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3 min read
Collin O'Brien
November 27, 2023
Reading time
3 min read

How to talk about the gym in English

In this article, we'll explore some common gym terms and phrases that will help you sound confident and fluent while discussing your workout routine.
How to talk about the gym in English

How to talk about the gym in English

The gym is a popular place where people go to work on their fitness and stay physically healthy. But how can you discuss it in English without sounding awkward or unnatural? In this article, we'll explore some common gym terms and phrases that will help you sound confident and fluent while discussing your workout routine.

In shape vs. out of shape

When it comes to describing someone who is physically fit, English speakers don't typically use the phrase "physically fit" in casual conversations. It sounds too formal and is more commonly heard in a doctor's office. In British English, the word "fit" also has a different meaning, referring to someone who is attractive or sexy. So, it's important to be aware of the context in which you use the word "fit."

Instead of "physically fit," a more natural expression is "in shape." For example, you might say, "I need to stop eating so much pizza and get in shape for the summer!"

A man working out at the gym

On the flip side, when someone is not fit or has stopped working out, we say they are "out of shape." So, if you haven't been hitting the gym regularly, you can use this phrase to describe your current fitness level.

Common gym activities

When discussing gym activities, there are various terms you can use to describe your workout routine. The most common phrases are to "work out" or "exercise." These terms encompass a wide range of activities, such as cardio, endurance training, weightlifting, and stretching. So, next time someone asks you what you do at the gym, you can confidently say, "I go to the gym and do a mix of cardio and strength training."

If you're looking to add intensity to your workout, you might want to incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or "do cardio." This refers to engaging in exercises that increase your heart rate and help burn calories.

A woman running on the treadmill

Additionally, you can mention "lifting weights" as part of your workout routine, which involves using dumbbells, barbells, or weight machines to build strength and muscle.

Asking about exercise preferences

When engaging in conversations about fitness, it's essential to ask about someone's exercise preferences in a friendly and natural way. Instead of using the clichéd question, "Do you work out?" which might sound like a stereotypical bad pickup line, you can ask your friends or colleagues if they enjoy exercising, going to the gym, or hitting up the gym.

Two women working out in the gym

These phrases are more conversational and will help you connect with others who have similar interests in fitness.

Working in and spotting

At the gym, you'll often encounter situations where you need to share equipment or assist others during their exercises. Two common terms related to this are "working in" and "spotting." When someone asks if they can "work in" with you, it means they want to alternate using the same machine or equipment. This allows both of you to complete your sets without having to wait for each other.

On the other hand, if someone asks you for "a spot" or if you can "spot them" during an exercise, they're requesting your assistance for safety. For example, they might ask, "Hey, can you spot me on the bench press?" Spotting involves standing by and providing support to ensure they can safely lift weights without any accidents or injuries.

A person helping another person on the bench press

Describing physical fitness

Individuals with well-developed and prominent muscles can be described as "jacked." If someone has well-defined muscles, they are often referred to as "ripped" or simply "muscular."

A ripped man breaking a tree bark

It's worth noting that the term "buff," which used to be popular in the 80s and 90s, may sound a bit outdated or even comical today. However, you can still use it in a light-hearted or joking manner. Additionally, if someone mentions that they are "bulking up" or advises you to "bulk up," they are referring to the process of building larger muscles through specific training and diet.

Gym culture

The gym community consists of individuals with different workout routines and frequency of visits. Some are dedicated "Gym Bros" who work out regularly, while others, known as "Weekend Warriors," only visit the gym on weekends.

Two gym bros giving each other a high five

Regardless of your gym habits, the common goal is to make progress and achieve "gains" — a term used to describe the improvements made through consistent exercise.


In summary, when discussing the gym in English, it's important to use natural expressions to sound fluent and confident. Whether you're talking about getting in shape, describing your workout routine, or engaging in gym culture, using the right phrases will help you connect with others who share your passion for fitness.