Do you ever walk into your group exercise class or are working out in the gym and you hear all kinds of terms being thrown around and you have no clue what they mean? You are not alone! There is a lot of fitness lingo out there and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with it, especially if you are new to the gym arena or fitness in general. We’re here to help break down the lingo for you today so that you can head to the gym with confidence or get the most bang for your buck with your at home workouts. Knowledge is power and the more you know about fitness terminology, the more you can seek to grow and improve in your fitness goals. 

Let’s start from A-Z and work our way through some of the most common fitness terminology. 

Active Recovery- Low intensity exercises and activities that follow a more strenuous exercise day. It helps heal the body/muscles back to pre-training levels. The goal is to increase the heart rate and get blood flowing to the muscles to clear out any leftover metabolic waste (i.e. lactic acid) causing muscle soreness and fatigue. Examples include walking, biking, yoga, and swimming. 

Activities of Daily Living (ADL)- A term used to describe fundamental skills required for an individual to independently care for oneself. These daily self-care activities include bathing, feeding, dressing, homemaking, mobility, and leisure activities. 

Aerobic Activity– Physical exercise (also known as ‘cardio’) of low to high intensity that raises the heart rate and increases the rate of breathing. Aerobic refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Examples of aerobic activity include walking, running/jogging, swimming, rowing, and cycling. 

Anaerobic Activity– Anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’ meaning that this type of exercise breaks down glucose stored in your muscles for energy without using oxygen. Anaerobic exercise is high intensity, high power exercise such as high intensity interval training, sprinting, biking, or some forms of weight lifting. 

Body Composition– Our body weight broken down into its various components such as fat, protein, lean muscle tissue, bone density, and water. It is a more accurate depiction of your overall health. A body composition scan will analyze your body fat vs. lean muscle mass. 

Body Mass Index (BMI)– A person’s BMI is determined based on their height and weight. It is calculated by dividing the person’s weight in kilograms by the square height in meters. BMI does not take into account a person’s body composition (i.e. lean muscle mass or body fat). 

Boot Camp– A type of physical training designed to increase strength and fitness through various exercises that may or may not be modeled after military style fitness training. Boot camp style workouts can be performed at gyms, by personal trainers, indoors or outdoors. Boot camp offers a lot of flexibility and diversity for exercise training. 

Cardiovascular Exercise– This is another name for aerobic exercise and we often refer to it as ‘cardio’. This type of exercise relies on the aerobic energy generating process, which uses oxygen as its energy source. The CDC recommends adults do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise (or a combination of both). For cardiovascular benefits, aim to spend 20-60 minutes doing cardio exercise in your target heart rate zone. 

Calisthenics– A variety of exercises that work large muscle groups, relying on a person’s body weight as their resistance. Exercises include movements such as pushing, pulling, bending, jumping, or swinging. These types of exercises help to improve and develop strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. 

Circuit– One completion or ‘round’ of all exercises in a set, typically with strength training or high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. Example circuit: 10 squats, 10 push-ups, 10 tricep dips

Circuit Training– A type of exercise regimen that works to train different muscle groups. Circuit training allows you to work on cardio, muscular endurance, and strength training at the same time, which is the best combination for building lean muscle and burning fat at the same time. One ‘circuit’ is one completion of all of the set exercises in the program and then you repeat from the beginning. Circuit training is different from interval training where you push through high intensity moves, going all out and alternate with rest periods or low intensity moves. 

Cool Down– Your exercise session should end gradually by slowing down. You can cool down by changing your pace to a less intense activity (i.e. running to walking) or by stretching. Your cool down should last approximately 5 minutes to allow your body to relax and recover. 

Core– Your core is the midsection of your body that includes the muscles around the front, back, and sides of your body. The muscles making up our core include internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, multifidus, and the pelvic floor muscles. Our core muscles are deep within the abdominals and back and attach to the spine or pelvis. Our core muscles are the main stabilizers for the entire body. 

Compound Exercise– An exercise move that incorporates multiple muscle groups such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges. It can also involve a movement that combines two movements such as a bicep curl to a shoulder press or a deadlift to an upright row. These types of compound exercises are efficient and effective for increasing muscle mass, strength, and burning more calories as compound exercises require more effort than isolated exercises (a single bicep curl alone). 

Cross Training– Involves mixing various types of exercise and training methods to develop a specific area of fitness. The benefits of cross training include a reduced risk of injury, improved total fitness, and enhanced weight loss. Cross training aims to pair workouts that support one another such as swimming with running or boot camp and a spin class. 

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)– DOMS is muscle pain/soreness that typically occurs 1-2 days after a strenuous workout. It is caused by eccentric exercise (the tension  and lengthening of muscles) which causes microtears in the muscle fibers. Our muscles adapt to these microtears by increasing inflammation to the damaged sites, leading to delayed muscle soreness.

Dynamic Warm-Up– A warm-up that involves active movement, taking your body through ranges of motion to prepare your body for your workout routine. Unlike static stretching, a dynamic warm-up does not involve holding a stretch. Dynamic warm-up moves should mimic the movements you will be doing in your workout. The purpose of a dynamic warm-up is to increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments and increase range of motion. 

Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)– This can also be called the afterburn effect because your body continues to burn calories after your high intensity workout is finished. EPOC is the increased consumption of oxygen within the body and the calories it burns to recover from exercise. High intensity exercise generates a greater EPOC or afterburn than lower intensity exercise because of the increased demands on the body and the higher amounts of oxygen needed to recover. 

Flexibility– The range of motion for a given joint. The ability to move joints effectively through a complete range of motion. 

