Exercise Terms

If you are new to working out, don't be intimidated by all of the exercise terms you see on the web and in magazines. 

Look over the below list and before you know it, you will be speaking the lingo yourself!


AMRAP - As Many Reps As Possible during a certain time period - this makes it personal!

Active Recovery: Instead of hanging out at the water fountain at the gym, make the most of your time between sets or circuits: stretch the muscles you are using or perform 2-3 minutes of cardio like jumping jacks, an elliptical machine or the treadmill. 

Aerobic exercise: uses oxygen for fuel.  Increases your heart rate (HR), builds endurance and causes your heart and lunges to function more efficiently.

Aerobic threshold (AT): The point at which you cross over from aerobic to anaerobic exercise.

Anaerobic exercise: short bursts of activity that uses carbs for fuel.  Ex. Pushups, lifting weights and sprints.

Barbells/dumbbells:  Barbells are long and usually held with both hands.  Dumbbells are the shorter ones – usually one is held in each hand. 

Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR):  This is the minimum amount of calories that you need to exist -to breathe and digest food.  Also known as Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).

Beats Per Minute (BPM): Heart rate per minute - a great gauge of how hard you are working.

Bodybuilding: Most people consider bodybuilding to mainly focus on how you LOOK in the mirror and overall body symmetry.  This is done by focusing on individual muscles with mostly isolation exercises.

Many bodybuilders do it as a hobby and some enter competitions.  Bodybuilders typically look more bulky and muscular, while people who focus on functional training, training for sports or weight loss have a more lean, athletic look...

Circuit: A chain of exercise sets done back to back, usually involving big muscle groups.  Circuits energize muscles AND give you a cardio workout at the same time! A complete circuit is called a “Round”. 

Example: 10 reps each of…squats, pushups, mountain climbers, pullups and overhead presses.  That’s a round. Rest a couple of minutes (or better stretch for couple of minutes) and repeat the circuit.

Endurance training: Consists of mainly longer bouts of cardio exercises, like running, cycling and swimming.

Frequency:  How often you workout.  2x/week, 4x/week, etc. 

Functional Training: This is an exercise term that means training the body as a whole to work together to better perform daily tasks or specific sports.  Training the core and practicing full ranges of motion are major components.
In my opinion, functional training and exercising to lose weight - and should be - the same thing!

HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training.

Intensity: This is how difficult an exercise or exercise session is. It must be challenging for whatever level you are.

Personal Record (PR): Your personal best of a lift or a time.

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE): A self measure of how hard you perceive you are working during a rep or a bout of cardio. 

Repetition (rep): One complete movement of an exercise.  One repetition of a pushup would be starting on the floor and pushing up, and then the lowering part, returning to the start position.

1RM: 1 rep max.  The most you can lift for 1 rep.

Rest: This is the brief time between sets where you recover (see "Active Recovery").  This varies, depending on your level and your goals. For most weight loss exercises, 30 seconds to one minute are typical. 

Resting Heart Rate (RHR): What your HR is at rest.

Set: A group of reps done non-stop.  10 reps of pushups is 1 set.  (When written out, sets and reps are usually shown as follows:  3 sets of 10 reps: 3x10.)

Superset: Usually involving opposing muscle groups like back (pulling) and chest (pushing) where one set of each is performed back to back with little or no rest.  Some people define supersets as doing 2 or more of any two or three exercises like pushups/squats or overhead presses/lunges.

Strength training:
Resistance training used to challenge muscles.

Target Heart Rate: Measuring your HR is one of the methods to gauge the intensity of workout.

VO2Max: Measured by wearing an airtight mask, hooked to a machine, while running on a treadmill or exercise bike  Its a measure of how well your body uses oxygen during maximal exertion.  The more fit you are, the better you can utilize oxygen. 

Warm-up set A set of reps done with light weight or no weight to warm up the muscles. 

Working sets: These are the sets done after a warm up.  Working sets should be challenging, or you are not WORKING the muscles. 


What are some exercise terms that you have heard that are missing from this list?  Let me know and I will add them!

Return from "Exercise Terms" to "Exercise Guide To Lose Weight".

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.