It’s happened. You made it. You signed up at the gym. *and the heavens opened and angels starting singing* And yet…immediate anxiety starts flowing through your body. You’re a gym beginner. You realize you know nothing. Like, nothing. What are all the gym equipment names?! What’s a good gym routine for beginners?!

Never fret!! I’ve got you. I have compiled the ultimate beginner’s guide to the gym with of 50 of the most common fitness terms for gym beginners like you! Here’s to starting to feel confident instead of confused while you’re at the gym!

Don’t know what to do once you get there? Check out one of my recent posts with ideas!

beginners guide to the gym: 50 fitness terms including gym equipment names, workout routines for beginners, and more

Gym Equipment Names

1.Gym Floor: This is the main part of the gym, normally located where the free weights and machines are

2. Free Weights: Pretty much any type of equipment that isn’t tied down to a machine. Free weights normally refers to dumbbells and plates

3. Machines: Normally all clustered together, machines are targeted to specific body parts. You want a leg burn? Try leg extension for quads (top of leg) or leg curls for hamstrings (back of leg)

4. Dumbbell: One of the most versatile pieces you can use in the gym. They’re considered free weights and come in sizes anywhere from 1.5lbs to 300. In gyms they’re going to be located in front of big mirrors by gym benches

5. Kettlebell: Also another piece of very versatile equipment. These guys look like cow bells. Mostly used for compound bodyweight movements and can also be used to increase your endurance.

6. Medicine Ball: Come in my different sizes and materials, but all are circular and smaller than Stability balls (see below). Some medicine balls have a slight bounce, some don’t. These are great for ab exercises.

7. Barbell: Full length (long) size straight bars meant to hold plates (circle sized weights) on the end. These normally weigh 45lbs but there are smaller versions that weigh less

8. Weighted Barbell: These guys are going to be medium length bars with weights attached to the ends. I’d say they’re in the middle of dumbbells and full barbells

9. Stability Ball (Swiss Ball): The big, round bouncy balls. These come in different sizes based on your height (some gyms have multiple, some gyms only do one size). Perfect for if you need to modify (reduce intensity) exercises because of injuries

10. Bosu: The blue half ball. If you’re still like what the heck? You’ll know it when you see it. This is a great piece of exercise to give you an unstable environment, making your body recruit more muscles to perform exercises correctly.

11. TRX: Yellow straps with handles on the end. Don’t let these things fool you, some exercises can be mad hard. The whole thing behind TRX is you use your bodyweight and then depending on where your feet are placed, makes it easier or harder. Great to have for traveling.

12. Squat Rack: Where you do SQUATS. Not bicep curls and I promise you imma lose it if I keep seeing that. This is where the barbells live and it’s a metal contraption of some sort

13. Foam Roller: The random long, circular objects you probably see in the most random places. Don’t get confused, they’re not squishy (and if they are, they’re not good ones). They’re used to “roll out” your muscles or to help loosen them.

14. EZ Bar: The medium size barbell with weights attached that has two, like, divots in it. So it’s kind of liiiiike straight straight, divot, straight, divot.

15. Bench: This can be two things: the exercise of a bench press or the actual bench. The actual bench can be used for a ton of free weight exercises and are normally lined up in front of the dumbbells and mirror.

16. Plates: Round weights that can be seen on squat racks and bench presses. Normally made out of some sort of metal

17. Grips: Some lifters use these to maintain their grip on things like deadlifts. Normally they’re a cloth band that you wrap around your wrist and the barbell

18. Cables: Machine where you lift weight by using cables that you can move up and down to adjust the height accordingly

19. Bands: Also known as resistance bands, these can be used one of two ways: to make exercises harder, or to help with injury recovery. They come in different shapes, sizes and thickness. Normally the thicker the band, the more intense the exercise will be

Types of Exercise

20. Sprints: Normally performed on a piece of cardio equipment or outside (running), sprints are going all out for a short distance. Think like an Olympian and give it 150%

21. HIIT: A.K.A. High Intensity Interval Training. During HIIT, you go all out for a short amount of time, and then slow your heart rate down, and keep repeating. It’s a type of cardio that should only last about 15 minutes.

22. Intervals: When you switch between high effort and low effort. Normally used in running when you alternate between a faster speed and a slower speed

23. Steady-State Cardio: Going at the same pace for an allotted time. Majority of the time, people who go running are doing steady state cardio. It comes down to if there’s no change in how fast you’re moving, it’s steady state cardio.

