Plyometric training: Combination of stretching and contracting muscles to increase both power and speed. It involves stretching a muscle (or group of muscles), followed by maximal contraction in as short a time as possible.

PB: “Personal best”

PT: “Personal trainer”

Pumped: When blood flow is increased in the muscles, which causes them to contract full and feel tight.

Recovery: A specified number of seconds or minutes to rest or go easy. Recovery periods vary from 30 seconds up to a few minutes.

Rep: Short for “repetitions,” the number of times you perform an exercise movement.

Smith machine: A machine that has a barbell that moves on a stationary track, which ensures that the barbell only moves vertically and in a controlled path. People use it when they lift heavy weights with a barbell, in a controlled movement, and won’t need someone to spot (see below) them.

Set: A group of repetitions.

Spot: An assist during an exercise that may be too heavy for the person performing it.

Spotter: A person who assists someone when a spot is needed.

Super set: When two or more exercises are performed without resting in between the sets.

Work in: If someone asks to “work in,” they are asking to share a piece of equipment that you are using by alternating sets on an exercise machine.

Swole: Extremely muscular or buff.

WOD: A CrossFit acronym meaning “workout of the day.”

Yogatude: Yoga practitioners who have a competitive attitude about their physical practice.