Gym & Fitness Terminology

4 min readMay 16, 2018


There’s an ever increasing amount of fitness terms being used at the gym, in program routines, or on fitness forums. Here’s a list of the most common terms for a quick reference so you can get back to what really matters: working out.

Aerobic Exercise
Also known as cardio. Aerobic exercises rely on your body to use oxygen for its energy supply. Common examples of aerobic exercises include swimming, jogging, and cycling.

Anaerobic Exercise
An anaerobic exercise requires your body to use high energy compounds found in muscle cells and glucose for its energy supply. Anaerobic exercises are usually short duration, high intensity exercises that need energy faster than oxygen can reach the muscles involved.

Short for As Many Reps As Possible. AMRAP means do the set at the given weight for as many reps as possible until you cannot do 1 more rep. AMRAP is often used interchangeably with “To Failure”.

Performing 3+ exercises back to back without resting in between. E.g. Do 30 seconds of Burpees, followed by 20 seconds of Ice Skaters, followed by 15 seconds of Bench Jump Overs, followed by 60 seconds of rest. (See superset)

Clips / Collars
Barbell Collars are used to prevent the weight plates from moving, or even falling off the barbell, during a lift. They are placed on each side of the barbell after you’ve loaded the weight plates and typically have a locking mechanism to prevent the plates from moving.

Compound Movement
Movements involving more than 1 joint. E.g. Barbell Squat involves movement around the hip, knee, and ankle joints. (See isolation movement)

Also known as the “Positive” portion of an exercise. A concentric contraction refers to the motion of an active muscle while it is shortening. For example, in a bicep curl, the concentric portion is lifting the weight up. (See eccentric)

A reduction in weight or volume over a period of time. Typically used in strength and bodybuilding focused programs. Deloading is a technique to allow muscle recovery while still training.

Short for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS is most intense 24–72 hours after you workout and can even last up to 7 days. DOMS is most common when you perform a new exercise or when you dramatically increase the difficulty of an exercise.

Drop Set
After you cannot do any more reps at a given weight, you lower (drop) the weight and do more sets at the lower weight. Drop sets are typically done to “failure”.

Also known as the “Negative” portion of an exercise. An eccentric contraction refers to the motion of an active muscle while it is lengthening. For example, in a bicep curl, the eccentric portion is lowering the dumbbell down to your side. (See concentric)

Short for High Intensity Interval Cardio. HIIT is performed in interval segments where at least one segment is done at a high intensity (75–99% of maximum heart rate) and another is done at a low intensity.

An increase of muscle size.

Isolation Movement
Movements involving only 1 joint. E.g. Bicep Curl involves movement around only the elbow joint. (See compound movement)

The external resistance. E.g. For the exercise scheme 3 sets x 8 reps x 135 lbs Bench Press, the 135 lbs is the load or external resistance.

Performing only the eccentric portion of an exercise. E.g. Negative Pull Ups is doing only the eccentric/negative (lowering yourself) portion of the pull up and using a stool or platform to skip the concentric/positive (lifting yourself) portion.

Circular weights with a barbell sized hole in the middle used to add resistance to a barbell exercise. The term “1 Plate” is often used to reference the 45 lb (20 kg) plate.

Short for Personal Record. Used to indicate when you lift the most amount of weight you have ever lifted at a given rep count.

A group of repetitions. E.g. 2 sets of 8 squats means you will do 8 squats, rest for some specified time, and then do 8 more squats.

The act of supporting another person during an exercise to help the person lift the weight safely or more than the person can safely lift alone. The most common exercise to spot is Bench Press.

Performing 2 exercises back to back without resting in between. E.g. Perform 1 set of Bench Jump Overs for 30 seconds then immediately do 1 set of push ups for as many reps as possible. (See circuit)

Rep is short for repetition and refers to one complete movement of an exercise.

Rep Max
The most (maximum) you can lift for a given rep. Typically used in the context “1 rep max”, indicating the most you can lift for 1 rep.

Short for Rate of Perceived Exertion. RPE is a self measurement scale (1–10) of how hard you feel your body is working. Level 1 is Very Light Exertion (e.g. watching TV), level 5 is Moderate Exertion (e.g. Jogging), and level 10 is Maximum Exertion (e.g. 100m sprint).

Reps In Reserve (RIR)
RIR is a rating (1–10) of how many more reps you could have done in a given set. An RIR of 10 indicates it was your absolute limit and you could not have done any more reps. An RIR of 9 indicates you could have done 1 more rep. An RIR of 8 indicates you could have done 2 more reps. This scale continues until 1–5 RIR, which indicates a warm up intensity and many more reps possible.

Bookmark this page for a quick reference and leave a term in the comments if you want anything added!

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