24. Cardio: Ohhhh cardio. I hate it. I’m gonna say that cardio can be anything that gets your heart rate up. This can be running, swimming, biking etc. At the gym, there’s normally sections with treadmills, ellipticals, etc.

25. Circuit: Hell on earth. I HATE circuits, but they are so good for you. What is that??!!! Anyways, circuits are where you have, say, about 4 different exercises. You set a timer for an allotted time, and then repeat those exercises for the amount of reps prescribed, until the timer runs out. Then you repeat. Sweat.City

26. Two-A-Days: For crazies and those who are about to compete in some sort of fitness/bikini/physique competition. Just kidding! Two-a-days are exactly what they sound like, hitting up the gym twice in a day. Normally when this is the case, one of the sessions is weight specific and the other session is pure cardio.

Parts That Make Up a Workout Plan

27. Rep: Rep stands for repetitions and it’s now many times you do an exercise in a set

28. Set: Set is a certain number of reps done at a time. For example, your program may say to do an exercise 3×12. 3 would be sets, 12 would be reps. So here, you would do the exercise 12 times, repeated 3 times1

29. Rest: After completing an exercise, completely stopping for an allotted amount of time before starting the exercise again for the next set

30. Active Rest: Satan’s Mistress!! This is a rest that actually isn’t a rest, and my clients HATE when I call it a rest lol. Here’s what it is. After doing an exercise, instead of resting, you do something like running in place, or doing a plank, or jumping jacks. You’re keeping your heart rate up the entire time. And it sucks. But it’s amazing.

31. Compound Movement: Movements that require multiple muscles to perform it correctly. Exercises like this would include squats, bench, push-ups, etc. These movements are more times than not completed using free weights or body weight

32. Isolation Movements: Movements specifically targeting one muscle. You’ll be able to achieve these movements by using machines.

33. Superset: This is where there are groups of two exercises. You do one exercise, followed immediately by the other exercise, and THEN rest.

34. Warm Up: Anything you do to get your muscles warm. This could range from hopping on a cardio machine, to doing body weight squats.

35. Calisthenics: This is a fancy term for bodyweight exercises

36. Plyometrics: ALL the jumping! Also known as jump training

37. Max: The maximum weight you can lift for one rep. Can also be considered a one rep max

General Fitness Terms

38. Lifting: When you go to the gym and use weights, it’s referred to as “lifting weights”. Some people just say “I’m going to go lift”, for short.

39. Plateaus: The term that’s used when your weight loss stalls. The best thing to do is either increase your intensity in the gym, or reduce your calorie intake.

40. Split Workout: A split is when you work different parts of your body on different days instead of full body. So some people have their weekly workouts broken into back and biceps, chest, shoulders and triceps, and legs

41. Core: For a detailed description, click here. To put it simply, your core is all around your midsection and part of your lower back. Think of it like a corset.

42. Bulking: This is a bodybuilding term where people are gaining muscle and eating a lot of food. People generally bulk to gain muscle before cutting (see next).

43. Cutting: Cutting is when bodybuilders cut (restrict) their calories so they can shed body fat. Normally happens during the Spring. Normally people are in bad moods cause low carbs.

44. Pre-Workout: A gift from the Gods. This has caffeine and beta-alanine in it which makes you itchy and feel like a superhero. Taken before you workout so it gives you energy.

45. Gains: Gotta get them gains! Aka gaining muscle. Total bro term.

Popular Diets

46. Macros: Macros are carbohydrates, protein and fat. Some people track macros instead of counting calories but it’s pretty much the same thing. The breakdown of macros will depend on what your goal is. Weight loss would be a different breakdown than wanting to build muscle.

47. IIFYM: If It Fits Your Macros. Like explained above, this diet is based off reaching certain numbers for your macros. The whole concept with this is you can eat whatever as long as you hit those macros. Don’t take that as only eating pop tarts though, we still want fruits and veggies

48. Paleo: Also referred to as the Caveman diet, the concept behind this is to only eat what our prehistoric ancestors ate.

49. Keto: Keto is a diet that focuses on very little carbs, and a ton of fats. Keto is short for ketosis, which is what happens to your body when you eat a lot of fats and not many carb

50. Low-Carb Diet: When people take the fun out of life. Haha! Just kidding. This term is most commonly used when people want to shred

Don’t know which diet is right for you? Check out my Guide to Popular Diets, here!

So there you have it! Knowing these 50 fitness terms will get you from gym beginner to expert real quick! What term is new for you and which ones have you heard? I wanna know!

Until next time!

Xx, Ash

50 fitness terms for gym beginners