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Training can sometimes involve speaking a whole new language, so here’s a handy Gym-to-English dictionary
Picture this: You walk into an ice cream shop and the person behind the counter asks you if you want Jimmies with your order. “What the heck is a Jimmy?” you might ask yourself, depending on what part of the country you’re from (for those who don’t know, they’re sprinkles).
The same confusion can often happen to people who hear gym lingo for the first time. Some phrases mean something else in the real world than in the iron sanctuary (that means “gym”), and some only exist within the weight room.
And since DuoLingo hasn’t added a “gym” option to their foreign language list, we figured we’d help out those who are trying to become fluent in gym slang. We’ll not only tell you what each word means but give you examples of how to use them.
As certified personal trainers, CrossFit L-1 coaches, and competitive weightlifters, we use most of these terms daily.
Gym Lingo You Need to Know
Here’s our breakdown of need-to-know gym slang.
Definition: An acronym that stands for “as many reps as possible.” This can be spoken or written in a workout program, and it means that you should perform a certain exercise for as many reps as possible (basically, until your muscles are fatigued and you’re unable to push out another rep).
Used in a Sentence: “In this AMRAP, you’ll do lateral raises.”
Definition: Anabolism is your body’s process of creating molecules from smaller units to help build and maintain muscle mass. Anabolic refers to something that promotes anabolism.
Anabolic is often associated with steroids since they help the body achieve and stay in an anabolic state, but your body also has anabolic processes that don’t require any performance-enhancing drugs.
Used in a Sentence: “If you’re looking to get huge, you want to be in an anabolic state.”
Definition: Used as a way to motivate someone who’s trying to push out a heavy lift. It means they’re able to complete it without anyone’s help.
Used in a Sentence: “You got this bro! All you! It’s all you!”
Ass to Grass
Definition: Doesn’t involve actual grass, but means your butt is going as low as possible on a back or front squat.
Used in a Sentence: “I want to see ass to grass on this next squat, not only going halfway!”
Definition: Used to refer to a specific time span in which you must complete a certain workout circuit.
Used in a Sentence: “This next block is going to wear out your legs.”
Definition: A brace can refer to supportive gear worn by a lifter, but more often refers to the act of keeping your torso tight throughout a heavy lift to maintain proper form. It’s often achieved by taking and holding a deep breath before starting a rep, and exhaling during the eccentric (the lengthening or lowering portion of your lift).
Used in a Sentence: “Brace yourself! Now lift!”
Definition: Branched-chain amino acids are molecules found in certain protein sources that help with muscle growth and energy production. BCAAs are also sold as a supplement and can reportedly help with preventing muscle fatigue during your workout.
Used in a Sentence: “You should check out our best BCAA supplement guide.”
Definition: Anyone else in the gym, and can be used to describe biological men and women.
Used in a Sentence: “Hey bro, I like your t-shirt.”
Definition: Broscience is a term to describe fitness and nutrition advice that has little to no basis in science. It’s the gym version of an “Old Wive’s Tale.”
Used in a Sentence: “You don’t need to eat protein right after a workout, that’s just broscience.”
Definition: The act of adding weight to your physique, usually in the form of lean muscle mass. People bulk by eating a caloric surplus or consuming more calories than they burn throughout the day. The opposite of cutting.
Used in a Sentence: “Put away the salad, it’s bulking season.”
Definition: A form of rhythmic exercise that raises your heart rate to improve its conditioning and your overall cardiovascular health. Can be walking, running, climbing a stepper, swimming, or using an exercise bike or elliptical.
Used in a Sentence: “Let’s hop on the treadmill and do some cardio.”
Definition: Similar to cardio, but refers to your entire body’s ability to carry out an activity for an extended period of time. Can include pushing a heavy sled, climbing a rope, or doing repeated box jumps. Conditioning workouts are different from cardio in that they’re not as rhythmic, but they are a type of cardio workout, often an endurance-based one.
Used in a Sentence: “Wow, carrying this suitcase around is tiring me out. I need to work on my conditioning.”
Definition: Used mostly in the CrossFit world, this is a type of pull-up where your chest must touch the bar instead of just having your chin pass the height of the bar.
Used in a Sentence: “We’re going to start this block with some CTBs.”
Definition: Chalk is a powdery substance that weightlifters and powerlifters use to increase their grip on a barbell. It helps increase the friction between one’s hands and the bar and reduces the likelihood of any sweat loosening your grip.
Used in a Sentence: “You have any chalk I can use for this next deadlift?”
Definition: The act of using momentum to achieve a certain lift. For example, one might swing their arms during a dumbbell curl or lean back on a lat pulldown. Cheating, however, is not always discouraged during training and can help some people get stronger on certain lifts, so long as it’s done under the supervision of a certified personal trainer.
Used in a Sentence: “I want strict pull-ups, no cheating.”
