An Idiots Guide to Fitness Terminology (With graphs and stuff)

I sometimes forget not everyone lives and breathes diet and fitness 24/7.  For me, this has been a 2 year journey. Every day waking up with “What am I going to eat today?” “When am I going to work out?” “What new topic can I post on DIY?” So it’s easy to forget the simple things that I take for granted. No worries. I’m here to help make you a freak like me.

The following are some basic topics or terms you’ll hear more experienced people use as common language.

I want to start with the basic muscles of the body. Keep in mind there are more specific names for each muscle but I wanted to give the most widely used names you’ll see on websites and gyms.

Again, these are the basic names for each muscle group. Getting to know each one is extremely important. 

Now, you might hear someone say, “Im working out my back today.” That means they are usually working the entire Back, Lats, Traps and maybe Shoulder. If someone says, “Its arms day!” This can include the Bicep, Tricep and Forearm. Legs would of course include the Quads, Hamstrings, Groin and Calves/ Achilles.

Another area most newbies don’t know about is that with each exercise there is a primary and secondary muscles being used.

For instance:

  • Push up/ Bench Press- Primary: Chest . Secondary: Shoulder and Triceps and even the Back at times.
  • Bicep Curl- Primary: Bicep Secondary: Shoulder (Back as well if you’re doing it wrong lol)
  • Tricep Pull DownPrimary– Tricep, Secondary: None (maybe the shoulder but just slightly)
  • Leg Press- Primary: Glutes, Hamstring, Quads Secondary: Your Core (abs)

These are just a few examples and depending on the exercise (standing or sitting) your core (abs, lower back and obliques) could be engaged. So when you are setting up a routine, its important to be conscious of what muscles you are engaging. It is very easy to over train and just as easy to under train. Example: If you do a ton of Chest exercises in the beginning of your workout and then attempt to train your Triceps, they may be too fatigued. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still working the triceps but the end result may not be as effective.

Here is some workout terminology you’ll hear people use quite often:

  • Set- A Set is one round or group of exercises. I completed 3 sets of Chest Press
  • Rep- The total amount of movements in a Set. I competed 15 reps of Tricep Pulldowns during Set #1.
  • Machine- A Machine is a device that is used to help isolate a muscle group. Typically they use pulleys or bands. 
  • Free weights- This would include barbels, dumbbells and Plates.

Lastly, I want to cover a few “terms” you might hear from “personal trainers” or more experienced gym rats..

  • Circuit Training– This is a routine that will cover the entire body, moving from one exercise to the next.. Most gyms have certain machines or areas designated just for “circuits”. They typically start with the chest (bench press, incline press and flys), move to biceps and triceps, then to Shoulders, Back (lats, shoulder and Traps) and finally end with legs. The goal is to complete 3-4 “circuits” in one workout. This great for new comers who don’t know which muscles to attack each day. EXAMPLE
  • Interval Training- Very similar to a “Circuit Routine”, Interval Training pushes your muscles to extreme limits with little to no rests in between exercises. Typically, an “Interval Routine” focuses on one main muscle group but can include the entire body. Interval Training can be done on a tread mill (cardio) or during resistance training. EXAMPLE
  • Resistance Training- Another word for weight training. This can be done with just your body weight, actual dumbbells or machines. New forms of resistance training would be kettle balls, TRX or even resistance bands.
  • Superset- Supersetting is an advanced training method in which you do two exercises, one after the other, with no rest in between. The exercises can be for the same muscle group or two different muscle groups, depending on your goals. The idea is to do one exercise and, instead of resting and doing another set, doing a different exercise and alternating those exercises for your desired number of sets.

Hopefully this helped clarify a few intimidating aspects of gyms and or working out. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. This stuff can be frustrating for anyone.


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