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Gym Lingo 101

When you’re new to exercise, a lot of things can feel confusing or intimidating. Don’t let fitness lingo be one of them. Here’s a handy little guide to some gym jargon you might come across.


A rep, or a repetition, is a single incidence of an exercise. So if you’ve done one squat, you’ve done one rep. If you’ve done three squats, you’ve done three reps.


A set is a collection of reps. So if you’ve done five squats three times, you’ve done three sets of five reps. This is often written in a workout program as 3 x 5.


RPE is short for Rate of Perceived Exertion. This refers to the amount of effort you need to use during cardio or strength exercises. Often RPE is on a scale of 1-10 (though some coaches use a scale of 1-4) with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest. So a light walk on the treadmill might be a 1, whereas a sprint might be a 9. You can’t keep up an 8 or 9 intensity level for long, but you can probably keep up a 3 or 4 for a long time.


AFAP is short for As Fast As Possible (with control and good form, of course). This is often used to increase power and speed and for metabolic conditioning. You might do something like a medicine ball slam AFAP.


I put these three terms together because they are often used interchangeably, but they have some slight differences. MetCon is a term popularized by Crossfit and is short for Metabolic Conditioning. HIIT is short for High Intensity Interval Training and MRT is short for Metabolic Resistance Training. Both are forms of metabolic conditioning. In any MetCon, you work as hard as you can for short bursts followed by either a recovery exercise or a rest. HIIT is cardio focused, while MRT is strength focused. The main goal of a MetCon is to increase your metabolism, with the added bonus of increasing cardiorespiratory fitness and/or strength. You can read a really well-researched article about MetCons and HIIT here.


AMRAP is short for As Many Rounds As Possible during a timed interval. So if you’re doing AMRAP sets of eight squats and eight push ups for two minutes, you’re trying to get through as many sets of squats and push ups as possible in that time. AMRAPs are often used for cardiovascular or metabolic conditioning.

Circuit Training

Circuit Training involves multiple exercises done one after the other, usually with little to no rest in between. Circuit training can be done as an AMRAP or for fixed work to rest intervals. A total body circuit might involve squats, push ups, rows, planks, and jump rope.


Tabata is a form of HIIT. In its strictest usage, it is a 4-minute set of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. During the 20 seconds on, you are to push yourself as hard as possible in terms of weight or power. In gyms, tabata is usually done with tabata sets strung together or as a workout finisher.

Are there still fitness terms you don't understand? Ask us in the comments!

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