I have been going to the gym ever since I was a teenager. I don’t do it with any intentions of getting huge like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson but I do enjoy challenging myself and maintaining a relatively good standard of strength. Recently, it occurred to me that there is a certain jargon in the gym that only the initiated will understand. The necessity of a unique lexicon for a particular activity is similar to other hobbies such as fishing or Yoga or professional careers i.e./ law or medicine. Today let’s look at the words and phrases you may hear in the “Iron Paradise” – The Gym!
Don’t Tri to get Bi or you’ll get Delt with
All of the muscles in the gym have short forms that you’ll have to get to know so that if someone asks you what you’re working on that day, you can tell them.
- Bis – biceps or the front of your upper arm
- Tris – triceps or the back of your upper arm
- Delts – deltoids or shoulders
- Traps – the muscles between your neck and shoulders
- Lats – latissimus dorsi or your big upper back muscles
- Pecs – pectoral muscles or your chest
- Quads – your upper leg muscles
- Abs – your abdominal muscles or ‘six-pack’ in your stomach
- And don’t forget the Glutes – the muscles in your bum bum (buttocks)
Sets or Reps?
‘Reps’ is short for repetitions and refers to the number of times you intend to repeat a particular movement. A basic bicep curl with a dumbbell is a very popular movement and you might like to try 10 repetitions with a 15kg dumbbell, for example.
‘Sets’ are collections of repetitions. So 1 set may consist of 15 reps and you should do at least 3 sets of 15 reps with breaks between sets. What’s more if someone sees you using a particular machine they may ask, “How many more sets have you got left?” or, in other words, how many more series of repetitions do you intend to do because they are waiting!
Can you give me a spot?
If you hear this sentence or any of its variations such as “Can you spot me over here?” (as a verb) or “I need a spot.” (a noun), it means that the person needs you to carefully watch him/her as they do a set. This involves standing right next to them (or over them in the case of the bench press) and helping them through the move in case they need help. They may need a ‘lift-off’ or a LOT of help at the beginning and then they need you to monitor their repetitions and help them at the very end with the last rep.
While giving someone a spot it is also helpful and nicely looked upon if you shout motivational ‘slogans’ at them like “Feel the burn!!”, “You’ve got this!!!” “It’s yours!! Do it!! No pain!!!”
The ‘pump’ or sometimes ‘the burn’ is the intense tightening of the skin that follows a very rigorous set. The muscle fills up with blood and the muscle will be visibly larger. Certain amino acids are moving to the area because you are essentially mildly damaging the muscle. It is the subsequent repair of this muscle tissue which causes it to grow. When achieved by an intense workout it can be both exhilarating and a bit shocking. Experienced bodybuilders have to work harder and harder in order to ‘feel the pump’ because their muscles have grown so accustomed to the sudden blasts of hard work.
Many vain or metrosexual-type teenage boys believe that before they go on a date or go to a party it is a good idea to do a set of 30-40 push-ups to get that pump in their chest and arms before the big night. The pump effect can even last up to 25-30 mins.
How much (do) you bench?
The bench press is one of the most important and comprehensive moves in bodybuilding for the upper body. It is executed while lying on a bench and pushing a barbell upwards using your chest and arms. It employs your pectoralis muscles and triceps at the back of your arms as well as your shoulders and lats (latissimus dorsi) to a lesser degree. It is also the most impressive looking as it is often the exercise where you can use the largest amount of physical resistance (weight) on the bar. Because of this many people use the bench press as the benchmark for their actual physical strength. How much you can do on the bench press is a direct indication of how strong you are. I am not saying that this is true. It is simply what people believe. Therefore the question “How much do you bench?” is pretty much the same question as “So, how strong are you?” (N.B. Most young boys always like to tell a small white lie and add about 10 kilos to the number.)
If you want to get really specific you can follow-up the question with- “Do you mean-for a single rep or a whole set of 6?” It is an important difference. If someone can bench press 120kilos once then they can probably do only 100kg for 6 reps.
So now there are absolutely no excuses for you to get to the gym when you are on holiday in an English speaking country. At the very least you are linguistically prepared. So get out to the gym and find out how much you can bench.
The initiated – (colloquial) those who have been welcomed into a social group or have been made aware of certain group norms
Benchmark – a standard against which other results can be measured
Metrosexual – (less used nowadays) a self-absorbed, narcissistic young person who who engages in a lot of personal grooming