The Ultimate Workout Dictionary. Deciphering Gym Lingo!

This is the ultimate workout dictionary. It’s designed to decipher the lingo that can often times be confusing to you if you are just starting your fitness journey.

So let me break down the common words and acronyms that you may hear your trainer or your gym friends use. By the end you should be able to step into the gym and conquer your sessions with confidence!

Workout dictionary
Workout Dictionary

Workout Dictionary – The Basics:

A set is number of times you will have a certain exercise in your workout. Example being your workout could include 4 Sets of 10 Reps of bicep curls. That means you would have 4 sets of 10 of the exercise.

“Reps” are repetitions or how many times you will complete the exercise in your set (see above). An example of this is 4 Sets of 10 Reps of bicep curls. This means you would complete 10 bicep curls in a row before resting for your next set.

Tempo is the speed of the exercise. If the tempo is written 2-1-2, you would take 2 seconds to get from the start of the move to the middle of the move. For 1 second you would hold the lift and the middle of the exercise, and then release to take 2 seconds to get back to your starting position.

DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is the phenomena that has you using the handicap rails in the bathroom for a few days after a new workout or a move maybe you have not done in a while… When preforming any exercise your muscles tear microscopically. Don’t worry – this is normal. When they heal, they become stronger, allowing you to be able to lift a heavier load.

Load me up! Your load that you are lifting is the weight. If you are just beginning in the gym, your load may just be your body weight for the exercise. If you are a little more advanced, your load may be the weight of the bar (plus any plates you add) that you use to bench press.

Turn up the volume! Not that kind of volume… well I’m not talking about the gangsta rap or 80’s rock you have blasting in your headphones. Volume in this case means increasing the amount of sets and/or reps of your workout.

Are you dense? OK – really I am referring to the density of your workouts. How much rest are you taking between your sets.

Failure. Not the emotions you feel towards life at the moment… (thanks COVID). Failure in the gym means you preform as many of a written exercise as you can before your form fails you and you can no longer lift the weight properly.

Workout Dictionary: Intermediate

Supine – any exercise that is prescribed to be in the face up position. For example, the bench press is a supine exercise as you are laying down face up while completing the movements.

Prone – any exercise that is prescribed to be in the face down position. For example, the “superman” movement is a prone exercise.

Progressive Overload – when you practice increasing the load, volume or density of your workouts to gain muscle growth and improvement in your gym sessions. Doing more over time is the name of the game here… however, do not think that this needs to happen quickly.

Know your body – period. Periodization requires you listen to what your body is telling you. Feeling fantastic? Go for that PR. Feeling womptastic? Scale it back a bit and lift lighter weight.

Hypertrophy – basically this is the process of building muscle. How you pronounce it? Here it is phonetically (hi-per-tre-phy). SCIENCE!

SPLIT! I don’t mean your pants… Depending on how many days a week you are focusing on your workout, will depend the muscle groups you split your workout into. Your split will be different if you are working 3 days or 5 days but should incorporate push days, pull days and leg days.

Push Days – These “push” days in your training program are where you will train the pushing muscles of the upper body such as the chest, shoulders and triceps.

Pull Days – These “pull” days in your training program are where you will train the pulling muscles of the upper body such as the back and biceps.

Leg Days – These leg days are where you will focus on training legs for the majority if not all of the workout.

Constant Tension – designed for you to not go allow the muscle to relax or rest. For example, you are performing the bicep curl. Instead of allowing your arm to reach your beginning point, keep the muscle in constant tension and activation only going part of the way back to start before returning back to the top of the move. In other words not completing a full range of motion.

Gym Rat (advanced verbiage)

Drop Set – You preform the exercise as written, then immediately reduce the weight and complete the exercise again until failure.

Running the Rack – Completing and exercise, dropping down to the next lower weight do as many reps as it takes you to fail, and repeating this process going all the way the dumbbell rack. Making sure to reach failure at each weight.

Plate Stripping – not referring to the demolition of your Thanksgiving dinner feast. Think of Running the Rack but with weight plates on the barbell. You strip the bar of weight plates as you preform each exercise to failure.

Man, that’s NEAT! NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is all the activity that you do during the day that is not considered a “workout” but still burns calories. For you that could mean folding laundry or doing dishes, teaching a classroom or counting warehouse inventory. All of these things count towards your NEAT.

Compound. Although, some may say that gyms suck you in like a cult and have you on a compound. But compound movements or exercises move multiple muscle groups at the same time. For an example preforming a squat works the quads, glutes, and calves. You will also hear this referred to as primary exercises.

Isolation. Solitary confinement anyone? No? OK. When it comes to isolation exercises, you are focusing on one specific muscle, such as the bicep curl, or the tricep extension. These exercises are also referred to as accessory work.

Plyometrics or Plyo are exercises designed to increase your speed and strength by using maximum force in a short time period.

HIIT. Flashbacks of being beat up by my big brother for something that I would do to annoy him. This stands for High Intensity Interval Training. These are cardio session that have you using your max energy for short sets of time (20 – 90 seconds) then slowing down (but not stopping) until the next round pushes you again.

Circuits are where you preform one exercise then move on to the next, and continue this pattern until you reach the last exercise. Then start back over with the first exercise. This method of training can help you if you are pressed on time, but still want to get a great workout session in.

AMRAP stands for as many reps as possible. The clock is set for a time frame and you preform as many reps as possible until the timer goes off.


Take a load off… or in other words, de-load. Not a vacation, but scaling it back at the gym and lifting lighter during a specific prescribed week. This allows your muscles to get a break. Normally your diet will de-load too. This techniques gives the mind and body a break and a little bit of a reset.

OK – leave you with one more helpful tidbit. The meaning of the abbreviations. Some you may know, and some may seem like doctor code.

Workout Dictionary: Abbreviations

  • ABD: Abduction – muscles you use to rotate your arms and legs.
  • ALT: Alternating – one side of the body then the other.
  • BB: Barbell – long bar that uses plate weights.
  • BW: Bodyweight – what the Good Lord gave you.
  • CG: Close Grip – hand placement just inside the shoulders.
  • DB: Dumbbells – handheld weights.
  • DL: Deadlift – compound movement of the lower body.
  • GS: Giant Set – four exercises in a set to be preformed one right after the other before resting.
  • HT: Hip Thrust – exercise focusing on trusting the hips up and activating the glutes.
  • KB: Kettlebell – round weight with handle on top.
  • OH: Overhead – any exercises where the movement goes over the head.
  • PR: Personal Record – the highest amount of weight you can lift for a specific exercise.
  • SB: Stability Ball – the big round ball that can be used for abdominal exercises, glute exercises and more.
  • SL: Single Leg – preform an exercise on one leg at a time.
  • SS: Superset – two exercises in a set to be preformed one right after the other before resting.
  • TC: Terra-Core – like a Bosu but better. (I also have an affiliate link if you want one for 25% off. Click here.)
  • TS: Tri-Set – three exercises in a set to be preformed one right after the other before resting.
  • UG: Underhand Grip – thumbs pointing out and palms facing towards you.
  • WG: Wide Grip – Hand placement is just outside the shoulder blades. Do not confuse this with gripping as wide as you can. Just outside the shoulder blades is far enough.

Final Thoughts…

I hope that you found this Ultimate Workout Dictionary helpful and enlightening!

I am always here to decipher trainer lingo and help make the gym a more pleasurable experience for you. Oh, by the way, I am taking online training clients and would be happy to see if it is right for you!

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