Common Gym Terms and Their Meaning

By: Mollie Shauger | Friday, January 24, 2020 | Fitness

A male fitness instructor helps a woman using a suspension trainer. Credit :iStock

From buzzwords like HIIT, to training terms like core and suspension, the fitness industry has its own language to be learned. Whether you’re new to the gym or just want a refresher, here's how the American Council on Exercise defines many of the common exercise terms heard around the gym. 

Common acronyms

BMR (Basal metabolic rate)

The amount of energy expended while at rest in order to perform biological functions. In general, the more muscle mass one has, the higher the BMR.

BMI (Body mass index)

A person's weight in kilograms divided by his or her height in meters, squared. BMI should be used in conjunction with other measurements for best results.  

HIIT  (High intensity interval training) 

Short, intense work periods provide improved athletic capacity and metabolism.

TRX® (Total Body Resistance Exercise) 

Refers to yellow and black straps anchored to the wall or ceiling equipment and used for bodyweight and suspension training.

Common terminology


The central most part of the body. In fitness, it means the area between the legs and arms. Core training often focuses on training the abdominals, but can also include back, hip and shoulder training.  


A set amount of time in work, followed by a set amount of time in rest.

Rep and set 

A rep is short for repetitions, and means one completed motion of exercise, while set is the number of cycles of reps completed.

Lifting weights

General resistance training with a variety of exercises and equipment. What most people do for strength training in the gym.

Personal training

Personal training involves working one-on-one with a trainer who can create a customized program to meet your individual fitness goals. 

Group training

Smaller, semi-private group in which the trainer leads by coaching. 



Cardio machines that create a range of motion that follows an elliptical pattern, reducing impact to joints.

Free weights

Dumbbells or other equipment used freely or without the guidance of a machine or cable.


Kettlebells are cast iron weights ranging from 5 pounds to over 100 pounds, shaped like a ball with a handle for easy gripping. Used for swinging, lifting or carrying. 

Medicine ball

Firm, weighted ball often used for throwing and catching with resistance. 

Kettlebells. Credit: iStock

Types of exercise


Short for cardiorespiratory or cardiovascular exercise, and refers to any type of exercise that elevates the heart rate to pump oxygen and nutrient-carrying blood to working muscles. Common equipment in the gym that promote cardio exercise include treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes. 

Circuit Training

Circuit training alternates between exercise stations to work different muscle groups. After completing a station, you move quickly to the next station, with little or no rest in between.

Functional training

Like the name indicates, functional strength training uses compound or multi-joint exercises or movements to improve a person’s everyday functions or movements, like lifting, sitting or walking up stairs. 

Group exercise

Mode specific, often choreographed classes such as indoor cycling, Zumba, aqua, or group strength training, where the instructor leads by demonstrating exercises.

Strength training

Also known as weight or resistance training — is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a specific muscle or muscle group against external resistance, including free-weights, weight machines, or your own body weight, according to Everyday Health.

Suspension training

Suspension training typically involves using a portable suspension training tool to leverage one’s body weight and gravity to perform a variety of exercises. If you see the letters TRX next to a class name, that’s the brand of trainer used in the workouts. 


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