Definition: A type of CrossFit workout that involves doing a large number of reps of multiple exercises (anywhere from five to 10).
Used in a Sentence: “I don’t know if I can make it through this Chipper WOD.”
Definition: An exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, such as the bench press, squat, and deadlift. The opposite of an isolation exercise.
Used in a Sentence: “You need to do a lot of compound exercises if you want to build serious muscle.”
Definition: A type of muscle contraction where the targeted muscle shortens in length. You may hear a trainer or weightlifter refer to a certain part of the lift as “the concentric,” which just means the part of the move when a muscle is shortening. Your trainer will be able to tell you when that is on certain moves. The opposite of eccentric.
Used in a Sentence: “I want you to squeeze your muscles on the concentric.”
Definition: The pairing of two different exercises in a CrossFit workout.
Used in a Sentence: “For this couplet, you’re going to do a deadlift followed by an over-bar burpee.”
Definition: Your central nervous system, which is the primary system used during strength training.
Used in a Sentence: “Doing heavy deadlifts every day will tax your CNS.”
Definition: The act of reducing your body weight, usually by removing excess body fat from your physique. It’s achieved by being in a caloric deficit, or burning more calories than you consume in a day. The opposite of bulking.
Used in a Sentence: “No dessert for me, I’m cutting.”
Definition: A cycle can refer to a period of time in which you do a certain workout routine, but can also be used to describe an anabolic steroid regimen used by an athlete.
Used in a Sentence: “Oh, him? He just started a new cycle, that’s why he’s repping 315 on bench.”
Definition: Dumbbell. Usually only seen in writing.
Used in a Sentence: “DB incline presses, three sets of 15 reps.”
Definition: The act of lifting lighter weights or reducing the volume in your workout routine to give your muscles and central nervous system a much-needed break. People usually deload for a week, and return to their normal lifting routine for two to three months before doing another deload. A deload can also refer to a week in which someone doesn’t lift at all.
Used in a Sentence: “I know it’s not a lot of weight, but I’m on a deload.”
Definition: Stands for delayed-onset muscle soreness, or the pain you’ll feel in a muscle group 24 to 72 hours after training it.
Used in a Sentence: “Leg day was two days ago? Yup, I’ve got DOMS.”
Definition: A drop set is when you perform a move for as many reps as possible, and then drop the weight and do it again for AMRAP. It’s meant to wear down the targeted muscles and promote muscle growth.
Used in a Sentence: “And to really hit the biceps, we’re going to do a drop set of barbell curls.”
Definition: A type of muscle contraction where the targeted muscle lengthens. You may hear a trainer or weightlifter refer to a certain part of the lift as “the eccentric,” which just means the part of the move when a muscle is lengthening. Your trainer will be able to tell you when that is on certain moves. The opposite of concentric.
Used in a Sentence: “Don’t forget to breathe on the eccentric.”
Definition: Every minute on the minute. Is used to instruct a trainee to do a certain move for a prescribed amount of reps starting at the beginning of each minute, and ending whenever they complete the workout (which will vary based on their fitness level).
Used in a Sentence: “I want you to do 20 push-ups every minute on the minute for 10 minutes.”
Definition: A type of training that seeks to prepare the body for everyday movements, such as squatting and hip-hinging. This is a controversial term in the fitness industry, as some argue that every type of training is functional training (a deadlift, for example, is similar to picking up a heavy box from your doorstep).
Used in a Sentence: “My functional training class helped me with my hip pain.”
Definition: For time. Is used in CrossFit to tell trainees that they should strive to complete a workout as fast as possible, or at least under the time limit prescribed.
Used in a Sentence: “We’re going to do a CrossFit WOD for time today!”
Definition: Gains is the term used to describe muscular or strength improvements.
Used in a Sentence: “Whoa, I see you’re making some gains in the gym.”
Definition: A slang term used to describe steroids.
Used in a Sentence: “Is he on gear?”
Definition: Biceps, specifically those that are well-developed and large.
Used in a Sentence: “Don’t make me bring my guns out.”
Definition: Someone who spends a lot of time in the gym and makes working out their personality.
Used in a Sentence: “All he does is lift weights, he’s a total gym rat.”
Definition: A rep that’s only done with a half range of motion.
Used in a Sentence: “I can only get a half rep with that weight.”
Definition: High-intensity interval training. A type of workout that involves short bursts of intense cardio exercises followed by a short rest period and repeated. Used when people are short on time.
Used in a Sentence: “I don’t have a lot of time for cardio so I’m just going to do a HIIT workout.”
Definition: Handstand pushup.
Used in a Sentence: “Today’s WOD: 100 HSPUs.”
Definition: Hypertrophy means growing one’s muscles, so a hypertrophy workout would be one that’s focused on building muscle over strength gains.
