What is Isotonic Exercise and More Gym Terms You Need to Know

Here's your A–Z guide on common gym terminology and how these popular phrases can pump up your next workout.

man uses tablet in the gym
cipellaGetty Images

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

One hurdle that many people struggle to overcome is the language in and around the fitness community. Thankfully, we've scoured the weight racks and bookshelves to deliver a comprehensive glossary of common gym terms and slang. Whether you're stepping into new territory or just wanting to get a better grip on your training, here are a workout log's worth of helpful gym terms to know.


"As Many Reps as Possible." An AMRAP workout is common in strength training exercises and is designed to push you to your absolute limit. Instead of a pre-set number of repetitions, you're instructed to move the weight until you cannot physically lift it anymore.

Why It's Important: AMRAP workouts can be a great way to mix up your training through intensification. These sessions can ramp up the difficulty, pushing your performance until your fuel tank is completely empty, leading to further muscle development and that greater sense of accomplishment.


"Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness." This acronym describes the physical pain you may feel 24 or 48 hours post-workout.

Why It's Important: Understanding DOMS can help you plan out your recovery sessions, targeting muscle groups and creating an effective post-workout experience. Additionally, knowing that DOMS is common can keep you motivated, rather than fearful of the after effects of a solid workout.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

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

Why It's Important: When you go to look for a new training routine, you want to make sure it has everything you're looking for, right? While HIIT workouts can be an effective, sweat-inducing experience, they're not the best fitness solution for everyone. Take note before you sign up for that new class.

adult man practicing battle rope in gym
Edwin Tan Getty Images

Isotonic Exercise

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

Why It's Important: Knowing the difference between isotonic and isometric exercises can help you curate your training to your personal preferences. While isometric exercises can be great for muscle engagement, especially during injury recovery, isotonic movements can be better for cardiovascular training, as well as increased muscle density.


"Rate of Perceived Exertion." This training tool places emphasis on how intense you perceive an exercise to be, rather than programming your workouts based on percentages and one-rep maxes.

Why It's Important: RPE Training can help you reimagine your fitness routine without the need of knowing your PRs. Instead, you can listen to your body to create a worthwhile training session without the need or requirement of moving a preconceived total.

young man reading book while lifting weights
PhotoAlto/Sandro Di Carlo DarsaGetty Images

Other Helpful Gym Terms to Know

"Bulking": A dieting method focused around the idea of gaining muscle. The idea focuses around having a caloric surplus to fuel intense training and muscle growth.

BCAAs: Branched-chain amino acids is a general term for essential amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine. BCAAs are a common training supplement that are intended to help lessen muscle damage, improve recovery time and suppress the production of lactic acid.

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

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

EZ Bar: A barbell style commonly used in bicep curls that features a zigzag bend in the center for a more comfortable grip. EZ bars are typically 15 pounds, as opposed to the standard Olympic barbell, which weighs roughly 45 pounds.

Failure: Similar to AMRAP, "failure" is a training term meaning to complete an exercise until you cannot 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, barbells and weight plates. Essentially, any training equipment not attached to a machine.

"Gains": Slang for training progress.

"Half-Rep": Slang for completing a movement by 50 percent. For example, a squat where you barely descend with your hips not becoming parallel to your knees would be considered a "half rep."

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

J-Hooks: A style of barbell catch, typically found in a squat rack. These mechanisms resemble a capital J and are where you rest the barbell before or after a completed lift.

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

Macros: A general term referring to the three macronutrients vital to proper dieting: protein, fats and carbohydrates.

"Natty": Slang referring to someone that doesn't take performance-enhancing supplements.

One-Rep Max: A training term referring to how much you can lift for one repetition in a specific exercise.

Plateau: A phrase in reference to prolonged periods of halted progression. Plateaus can occur when your workouts stall or you've found yourself unable to accomplish new PRs.

PR: Personal record. Oftentimes, this acronym is used to describe a one-rep max.

Plyometric: A type of training discipline focused around the use of speed and force through varying movements and modalities. Common plyometric exercises include box jumps, broad jumps, skipping rope and others.

Quads: Short for quadriceps. These are your primary leg muscles.

Rep: Short for repetition. Typically, you perform an exercise for a prescribed amount of reps.

Set: A training term referring to a prescribed number of repetitions. Most training routines will call for an exercise to be completed in X amount of reps for X amount of sets.

Spot: An individual that overlooks your exercise to ensure maximum safety. Most common in strength training, a spotter helps defend your body against your training, in essence.

Supplements: Nutritional additives that can potentially boost your dieting potential. These products are designed to add nutrients that you're unable to attain through normal food consumption.

Sumo: A style of deadlifting where your feet are wider apart and your hands are inside your knees. The sumo deadlift can be helpful for those with shorter arms, and can be advantageous for targeting the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and other muscles in your posterior chain.

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

Vascularity: A body condition, most exhibited in bodybuilding, where you have many highly visible, prominent veins as a result of lessened body fat.

Volume: A general term referring to the quantity of work performed in a gym.

"Work In": Slang for interjecting in another individual's workout routine. Rather than waiting for the bench or machine to open, you can "work in" for time efficiency so that two individuals can train and recover at an appropriate rate.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Top Stories