Gym jargon

Do you hear things around the gym or in classes and wonder what they really mean? We break things down to help you understand.

28 August 2020

8 min read


Can mean two things ‘as many reps as possible’ or ‘as many rounds as possible’. This would usually work by having a time limit and you have to see how many reps/rounds you can complete in the given time frame. 



You can 'bulk up' by consuming more calories and combining that with strength training to help build muscle mass. The goal is to build more muscle, but it is pretty certain that your body fat will also increase unless you're eating an insane amount of healthy food. Bulking is the first phase of the cycle and is usually followed by cutting (please see below). 



This term is short for cardiovascular. This is any form of exercise that uses your aerobic energy system and increases your heart rate (such as running, walking or using a bike) helping to strengthen your heart, lungs and blood vessels. Other terms that can be used are cv or aerobic exercise. Some sort of cardio training is essential for your health and can help to release endorphins which make you feel good. 


Compound exercises

Compound exercises can be tough and take a long time to perfect the technique. They are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Examples of such exercises are a squat, bench press and deadlift. As they are such big movements it takes time and practice to perfect. If you are going to try these exercises, start light to really help understand the technique. 



You may hear the phrase ‘keep your core tight’. This is referring to your two main core muscles in the centre of your body, specifically your transverse abdominis. These muscles help with balance and stability, so keeping it tight or engaged is vital during training. To 'engage' your core, suck your belly button all the way to your spine, and then slowly release about three-quarters of the way. It can also help to make your core stronger. So by keeping your core engaged during a weight workout, not only will you feel more stable but you will also be working the core muscles, bonus!



This is usually used when someone wants to reduce body fat but retain muscle. By decreasing calories and increasing cardio, you can shed fat and allow the muscle definition to show. This would usually come after bulking to help reduce the fat gained and is the second phase of the cycle. You may see people ‘cutting’ before the summer or a holiday. 



Delayed onset of muscle soreness. This is when you experience the achy feeling a day or two after an intense session, ouch. Over time you may not experience doms as you become stronger and fitter. This is when you can change reps/sets/time to develop further. When it feels sore or stiff it is during this stage that the muscles are repairing themselves. Don't avoid your workout due to doms, once you are warm the achy feeling will ease. 


Drop sets

This is an advanced training method in which you complete numerous sets of the same exercise, but you reduce the weight each time (by completing as many reps as you can until failure, then reduce the weight and complete again and so on). Drop sets will really fatigue your muscles and are best to complete towards the end of a training session.


Free weights

These are weights that are not attached to a machine. If you think of weights that are free such as dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells among others. Using such equipment will require you to have good technique and control of the weights.



If you have been dedicated to training and watching your diet, you may hear someone refer to your ‘gains’. This is complimenting your hard work and dedication and shows that it is paying off. They will mainly be complimenting muscle size or strength. 


Giant sets

Similar to the training methods superset and tri-set (see below). A giant set is when you have four or more exercises that you complete back to back with no rest in between, making sure you rest after. This is tough. Completing numerous exercises with no rest can really fatigue the muscles. It's great if you are short on time. 



You may have come across this term before, we even use it for our facebook live classes. Hiit stands for high-intensity interval training. This is when you work intensely for a short period of time, followed by a short rest or active recovery. It is intense but effective and is great for people who haven't got time to exercise for long periods of time. For those not quite ready for high intensity, you can reduce this use miit or moderate-intensity interval training.



This is a technique in weight training in which you focus on an individual muscle (opposite to compound). Examples of these are a bicep curl, leg curl or leg extension, to name a few, as they are only working one muscle. 


Lactic acid

Most people will experience high levels of lactic acid during or after a strenuous workout. It is the buildup of lactic acid that usually makes your muscles fatigue. This may feel like a burning feeling when you are working out. 


Maintain form

It is really important to keep the correct technique/form to ensure you are getting the most from each exercise, but more importantly to help prevent injury. It can be particularly difficult to maintain form towards the end of your working sets.



Negative training or negative reps can be used to help develop muscle strength. This is when you focus on the eccentric stage of an exercise, where the muscle lengthens. You may need someone to help spot with some of the exercises. For example, if you think of a bench press, your arms are extended then try to lower the bar down to the chest slowly and controlled for around 3-6 secs. After this, your spotter can help lift the bar back up to repeat again. 



Personal best. This could refer to weight, time, reps or sets and so on. Remember that everyone is different, so if you are training with a friend try to not compare your pb to theirs. 



Stands for repetition. Therefore is the number of times you repeat the exercise before resting. This will vary depending on what weight you are using and what you want to achieve. The lighter the weight the more reps you will be able to complete. 



Sets work alongside reps. This is how many times you repeat the reps. This would also vary depending on your goal. 



You may be asked to spot someone whilst in the gym. This simply means to help/assist someone whilst they are completing an exercise. It is most common with lifting weights. The ‘spotter’ will stand close with hands out, ready to help if the person completing the movement struggles. 



This is where you pair two weighted exercises back to back with no rest in between, you rest after once both exercises have been completed. This is an advanced but effective training method that can be used to really fatigue your muscles. Again, it is effective for those with limited training time.



Similar to hiit. Tabata is a time-interval training method which uses 20 seconds of active work at close to your maximum capacity, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times. You only work for 4 minutes so it is short but effective. 


Tri set

Similar to a giant set and superset. However, this is where you have three weighted exercises, you complete them back to back with no rest in between. Make sure you rest after the 3 exercises. Tri sets are also great if you want a quick but effective session.


Working to 'failure'

With most things in life, the word fail or failure has negative connotations. However, in exercise working to ‘failure’ isn't necessarily a negative thing. This is when you cannot complete another full rep with correct form. This is a great addition to your workout as you are pushing your body to its maximum capabilities which will in turn help to develop strength.