When you walk into the gym, you enter a new world. A new world with a different language and a strange culture.
“Mind if I work in?”
“Can you spot me real quick?”
“Go and grab the EZ Bar.”
“Do each superset until failure.”
And I’m just getting started…
This video illustrates GYM WILDLIFE pretty accurately.
Pretty scary, huh? But it doesn’t have to be!
That’s why we created this Gym Slang Cheat Sheet. Here, you’ll learn all the silly and nonsensical jargon you’ll need to survive in the gym.
Have fun studying this list and learning the basics of the gym language. Before you know it, these gym slang terms will find their way into your everyday life.
Now, let’s get swole on gym slang, bro!
The List of Gym Slang Terms
For those familiar with this term in other settings, gym newbie is used similarly. Someone who is new or unfamiliar to the gym. Usually, someone who has no idea what they are doing. Someone who doesn’t understand what swole means. Pish-posh, as if, right? The only possible positive meaning of newbie could be used when talking about “newbie gains.” These are the exponential gains new weightlifters experience when they initially begin working out.
Sentence: “I’m thinking about hibernating this January. I can’t stand all the newbies at the gym!”
Did someone forget the jelly? Acronym for “Personal Best.” This is similar to max, but it also can refer to PB repetitions as well.
Short for “repetitions.” Reps refers to the number of times you perform an exercise within a set.
A set is a cycle. You will perform a number of reps for each set, and you will perform a number of sets for each exercise. For example: You do 3 sets of 10 reps for squats. 3 sets x 10 reps = 30 squats.
This is less like a nap and more like a strategic break. In between each set, you rest for a short period of time. Depending on the intensity of the exercise, you might take 1-3 minutes of rest between each set.
6. Warm up
Warmup is the lighter lifting you do before starting an exercise. Before lifting heavier weights, you want to warm up with lighter weights. For example: If you want to bench 200 lbs., you will want to warm up with 100 – 150 lbs. first.
Maybe someone’s unfortunate name in the gym, but usually the maximum amount of weight one is able to lift for at least 1 repetition of a specific exercise.
Sentence: “What’s your deadlift max?”
Not the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology … because I know that came to your mind first. It means High-Intensity Interval Training. This refers to exercises which alternate between high-intensity periods (everything you got) and low-intensity recovery periods (slow it down to 50 percent of your high-intensity speed or lower). For example: 1-minute sprint on the bike followed by 1-2 minutes at a normal pace—continue this cycle for 15 – 30 minutes.
Running, biking, swimming, etc. In the gym, this refers to use of the treadmills, bicycles and ellipticals. Pretty much, the machines not involving weights. You’ll find a lot of weightlifters are cardio haters, but don’t take it personally.
Gym equipment designed to work your muscles by guiding you through a controlled exercise. These are the odd-looking contraptions that take up the majority of space in most gyms.
The long steel bars. Plates are stacked on both ends. Used in a variety of workouts.
The small, hand-size bar with weight on both ends. You’ll usually find these stacked on shelves in weights ranging from 5 – 100 lbs. in 5 lbs. increments.
13. EZ Bar
The short barbell with the two humps in it—for a more comfortable grip.
14. Free Weights
Dumbbells, barbells, plates. Used to describe the lifting equipment not attached to a machine. Hence, the weights are “free.”
Bench is frequently used as a verb referring to “bench press.”
Sentence: “It’s Monday, man. You know what that means? National Chest Day! Let’s go bench our faces off.”
The round weights you place on the end of bars. Common plates you’ll see are 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 35 and 45 lbs.
Any workout you do in which the bench or equipment is placed in a manner where your upper body is now in an inclined position. Sit up, chump!
Any workout you do in which the bench or equipment is placed in a manner where your upper body is now in a declined position. Lay back, lazy.
You’re probably thinking of the national trend “planking,” where people took pictures of themselves lying flat on different objects. Close. Very close. Planking is a core strengthening exercise (abs exercise).
I’ve heard clamps, clips and even grips. These are the annoying little circles you snap, shove or twist onto the end of barbells to prevent plates from sliding off. Yeah, I hate clamps, even if they have saved my life on multiple occasions.
