For many fitness first-timers, the gym can be an intimidating place! Aside from getting to grips with the rules of gym etiquette and knowing how to use a myriad of exercise contraptions (we can help you with that!), there’s the subject of gym vocabulary.

Gym jargon & home workout terminology may sound like a whole new language to those not in the know. Many of us pretend to understand fitness terms & the jargon when we haven’t a clue what they mean. Because of course, we’d hate to look foolish amongst friends when it comes to our fitness knowledge & gym slang!

So we'll walk you through an A-Z of fitness speak, from bulking to burping and other baffling buzzwords!

Notepads at the ready…

Active Recovery

Fitness terminology for ‘rest’ day activities. Incorporating gentle movement and low-intensity activity to encourage circulation and help your body recover and rebuild your muscles after working out.

Use it: “I’m going to go on a light walk as part of my active recovery”


The art of changing direction quickly. Helped along by working on exercises that make you more flexible, and get your heart rate pumping. 

Use it: "That fitness class has really helped improve my agility"


An acronym that stands for ‘As Many Reps As Possible’. A type of high intensity workout where you aim to complete the maximum number of repetitions of an exercise within a set time.

Use it: “I’m going to do an AMRAP workout every week & track my progress”


Body Mass Index is calculated by looking at your height and body weight to come up with a sum that indicates how well your health is doing. An ideal BMI is between 18.9 and 24.

Use it: "I'm working on decreasing my BMI"


Increasing the amount of calories you take in, in order to gain muscle mass.

Use it: "Pass me the chicken... I'm bulking right now"


This exercise will work the whole body. How to do it properly...

Start bent over with your back arched, hands on the ground in front of you, feet behind you. Jump backwards, and immediately back to your original spot. Then jump into the air with arms above your head. Repeat and repeat and repeat...

Use it: "Just off to do a few burpees"


Exercises you can do using no added weight, commonly referred to as body-weight training such as push ups and pull-ups.

Use it: "Outside of the gym, I love a bit of calisthenics"


Short for cardiovascular. Any exercise that gets the heart pumping. Think, running, cross-training, aerobics classes, circuits and rowing.

Use it: "That BodyPump class is a great cardio workout"


Put simply? A set of exercises. The sequence of exercises can be timed, doing as many reps within a time frame, or you can complete a set number of rounds of each exercise.

Use it: “I completed every round of that circuit class!”

Clean Eating

Eating natural, unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits and anything in it's natural state. No sugars, processed carbs or manufactured eats.

Use it: "No brownies for me thanks, I'm clean eating"

Compound Exercise

An exercise that targets multiple muscle groups (e.g. lunges) as opposed to isolated exercises (e.g. bicep curl).

Use it: “That compound exercise burned my abs and my glutes”

Cool Down

Performing exercises at the end of your workout to gradually lower your heart rate and bring your body back to a resting state.

Use it: “Remember to do a gentle cool down after your workout!”


Decreasing the number of calories you take in whilst increasing your cardio (see above). This is a great way of shedding excess fat and allowing your muscle definition to come through.

Use it: "I said no brownies! I'm cutting right now"


A deadlift involves lifting a weight from the floor whilst standing, great for strengthening the lower back, toning those glutes and improving the strength of your hamstrings.

Use it: "I get these great glutes from deadlifting"


That agonizing muscle soreness that creeps on two days after a workout.

Use it: "Oh god, I have a serious case of DOMS right now"

Donkey Kicks

Think of an angry donkey kicking out. Start on all fours and bend one knee up behind you to hip level and lower without touching the floor.

Use it: "Let's get some donkey kicks done to work our quads"

Downward Dog

Named after the way dogs naturally stretch, the downward dog is a yoga pose, intended to stretch through the spine and limbs. A great way to have a good stretch!

Use it: "I love a good stretch with a downward dog"

Drop Sets

Completing an exercise multiple times, but reducing the weight each time, with no rest in between. For example, 10 reps of 20kg, 10 reps of 10kg, 10 reps of 5kg.

Use it: "I start my drop sets around 30kgs"

Free Weights

Weights that stand free, unfixed from a piece of equipment. Dumbbells, barbells and kettle bells for example.

Use it: "I'll meet you by the free weights"

Functional Training

Exercise techniques that help with every day tasks by making you more 'functional'. 

Use it: "That rig at Village Gym Portsmouth is awesome for functional training"


‘High Intensity Interval Training’. Quick, intense bursts of exercise with very short recovery time, burning high calories during and after your workout.

Use it: “That HIIT workout was so challenging!”


A cast-iron weight which looks like a bowling ball with a handle. Used for a number of exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.

Use it: "Grab me a kettlebell so I can work my arms"

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is the stuff that's produced by the body when you work muscles hard. A build up of lactic acid is what causes your muscles to fatigue during a workout. Here are a few ways to soothe it. 

Use it: "Yeah I'm sore too, must be the lactic acid"

Maintaining Form

Ensuring you're keeping the correct technique when performing an exercise.

Use it: "Will you spot me to ensure I'm maintaining form?" (also see: spotter)

Mountain Climbers

A press up where you bring each knee as close to the chest as possible.

Use it: "I'm upping my game with some mountain climbers"


Lie flat and hold your body, back straight, with your weight on your toes and elbows for as long as possible.

Use it: "How long can you hold a plank?"


An exercise that involves rapid and repeated stretching and contracting of the muscles. Great for burning fat, toning the whole body and Try our Plyo studio class, crafted by fitness legends, Les Mills.

Use it: "That plyometrics class at Village Gym is awesome!"

Power Lift

Three movements used in a power lifting competition; the squat, bench press and dead lift.

Use it: "I'm really into power lifting for toning my legs"


Good bacteria. You'll find it in yoghurts, certain protein shakes and can take them as supplements if your gut needs a boost of the good stuff. 

Use it: "My body needs some probiotics right now"


A heavy metal sled which is pushed whilst running. Great for building muscle strength, power and speed.

Use it: "Let's tag team on the prowler"


Short for repetition.

Use it: "I've done 10 reps"


A specified number of reps of one exercise type, usually used within strength training. Usually you would complete between 6-15 reps as part of one set. The weight used will impact the number of reps you can do within one set.

Use it: “Let’s do 3 sets of 15 reps.”


An indoor cycling fitness class, great for improving cardiovascular fitness, burning calories and perfect for those that love to cycle in a group.

Use it: "Let's get booked onto that spinning class"


A friend that watches as you lift to make sure you're safe and lifting with the right technique.

Use it: "Got a minute? I need a spotter"


It is what it is... a squat. Stand straight, feet hip-width apart, and bend the knees into a squatting position. Great for toning the butt!

Use it: "I get a butt like this because I squat"

Super Set

A combination of two exercises back to back with a short rest period in between. Super sets can be used to push a certain muscle group to exhaustion (e.g. goblet squats and sumo squats) or to work two opposing muscles (e.g. chest press and row).

Use it: “That super set just killed my legs.”


A type of high-intensity interval training consisting of 20 seconds at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat for a given number of exercises and sets.

Use it: “That Tabata workout was so intense!”

Whey Protein

Protein from whey, a by-product of cheese production, used as a dietary supplement in a powder form that is typically mixed with water or milk. 

Use it: "I get my whey protein products in the leisure reception at Village Gym."


Hopefully our list of fitness terms & jargon give you a head start when you go to the gym. Be sure to check out our Village Life section for more helpful articles. Good luck!


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