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Gym Terms 101

basic gym terms

Supersets, drop sets, bulking, cutting, HIIT … what does it all mean?! Starting out as a newbie at the gym can often lead you to face a flurry of new confusing terminology. Don’t let this scare you away!

Learning gym lingo can be like learning a new language (but it’s way easier to pick up). We’ll take you through 5 basic gym terms you need to get your exercise routine on track.

5 Core Gym Terms


Reps, or repetitions, are the basic unit used to define the number of times you raise and lower weight during an exercise. Just crushed 5 pull-ups? That’s 5 reps.


The number of reps you complete of a specific exercise is considered one set. In many exercise plans, you may see instructions like “Leg press 3×12”. This means you should perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions for a total of 36 leg presses.


This commonly refers to the period between sets where you are taking a break. Resting between sets isn’t lazy. It can help ensure you are using good and proper form for each exercise. Good form is key for maximizing the results from all your hard work (and helps you lift safely).

For high-intensity interval training (HIIT), the rest period may only be 10–30 seconds. For a traditional resistance training program, rest periods tend to range from 1–3 minutes between each set.


Your PR is your personal record or personal best. Did you finally do 10 push-ups for the first time? That’s your personal best. If you manage to do 11 the following week, this is your new PR.


Around the gym water cooler, you may hear the term “stack” thrown about in the context of what “stack” people are taking. This term doesn’t refer to an exercise or piece of gym equipment, but rather the number of supplements someone is taking. If someone is using protein powder, creatine, and caffeine pills, this is their supplement stack.

Gym Tips

  • Don’t feel pressured into learning all these gym terms at once. The more regularly you exercise the more naturally these terms will become a part of your everyday lingo.
  • The terms you encounter can depend on which types of exercises you are into. Enjoy intense workouts? Terms like HIIT (high-intensity interval training), AMRAP (as many reps/rounds as possible), and WOD (workout of the day) may pop up more often. Is resistance training your thing? It can be helpful to become familiar with terms like superset, drop set, and deloading.
  • Some machine and equipment names can be bewildering. Learning the names of the equipment you regularly use at the gym can make you feel a little bit more comfortable in your exercise routine.
  • When in doubt, ask. There’s no need to wander around the gym, lost in a sea of confusing terms. If you are uncertain about anything, particularly when it comes to using equipment correctly, don’t hesitate to look it up on your phone or approach the gym staff and see if they can help you out.

Last Words

Finally, keep realistic expectations and don’t get discouraged. Haven’t picked up all the gym lingo in a week? On the scale of importance, it matters much more that you are showing up for your workout consistently. Over time, the gym lingo knowledge will come!

Image credit: Brandon Morales on Unsplash and Clayton Scelzi on Unsplash

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