The Newbie’s Guide to Bizarre Gym Lingo

Diverse group of friends sitting together in a gym laughing
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Overview

If you've never set foot in a gym, the first day may feel like you're on a new planet. Between the complicated machines and unspoken etiquette rules, the gym can certainly feel intimidating for a newbie. Let's not forget the language barrier. Gym regulars seem to have their own secret code.

To navigate the gym terrain like a pro, here's a guide to the terms you're most likely to hear from your fellow gym-goers.

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Definition of shredded
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Shredded

At first listen, "shredded" sounds pretty painful, like maybe you've "maxed out" one too many times today, leaving your muscles feeling like pulp. But being shredded actually refers to a body type with super-defined muscles.

"Usually the term 'shredded' refers more to a skinny body builder, where you can see major muscle definition, especially the abs," says Holland. Attaining this low level of body fat takes a lot of self-discipline and dieting and, quite honestly, is an unsustainable goal for the average person to attain.

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Definition of training to failure
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Train to Failure

Ever been on the floor below a weight room and wondered if you'd just heard thunder? That's the sound of someone "going to failure." This phrase refers to doing an exercise until you can't do any more reps with proper form, says Jacque Crockford, exercise physiologist and education specialist on the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

"Going to failure also has a lot to do with the mental strength of the exerciser and the type of exercise and intensity they are performing." While it's fine for most experienced lifters, it's not for very new beginners who may not yet have complete control of the weights. Focusing on mastering proper form first, then adding weight before attempting to train to failure.

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Definition of a hard gainer
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Hard Gainer

This term refers to people (usually men) who have a difficult time gaining muscle, often due to genetics. "It's hard to gain weight if you have a long and lanky ectomorphic build," says Amy Goodson, RD. If this sounds like you, you'll have to eat more calories than you burn in order to gain.

Eat every two hours, says Goodson. Breakfast should be around 800 to 1,000 calories and include whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats like peanut butter or avocado and healthy oils in order to add calories to your day. Snacking on trail mix or drinking regular or chocolate milk or protein shakes are great ways to add extra calories between meals.

Read more: The Best Exercise and Eating Advice for Your Body Type

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Definition of bonking
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Bonk

As in, "I bonked at mile 20 in my last marathon." Whatever it means, it doesn't sound good, right? Bonking refers to running out of energy stores (carbohydrates), which most often occurs during a long run, says Holland "You feel as if you can't go any further. You're dizzy and lightheaded, and your legs feel dead."

For marathoners, this usually happens at around mile 20. "It's simply physiology," says Holland. "Your body can store about 2,000 calories of energy, which is what you'll burn up by mile 20 if you haven't taken in enough additional calories along the way."

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Definition of quadzilla.
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Quadzilla

The Godzilla of quadriceps, a "quadzilla" or, similarly, "quadrasaurus" refers to someone (usually a guy) with huge, bulging quadriceps, says Holland. "He's the guy hogging the squat rack and leg press that's stacked with ridiculous amounts of weight. He usually has the genetics to grow ginormous legs or he may be on steroids." Quadzillas usually can't find jeans that fit their huge thighs and tend to lounge in parachute pants.

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Definition of muscle confusion.
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Muscle Confusion

Made popular by workouts such as P90X, muscle confusion refers to adding a good amount of variety to your training, Holland says. "Switching around exercises prevents your muscles from adapting, which occurs when you do the same thing over and over."

Too much variation can also work against you, however, especially if you're just starting out. "It takes a couple of weeks for your muscles to adapt neurologically," says Holland. "You need this time to build a strength foundation." After that, swap out exercises or find new ways to do your usual routine. For example, if you run, add hills or intervals. If you usually do push-ups, try dumbbell chest presses.

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Definition of swole.
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Swole

As in, "They're pumping iron to get their swole on." Short for "swollen," swole or swoll is slang used to describe someone who has a large or well-developed physique from weight training. It also refers to the feeling a person gets during their workout as muscles become "pumped up" and feel tight and full. Doing a few heavy sets with little rest in between increases the swole feeling.

Read more: 10 Compound Moves for Greater Pump in Less Time

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Definition of Beast It Up.
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Beasting It Up

This term refers to high-intensity workouts where you do as many reps as possible in the shortest length of time, says Holland. "It may be something like 10 box jumps followed by 10 burpees for as many rounds as you can, until you have nothing left. You push your body to the limit."

The benefits of this training style? "You can get the benefits in as short as a 10- or 20-minute workout.," Holland says. But if you do back-to-back strength-training exercises, be sure to use proper form. Try three exercises without stopping and then take a 60-second rest, or whatever you need to recover before doing another set.

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