What is isotonic exercise and other gym terms you need to know

The gym can be a confusing place the way it is. So many new exercises, new machines, new modalities. For the uninitiated, it can be an overwhelming experience.

One barrier that many people struggle with is language in and around the fitness community. Luckily, we’ve scoured the weight racks and shelves to provide you with a comprehensive glossary of common gym terms and slang. Whether you’re entering new territory or just want to get a better grip on your training, here’s a training diary with some useful gym terms to know.


“As many representatives as possible.” An AMRAP workout is common in strength training and is designed to push you to your absolute limit. Instead of a preset number of reps, you are instructed to move the weight until you can no longer physically lift it.

Why it matters: AMRAP workouts can be a great way to mix up your training through intensification. These workouts can increase the difficulty, pushing your performance until your fuel tank is completely empty, which leads to additional muscle development and a greater sense of accomplishment.


“Delayed onset muscle pain.” This acronym describes the physical pain you may feel 24 or 48 hours after training.

Why it matters: Understanding DOMS can help you plan your recovery sessions, targeting muscle groups and creating an effective post-workout experience. Plus, knowing that DOMS is common can keep you motivated, rather than afraid of the side effects of a solid workout.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT workouts consist of short bursts of energy followed by a small recovery window. Common in CrossFit gyms, this style of training can be an effective way to stay in shape.

Why it matters: When you go looking for a new workout routine, you want to make sure it has everything you’re looking for, right? While HIIT workouts can be an effective and challenging experience, they’re not the best fitness solution for everyone. Take note before registering for this new course.

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Isotonic exercise

A training method that requires muscles to resist weight through a range of motion. Many exercises use isotonic modalities, including aerobics, walking, hiking, squats, bench presses, bicep curls and more. It differs from Isometric Exercise, where the muscles are engaged in a static position, such as a plank or a bridge.

Why it matters: Knowing the difference between isotonic and isometric exercises can help you tailor your training to your personal preferences. While isometric exercises can be great for muscle engagement, especially when recovering from injury, isotonic movements can be better for cardiovascular training, as well as increasing muscle density.


“Rate of perceived exertion.” This training tool focuses on the intensity you perceive of an exercise, rather than programming your workouts based on percentages and one-rep maximums.

Why it matters: RPE Training can help you reinvent your fitness routine without needing to know your PRs. Instead, you can listen to your body to create an engaging workout without the need or requirement to move a pre-designed total.

young man reading a book while lifting weights

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Other useful gym terms to know

” Weight gain ” : A diet method focused on the idea of ​​gaining muscle. The idea focuses on having a caloric surplus to fuel intense training and muscle growth.

BCAAs: Branch-vshate amini acids is a general term for the essential amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine. BCAAs are a common workout supplement intended to help reduce muscle damage, improve recovery time, and suppress lactic acid production.

Concentric: A part of any exercise where the muscle contracts or shortens. In a bicep curl, for example, the concentric part is when you lift the dumbbell up to your chest.

Drop game: A training term referring to a decrease in weight resistance with the same number of repetitions without any rest period between sets. Typically, a drop set is performed at the end of an exercise to optimize the output and end the modality on a pulsating high note.

EZ Bar: A dumbbell style commonly used in bicep curls that features a center zigzag bend for a more comfortable grip. EZ bars typically weigh 15 pounds, unlike the standard Olympic barbell, which weighs around 45 pounds.

Failure: Similar to AMRAP, “failure” is a training term that means completing an exercise until you can no longer move the bar or weight. Completing an exercise “to failure” can be an effective way to train your muscles to their maximum potential.

Free weights: The general term used to describe dumbbells, dumbbells and weight plates. Essentially any workout equipment not attached to a machine.

“Gain”: Slang for training progress.

“Half-rep.”: Slang for completing a 50% move. For example, a squat where you barely go down with your hips not becoming parallel to your knees would be considered a “half rep.”

Intermittent fasting: A method of dieting that involves alternating between fasting and eating on a regular schedule. This method has been shown to help some people better manage their weight and control their portions.

J-hooks: A style of barbell grip, typically found in a squat rack. These mechanics look like a capital J and are where you rest the bar before or after a completed lift.

Load: A verb describing the action of placing more weight on a bar or machine.

Macros: General term referring to the three macronutrients essential to a proper diet: proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

“Nati”: Slang referring to someone not taking performance-enhancing supplements.

Maximum one representative: Training term referring to what you can lift for one repetition in a specific exercise.

Plateau: A phrase in reference to prolonged periods of interrupted progression. Plateaus can occur when your workouts stop or you find yourself unable to accomplish new PRs.

PR: Personal card. Often this acronym is used to describe a maximum of one representative.

Plyometrics: A type of training discipline focused on the use of speed and strength through various movements and modalities. Common plyometric exercises include box jumps, wide jumps, jump rope and others.

Quads: Abbreviation for quadriceps. These are the main muscles in your legs.

Representing: Abbreviation for repetition. Typically, you perform an exercise for a prescribed number of repetitions.

Adjust: Training term referring to a prescribed number of repetitions. Most workout routines will require an exercise to be performed in X number of reps for X number of sets.

Place: A person who monitors your exercise to ensure maximum safety. Most common in strength training, a spotter essentially helps defend your body against your training.

Supplements: Nutritional additives that can potentially boost your dieting potential. These products are designed to add nutrients that you cannot get through normal food consumption.

Sumomo: A style of deadlift where your feet are further apart and your hands are inside your knees. The sumo deadlift can be useful for those with shorter arms and can be beneficial for targeting the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and other muscles in your posterior chain.

Tabata: A training method developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata where you perform a maximum intensity exercise for 20 seconds, immediately followed by a 10 second recovery period.

Vascularity: A condition, most common in bodybuilding, where you have many prominent veins that are very visible due to a decrease in body fat.

Volume: A general term referring to the amount of work done in a gymnasium.

“Work in”: Slang for intervening in another person’s workout routine. Rather than waiting for the bench or machine to open, you can “work out” to buy time so two people can train and recover at an appropriate pace.

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