The gym world has a language of its own. Are you fluent?

Those new to weight lifting may feel like outsiders at the gym. As if the machines, fit bodies, and mirrored walls aren’t enough to intimidate you, it’s easy to feel out of the loop when it comes to the words and phrases you hear at the gym. How can ‘failure’ be a good thing? Does ‘PR’ refer to public relations in the locker room? What are ‘plates’ doing in the gym?

From the equipment to the instructions and common gym lingo, read on to be in the know the next time you’re lifting weights.

A barbell is a bar weighing 35 to 45 lbs that’s used in various weight lifting exercises. To increase the resistance, plates (barbell weights in the shape of fat, circular plates) are loaded (placed) on each end of the barbell. Plates come in various weights. The most common range from 2.5 to 45 lbs.

To change the range of motion and force directions, cables are sometimes used. A cable is attached to a handle at one end and a pulley on the other. The pulley is connected to weights that can be increased or decreased as desired.

Dumbbells are another type of weight you’ll see usually stored along a rack (a strong shelf). They look like a handle with a weight on each end and come in a variety of sizes. Some are a fixed weight and others are adjustable, allowing you to add or subtract the plate (weight) on each end.

Free weights are a general term to describe any type of weight that’s not attached to some sort of machine and include things like dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells (weights made of iron or steel that look like a small cannonball with a handle), and exercise balls. Also called medicine balls, exercise balls are weighted balls about the diameter of your shoulders used for various strength-training movements.

Another type of equipment to assist your weight-lifting efforts is the rack, the power rack, or the cage. Standing more than six feet tall, this apparatus supports a barbell during overhead presses or squats.

Each exercise is performed a certain number of times or a certain number of repetitions, a.k.a. reps. You may do three reps of each exercise or as many as 30. The number of reps depends on the kind of workout and your goal.

A group of reps is called a set. Workouts usually call for two to eight sets of each exercise. So if you did four sets of four reps, that would be 16 total repetitions. Between sets you may need a few seconds or minutes to rest your muscles. This rest time is called a recovery period.

Your muscles grow most when they become exhausted and have to struggle (this must be done safely and with proper form). This is called failure and it’s considered a good thing in the world of weight lifting.

Your max is the maximum amount of weight you’re able to lift in a certain exercise. Each week, it’s a good idea to try and increase your max.

Lifting with a partner can be convenient those times you need someone to spot you. Someone spotting you stands next to you to help in case a weight is too heavy or unsafe for you to complete any repetition you’re attempting.

PR is short for personal record. Some people call it their PB, or personal best. This could be used to describe an amount of weight you were able to bench press or your heaviest deadlift.

Phewf! Trust me though, it’s much simpler than it sounds and the gym is for everyone. Don’t be scared or intimidated. Remember, that everyone had to start somewhere and everyone had their first day at some point.

Find the right people and right support systems and you’ll do fine!

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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