Gym Jargon & Slang – The Language of Bodybuilding


The Jargon of Bodybuilding (Gym Slang)

Bodybuilders are a genuine subculture of the population. Consequently, they often use an idiom that, to outsiders, can sound as foreign as Caesar’s Latin. Terms such as reps, bi’s, tri’s, supersets, preexhaustion, forced reps, and negatives are common usage among devotees, but they can leave the initiate looking for  the nearest encyclopedia! Fortunately, the specialized vocabulary is not as intimidating as it may appear, and it’s not even necessary for the beginner to learn more than a quarter of it, since many terms in the jargon relate to more advanced techniques, those designed to add muscle mass to the seasoned physique.

The list of terms that follows will give you a good introduction to the jargon you’re likely to hear in the gym. This is the real language of bodybuilding. When you have a clear understanding of gym jargon, you should have no trouble standing up to the 300-pound, 6-foot-5 (135 kg, 195 cm) monster and asking for a spot or politely telling him to rack his weights. Then flex your tiny pistols and get back to work on making the perfect peak.

Gym Jargon – Most Common Terms & Expressions

Beginner’s guide to gym jargon.

  • Cannons (also known as guns, wings, and bazookas) describe the upper arms. Generally, the larger the arm circumference, the greater the size of your gun. Wings means that the size of your arms is birdlike.
  • Pump refers to increasing blood flow to the muscles, which makes them bulge and, when lean enough, may bring out veins. You will typically use this term when you’re convinces you had a really good workout.  Men like to get a good pump, and that is obvious, but women do as well if they want their arms or legs to look shapely when wearing a sleeveless top or a skirt.
  • Cut (and chiseled, shredded, sliced, and diced) refers to a person’s overall percentage of body fat. Those with superior skills at dieting and perfectly trimming their fat to make their muscles pop are considered to be among the very few that receive these super terms. In the bodybuilding
    world, you generally need to have a body fat of less than 6 percent if you truly want to be considered chiseled. In fact since this is such a difficult level to achieve, we further use terms such as “cut like glass”—something difficult to do and very precise. Those lean enough are considered to have paper-thin skin, so nearly every vein in the body is visible.
  • Cuts, lines, and hardness are also terms for being lean but generally refer to the specific quality of a muscle and its shape. You may have nice lines or hardness in one area but are still not shredded enough to be considered super lean.
  • Bulking is the opposite of cutting. Bulking is where bodybuilders increase their calorie intake to help maximize muscle growth. A little fat gain is associated with bulking, but bodybuilders frequently alternate between cutting and bulking to balance out.
  • Juice. If you hear someone say they are on “juice” they aren’t talking about juicing fruits and vegetables, they’re talking about steroids.
  • Peak usually refers to the fully flexed biceps muscle poking out of your shirt like the apex of a mountain. We also use this term to describe other muscles or the moment in your workout where you reached your maximal weight or effort.
  • Taper and “V” describe the shape of the upper body as it narrows from the shoulders to the waist. If you have those pesky love handles, it is unlikely that you will be considered to have this shape. In other words, we usually use these terms to describe men’s torsos.
  • Arnold is the man who fashioned the art of building muscle and brought it to the popularity it is today. He stands alone as the only person in the world of muscle who needs no last name—besides it is hard to spell. If you’re still not sure who this is, you may know him better as Governor Schwarzenegger.
  • Washboard, cubes in the tray, and six pack specifically refer to the abdominal region and being able to see the individual parts of the entire front abdominal muscle. Interestingly, there are eight parts of this abdominal muscle (known as the rectus abdominis), but since most people never get that lean and a six pack is well known, the term eight pack never made it except to describe a pack of batteries or hot dog buns.
  • Sweep is the roundness that a large outer thigh makes sweeping from the hip down to the knee. Although you want a defined leg, when not flexing, it should be lean and rounded.

Gym Jargon - The Language of Bodybuilding - Gym Slang

Gym Jargon – Less Common Terms & Expressions

With a little bit of explanation, all the gym jargon will become that much more clearer.

  • Cheat reps are a way to complete a repetition without help from a spotter but with help from other muscles. Usually, a cheat is in the form of a bounce or momentum used to get over the sticking point.
  • Sticking point. The most strenuous movement of a repetition—typically soon after the transition from the eccentric phase to the concentric phase—is referred to as the sticking point. When the weight is light enough, you will not notice the sticking point; but as the weight increases, it will be evident, and you will want to do what you can to overcome it.
  • Pins (along with wheels, poles, toothpicks, chopsticks, and dogs) is used to describe the legs. Pins may be large, as when referring to the legs as bowling pins, which are more round at the bottom, or small, as when referring to something like the thinness of a safety pin. We will often use term wheels to describe the legs as a whole since like a car’s wheels, they are the parts that roll you along. The term is often used to describe the training day, as in “I’m training wheels today.” If your legs are small in relation to the rest of your body, they may be referred to as toothpicks, chopsticks, poles, pins, or anything small and thin. Generally if your legs are large, you may be given the name Quadzilla. People usually use the word dogs in a sentence referring to a hard-core leg pump: “My dogs are barking.”
  • Crush it is the expression we use as hyperbole to create aggression and inspiration to make one lift harder and stronger. It means to crush the set or rep, not the weight itself (that would be nearly impossible). You may hear a training partner, coach, or spotter yell, “Crush it!”
  • Help is a word you seldom like to hear in a gym since it means you may be in trouble. It is especially bad to hear when you are pinned underneath a bar during a heavy lift. It is also a way to describe forced reps, generally to refer to a set that was completed with a little extra influence from the spotter. Keep in mind that forced reps, a method of training to get an extra couple reps in your set, is a form of help.
  • It’s all you is a good way to tell your training partner that he is lifting all the weight himself, and you are there only if a true spot is needed.
  • Master Blaster is the name given to pioneer fitness magazine legend Joe Weider, who began writing and training before most of you were even born. The term is often given to others to describe their talent as the king of a domain.
  • Squeeze and flex are terms used to create maximal tension in the muscle to force it to bulge as much as possible. Bodybuilders will squeeze at the fully flexed position to enhance the feel and get a better pump.

Closing Thoughts

Once you are a regular at the gym, you may hear many words that sound as if they are related to training, but the exact meaning may be unclear if you’re new to weight training. Welcome to gym jargon, a language started mostly by pumped-up behemoth bodybuilders and powerlifters that is now common in most gyms. Above in this post you will find some of the most important terms and expressions you’re likely to hear in the gym today.


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