Used in a Sentence: “We’re going to focus on hypertrophy over the next week.”
Definition: Describes the period of time someone is training, and can also be used to describe a supplement you take to increase your energy during your workout that may or may not contain branched-chain amino acids.
Used in a Sentence: “I usually just drink lemonade for my intra-workout drink.”
Invisible Lat Syndrome
Definition: This is the sensation some bodybuilders experience after a back workout, in which they think their lats are wider than they actually are.
Used in a Sentence: “Bro, it’s just invisible lat syndrome; you’ll be able to fit through the door just fine.”
Definition: An exercise that targets a singular muscle group, such as a shoulder press or leg curl. The opposite of a compound exercise.
Used in a Sentence: “You should do some shoulder isolation exercises if you want to grow your delts.”
Definition: Kettlebell. You will usually only see this written, though it may be spoken.
Used in a Sentence: “We’re going to KB snatches today.”
Definition: Kilogram. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds. This unit of measurement is often found on Olympic weightlifting plates.
Used in a Sentence: “I heard Kate had a 71 kg lift the other day! What’s that in pounds?”
Definition: The cross-hatch pattern on a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, or any other home gym equipment that helps provide additional grip. Knurling can either be passive (very soft and barely noticeable), medium (noticeable, but not enough to hurt), or aggressive (a sharp cross-hatch pattern that may leave a mark or even cut skin, depending on how aggressive the knurling is.
Used in a Sentence: “I love a barbell with aggressive knurling for pulling movements.”
Definition: Macros, also called macronutrients, refer to protein, carbohydrates, and fats, the three sources of all calories. Depending on one’s fitness goals, someone may eat more of a certain macronutrient than someone else.
Used in a Sentence: “What are the macros on that protein ice cream?”
Definition: Metabolic conditioning. A workout that combines strength and cardio moves that are aimed at increasing your conditioning and boosting your metabolism. Also, a type of shoe made by Nike.
Used in a Sentence: “We’re going to do a metcon workout later today”
Definition: A gym rookie or beginner.
Used in a Sentence: “We should help him out, he’s a newbie.”
Definition: Overhead squat. It’s the first move many certified personal trainers have a client do to test their mobility, flexibility, and stability. To do an overhead squat, you put a barbell over your head and squat to full depth (thighs parallel to the floor. No need to go ass to grass).
Used in a Sentence: “I want you to do an OHS for me with this empty barbell.”
Definition: A state of little to no progress, either with strength gains, hypertrophy, or weight loss.
Used in a Sentence: “I was getting really strong but I seem to have hit a plateau.”
Definition: Performance-enhancing drugs, or steroids.
Used in a Sentence: “Which athletes do you think are still taking PEDs?”
Definition: A supplement that seeks to provide trainees with enough energy to get through their workout. It usually contains caffeine, but some pre-workouts are stimulant-free and provide energy with things like nitrates.
Used in a Sentence: “You want a scoop of my pre-workout?”
RELATED: Best Pre-Workout
Definition: Personal record or personal best. Used to describe the best accomplishment someone has achieved with a lift, running time, or any other physical accomplishment.
Used in a Sentence: “I just hit a deadlift PR today!”
Definition: When a bodybuilder is very lean and has little fat body mass on their physique, they’re peeled. This is usually used to describe someone with great vascularity throughout their body.
Used in a Sentence: “Chris Bumstead always looks peeled around Mr. Olympia.”
Definition: The period of time in which someone is preparing for a bodybuilding show, powerlifting meet, or any other competition.
Used in a Sentence: “How long is your prep for your weightlifting competition?”
Definition: A pump is when someone’s muscles are engorged following a workout, making them seem larger than they actually are. The muscles will increase in size when blood rushes to the muscles being worked and shrink to their normal size a few minutes after the workout is done.
Used in a Sentence: “My pump’s so big I’m having trouble taking my hoodie off.”
Definition: A squat rack, but it can also refer to a power cage, squat stand, or bench rack. Someone may also tell you to “rack your weights,” which means to put them back where they belong.
Used in a Sentence: “Nobody ever racks their dumbbells after they’re done with them, and that’s why I own a home gym.”
Definition: A rep is the action of completing an exercise once, such as doing one jumping jack. So if your workout routine tells you to do 10 reps of bicep curls, that’s how many curls you do.
Used in a Sentence: “We’re going to keep the reps low on this move.”
Definition: Ripped is used to describe someone who has a physique with a lot of defined muscle mass and very little body fat.
Used in a Sentence: “You’re looking ripped for beach season.”
Definition: Ring muscle-up, which is a muscle-up that’s done on gymnastic rings.
Used in a Sentence: “How many RMUs do you think you can do?”
Definition: Range of motion, or how far you can move a joint or muscle. Everyone’s range of motion looks different depending on their flexibility.
