Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, understanding these 12 gym terms is essential for achieving your fitness goals. In this comprehensive guide, we break down each term and explain its significance in your workout routine.

Being a beginner in an unfamiliar setting can be intimidating at first. It can also be confusing.

If you hear people in a gym throwing around words you don’t know, and you don’t feel comfortable asking what they mean, it could be even more frustrating.

Fortunately, M&S has you covered. A while back we released a gym glossary with some definitions that can help you learn the training language.

Here, we provide even more terms and phrases that can help you lifting rookies know what we’re talking about.

The 12 Gym Terms Everybody Needs to Know

1. Concentric

This is the actual lifting of the weight and contraction of the muscle you’re training. The obvious example is a barbell curl.

When you use the force in your biceps to curl the barbell up, this is the concentric portion of the rep. A lifter can either perform the concentric portion as quickly as possible to maximize power and speed, or it can be performed under control to maximize the tension on the working muscles.

It’s also known as the “positive” portion of the rep.

Related: Essential Muscle Building Supplements in 2023

2. Contraction

The contraction is the flexing of the muscle.

It can be performed at the top of a rep when the weight is lifted, or it can be when a muscle is randomly flexed on its own.

Need an example? Flex your bicep, right now. Feel that? You just contracted the muscle.

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3. Drop Set

Drop sets are a popular and effective way to train the muscles beyond one point of failure.

The lifter would reduce the weight being used after reaching failure, then perform more reps until failure is reached for a second time.

Let’s use the leg press as an example here. If you’re pressing 500 pounds, and you reach failure after 10 reps, you could reduce the weight by 100 pounds or so, then get back into position and perform more reps.

The weight that is reduced is up to the lifter or trainer. There’s no standard number or percentage. If the weight is dropped twice in one set, it’s known as a “double drop set.”

Related: How to Use Drop Sets For Strength & Hypertrophy

4. Eccentric

We covered the concentric portion of a rep earlier. Eccentrics are when the tension on the muscle is reduced and the weight is lowered back to the starting position.

These should always be performed under control for two reasons.

First, performing eccentrics too quickly can cause potential injuries. Second, the eccentric phase is actually when the muscle is at its strongest, so you can train them more effectively by taking time to go from a contracted position to its starting point.

The longer you perform the eccentric, the more challenging it becomes. Some programs call for five to ten-second eccentrics, also known as “negatives.”

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5. Progressive Overload

This is a principle that you may have already followed without knowing it. The most common form of progressive overload is when you increase the weight that you’re using over the course of the number of sets you’re performing.

If you were to perform the bench press for three sets of 10 reps, then you would add weight to each set, even though the reps remain the same. This means the first two sets wouldn’t be performed to failure.

The first set of 135 pounds may be easy, followed by a more challenging set with 155 pounds. Neither set provided a maximum challenge. Then, you add 30 more pounds to the bar to make it 185, and 10 reps are all you get. You’ve now reached failure by progressive overload.

Progressive overload can also be applied to reps and minutes performed on cardio.

6. RIR

This stands for “Reps in Reserve.”

If you see a training log or program with this, then it likely means that you shouldn’t perform that set to failure.

For example, if you’re performing seated dumbbell curls, and your log reads “10 reps, 2 RIR,” then you should perform the set until you can do 2 more reps, but you stop at that point.

So, you want to choose a weight that you can do for 12 reps. If that would be 30 pounds, then you would grab the 30’s and stop at 10 reps.

Related: The Clean Bulk Diet: 3 Options For Lean Muscle

7. RPE

This acronym means “Rating of Perceived Exertion” or “Rate of Perceived Effort.” It’s more commonly used in powerlifting and strongman circles than in bodybuilding training.

Instead of focusing on the weight, you pay attention to the effort you’re giving based on a scale of 1-10.

If you were to perform squats for 4 reps with an RPE of 8, then you load weight that would require 80% of your effort to lift for 4 reps. If the RPE is 10, then obviously you would go to complete failure. RPE of 5 is pretty much warming up.

8. Rest-Pause Set

This is another training method that allows someone to reach failure more than once, but the weight doesn’t have to be reduced.

The lifter would perform reps until failure is reached. After a 10-15 second rest, the lifter performs more reps with the same weight until failure is reached a second time.

If you were to perform seated rows with 150 pounds for 10 reps, then you would stop after the 10th rep, count to 10 or 15, then continue. You shouldn’t get more than five reps or so after that short rest. If you can, then either you didn’t really train to failure, or you should use a heavier weight.

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9. Shredded

If someone says you’re shredded, then it means you’re very lean, which is a compliment.

You have visible striations and the muscles can be seen very clearly. Bodybuilders and fitness people love hearing this.

Other synonyms include “ripped,” sliced,” “diced,” and “cut,” While the compliment is usually welcomed with open ears, be warned. If you don’t have abs, you ain’t shredded.

10. Static Hold

Static holds are also known as isometric holds. They are used to help prepare the body for work to come, or they can be another way to train a muscle beyond failure.

If you’ve performed planks or squats in the bottom position for extended periods of time, then you’ve performed static holds. This is a great way to warm-up at the beginning of a session.

Another static hold can be performed at the end of a set.

Let’s use the incline dumbbell press as the example. You’ve reached the last rep you can perform. If you try again, then the weight won’t go up. Instead, hold the weight at the top and squeeze the chest as hard as you can for as long as you can.

Bodybuilders use this method because they believe it will add density and thickness to the muscles being worked.

Related: 5 Full Body Workouts Without Steroids for Serious Gains

11. Triset

You may be familiar with a superset, which is two exercises performed back-to-back without rest in between.

A trust sees that and raises you one. Performing three exercises in a row will be an intense challenge.

These are best performed with movements or machines that don’t require much travel or transition time. If you try to work on opposite ends of the gym at the same time, someone may jump in your machine when you’re not using it.

One great way to perform trisects is with dumbbells. A popular shoulder grouping is front raises, lateral raises, and rear lateral raises. You can perform all three with the same pair of weights without moving. These can be done at home or in the gym.

Related: 5 Quick muscle-building Breakfast Ideas

12. Volume

Most people think that volume is strictly based on the number of sets you do.

Volume is a metric that can determine how much effort you’ve put in the workout. The most popular way to determine volume is by weights, sets, and reps.

If you lift 100 pounds for three sets of ten reps, then you would multiply those numbers to determine your volume for that exercise.

100 pounds x 3 sets x 10 reps = 3,000 pounds of volume.

Some lifters have the goal of performing the most volume possible over the course of a workout. If you see the word “volume” applied to a program, then it could be about this, or simply making sure you do a high number of exercises and sets.

More Essential Gym Terms


Cardio refers to any form of exercise that increases your heart rate and respiration, such as running, cycling, or swimming. Cardio is essential for maintaining overall health and fitness


HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. HIIT is great for burning fat and increasing cardiovascular fitness.


DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, refers to the soreness and stiffness you feel in your muscles a day or two after a workout. DOMS is a normal and common response to exercise, especially when trying new movements or increasing intensity. It’s important to listen to your body and allow adequate rest and recovery time to prevent injury.


Form refers to the proper technique and alignment used during exercises. Proper form is essential for preventing injury and ensuring that the intended muscle groups are being targeted. It’s important to learn proper form from a qualified fitness professional and to continually check and correct form during workouts.

What’s Your Favorite Gym Term?

If there is a word you know that didn’t make the list, add it in the comments section below.

Make sure you give the definition so we can all benefit from the knowledge you’re bestowing upon the M&S community.