Foam Rolling– Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique using a foam roller. Foam rolling can be utilized to help relieve muscle tension, break up lactic acid causing soreness, decrease inflammation, and increase your range of motion. Foam rollers are cylinder shaped but can come in varying densities and sizes. It is beneficial to incorporate foam rolling into your warm-up and cool-down routine when exercising. 

Functional Move– Functional moves are based on real life situational biomechanics such as lifting a heavy box or carrying grocery bags. Functional movements typically involve using multiple muscle groups and moving in multiple planes of motion increasing the involvement of the core muscles. 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)– High Intensity Interval Training is a specific type of cardiovascular exercise that focuses on alternating short bursts of all-out (anaerobic) exercise with less intense recovery periods. There is no set duration for this type of training although typically 30 minutes is sufficient to experience the benefits of HIIT. Some of the benefits of HIIT training include its efficiency, increased fat burn, increased cardiovascular capacity, little to no equipment needed, increased metabolism, and you can lose weight without losing lean muscle mass. 

High Impact– High impact on the joints and involves activities where both feet are off of the ground at the same time. HIgh impact activities include running, jumping, plyometrics, and gymnastics. 

Heart Rate Zones– Zones to help you understand how hard you are exercising. Heart rate zones are the zones in between our personal resting heart rate and our max heart rate. A simple way to determine your personal heart rate zones is to take a % of your max heart rate. The different heart rate zones correspond with the intensity of your training. Heart rate zones are linked to anaerobic and aerobic thresholds. There are 5 different heart rate zones: 

HR Zone 1 (very light): 50-60% max HR

HR Zone 2 (light): 60-70% max HR

HR Zone 3 (moderate): 70-80% max HR

HR Zone 4 (hard): 80-90% max HR

HR Zone 5 (max): 90-100% max HR

Isometric– A form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement or change in the angle of the joint. Isometric exercises are done to improve strength in one particular position. These types of exercises can be beneficial for increasing stabilization. 

Lactic Acid– Lactic Acid (lactate) is a chemical byproduct of anaerobic respiration. Lactic acid is also produced in our guts and in yogurt from bacteria. Lactic acid is in our blood where it is then deposited into muscle cells and red blood cells. 

Lactic Threshold- Lactic threshold is the point in your exercise where the lactate in your blood begins to exponentially increase and accumulate at a faster rate than it can be removed. This oftentimes happens with high intensity exercise and can result in vomiting and not feeling well and needing to stop the activity. 

Low Impact– Activities where one foot remains on the ground at all times, therefore being low impact on the joints. Walking is an example of a low impact exercise. 

Max Heart Rate– Max heart rate is based on a person’s age and is calculated by subtracting the person’s age from 220. This number is the maximum times the heart should beat during one minute of exercise. 

MET– MET’s are metabolic equivalents that can help determine your body’s energy expenditure and the intensity of an exercise.  A MET is the ratio of your working metabolic rate versus your resting metabolic rate. One MET is the energy used to be still/at rest. MET’s are calculated by multiplying 3.5 mL of oxygen (your cells use approximately 3.5 mL of oxygen to create energy for one MET per kilogram of body weight) times your body weight in kilograms. MET’s can be helpful in determining an exercise routine and to help you guage how much you are getting out of your workout. Keep in mind that energy expenditure will vary person to person based on age and fitness level. 

One Rep Max– Your one repetition maximum is the max amount of weight you can lift for one rep of a specific exercise. You can use this information of your one rep max to determine the weight you should be using for your sets in general. 

Plyometric– Plyometric exercises are aerobic exercises used to increase speed, strength, and endurance. Plyometric exercises typically involve jumping such as squat jumps, burpees, box jumps, clapping push-up, and ski/lateral jumps just to name a few. These types of exercises are powerful, high exertion exercises that are meant for conditioned individuals and athletes. 

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)– The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale is a way to measure the intensity of an exercise and how hard you feel like your body is working. The rating is on a 6-20 scale, 6 being the easiest and 20 being the hardest, all out effort. It is based on the individual’s personal physical feelings and experiences during the physical activity (i.e. increased heart rate, increased breathing, sweating, muscle fatigue, etc.). Although the scale is subjective in nature, it has been shown to provide a fairly accurate estimate of your actual heart rate during exercise. 

Repetition– In reference to strength training, a repetition is the number of times you perform a given exercise during a set. 

Resting Heart Rate– A normal resting heart rate range for adults is 60-100 beats per minute. A lower heart rate signifies that your heart is able to work more efficiently and you have better cardiovascular fitness. 

Steady State Cardio– A cardio workout with a continuous steady effort that can be sustained for a longer amount of time with a stable heart rate and oxygen consumption. This type of exercise is unlike interval training in that you do not vary the intensity or energy output. Steady state cardio can help to increase your aerobic fitness level and cardiovascular endurance. 

Strength/Resistance Training– The goal with this type of exercise training is to improve strength and function of muscles. You can weight lift using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. and you can also use resistance bands for resistance training. You can also do strength training using your own bodyweight to do exercises such as squats, push-ups, lunges, etc. 

Set– In reference to strength training, a set is repeating the same exercises a certain number of times. For example, you complete 10 squats for one set, then rest, and perform another ‘set’ of 10 squats. 

Superset– Two or more strength training exercises that typically work the same muscle group and are performed back to back without any rest periods. 

Tabata– A high intensity interval training protocol created by Japanese scientist, Dr. Izumi Tabata, that involves 20 second all-out maximum work intervals followed by a 10 second rest interval for 8 cycles (a total of 4 minutes). 

Warm-up– A warm-up is done prior to beginning exercise in order to prepare the body for the stress of exercise. A warm-up should consist of 5-10 minutes of low-intensity aerobic movements or dynamic stretches to increase blood flow to the muscles to warm them for more intense exercise. 


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