Gym Jargon

Gym Jargon

Gym Jargon: There is a lot of fitness industry specific jargon floating around. Brush up on your knowledge of the fitness lingo before you start studying your personal training course here. Here are a few common terms that the gym community uses.

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Progressive Overload:

Do what you always did = Get what you always got! Progressive overload is a principle that states the body must continue to be put under new and increased exposure to stress/ load in order for it to adapt and grow. This means to see improvement in strength, fitness or muscle growth we must continually stimulate ourselves beyond what we have previously experienced.


Periodisation refers to the structure of training. A good training program implements periodisation that will take the athlete through different cycles of training. This will be aimed at producing the best performance at a certain time, for instance a competition meet or season. Different phases of the training program can include hypertrophy, strength, power, maintenance and recovery/ rehabilitation. A good program will see the athlete hitting peak performance at the time of competition when they need it the most. A Macrocycle encompasses a whole year (Or an entire training season), and will outline broadly what the years training looks like. A Mesocycle or block (Phase) can usually last between four and eight weeks. A Microcycle is the shortest plan and usually lasts a week. The microcycle (1 week) will facilitate the outcome of the mesocycle (4-8 weeks). Read more here: Periodisation – The Make Up Of An In Season Week.


Eccentric contraction is the lengthening phase of the muscle contraction. It is important for building hypertrophy, strength and stability. Eccentric strength is also crucial for braking or deceleration. Eccentric strength may be anywhere as high as 40 percent more than concentric strength, and can be used to place larger loads on the muscle.


Concentric contraction is the shortening phase of the muscle contraction and builds strength, stability and maximum strength. A 1 RM (Repetition Maximum) is a measure of the highest load that can be lifted concentrically.


Isometric contraction is muscle tension and is created without shortening or lengthening of the muscle. It can be up to 20 percent greater than concentric strength. Isometric strength would be used in martial arts/ combat sports, baseball, cricket, motor sports and any other sport where the athlete is required to hold in a position for an extended period.


The body’s ability to adapt to specific demand or stress upon it. This principle suggests athletes training for specific sports should train as specifically for the sport as possible. This allows the body/ physiological stressors to adapt to those movements and to provide the best results. Different aerobic systems, contraction, movements and a whole array of other things might contribute to the athlete having a less than optimal performance. Some examples would be a soccer player playing basketball. While there will be many carry overs and a good athlete will look the part, the specific requirements/ movements of the other sport will place stress on the athlete in due course. Another example would be an athlete that trains pull ups/ chin ups, while they may be strong at these movements, that would not necessarily carry over to rock climbing/ rope climbs. Read more here Programming For Sports Specific Training.


Bilateral movement refers to the ability to utilise the left and the right sides of the body at the same time. To go one step further, bilateral symmetry would be to be able to apply equal force, stability or output on both sides of the body at the same time. Squatting, deadlifting, bench pressing, and Nordic curls are examples of bilateral exercises that require both sides of the body to work together and support each other.


Unilateral exercises are those that isolate a single limb. This will build coordination, stability and strength in a single limb (which in turn will build all of these functions in bilateral movement). Unilateral exercises may include single leg RDL, step ups, pistol squats and rear foot elevated split squats for lower body. Upper body exercises may include single arm DB row, single arm DB bench press and a half kneeling DB shoulder press. Unilateral exercises should be a very important part of your training.


Asymmetry in the body can occur for any number of reasons. This means there is an imbalance or something is not equal within the body. This can be genetic, brought on through injury or developed over years of training or playing certain sports. Sports where an asymmetry may occur are baseball, cricket, soccer and tennis. You can train to balance asymmetry out. Single leg RDL, chaos carries, single arm bottom up KB press and single arm farmers carry are all used to create balance in an athlete.

Discover more gym lingo in this article Top 50 Fitness and Gym jargon to get the lingo right!. If you found this article useful you may also enjoy The Importance of Olympic Lifting for Personal Trainers, and Endurance Training Jargon.

Learn all the gym and fitness lingo in the Certificate III in Fitness and Certificate IV in Fitness.