Beginner’s guide to the gym

Your one-stop guide to common gym terminology

Written by Kent Schietinger


When you enter a gym for the first time, you’ll hear a lot of new terminology as you walk around scoping out the lay of the land. From certain muscles to certain exercises, from kilograms to pounds, from dumbbells to barbells and from sets to reps, you should become familiar with these terms as it will help you move towards a stronger, healthier body. Here are some important examples:


A unit of weight in the imperial system. It can be used in determining the weights of dumbbells, barbells, and plates, and is most commonly used in America.


A unit of weight in the metric system.  It can be used in determining the weights of dumbbells, barbells, and plates, and is most commonly used in Europe.

Rep (Repetition)

The number of times you will perform an exercise in a given set. Performing an exercise with higher reps and lower weight at a rapid pace will lead to increased muscle definition and a higher amount of fat burned, with a short rest time between sets. Performing an exercise with lower reps at a higher weight will lead to increased muscle strength and size with a longer rest time between sets. Example: In the first set of Bench Presses you will perform 10 reps at 135 lbs.


One round of an exercise consisting of a specified number of reps. Each set is often followed by a short break in between. Example: When doing triceps extensions, the first set will be 15 reps, followed by two more sets.


Smaller weights to be used when performing one-handed exercises ranging in weights from 5lbs up to 150lbs.


A bar generally weighing 45lbs on its own, that is used for exercises using two hands. Barbells have the ability to have plates (weight) added on to both ends, allowing the bar to maintain its balance and increase its weight.


Weight that can be added to the end of barbells for various exercises, to maintain its balance and increase its weight.

Body Weight Exercises

Exercises to be performed with your body weight only. Additional weights are optional. Example: Pushups, bodyweight squats, dips, pull-ups, and so on.


An effective way of training two or more muscle groups back to back without any rest between exercises. This is an effective way of keeping your heart rate up and burning more calories during a workout. You can superset as many exercises as you’d like depending on your training goals. Example: Often times you find people performing supersets consisting of an arm exercise, dumbbell curls, and an abdominal exercise. Both exercises are performed with a specific amount of reps and then a short break is taken between each superset.


Exercise using machines such as the treadmill or elliptical. Cardio machines are a great way to burn calories as well as increasing endurance and agility.

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