Used in a Sentence: “Make sure your exercise bike seat is adjusted so you can get a full range of motion in your legs.”
Definition: Rated perceived exertion/reps in reserve. These are terms used to evaluate how difficult a lift was. Rated perceived exertion works similarly to how you’d rate the pain at a doctor’s office—the higher the number, the more difficult the lift was.
Reps in reserve is the opposite, as it measures how many additional reps you could potentially do after a heavy lift. So if you have eight reps in reserve, the lift was pretty easy, whereas if you only had one it took a lot of energy out of you.
Used in a Sentence: “It’s crazy that he can do a 500-pound squat with an RPE of six.”
Definition: As prescribed. Primarily used by CrossFit coaches to instruct athletes on how many reps they should exercise for and at what amount of weight.
Used in a Sentence: “In today’s WOD, the deadlifts are 155 pounds Rx or 125 pounds scaled. ”
Definition: The act of using a sandbag, instead of traditional free weights like barbells and dumbbells, to complete a workout. Some people may sandbag a workout to prepare for a CrossFit competition, or because it lends itself to functional training more than a barbell.
Sandbagging is also used by CrossFitters to express an intentional slow down of a workout because they’re sore.
Used in a Sentence: “I have a feeling I’m going to sandbag tomorrow’s workout.”
Definition: Not as written. In CrossFit, scaling a workout means modifying the Rx (as written) workout to suit your fitness level and accommodate for injuries or soreness.
Used in a sentence: “Scale the weight on the deadlifts to something you can lift for 10 reps at a time.”
Definition: A set is a collection of reps, which can vary greatly depending on one’s fitness goals. Coaches and trainers will tell you to do a move for a certain number of reps for a certain number of sets. So three sets of 15 reps would equal 45 total reps.
Used in a Sentence: “How many more sets do you have on this weight bench?”
Definition: The act of supervising someone during a dangerous lift, such as the bench press. The spotter, the person spotting the lifter, will either keep their hands near the bar in case the lifter can’t complete the move or simply stand close by in case the lifter needs help.
Used in a Sentence: “Hey, can I get a spot from you?
Definition: Two exercises performed back-to-back with a short rest period.
Used in a Sentence: “We’re going to do a superset of bench presses followed by lateral raises.”
Definition: Someone who has a large amount of muscle mass. Unlike someone who is ripped or peeled, one who is swole doesn’t necessarily have to have low body fat.”
Used in a Sentence: “He’s looking more swole than a Polar bear.”
Definition: Toes to bar. A CrossFit move that involves hanging from a pull-up bar and reaching your toes to the bar.
Used in a Sentence: “Ugh, today’s WOD has TTBs on it.”
Definition: Time under tension, or the period of time in which a muscle is under tension during a certain move. Increased time under tension usually, though not always, leads to more muscle growth.
Used in a Sentence: “Hold your squat at the bottom of the lift, I want there to be a lot of time under tension.”
Definition: A cartoon clown used to describe CrossFit athletes who are muscular and physically fit, but push themselves to the point where it affects their health. The name comes from Rhabdomyolysis, a condition that occurs when damaged muscle tissue releases substances into the body that can cause damage to the heart and kidneys.
Used in a Sentence: “You have to take a rest day or you’re going to turn into an Uncle Rhabdo.”
Definition: A bodybuilder’s quadriceps, particularly those with great muscle definition.
Used in a Sentence: “Would you look at the wheels on them?”
Definition: Workout of the day. Primarily used in CrossFit to describe the routine athletes will be doing on a particular day.
Used in a Sentence: “Hope you’re ready for today’s WOD.”
Definition: This is the numbering scheme used by CrossFit coaches to tell male and female athletes, respectively, how much weight they should use for a certain move.
Used in a Sentence: “Today’s WOD: Deadlifts, 225/135.”
FAQs About Gym Slang
What does “a set” mean in gym lingo?
A set is a collection of reps or movements of a certain exercise. So 10 tricep extensions would be one set.
What are gym lovers called?
Gym lovers are called gym rats.
What does “ripped” mean in gym slang?
Ripped refers to someone whose physique has a noticeable amount of muscular definition.
- McCarthy JJ, Esser KA. Anabolic and catabolic pathways regulating skeletal muscle mass. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010;13(3):230-235. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833781b5
- AbuMoh’d MF, Matalqah L, Al-Abdulla Z. Effects of Oral Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Intake on Muscular and Central Fatigue During an Incremental Exercise. J Hum Kinet. 2020;72:69-78. Published 2020 Mar 31. doi:10.2478/hukin-2019-0099
- Laughlin MH. Skeletal muscle blood flow capacity: role of muscle pump in exercise hyperemia. Am J Physiol. 1987;253(5 Pt 2):H993-H1004. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.1987.253.5.H993
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