Gym lingo and slang terms explained

Gym Lingo: Most Common Gym Slang Terms Explained

The gym can sometimes be a daunting place, especially for newcomers. Not knowing the gym lingo can further enhance the feeling of not belonging.

So in this article we explain some of the most common gym slang so that you’ll know your AMRAPs from your EMOMs in no time.


AMRAP stands for ‘As Many Rounds As Possible’. So in a particular time frame the AMRAP approach means you should complete as many repetitions as you can in the given time.


A barbell is a long bar with weights on either end, up to 2 meters long.

Typically barbells are without weight, and specific weights need to be manually added at each end. Occasionally however, fixed-weight barbells can be found, typically at lower weight levels.


Whilst it could be used in the context of an actual gym bench, this term is more commonly used to refer to the ‘bench press’ exercise.


Short for cardiovascular, referring to any exercise that elevates the heart beat and breathing for a prolonged period of time.

Running, cycling and rowing are common cardio activities.


All muscle movements have a ‘concentric’ and ‘eccentric’ phase. The concentric move is when the muscle contracts, and the eccentric move is when the muscle extends.

So for example:

Curling the dumbbell up to your shoulder is the concentric move of a bicep curl, as the bicep is contracting. Lowering the dumbbell back down to your hip is the eccentric movement, as the bicep is lengthening.

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are design to engage and work more than one muscle group at the time, with the same exercise. This is opposed to isolating a specific muscle or muscle group per exercise.

A good example is squats. Whilst squatting, numerous different muscles are engaged: glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and core.

Compound exercises can be a time efficient way to workout because multi muscles groups are exercised in a single movement.


Dumbbells are small bars with weights on either end, with a gap between the weights typically big for a hand to grip.

Dumbbells can either have fixed weights, often set in gradual increments, or can be adjusted by adding or removing weight on either end and securing the weights with collars.


DOMS stands for ‘Delay Onset Muscle Soreness’ and relates to soreness or stiffness in muscles after exercising, typically starting the day after exercising.

DOMS is caused by inflammation in the muscle tissue, caused by the stress of the exercise. It is more common when starting exercise after a long time of not exercising, or when you change up your normal routine.


Eccentric movements are the opposite of concentric movements. An eccentric movement is the lengthening of the muscle during an exercise, and the concentric movement is the contraction of the muscle.

So for example:

Curling the dumbbell up to your shoulder is the concentric move of a bicep curl, as the bicep is contracting. Lowering the dumbbell back down to your hip is the eccentric movement, as the bicep is lengthening.


Stands for ‘Every Minute On the Minute’, and is a form of interval training.

An EMOM workout involves performing a defined number of reps within a minute. Once those reps have been completed, any remaining time in the minute is used to rest. Then, on the next minute, the exercise has to be performed again. And so on, for however many minutes that section of your workout lasts.

EZ Bar

An EZ bar is like a shorter barbell, but with a zig-zag section of the bar in the middle. This section is designed so that the user can grip the bar, say for a bicep curl, in a more natural position than they could a barbell.


HIIT stands for ‘High Intensity Interval Training’. HIIT involves completing a high intensity activity for a short period of time, followed by a rest period, repeatedly.

For the time conscious, HIIT can be a great way to get a solid workout done in a limited time.


‘Macros’ is simply the shortening of the full term macro nutrients – which are the 3 main food types: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats.

People will consider the balance of macros in their diet, as well as the quantities and the calorific content.

One Rep Max (1RM)

The one rep max is the maximum possible weight that can be lifted a single time before exhaustion (for one rep / repetition).

Posterior Chain

Your posterior chain includes all of the muscles that run from the back of your head, down the back of your body, right down to your heels.

This includes erector spinae muscles, lats, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

The posterior chain is important for stability in everyday life; a strong posterior chain can reduce chances of injury to the back and legs.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overloading is gradually increasing the weight, repetitions, or frequency of a particular exercise. The idea being that your body, as it grows stronger, will grow accustomed to the same exercise over and over.

Progressive loading helps to avoid plateaus, and allows you to continue getting stronger, faster, more flexible.


PT stands for Personal Trainer – a qualified trainer that will work with you on a one-on-one basis to give you bespoke training.

Most gyms have PTs available in-house, or there are many options available to engage with a PT directly.


This terms refers to a physical state of high muscle definition, thanks to a combination of muscle mass and low body fat.

Achieving both these goals is difficult, and even more difficult to do quickly. See how long it takes to get ripped in this article.


A superset is essentially two sets of different exercises, one done right after the other. Each of the exercises targets an opposing muscle group, reducing the need for rests between sets.

A good example is bicep curls for one set, followed immediately by tricep extensions as the second set.


A unilateral exercise is one that only involves a single arm or a single leg, as opposed to both arms or legs together.

The benefit of unilateral exercises is that it allows you to isolate a limb for development, or rehabilitation perhaps. It also helps prevent compensation by a stronger limb for a weaker limb when both are engaged in the same exercise.

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