The Workout Terms and Equipment Athletes Need to Know

Confused when you hear people talk about working out? This glossary of common terms will clear up the confusion.

If you're new to working out, some of the terms you might hear spoken around the weight room or have read on your workout chart might seem like a foreign language. Eccentric? What the heck is that? Compound exercise? No clue what that means. Landmine? Umm, OK...

So rather than going into your workout uneducatd, we decided to create a glossary of some of the common strength training terms you'll come across.

Training Terms

1RM - The maximum amount of weight you can lift on a single rep. This is typically only used for measuring strength on the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and Olympic lifts. You can also measure your sub-max strength by testing how much weight you can perform for 2 or more reps. (Here's how to test your max safely)

Absolute Strength - Also refers to the maximum weight you can lift in a single rep.

Bodyweight Exercises - Self-explanatory. Any exercise performed using just your body weight for resistance. (The best bodyweight exercises for strength and size)

Compound Exercises - Any exercise that involves two or more joints, and as a result, multiple muscle groups. Examples of compound exercises include Squats, Push-Ups, Bench Press, Deadlift, Pull-Ups and Rows.

Concentric - A concentric muscle contraction is when a muscle is shortening—what most refer to as a muscle contraction. For example, your biceps concentrically contracts as you curl the weight up during a Bicep Curl. Concentric also refers to the lifting of an exercise, such as when you stand up out of a Squat.

Circuit - A group of three or more exercises performed back-to-back with little to no rest between exercises. A circuit is also typically repeated for multiple sets. An example would look like:

  1. Squats x 10
  2. Push-Ups x 10
  3. Lunges x 10 each leg
  4. Pull-Ups x 10

To complete this circuit, you'd do 10 reps of Squats, and then 10 reps of Push-ups and so on. Once you finish the final exercise, you start over again—usually after a period of rest—and complete the circuit again, and continue for the specified number of sets.

Eccentric - An eccentric muscle contraction is when the muscle is lengthening under tension, like your biceps during the lowering portion of a Biceps Curl. Eccentric also refers to the lowering—or negative—portion of an exercise, such as when you lower into a Squat. (Use eccentric lifts to increase strength and size)

Fast-Twitch Fiber - A type of muscle fiber designed to quickly and powerful contract to produce maximum strength and power movements, such as a sprint, jump or heavy Squat. Although powerful, these fibers quickly fatigue. (3 ways to develop fast-twitch muscle fibers)

Hypertrophy - The scientific term for muscle growth. (An athlete's guide to building muscle)

Intensity - This is a fancy word for the difficulty of an exercise. For example, a Back Squat with 300 pounds has a greater intensity than one with 200 pounds. Also, a Bench Press where you lower the bar slowly and briefly pause on your chest before exploding up as a greater intensity than reps performed quickly.

Isolation Exercises - Any exercise that involves a single joint and targets a single muscle group. Examples include Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions and Hamstring Curls. (When to use isolation exercises for growth)

Isometric - An isometric muscle contraction is when a muscle is contracting but not changing in length. For example, your biceps isometrically contract during the brief hold at the top of a Bicep Curl. It also refers to the transition between the eccentric and concentric portion of a lift at the middle of a rep when there's a brief pause. (How paused reps build strength)

Landmine - Refers to an angled barbell movement where one end of the barbell is on the ground, and the opposite end is held by the lifter. Usually, the barbell is anchored into a pivot joint that allows the bar to rotate. (How to set up for landmine exercises)

Plyometrics - An exercise designed to increase explosive power. The movements—often but not explosively repeated jumps—force your muscles to absorb force and quickly release that force again. (Learn more about how plyos work here)

Power - Power refers to the amount of work done over time, which is calculated by the equation -> Power = (Force x Distance) / Time. All exercises produce some type of power. However, power generally refers to reps that are performed explosively, or as quickly as possible. (Check out these 5 power exercises)

Relative Strength - The maximum amount of weight you can lift in relation to your body weight. For example, a person who can deadlift 475 pounds at 175 pounds has a greater relative strength (2.71 x body weight) than someone who can deadlift 600 pounds at 250 pounds (2.4 x body weight). (How your Deadlift max will make you faster)

Reps - The number of times you perform an exercise. For example, you might do 10 reps of Push-Ups, which means you perform a complete Push-Up 10 times.