A pulley system attached to various machines and workout systems. Essentially, you attach whatever bar, rope, handle, etc. you want to the cable, set the weight you desire and use the resistance for strength training.
The warm, fuzzy feeling you get after exerting a lot of strength. Increased blood flow in your muscles causes them to contract full and tight.
Sentence: “Broski, quit talking so I can finish this last set while I’m pumped!”
23. Super Sets
When you do 2 or more exercises without rest periods in between them. For example: bench set—no rest—dumbbell curl set.
The act of performing an exercise in the appropriate way. You always want to maintain your form and perform exercises correctly.
Sentence: “Woah, take some weight off. You’re killing your form—you look like a fish!”
A spot is when you go and aid someone in their workout. You usually stand behind them and closely watch the lifter to guarantee they complete the set. People usually request a spot if they are lifting heavy weight and aren’t confident they’ll be able to finish their set without help. Those who spot are referred to as “spotters.” Proper gym etiquette requires you spot those who ask. Honestly, it’s not really a question in the gym—asking for a spot is more like a demand.
Sentence: “Can you come spot me on my squats? I’m going for 6 reps, but it’s going to be tough.”
“Gains” can be used in multiple ways: to refer to an increase in muscle size or just being able to lift more weight (though the two usually go together). The result of hard work and dedication – gains deserve high-fives.
Sentence: “Derrell, I haven’t seen you in forever! Wow, have you been making gains?”
For bodybuilders, cutting means reducing calories in order to lose body fat. Fear not, there’s no real slashing going on in the gym. Just a bunch of guys and girls trying to look good for summer time.
The opposite of cutting. Bulking is where bodybuilders increase their calorie intake to help maximize muscle growth. A little fat gain is associated with bulking, but bodybuilders frequently alternate between cutting and bulking to balance out.
Not pessimistic lifters, silly. Negatives are a variation to specific exercises. Most exercises you use explosive strength to lift the weight, then return the weight down in a casual, controlled manner. For negatives, you lift with the same strength, but you very slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
Pre-workout is a supplement taken before workouts to give you fiery strength and monstrous energy. Drink responsibly, my friends.
31. Full Range of Motion (ROM)
Often, lifters get excited and load up heavier weights than they can handle. They cheat themselves of contracting the entire muscle and only move the weight minimal distances. Full range of motion is when you extend the exercise to the furthest beneficial point. A classic example of not going the full range of motion might be the pushups we used to do in elementary school, those ones where you pretty much just bent your elbows—okay, that might be a little extreme, but hopefully you get the point.
Maybe some gyms have chalkboards, but typically, this chalk is used a little different. Chalk is the white powder you find left on bars which inevitably get all of your clothing too. Heavy lifters use chalk powder on their hands to maintain a better grip on the bar, and boy do they slap that stuff everywhere.
Those who go to “failure” are not failures. It means giving the exercise all that you have. When you go to failure, you perform the exercise until you can no longer go on. Failure can be a good thing—only in the gym.
I guess you could say Thomas Edison went until failure, and look at the gains he made!
34. Isolation Exercises
Exercises that engage a single muscle. For example: bicep curl or calf raises.
35. Compound Exercises
Exercises that engage multiple muscles. For example: bench press, squat or deadlift.
Plateaus in nature can be pretty, but plateaus in the gym are sad. Plateaus are extended periods of halted progression in the gym. If the lifter has been lifting the same exact weight for a couple months, he has probably plateaued.
37. Work In
When someone requests to use the same free weights or machine as you. During your rest period, the person will take his turn lifting, and vice versa.
Sentence: “Hey, do you mind if I work in?”
Ripped, jacked, shredded. Pretty intense adjectives, don’t you think? But these actually carry a positive meaning! These descriptions are used to describe someone with massive muscles and low body fat.
Sentence: “Dang, that dude is ripped!”
Extremely muscular or buff.
Sentence: “You trying to go get swole later today?”
Verb meaning to put additional plates on the bar. Unload or unrack the bar would mean to take all the plates off the bar.
A form of bodybuilding that does not use traditional weights, instead focusing on bodyweight. Calisthenics involves pull-ups, crunches, air squats, pushups, dips, etc.
Short for macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Sentence: “Because of that Big Mac, my macros are all over the place.”
Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.