Gym jargon explained

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What is it?

This technique follows a compound, multi-joint move with a single-joint isolation exercise targeting a particular muscle. The muscle is activated during the first exercise, then exhausted in the second. 

When should I do it?

Do this when you’ve reached a training plateau and need to target a muscle group that’s not growing in response to regular workouts. 

Back-off sets

What are they?

When you get to your last set, reduce the weight by 40 per cent and do as many reps as you can before you reach positive failure. 

When should I do them?

If you want to lift to positive failure but are using a heavy weight, you can use back-off sets to do this safely with a lighter weight. This will ensure maximum muscle fatigue and burn more calories.

Cluster sets

What are they?

Select a pair of exercises that work opposing muscle groups, such as the chest and the back. Pick up a weight you can lift ten to 12 times, then do five reps of each move back to back. Continue without a rest for ten to 15 minutes.

When should I do them?

Do cluster sets when you don’t have time for a regular workout. By removing the rest but preserving the reps and time under tension, you’ll still get a training effect and train your muscles to deal with lactate.

Pyramid sets

What are they?

Pyramid sets use different rep ranges and weights. You start with high reps and a low weight, then increase the weight and decrease the reps – sets of 12, ten, eight and six reps, for example.

When should I do them?

Do a pyramid set at the beginning of your workout to increase the weight progressively and set yourself up for some high-quality straight sets. At the end of your workout reverse the pyramid to safely take your muscles to positive failure.


What are they?

Supersets are pairs of exercises done back to back, usually targeting opposing muscle groups. Complete the first set of the first exercise before going straight into a set of the next exercise without any rest.

When should I do them?

When you're pushed for time. Because one muscle group gets an active rest while the other works, you can reduce the time spent resting for a shorter, more intense workout that will achieve your aims quicker.

For tons of effective muscle-building workouts, check out our exercise section

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