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Fitness culture can be intimidating. It can feel like a space only for the most elite of gym goers. Whether it’s on Instagram, in magazines, or on the gym floor, we’re constantly seeing people with shredded stomachs doing ridiculously difficult workouts and using terms and acronyms we’ve never heard of before. It’s a big reason why some of us don’t feel like we’re able to get involved. Heaven forbid we approach a machine with no idea how it works or stare blankly when someone uses a phrase that means nothing to us.

It can feel like an all or nothing culture. Either live it or leave it. But that could not be further from the truth. Fitness is for everybody. It doesn’t matter how often you work out, what you choose to do, or how much you can lift; we all have a place for fitness in our lives.

So, if your favourite six pack is the one full of beer and not on your stomach, but you’re still keen to get involved with fitness, this guide is for you. It’s a quick run down of that gym jargon you hear.


Reps and Sets

Reps (short for repetitions) are the number of times you do a particular movement. Sets are the number of times you do a bunch of reps. For example, if you do 10 squats, this is 10 reps. If you do 4 lots of 10 squats, this is 4 sets of 10 reps.


One rep max

The maximum weight you can manage to perform a particular lift just one time.


To failure

Rather than putting a particular time or number against an exercise or lift, ‘to failure’ means doing it until you cannot physically do it anymore.


Super sets

Doing a set of lifts or exercises and immediately moving onto the next exercise or lift with no break in between. For example, doing 2 sets of overhead presses followed immediately by 2 sets of chest presses.


Drop set

Performing reps of a lift until failure, then dropping the amount of weight and continuing with sets of a lower weight.



Stands for Every Minute On The Minute. Making use of every minute and attempting to perform a number of reps within that time frame. Any time left within the minute is for rest.



High Intensity Interval Training. Short sharp workouts that get your heart rate up. Working in intervals of intense exercise followed by a short break. For example, 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off.



A type of HIIT named after the bloke who invented it. It’s 20 seconds of ultra-high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated for 8 cycles.



Plyometrics are explosive actions that lengthen and shorten the muscles. Think short and sharp bursts of energy and power. For example, jump squats.



Bodyweight training that focuses on working major muscle groups and can be a form of both strength and aerobic fitness training. Think push ups, pull ups, sit ups, lunges, star jumps – you name it.


Compound Exercises

Compound exercises or lifts are ones that work more than one muscle group at a time.


Isolation Exercises

Exercises or lifts that (attempt to) work only one muscle in isolation.



Stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. The stiffness you feel the day or two after a heavy weight training session? That’s DOMs.



Types of lifts that are often used in competition. Squats, bench press and deadlift. You get three chances to lift your maximum weight once.



Simply put, mobility is the range of motion you have within a particular joint.


Muscle activation

Activating your muscles. Literally, just moving and working your muscles. Often used to describe warm-up activity that wakes them up before you start lifting heavy.



Stands for ‘as many rounds as possible’. You’ve got a routine made up from multiple reps of different exercises. How many rounds of that routine can you complete within a certain time frame.



Stands for ‘personal best’. Everyone’s favourite word. Achieving a new personal record in terms of time, distance, weight, or whatever it is your tracking progress by.


Progressive Overload

Progressive overload describes gradually increasing the number of reps or the amount of weight you work with on a certain exercise or lift in order to progress.


Isometric Exercises

Isometric exercises involve statically holding a muscle in contraction for a fixed period of time, without motion. Think planks and wall sits.


Cutting & Bulking

Bulking is the practice of increasing your caloric intake with the aim of building muscle mass over a period time. Often followed by cutting: the reduction of your caloric intake to reduce any fat gained alongside the muscle and become as lean as possible.


Armed with your new knowledge of fitness focused terms, you’re ready to hit the gym. Except you were always ready to hit the gym. But at least now you can nod along to the gym jargon.