44 Fitness Terms You Should Know


I've been a busy-bee studying for my NASM personal training exam. And as I've been studying, I thought it might be useful for you guys to get a pretty comprehensive list of fitness terms that you should probably know, as someone who works out.

  1. Aerobic - Aerobic activities utilize oxygen. Examples of aerobic activities include moderate intensity exercises such as cycling or jogging.
  2. AMRAP - As Many Reps As Possible - This is a Crossfit-invented term. It basically means do as many sets of the defined exercise(s) as you can within the given amount of time.
  3. Anaerobic - Anaerobic activities do not utilize oxygen. Examples of anaerobic activities include all-out intensity exercises such as a 100-meter dash.
  4. BCAAs - Branch Chain Amino Acids - When ingested, these three amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) can help to reduce muscle soreness and mental fatigue.
  5. Bench - The cushioned seat used for lifting free weights, especially bench press. If someone asks you how much you can bench, they're asking about the highest weight you can complete a set of bench presses. 
  6. Body composition - The amount of fat, muscle, water, and bone your body is comprised of. These numbers are usually used to determine one's leanness. 
  7. Bulk - To "bulk" is to strategically add muscle to your body. Usually, bulking involves a higher carb consumption, less cardio, and lifting heavier weights for less reps each set. 
  8. Calisthenics - Rhythmic exercises performed without equipment. Bodyweight squats and pushups are great calisthenic exercises, if you don't have equipment available. 
  9. Cardiorespiratory fitness - The ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity.
  10. Circuit training - Training that consists of a series of exercises that an individual performs one after another with minimal rest.
  11. Cool down - Completing an easy exercise at the end of a workout to gradually bring your body back to a resting or near-resting state. 
  12. Cortisol - "The stress hormone" regulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress. While increased cortisol is important in times of stress, it is vital that cortisol levels return to a normal level following the stressful event. Since we live in a high-stress culture, our cortisol levels often stay elevated, causing adrenal fatigue (chronic fatigue).
  13. Cross training - Training in a way that you do not normally train, with a goal of performance enhancement and/or recovery. Athletes will often cross train by participating in heavier weight training to increase muscle. Runners often cross train on a regular basis with yoga to prevent injuries. 
  14. Cut - Cutting is the opposite of bulking. To "cut" is to decrease the percentage of body fat in your body, usually achieved by reducing carb intake, increasing cardio, and lifting in the 8-12 rep range.
  15. Drop sets - Drop sets are used to complete a set of an exercise by switching to a lighter weight after achieving failure at a lower weight. So if you were doing a drop set of biceps curls, you might start by doing 5 reps at 25lbs and then dropping to 20lbs for the second 5 reps of the set, if you couldn't complete the 6th rep at 25lbs. 
  16. Ectomorph - One of the 3 body types (ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph) used to help design training programs. Ectomorphs have faster metabolisms and tend to get thinner when they don't work out. Ectomorphs are usually looking to gain muscle with their training programs.
  17. Endomorph - Endomorphs have slower metabolisms and tend to become heavier when they don't work out. Their bodies hang on to fat much more than ectomorphs. Endomorphs are usually looking to lose fat with their training programs.
  18. Failure - Exercising "to failure" means lifting as heavy as you can (with proper form) to the point that you can't complete another reps. If someone is trying to squat "to failure" at 8-10 reps, their goal is to lift heavy enough that they can't complete an 11th rep. The last couple reps should be very difficult.
  19. High impact - High impact exercises, including running and jumping are harder on your joints. The tendons and ligaments need time to acclimate to long, high-impact exercises. If you participate in a lot of high impact workouts, you may want to cross train with stretching and low-impact exercises. 
  20. HIIT - High intensity interval training. HIIT training is optimal for fat loss, and consists of short bursts of intense anaerobic exercise followed by less-intense recovery periods. 
  21. IIFYM - If it fits your macros. This is a dietary theory that relies on the way that the body utilizes proteins, carbs, and fats. The theory is that no matter where it comes from, if you hit your daily goal of proteins, carbs, and fats, you can stay lean and muscular. 
  22. Interval Training - see HIIT
  23. Lactic Acid - An acid produced by glucose-burning cells when these calls have an insufficient supply of oxygen. Known to cause that muscle "burn" feeling.
  24. Lean body mass - An individual's lean mass is the amount of bodyweight not composed of fat. This can be calculated by subtracting your body fat weight from your total weight.
  25. LISS - Low intensity steady state cardio. This could be swimming laps, walking, long distance running, or any other cardio activity that maintains the same level of effort throughout the workout.
  26. Low impact - Low impact exercises, including cycling and swimming are easier on the joints. These exercises are a good cardio alternative for individuals with weak, overused, and older joints. 
  27. Mesomorph - Mesomorph is the athletic body type. These individuals gain and lose weight easily, they also build muscle easily.
  28. Metabolism - All of the chemical reactions that occur in the body to maintain itself. Metabolism is the process in which nutrients are acquired, transported, used, and disposed of by the body.
  29. Minerals - Inorganic elements that come from the soil and are taken up into the body during digestion. Your body needs specific minerals to stay healthy. 
  30. One-rep max - The maximum amount of weight an individual can perform an exercise for one rep. This can be calculated by trial an error or through a number of different formulas you can find online.
  31. Overtraining - Excessive frequency, volume, or intensity of training, resulting in fatigue (which is also caused by a lack of proper rest and recovery).
  32. Periodization - Division of a training program into smaller, progressive stages.
  33. Plateau - When an individual begins a health and fitness program, they usually start to lose a significant amount of fat and get some "beginner gains" of muscle. But after continuing a workout program, progress can reach a standstill. This standstill is a plateau, which can be broken by changing up your fitness routine/intensity.
  34. Plyometric training - Exercises that generate quick, powerful movements involving an explosive movement, like jump squats. 
  35. Rack - When someone tells you to "rack" your weights, that basically means put the weight back into the safe position. When racking the barbell after a set of squats, you walk forward and place both sides of the bar onto the rack to where you can safely step out from under the weight.
  36. Recovery - A period of rest or deceleration of the heart rate used to recuperate between sets of at the end of a workout.
  37. Rep - Rep is short for repetition. One rep on the squat rack is one time lowering your bum to parallel and then standing back up. Each set usually contains 6-15 reps. 
  38. Resistance (strength) training - A type of exercise that involves using resistance (weights or bands) to induce muscular contraction, which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of muscles.
  39. Set - A set contains a defined number of repetitions. For squats, you could do 3 sets of 10 reps to complete the squat exercise. 
  40. Static stretching - The process of passively taking a muscle to the point of tension and holding the stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds.
  41. Superset - A set of two exercises that are performed back-to-back, without any rest time.
  42. Tabata - A form of HIIT training that lasts 4 minutes, consisting of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of recovery. A 20-minute tabata workout would be 8 sets of 4-minute tabata exercises, such as push-ups, jump squats, jump lunges, and burpees.
  43. Tone Up - A kind of made-up phrase used by women who are afraid of looking bulky by lifting weights. What they are usually looking for is fat reduction and lean muscle gains.
  44. Vitamins - Organic substances the body needs for daily functions. 

Any questions? Is there a fitness term you would add to this list?