Fitness ABC: 13 Terms You Must Know About Fitness

Have you ever looked at your training plan or read a fitness article that left you saying: “Huh?” There are a lot of fitness and exercise terms out there that, once you know what they mean, can make a world of difference in your training confidence as well as help broaden your understanding of fitness in general. There is actually a lot of great information out there, written by professionals with loads of experience who understand these terms like the back of their hand – but that doesn’t do much for the beginners’ eyes does it?

Honestly, I am guilty of it too! I talk about fitness and health all day long and sometimes forget that there are tons of people out there that can benefit from a fitness term break down. So, I want to slow it down for you and give you some quality fitness knowledge today.

Fitness ABC

(1) Repetition (aka “reps”)
A single movement of an exercise. For example, if you are doing squats, one squat is equal to one repetition (or one rep).

(2) Set
A series of reps of an exercise. This is usually done with little to no rest in between.
You might see this in your 12-week training plan: “Push-ups 3 x 15.” The 3 refers to the number of sets and the 15 refers to the number of reps in each set.

(3) Failure
Completing as many reps of an exercise as you possibly can with good form. Sometimes a training plan will instruct you to do an exercise “until failure”. Some people may do 5 and someone else 50 (depending on the exercise). The number of repetitions doesn’t matter as long as you are executing the movement properly. You don’t want to be the guy in the gym who is breaking his back trying to get out a few more reps of push-ups. Safety and proper movement should always be at the forefront of your mind when training.

(4) Drop set
This is an excellent muscle building technique that is popular among the bodybuilding community. After completing a set of an exercise until failure, you should be physically unable to complete another rep of that exercise with proper form using that weight load. The drop set is when you immediately reduce the weight (after the muscle failure) by 20-30% or do an easier version of the exercise, e.g. walking lunges after jump lunges. Then immediately continue on with another set until failure.

(5) Concentric
A way to think of concentric exercises is moving a weight away from the pull of gravity. With a push-up, the concentric phase would be when you extend your arms and push your body up. You are working against the pull of gravity as you move your upper body away from the floor.

(6) Eccentric
When you think of push-ups, the eccentric phase is controlling the weight against gravity’s pull. The slower you go down, the harder it gets.

(7) Isometric
A type of strength training where the muscle length and joint angle do not change (unlike concentric or eccentric). A good example of an isometric exercise is a plank or a wall sit. However, do not underestimate these movements – they are still challenging. Have you ever tried to hold a plank for 4 whole minutes?

(8) Free weights
Equipment that is used for weight training and is not connected to any external apparatus. Note: These are not any of the machines that you see at the gym.

(9) Barbell
A piece of free weight equipment used for weightlifting consisting of a long bar with weights attached to the ends. This is a common piece of equipment used for deadlifts and bench press.


(10) Dumbbell
A piece of free weight equipment used for weightlifting. It is a much shorter version of a barbell and can be held in the hands. Some exercises require them to be used individually and some in pairs using both hands. You can do this 11 minute workout using only a set of dumbbells.

(11) Superset
Two exercises performed consecutively with no rest in between them. The rest comes after the completion of the second exercise. Try squats after doing 4-count burpees. Challenging, right?

(12) Tri-set
Three exercises performed consecutively with no rest in between them. The rest comes after the completion of the third exercise. Perfect for ab exercises, such as Bicycle Crunches, Scissor Kicks or Russian Twist.

(13) Bodyweight training
A style of training that does not require any free weights or other machines. The body weight of the individual creates the resistance for the movement. Some examples are push-ups and pull-ups. Even though a pull-up requires a pull-up bar, you’re still using your own body weight to execute this movement. Bodyweight exercises are perfect for high-intensity interval training. It’s the best way to see results after just a few weeks and transform your body, anytime and anywhere.

So, did we bring some light into the darkness or did you already know all these fitness and exercise terms? Do you know any fitness terms that should be in here too? Let us know.


Lunden Souza Lunden Souza is an Online Fitness & Lifestyle Transformation Coach. She helps people all over the world create a sustainable healthy lifestyle, so they'll never have to "start over" again! Connect with @lifelikelunden for real-life strategies to get on track for long-term health in both body and mind. View all posts by Lunden Souza