27 Fitness Terms a Gym Newbie Needs to Know

27 Fitness Terms a Gym Newbie Needs to Know

If you've never stepped into a gym, it's pretty intimidating.

Beyond physical intimidation, you'll probably hear other people in the gym talking like they are using a different language. It's not secret code, it's just a few fitness terms that are the foundational knowledge of lifting.

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You may not need to understand how protein synthesis works, but you need to understand what a rep and set are.

So if you've been on a long hiatus or you are brand new to the gym, here's some lingo that you're going to have to learn.

27 Fitness Terms


What sounds like a local insurance branch, AMRAP is an acronym for "as many reps as possible."

You can do AMRAP for time or in a set.

If you are using it in a set, some people call this a burnout or all-out set.


You probably know what the barbell is - it's the long metal bar used to lift.

You evenly place plates on each end, allowing you to have freedom with the amount you put on.

Most regular barbells weigh anywhere from 35 to 55 pounds, with 45 pounds being the most popular. Cheap bars sometimes weigh less, and specialty bars can weigh more.

A loaded barbell, or fixed-plate barbell, are the weights that look like a dumbbell with a barbell handle. These weights are fixed and generally on a rack with others.

Push Ups

Bodyweight Exercise

Any exercise that you can do using your own bodyweight as your form of resistance is a bodyweight exercise.

You can't do a bench press without a barbell or weights, but you can do a push-up.

Here are a few popular bodyweight exercises:

  • Squats and pistol squats
  • Pushups
  • Pull-ups
  • Planks
  • Ab rollouts
  • Glute bridges
  • Inverted rows
  • Burpees
  • Dips
  • Lunges
  • Box jumps
  • Mountain climbers

There are a lot of bodyweight exercises and variations so do some research and find some you like.


No one likes cardio anyways, so why should you know what the term means?

Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise - any activity that raises your heart and breathing rate, while improving the function of your circulatory system.

There's generally a whole area of cardio machines like stationary bikes, treadmills, and ellipticals.

Cardio sucks, but it's great for heart health and conditioning.


A circuit is simply a series of exercises.

You can circuit any exercises, but I'd recommend picking exercises that work different things. For instance, you could circuit jumping jacks, push-ups, and bodyweight squats.

Doing the exercises back to back with little to no rest is the trick here.


The collar is the things you put on the barbell to keep the weights from sliding off.
They are going to be metal or plastic, and probably thrown around the gym.

Compound Lifts

Compound lifts are exercises that use more than one joint.

A curl only utilizes your elbow joint. On the other hand, a barbell bench press utilizes your elbows, shoulders, wrists, and honestly, your entire body.


This is the free weights on the rack by the mirror. I know you know what dumbbells are.

They are great for exercise variants and can help build bigger lifts with the barbell.


A dropset is a technique where you have your barbell loaded up, you do a set, take a set of plates off, and go again.

For example, if you were benching 225, instead of having two 45lb plates per side, do a 45, 25, and two 10lb plates per side.

Now you can do a set at 225, drop down to 205, 185, 135.

Drop sets are challenging and I only recommend doing them with a spotter or inside of a power rack.

Free Weights

Anything that's not a machine is generally considered a free-weight.

If they aren't fixed to a machine or cable, they can be moved in any direction.

Free-weights are great because they require us to exert more effort and engage smaller stabilizer muscles along with the primary muscle group being targeted.

Compound lifts are king.


HIIT is an acronym for "high-intensity interval training."

These workouts consist of a period of maximal effort training with a short recovery period.

A simple HIIT workout could look like this:

  • Warm up
  • All-out intensity for 30 seconds
  • Lower intensity recovery for 15 seconds
  • Repeat for desired amount of time

Cycling between all-out work and a recovery period allows us to push our bodies harder and achieve more benefits from the time we put in.


An isometric exercise is an exercise that you are holding a static position.

Common isometric exercises include holding a plank or even flexing your muscles.


A kettlebell looks like a cannonball with a handle. They are cast-iron and can be used for a variety of effective exercises.

Find out how to do the kettlebell swing and start making some progress.


Your max refers to the max amount you can lift.

You may hear someone say their "one rep max" or "three rep max," and that's all it means. They were able to lift this much weight for that many reps.

I invite you not to test your max - it slows recovery, slowing progress.

Maximum Heart Rate

You've probably seen this sticker on your cardio machine.

This is the maximum rate that your heart can beat for one minute - varying person to person.

Just because the sticker says you can go up to 180 beats per minute doesn't mean you should.

Make the heart stronger, don't nuclear bomb it.


Weight plates are what you put on your barbell. Slap a couple plates on and start lifting.

If you've ever heard someone sound like they are talking about the change in their pockets, this is what they mean:

  • Wheel is a 45-pound plate
  • No one really uses 35-pound plates
  • Quarter is a 25-pound plate
  • Dime is a 10-pound plate
  • Nickel is a 5-pound plate
  • A chip is a 2.5-pound plate

Power Rack

A power rack is the thing you see people doing squats in.

These are great to lifting solo due to their catches and safety features.

Whatever you do, don't curl in one.


Looking to get more explosive? Plyometrics are explosive exercises that use maximum effort in very short bursts.

Most moves include jumping such as box jumps, squat jumps, and burpees. But you can also utilize plyometrics in upper-body exercises like medicine ball throws or clapping push-ups.

Rack Your Weights

You don't go to grandma's house and make a mess, do you?

The same applies here.

Put your equipment back where it's supposed to go, bro.


Recovery can be mentioned when you are talking about the rest in between your sets, or from the gym.

Recovery is as important, if not more, than how hard you workout.

Muscles are broken down in the gym, built in the kitchen.


A rep is a repetition. If you do 10 reps, you're doing an exercise 10 times.


A set refers to how many times you complete a series of reps.

If you've done 3 sets of 10 reps, you've essentially done 30 reps total.


It's great to have a spotter - someone who can help you safely lift weights.

If you use a power rack, you don't need a spot - but it's nice.

The spotter can help you un-rack and rack the weight, and offer you a little more strength when you get stuck on a rep.

Strength Training

In general, strength training is training for the purpose of getting stronger and build muscle.

While outside of the scope of this article, there are technically a couple types of lifting that are considered "strength training" - hypertrophy training and strength training.

Hypertrophy training focuses on growing muscle size, while strength training (in this example) is increasing strength by forcing your nervous system to produce more power.


Pairing exercises together doing them back-to-back is called a superset.

You can combine any exercise for a superset, but I recommend two exercises that target different muscles.

One of my favorite supersets would be close grip bench with barbell rows.

Target Heart Rate

Your target heart rate is the range you want to keep your heart rate when doing an exercise.

This is generally the rate that your heart will benefit without it working too hard.

You get your target heart rate by calculating a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

This varies depending on your current level of health, fitness, and age.

Work In

If anyone has ever asked if they could work in with you, they want to get a set in while you are resting.

Similar to a workout partner, you can get a lot of work done and you can get a spot from them.

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