What All These Confusing Fitness Terms Really Mean

It’s not easy to get in shape. There’s a lot to learn from the workout itself, whether the number of reps you perform matters , and then there’s the gym and jargon you’ve never heard before. Say no more. We understand this and have put together this tutorial to help.

Keep in mind that fitness jargon is endless, so this list is not exhaustive. It consists of many terms that you may have heard before, but did not understand, or heard the instructor spinning around.

Aerobic exercise versus anaerobic exercise

Not to be confusedwith aerobics , a form of rhythmic exercise from the 80s neon pink leotard variety, aerobic exercise relies on your body’s use of oxygen. (By the way, aerobics is a form of aerobic exercise.) These exercises are generally less intense forms of running, swimming, cycling, rowing, and other similar activities that you can do for an extended period of time. It is complemented by anaerobic exercise or exercise without oxygen.

When you do short bursts of powerful exercise, such as lifting weights or sprinting on the bus, you are doing forms of anaerobic exercise. Instead of using oxygen, your body uses up a certain amount of energy, which is very limited, so you cannot maintain this intense activity for very long. Both can be trained to improve performance.

“When I do anaerobic exercise, it burns so well, but I like to do aerobic exercise when I want it to be a little easier.”

Absolute strength versus relative strength

Imagine breathing heavily while trying to lift your personal record weight in an exercise. This is your absolute strength (or at least somewhere close to it), and it does not depend on your weight or the number of muscles. On the other hand, relative strength is the maximum strength you can create based on your weight and amount of muscle. This important distinction helps explain how people with smaller physiques and fewer muscles can outperform people with larger muscles and / or more weight in certain exercises.

“Most people are familiar with absolute strength in the gym, but it was relative strength that helped that lady from American Ninja Warrior kick her ass.”

Body composition

Your body composition is your individual proportion of muscle, fat, bone, and water. This is important because this proportion depends a lot on how your body looks. Think about it: muscle tissue takes up much less space than adipose tissue; bone structure may differ from person to person; and the amount of water you hold in you at any given time will affect your appearance.

You can measure body composition using many different methods, including caliper pinching, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and hydrostatic weighing, to name just a few, but please note that none of the methods are completely reliable. An alternative to measurements? Look in the mirror.

“Jennifer and Stephanie weigh the same, but due to their different body structure, their shapes are very different.”

Circular workouts

Circuit training is the execution of a set of exercises (usually 4 to 10) in quick succession, depending on the set time or the set amount of work (i.e. the number of rounds). After all the exercises have been completed, you have completed one circle. You can create specific exercises and the order in which they are performed: they can combine strength exercises with dumbbells, bodyweight exercises , agility or jumping exercises, and so on. The point is to keep them on their toes by doing all the exercises with a little rest.

“Today’s circuit gave me a great full body workout in such a short time!”

Difficult exercise versus isolation exercise

Exercises that involve more than one muscle group at a time. Think of “big” movements such as bench press, squat, deadlift, push press, chin-ups, and so on. All of these require more energy and effort to complete them. They are often the cornerstone of many strength training programs because they help you build strength and strength and teach your body how to move properly as a “whole.”

Unlike challenging exercises, isolation exercises target a specific muscle group, such as biceps or triceps. Isolation exercises are useful for drawing attention to parts of the muscles that may not be able to pull their own weight in a complex motion. This is a popular form of training, especially among bodybuilders, for those who want to focus on further developing specific muscles or muscle groups. So, in our example, curling the bicep would be an isolation exercise.

“My trainer advises doing large, energy-intensive, complex movements at the beginning of the workout, when I’m most fresh, and then moving on to isolation exercises.”


DOMS is an abbreviation for Delayed Muscle Soreness, which means “ugh, I never knew I had muscle there” that occurs a few days after a new workout or a particularly difficult one. You can get it by doing anything: hiking, lifting weights, sprinting, or even fun carrying really heavy groceries. Some people like this feeling; most of them deal with love-hate. Some soreness can be a good thing anyway, but too much soreness – like too much of everything – can be counterproductive, especially when it deprives you of the strength and motivation to get back to the gym or workout again.

“Why are you walking like that?”



Endurance is your ability to keep up with the demands of a certain level of activity – mainly your endurance. When we talk about endurance, we can mean either muscle endurance, or how long your muscles can withstand repeated application of a certain amount of force before they get tired; or cardiovascular endurance, which is the ability of your lungs, heart, and blood vessel network to pump oxygen to your working muscles.

In general, high endurance is critical for people who play sports and have to maintain high loads for a long time. This also applies in the gym – doing more reps is a challenge for your muscle endurance.

“I can’t run for more than 30 minutes at a time. My stamina hasn’t quite reached yet. “


In the context of fitness, particularly strength training, failure is defined as the inability to complete a rep because your muscles are completely depleted of gas. You can grumble, scream, and stomp your feet, but when it becomes physically impossible to move the weight an inch further, you’ve trained to failure. Training to failure in the weightlifting world is controversial: some people are in favor of it, while many coaches recommend doing it sparingly, as it puts a lot of stress on the body, not to mention the fact that it is dangerous and makes you prone to injury.

“I failed the last repetition of the pull-up. I just didn’t have the strength to go upstairs. “

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is a type of interval training designed to increase power and strength. All HIIT is HIIT, but not all HIIT is HIIT. The key point is that you should focus on briefly applying 100% of the effort, resting, and then repeating this process a couple of times.

We’ve highlighted two areas where people tend to be wrong about HIIT . Just remember that HIIT is not a workout to be emphasized for beginners. This can be overkill and make people prone to injury if not careful.

