Is your gym membership gathering dust because you feel self-conscious surrounded by experienced gym junkies? Alice Algie shows you how to mix it with the pros with our novices' guide to gym jargon.

Beginners' guide to gym jargon - Women's Health and Fitness Magazine


With the right information, you too can become an experienced gym bunny. We've put together the ultimate A-to-Z of gym terms – you'll be sweating like a pro before you know it.

Anaerobic training

Not to be confused with aerobic training, anaerobic training involves exercising at a very high intensity for a short amount of time. This causes the body to enter a stage of glycolysis, where oxygen is not used as energy – instead, stored carbohydrates and fats are used to fuel the body.

Basal MetabolicRate (BMR)

Basal Metabolic Rate refers to the amount of energy your body uses in a period of rest. Your BMR indicates the minimum amount of calories your body needs to consume in order to maintain your weight.

Circuit training

Circuit training is a series of short workouts using different equipment that aims to keep the heart rate high. Circuit training is an effective method of training as you can improve your cardio fitness, strength and endurance in a pre-determined, time-effective workout.


Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a common complaint for newbies at the gym. DOMS often occurs 24-72 hours after a strenuous workout, and is the result of micro-tears in the muscles. It's best to avoid exercise until the pain of DOMS has subsided, allowing your muscles to repair.

Eccentric contraction

This refers to the process of lengthening the muscle while it is in a state of contraction, and is a main cause of hamstring and groin strains. An example of an eccentric contraction is when you lower the weight of a dumbbell during a bicep curl, as the muscle is being elongated while it is engaged.


Also known as 'train-to-failure', this occurs when you repeat an exercise movement to the point where you can't perform one more exercise, resulting in momentary muscular failure. This is favoured by hardcore gym junkies as it works your muscles to their maximum capacity.


Glutes refer to the muscles that make up your backside. Often a hard-to-target muscle group for women, some of the best exercises to target your glutes are squats, lunges and stair climbing.


This is a term that refers to the excessive growth of a muscle as a result of an increase in the size of muscle cells. Natural hypertrophy occurs normally once a teenager has reached full growth, but muscular hypertrophy can be increased through strength training. Excessive hypertrophy is often seen in bodybuilders and weightlifters.

Interval training

This describes exercise that alternates between high and low intensity, and is a favoured technique to boost cardio endurance and burn calories.
A popular method is to alternate between sprinting and jogging, and most treadmills have an interval function on their settings.

Jogger's knee

This condition is officially known as patello-femoral syndrome and occurs when a jogger exerts themself for too long or too fast, resulting in damage to the back of the knee cap.


This strange-looking weight resembles a small cannonball with a handle. It has been around for hundreds of years, and is great for improving strength and fitness. Many gyms have kettlebell group fitness classes that will teach you how to use the kettlebell in a way that strengthens your whole body.


Otherwise known as latissimus dorsi muscles, your lats are large, flat muscles on either side of your spine. Women often neglect their back when working out, but targeting specific muscles such as your lats is a great way to reduce the dreaded back-fat and leave you looking toned and terrific from all angles.

MVe chair

This is a piece of Pilates equipment that is being introduced to gyms nationwide. It is used to perform a range of Pilates moves in new ways that improve the resistance of traditional exercises.

Neutral spine

This is a term that is important for a range of exercises, and involves keeping the natural 'S-shaped' curve in your spine. Keeping a neutral spine reduces stress on other ligaments, and can be applied to most forms of exercise, from walking to weightlifting and yoga.


Your oblique muscles run down either side of your abdominals and are responsible for bending and twisting. Toning your obliques will help you achieve a slim and defined waistline, and improve your posture.

Plateau effect

This often occurs when your body becomes accustomed to a workout and slows down the weight loss process. It can be frustrating for people who want to see results. Boosting the intensity and duration of workouts should solve the plateau problem.


Your quads are the large muscles at the front of your thighs, and can be targeted with squats, lunges and leg extensions.


Reps (repetitions) refer to a single movement repeated a certain number of times. For example, 10 reps of a bicep curl would involve performing the complete exercise 10 separate times.


Sets are a block of movements and are made up of a certain number of individual reps. For example, one set may be made up of 10 reps of bicep curls.

Target heart rate

Calculating your target heart rate is the best way to ensure you're getting the most out of your workout and performing at your best. Performing within your target heart rate will prevent you from overexerting your body, or from working too lightly.


Although they're typically used as a form of diagnostic imagery, ultrasounds can also be used as a form of physical therapy to promote healing in damaged muscle tissues and alleviate any associated pain.

Vibration platform

Although relatively new, many gyms are adopting vibration platforms as a unique form of exercise. They use vibrations to stimulate the muscles into contraction, giving your muscles a workout with minimal effort. You can perform a range of exercises on the vibration platform – including squats, lunges and push-ups – in ways that stimulate different muscles.

Wobble board

This funny-looking device is a piece of equipment designed to improve balance and reflexes. The most common exercise is to stand on the board and move side to side, without the front and back of the board touching the ground.

X-training (cross-training)

X-training is a form of exercise that involves a variety of different cardio and strength-training techniques to improve your overall fitness. X-training is a great way to exercise as it prevents boredom and stops your body from becoming accustomed to certain workouts.


Once a discipline specifically aimed at those wanting to engage in a journey of spiritual enlightenment, yoga is a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures and meditation. Now a mainstay in gym timetables across the world, yoga is a great form of exercise that will stretch your whole body, improve muscle tone and reduce stress.


A term once restricted to Pilates, zip-it-up is now utilised across a range of abdominal exercises. To zip-it-up is to drop your chest, engage and contract your abs and engage your pelvic floor, as though a zip is running up towards your naval, keeping your core tight and aligned.

So there you have it! Becoming familiar with the jargon is a great way to begin your fitness journey, and with our A-to-Z of fitness terms, you'll soon be on your way to a toned, trim and terrific body!