Strength Training Terminology: Understanding Gym Lingo

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You want to start lifting weights to achieve a tight + toned physique like so many of the inspiring fitness models you follow across social media, have. But the deeper you delve into the basics of strength training, the more you realize how intimidating the process of starting a weight lifting program can be.

Related: 8 Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer

I mean, navigating the gym with all of its machinery + equipment can be hard enough. But then, that written workout, with all its fancy terminology just adds insult to injury + leaves you even more confused.

I get it. When I first began my fitness journey, I couldn’t have told you the difference between a drop-set + a super-set or what the heck a bilateral exercise was. To be honest, I didn’t know why it even mattered: Here I was, just your average college female, trying to ditch the Freshmen 15. I had no aspirations to compete with the pros, or to even step on a bodybuilding stage for that matter.

Related: Conquer Your Fear of the Gym, 10 Tips for Every Beginner.

The truth is, however, that having even just a basic understanding of the construct of a strength training workout will help you to become more efficient with your time at the gym. And with greater efficiency comes things like better adherence to your training protocol + even faster results.

To make things easier (and to ease your frustration) I’ve listed the most frequently-used strength training terms below- all with easy-to-understand + applicable definitions. As a bonus, I’ll even give you a (free) downloadable cheat sheet that you can take with you to the gym if you make it all the way to the bottom of the page 😉

So, let’s get started!

STRENGTH TRAINING TERMINOLOGY

Rep: Repetition. One complete movement of a single exercise.

Sets: One set is a group of consecutive repetitions done with little to no rest in between.

  • A Training Program will denote the number of sets + repetitions next to each exercise. For example: ‘3 x 12 Bicep Curls’ means 3 sets of Bicep Curls with each set consisting of 12 reps.

Rest Period: The time taken between sets or exercises to rest + recover.

Superset: Alternating between 2 or more exercises for one set at time with little to no rest in between. The two exercises often target different muscle groups.

Giant set: Same as supersets, but with 3 or more exercises.

Drop-set: Performing one set of an exercise immediately followed by another set of the same exercise with a lower weight. Can be repeated until your muscles are thoroughly fatigued.


Concentric movement: A contraction that shortens the muscle. [Ex: lifting the weight up in a bicep curl.]

Eccentric movement: When a muscle elongates while contracting, which in turn, slows down the weight’s descent. [Ex: lowering the weight in a bicep curl (the weight would come down a lot faster if you just let gravity do its thing]

Pull movements: Performed when the muscle pulls weight toward the body during the concentric portion of the movement + then lengthens as the weight moves away from the body during the eccentric portion of the exercise. [Think bent-over rows, pull-ups + lat pull-downs].

Push movements: Performed when the muscle pushes weight away from the body during the concentric phase of the movement + then lengthens in the eccentric phase. [Think push-ups, back squats, bench presses, etc.]

Compound moves: Any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and, indeed, multiple muscles [Squats, deadlifts, etc.]

Isolation moves: exercises that involve only one joint and a limited number of muscle groups. [Think biceps curls – only moving at the elbow or Flat-Bench Press].

Isometric exercise: Static exercises. Exercise where the joint angle and muscle length remains unchanged during contraction [Ex: planks]

Bilateral exercise: The exercise is done on both the left and right side at the same time.

Unilateral exercise: Isolate one side (left or right) during the movement [Think single leg squat]


ROM: Short for Range of motion. It’s the full movement potential of a joint. Injury is the most common inhibitor of our full range of motion.

TUT: Short for Time under Tension. Refers to how long a muscle is under stress during an exercise – the tempo. Written as 2-1-2 + translates to: lifting the weight for 2 seconds, pausing at the top for 1 second + then lowering the weight for 2 seconds.


Atrophy: A decrease in muscle size/mass (caused by inactivity).

Hypertrophy: Increase in muscle size/mass.

Bulking: Being on a calorie surplus in order to gain muscle mass/weight.

Cutting: Being on a calorie deficit in order to lose fat/weight

Anabolic: In bodybuilding this refers to your body being in a state of muscle building. More specifically, anabolism is the building up of complex molecules from smaller ones

Catabolic: Catabolism is the breaking down of complex molecules into smaller ones. In bodybuilding this refers to the break down of body fat and tissue for energy purposes.

COMMON ABBREVIATIONS

BW: Short for body weight, an exercise where the resistance is provided by the weight of your own body.

BB: Barbell

DB: Dumbbell

KB: Kettle Bell

SM: Smith Machine

1RM: 1 Repetition Max, the maximum amount of weight you can lift for 1 rep. 2RM is the max for 2 reps etc.

As promised, here’s that freebie I mentioned earlier! Enter your email to get your copy delivered right to your inbox. I’ll also give you instant access to my entire library of (free) fitness resources just for signing-up 🙂

Weight Lifting Terms | Strength Training Vocab | Fitness Definitions | Fitness for Women | Health | Wellness | Nutrition | Diet Hacks | Workouts | Life Hacks | Supplements | Self-Care | Mindfulness | Personal Growth and Self Discovery | Reflection | Life Advice | Lifestyle | Much more at https://msfitfarmer.com

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I'm Britney,

Just a small-town gal with a passion for fitness + health- Using my little corner of the Internet to spread light and positive vibes. It is my mission to encourage all women to step into the best-version of themselves possible. After all- you deserve it, girl!

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