The problem with gym-lingo

Fitness model on stage

One of the first lessons I learnt in my day job as a writer and marketer was to avoid using buzzwords or lingo. Why? Because it alienates people and can cause some real communication issues in the future. But I’ve noticed that the fitness industry seems to be suffering from the same issues that my daily clients seem to be afflicted with. An addiction to buzzwords, acronyms and lingo.

Today’s gyms aren’t just heaving with sweaty bodies and people seeking that ever elusive booty pump – they’re riddled with lingo that is otherwise indecipherable to a gym newbie. This is a huge problem.

Dazed by DOMS

Firstly, imagine you’re stepping into a gym for the first time and you’re faced with the aforementioned sea of sweaty bodies. That’s already intimidating. Add in the fact that every regular gym-goer seems to be speaking some kind of gym-foreign-language and you can somewhat understand why a new person might do a u-turn and never ever step foot in a gym again.

Gym floor
The gym is intimidating enough without adding jargon into the mix!

Then there’s a safety aspect to it. A new person might decide to attend a group exercise session to learn the ropes. But I’ve been in my fair share of classes where the instructor shouts out phrases like “Engage your core!” or “Keep your spine neutral!”

What the hell does that even mean?!

That’s a real issue in a class setting where your gym newbie is likely to be already feeling a little overwhelmed. With other people around them, they might just keep quiet and not ask the instructor to clarify what they said. That could then lead to improper form and maybe even injury.

Excluded by EMOM

We’re all guilty of using lingo at some point in time. I asked my boyfriend to spot me the other day. To anyone outside a gym, that’s something you find on a Dalmatian. In part, lingo helps us connect with other regular gym-goers. It makes us part of the #fitfam. But it excludes other people.

Every time we talk about our gains, booty pump and DOMS, there’s someone in the background scratching their head over what we’re even talking about. At best it’s confusing and excluding, but at worst it can actually be really demotivating and even unsafe.

Alongside learning all the different machines and exercises to use, gym newbies shouldn’t have to learn a whole language as well.

Avoiding AMRAP

I’m not saying you should avoid gym-lingo entirely, in some cases it’s unavoidable. But where possible, try to use simpler terms and break down acronyms. So HIIT becomes ‘high intensity interval training’ and EMOM is ‘every minute on the minute’ instead. If someone looks a little confused when you talk about drop sets, take the time to explain it fully to them.

For new gym-goers, just know that you’re not alone. If someone says a word or phrase that you’ve never heard of before, ask them to explain it (or if you feel that you can’t, make a note and Google it later). If you find yourself in a class where you can’t make heads or tails of what the instructor is saying, then speak up and tell them. At the very least, you’ll be letting them know the way that they talk and explain things is inaccessible – and that’ll help improve their classes and stop other newbies from getting lost.

We all have a role to play in avoiding gym-lingo. Yes, sometimes there’s no other way to talk about an exercise or workout, but where possible, be mindful that some people may not know what you’re going on about. We shouldn’t need to carry a dictionary around with our gym towel.


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