“Today I do HIIT on the treadmill instead of working out in the gym. Hope I don’t get sick. “


Intensity refers to how hard both the body and the mind have to work during exercise. Intensity is often what makes a workout productive, but it is relative and self-controlled. In strength training, this is usually measured as a percentage of your 1st rep max, or the highest weight you can safely lift. In general, a workout that is considered high intensity will leave you feeling gassed, but at its best.

However, there is room for periods of low intensity (eg jogging, light weights, relaxing walks). You can increase the intensity by shortening your rest time, using more weight, increasing your pace, adding more sets and reps, or a combination of both.

“If you want to really challenge yourself in your workout, keep the intensity high!”


An abbreviation for macronutrients: proteins, fats and carbohydrates, which are the building blocks of any diet. Many people with specific goals in terms of performance or aesthetic fitness prefer to calculate the proportions of macronutrients (the so-called “macro calculations”), and not just calories. This is exactly what it seems. You calculate the number of grams of carbohydrates , proteins and fats to reach your goals. Since carbs and protein are 4 calories per gram and fat are 9 calories, reaching your macro goals usually helps you get very close to your calorie goal. However, keep in mind that whichever practice you choose, it is impossible to be 100% accurate.

“With the macros on this giant muffin, I could instead eat a similar but complete meal and be much more satisfied.”


You recognize the plateau when you see it. This is the moment when things are working out: you are not improving strength or endurance in the gym; the scale does not move in the desired direction; or your running time hasn’t improved — despite weeks of “doing it right”. A plateau happens to anyone and everyone, usually after a few weeks or months if the same regimen is followed. We’ve written here , here, and here a few articles about their causes and what you can do about them.

“To overcome the plateau, I changed my program a little, adding more reps and then more weight.

Progressive overload

Progressive overload is the principle of constant adaptation to new factors of physical activity and gaining strength, endurance and muscles. (That’s good!) Simply put, progressive overload occurs when you do more over time. You can define “more”: it can be more weight, more reps, more volume, more productive activities, and so on. This sounds like a simple concept, but it’s a little more difficult because everyone will progress in different ways and at different rates. There is no exact “plan” for anyone, but Bret Contreras outlines 10 rules to remember .

“Without progressive overload, you will not be able to achieve the desired results in strength, muscle or fitness.”


Rest usually refers to the time when you are not making any effort during your workout; In other words, you are truly taking a break from your previous bout of effort. This allows your body’s energy systems to recover to prepare you for the next phase of exercise. Of course, rest during training can be extended or reduced, depending on the goal.

When people talk about rest outside of one workout, it is the actual recovery and rest between workouts, which is usually a day or two (or more if it is a break). On the other hand, you can “actively rest,” that is, do something really light to still stimulate recovery, but use the opportunity to fine-tune form, technique, practice, and so on.

“When the rest periods are short, it seems to me that training is 10.7 times more difficult than with longer breaks.”


Asking for a seat is like asking someone to catch you when you fall; be your warm protective blanket when you are trying to lift unfamiliar weights (most often with bench press or squats). The location is often viewed as a common courtesy in gym culture.

We mentioned earlier that most people in the gym will not be able to get a good “spot” due to inexperience or the fact that they may have a previous injury that may have been accidentally aggravated. On the other hand, your responsibility as a belayer is not to help the athlete lift the weight, but to be there in case the athlete really needs you to help him out.

“I’m going to put three plates on this bench press and I’m going to need space. Can you see me, bro? “


Supersets are a term used in strength training. You may already know that a set completes a full repetition cycle of a single exercise. Superset is the completion of a full cycle of two repetitions of the exercise . This means that you do two exercises in a row before finally taking a break to rest and finish one superset. A combo of exercises tends to target opposing muscle groups, but it doesn’t have to. An example of a superset is a seated push-up followed by a row (using the chest and back muscles, respectively). Supersets are useful for adding volume, intensity, and / or speed to a workout.

“By the end of this superset of push-ups and pull-ups, I barely feel my hands.”


In running, pace is essentially a faster run with some structure. You can just run quickly from start to finish after a little warm-up; or do intervals of running at a faster pace, for example, run at a “race pace” for 5 minutes, then slow it down for 3 minutes. In the gym, pace is how fast or slow you do a repetition of an exercise. Typically, you lift the positive or concentric part as quickly as possible, slowing down the negative or eccentric phase. In fact, there are several different ways to control your pace, both when you climb and when you run.

This tempo run was the perfect way to break off my usual long weekend run!”


Volume is commonly used with strength training (although it can also apply to other types of training, such as number of runs) and refers to the total amount of “work” in a program per workout per workout week. , or something else. It is measured in a number of different ways (one example: sets x reps x lifting weights). For our purposes, it is enough to know that high volume usually requires more work, and volume can affect training results.

“Most beginner strength training programs are kept small so that people recover properly from the start.”

Split workout

Many beginner programs typically include three days of full body workouts or full body workouts. Splitting (or splitting body parts), on the other hand, describes how people break down their training program to engage different body parts or movements throughout the week. For example, a three-day split means you can train your legs on one day, your chest and back muscles on another day, and your arms on the third day.

Alternatively, people can split their routine into all push-ups or all of the stretching exercises. There are many ways to create a split workout – it all depends on your goals, preferences, and schedule!

“Yo, my new training split is really amazing. I’m looking forward to the day of legs with horror. “

Fitness jargon may seem like learning a completely different language, but once you get used to it, it’s easy to forget that not everyone understands what you mean when you say you need a place in case you run into bad luck. DOMS, but still have to try and break your plateau. This is fine. Just point them to this decoder.


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