Rest - The amount of time you spend resting between sets or exercises. This allows your muscles to recover so you can perform the next set with enough strength or power to complete the number of prescribed reps at the weight you're using.

Sets - the number of rounds of reps you complete. For example, you might do three rounds, or sets, of 10 reps of Push-Ups. You rest after completing the prescribed number of reps and then move onto the next set, and so on.

Note: On, you will see sets and reps as for example, Sets/Reps: 3x10, meaning three sets of 10 reps per set.

Slow-Twitch Fibers - A type of muscle fiber designed for endurance that allows you to perform long-duration activities, such as a long jog or even a marathon. (Learn more about slow-twitch fibers)

Superset - Two exercises paired together and performed back-to-back with minimal rest. This sequence is repeated for multiple sets, allowing you to work more muscle groups in less time. (Everything you need to know about supersets)

Volume - The total number of reps you do in a single exercise or an entire workout. For example, 5x12 is considered high volume while 5x3 is considered low volume.

Workout Equipment

Adjustable Bench - A bench that can be adjusted in increments from a flat position to a 90-degree angle. (Example)

Barbell - A 7-foot steel bar that weighs 45 pounds and is used for Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses and other exercises. Plates are loaded onto the sides of the bar to increase the total weight. There are many different types of barbells with features such as an aggressive knurling (grip), high-level of whip (the amount the bar bends) and different weights—however, 45 pounds is by far the most common. (Example)

Collars/Clips - Metal or plastic collars or clips that slide over the collar of a barbell to prevent weights from rattling or sliding off the bar as you lift. (Why you always need to use collars)

Dumbbells - One of the most common pieces of exercise equipment, a dumbbell is simply a handle with weights on each side. The weights typically begin at 2.5 pounds and increase by 2.5 pounds up to 15 pounds. The weight increments then typically increase by five pounds up to 150 or more pounds depending availability at your gym. (Check out 25 Dumbbell Exercises You've Never Seen Before)

Foam Roller - A small cylinder that can help relieve muscle tension. (Learn more about foam rolling here)

Kettlebell - A heavy ball with a handle that allows you to perform exercises during which you swing the weight. You can also use these as a substitute for many dumbbell exercises that offer unique benefits over dumbbells. (Try These Highly-Effective Kettlebell Exercises)

Med Ball - Heavy balls that are usually about the size of a basketball and are designed for throwing and slamming against the ground or a wall. (Essential med ball exercises that build power)

Platform - An elevated surface—typically made out of a combination of wood and rubber—that allows you to drop a bar loaded with plates without damaging the bar or the floor under you. This is most often used with Deadlifts and Olympic Lifts.

Rack/Cage - A metal structure designed to support a barbell for lifts like the Squat and Bench Press, and typically features some type of safety mechanism, such as pins. There are many different types of racks, but they all have the same fundamental purpose—to allow you to safely lift heavy weights. (Example)

Resistance Bands - Thick elastic bands that provide resistance to a movement, or can be used in addition to weights. (5 ways to use resistance bands in your workouts)

Suspension Trainer - A set of adjustable straps with handles that hang from the ceiling or a rack/pull-up bar and allow for many unique exercise variations. (Check out some suspension trainer exercises)

Swiss Ball/Physioball/Exercise Ball - An inflatable ball that comes in various sizes typically used for core exercises and instability training. (Improve your balance with Swiss Ball exercises)

Trap Bar - A hexagon-shaped bar that's primarily designed for Trap Bar Deadlift, but also allows for unique variations of other popular exercises.

Have a term you're not familiar with? Let us know @STACKMedia and we'll add it to the list.