In my gym, the trainer gives me a routine of 5 days with 6 exercises each, a total of 30 different activities. They don't come with pictures but names, and I have difficulties recognizing which exercise corresponds to each name in the routine sheet. This probably sounds like a minor thing, but to me it is not:

  1. It's embarrassing to keep asking the professor which machine or exercise to do.
  2. Each gym has different names for same exercise? It confounds me.

I imagine there are hundreds of possible exercises. But it would be good to know of these things:

  1. A standard or official naming convention, or an advised naming guide.
  2. Helpful hints on what certain words mean, namely: what is "press"?
  • Never be afraid of asking, since I'm not currently in the US I go to a spanish-speaking gym, I know I don't know everything, I'm there to train and learn, nothing wrong with asking what does "Press Frances" means.. (basically skull crushers)
    – Just Do It
    Dec 3, 2015 at 15:28

2 Answers 2


It's easy to get confused, but most exercises have very descriptive names, and some of them cover entire classes of exercises.

The gist of it

Pressing means you're pressing/pushing something away from you, such as bench press or overhead press.

Notice again that the other words are pretty descriptive too. "Bench" and "overhead" both help describe the movement.

Pulling or rowing means you're pulling something towards you, such as pull-ups and pull-downs, as well as cable rows, upright rows, dumbell rows etc.

Extensions are exercises where you extend either your arms or legs against a resistance. Examples here are cable tricep extensions and leg extensions. You'll find leg extension machines in most gyms, as well as cable equipment. You'll know it when you see it.

Curls are the opposite of extensions. Here, you close the elbow or knee joint versus resistance. Examples are bicep curls and leg curls. The former comes in huge variety.


There is a huge number of movements for all of the mentioned classes, but again, most of them have very descriptive names.

Take for instance the incline bench press. Here, we are obviously using a bench, which is sloped a bit, so you're more upright (hence incline). And we're again pressing something. But it doesn't say what you're pressing, so it could be either a barbell or a couple of dumbells. So if someone says "let's do incline bench press", it's perfectly natural to ask "bar or dumbells?".

So an even better name would be incline barbell chest press, but you'll get used to a lot of these short-hands.

Stand-alone names

A lot of exercises have their own names, simply because describing them would be too long to call it a name.

Take for instance the skullcrusher which would have to be named flat bench close grip barbell tricep extensions to be descriptive. (Granted, some of these words are open for change depending on the person doing it.)

No one will think any less of you for asking what exactly a "french press" or a "concentrated curl" is. But know this, you can find videos of ANY exercise simply by googling the name as you hear it.

In fact, I suggest you do this for most of the exercises I've mentioned in this answer.

  • 3
    Just to add in one from another of this questions, you might mention "Flys" or "Flyes" to refer to lifting weights by a rotating motion while keeping the limb fixed.
    – Sean Duggan
    Dec 2, 2015 at 20:26

It depends on the exercise. There are some very common names (Such as bench press) that are fairly universal, but your trainer may have some unique exercises that are different.

As far as universal terms, you would have to list the ones you would like, or look at some weightlifting sites. For example, a press is generally a movement of the weight from close to the body to further away. A bench "press" is where you lay on your back, lower the weight and then "press" it up. Shoulder press is the same, but in a vertical plane (From a sitting position, press from your shoulders to over your head).

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