How to Decode Gym Lingo

How to Decode Gym Lingo

Whether you’re just starting on your fitness journey or are already a seasoned pro, navigating a new gym can always be a little intimidating. Gyms are like a foreign country with their own culture and language, and figuring out how to decode gym lingo can be a daunting task. Here’s a pocket translation guide that will have you blending in with the locals in no time.


  • Spot: When someone assists another person with an exercise, typically when lifting weights. The “spotter” will stand close by while their partner is exercising in order to prevent injury.
  • Rep: Short for repetition. This is when you perform a movement without stopping. For example: “I did 10 reps of bicep curls.”
  • Set: A group of repetitions with rest in between. For instance, “I did 3 sets of 10 reps.”
    • Superset: A combination of complimentary exercises performed back-to-back with little or no rest. You can either work the same muscle group (shoulder presses to lateral raises) or opposing (push ups to squats).
  • Circuit: A series of different exercises performed with little or no rest in between movements. After all exercises are performed once, that is considered one “circuit” and you repeat this circuit for a desired number of times. This is a great way to see improvement in strength because eventually you will be able to perform additional circuits or decrease the amount of rest between each move.
  • Intervals: Interval training is when you alternate between performing an exercise at high intensity to a lower intensity. For example, sprinting for 30 seconds then walking for 1 minute. Bonus: Interval training typically burns more calories than performing the same cardio exercise at a steady pace for the same amount of time.
  • HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training is one of the hottest workout trends out there. It’s a form of interval training that has intervals of maximum effort and less intensive recovery periods. HIIT is an intense fat burner because it increases your aerobic and anaerobic endurance. You cannot perform anaerobic exercise for very long (typically a few seconds to a minute) because your body is exercising with no oxygen.
  • Recovery: Rest in between exercises.
  • Cardio: Short for cardiovascular exercise, basically any exercise that gets your heart racing. Popular examples of cardio are running, biking, and aerobic classes (can link to group fitness here).
  • Free Weights: Weights that are not attached to a pulley or machine, such as dumbbells and kettlebells. Free weights allow for an increased range of motion, meaning the exercise is more difficult. Next time you want to do bicep curls, skip the machine and pick up some dumbbells instead.
    • Dumbbell: Handheld weights, typically used two at a time.
    • Barbell: A long bar that typically weighs 45 pounds. You can increase resistance by adding plates, which increases the weight.
    • Plates: Weights that go on either end of a barbell.
    • Lift/lifting: Short for weight lifting.
    • Strength training: Another word for weight lifting.


  • Pecs: Pectoral muscles (chest).
  • Lats: Latissimus dorsi (back).
  • Traps: Trapezius muscles. If you asked someone to rub your shoulders, these are the muscles that they would massage (neck, shoulders, and upper back).
  • Delts: Deltoids (shoulders).
  • Tris: Triceps (back part of your upper arm). This is the part of the arm that can jiggle when you wave.
  • Bis: Biceps (front part of upper arm).
  • Quads: Quadriceps (front part of your thigh)
  • Hams: Hamstrings (back part of your thighs)
  • Glutes: Gluteas maximus (nicer way to say “butt”).
  • Lean Mass: The amount of muscle you have.
  • BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate, which is the amount of calories your body burns per day when at rest. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns when doing nothing.


If you’re still intimidated, don’t worry. Our personal trainers can help you look (and sound!) like a pro in no time.

Tags: , ,