Over 15 Workout Terms You Need to Know Right Now

Being new to fitness or going into a gym for the first time is overwhelming. It is as iff everyone is speaking a different language! Here are over 15 workout terms you need to know right now so you know what everyone's talking about.

Hey all! I know as someone new to the fitness world it can be slightly overwhelming. Walking into a gym for the first time can seem daunting. “What machine do I use?” “What are they even for?” “How am I supposed to use this thing?” “What the heck is a macro? Sounds science-y” are all questions you may have asked yourself; I know I did! I want to take away some of the confusion for you. Listed below are all workout terms defined so you’ll never have to wonder what language the regulars are talking in.


Body composition: The amount of fat versus lean muscle in the body.

Body Mass Index (BMI): A weight to height ratio that is calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of one’s height (in meters). The BMI is used to indicate whether one is overweight, underweight, or healthy. You can calculate yours here.

Cardio: Short for cardiovascular activity. Any form of exercise that raises your heart rate. Usually we think of running as cardio, but there’s so many other activities that would fall under cardio! Walking, biking, swimming, and rowing are more examples.

Circuit training: A type of training that has a series of rounds of different exercises with somewhat short rest periods in between each round. For example, you could have four rounds each having four exercises in it. You’d do round #1 for 10 minutes (or however long), take 30-60 second break, do round #2 for 10 minutes, and continue like that until each round is complete.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Muscle soreness that appears at least 12 hours after exercise that are most likely from microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. Usually it takes a few days to recover from DOMS in order for the muscle to recover, but stretching and foam rolling can help speed up the process.

Electrolytes: Ions found in bodily fluids. Your body loses electrolytes when you sweat during your workout and they need to be replaced, if they’re not dizziness and nausea can occur. These are my favorite electrolytes, plus they make water taste really good!

Heart Rate Monitor (HRM): Many people who train, including myself, use a heart rate monitor to track their heart rate during their workout. A heart rate monitor is a watch or band that goes around your wrist and may or may not have a chest strap to better monitor your heart rate. Polar is a reputable brand with great HRMs and I currently use their Polar FT4.

(Related: A Review and Comparison: Microsoft Band, Fitbit Charge HR and Apple Watch)

HIIT: Stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This is pretty much the opposite of LISS. With HIIT, you are working out in intervals with breaks in between. Ideally, for each interval you will workout as fast as you can and then stop or slow down during the breaks. For example, a popular form of HIIT is to do 30:30 sprints. You would sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then stop or walk for 30 seconds. You’d repeat this for 10-15 minutes and then you’re done! HIIT is great because it burns more fat in less time. HIIT is meant to be a short workout, say 15-20 minutes. For HIIT, your heart rate should be 80-90% of your maximum heart rate. To figure this out you subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate. Multiply your maximum heart rate by 80% and 90% to find out the zone your heart rate should stay in.

IIFYM: Stands for If It Fits Your Macros. This is a way of eating where you track your macros (defined below) throughout the day. Basically, if you’re going through the day and someone brings donuts into the office you can check to see if eating a donut will fit your macros. If it does, you can eat it. It’s a great way allow yourself to have sweets and have an overall balanced diet. Everyone’s body is different, so the amount of each macro you’d need depends on many factors. Go here to calculate what your macros should be. You can then add them to My Fitness Pal and start tracking.

LISS: Stands for Low Intensity Steady State. This is a type of exercise that helps you burn more fat since your heart rate is in the fat burning zone. Walking at a fast pace and biking at a low intensity are some forms of LISS I love to do. For LISS, you want your heart rate to be 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. To figure this out you subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate. Multiply your maximum heart rate by 60% and 70% to find out the zone your heart rate should stay in.

Macro: Stands for macronutrient. There are three macros; protein, carbs and fats. All three should be in your diet.

One-Rep max (1 RM): The amount of weight that can be lifted or moved only one time. This is a common way of measuring one’s strength.

Plateau: A point in one’s exercise regime where they are no longer seeing continued progress. This can be handled by changing up your normal routine. If you usually run, add in some sprints here and there. If you do the elliptical add resistance to it.

Pre-workout: A drink some people like to have before their workout that gives them a boost of energy and can help with better performance during the workout. I personally don’t use pre-workout, I believe it can be somewhat dangerous - here’s an article on why I prefer to not use them.

Rep: Short for repetition. A rep is the number of times you repeat an exercise within a single set.

Resistance: Any form of exercise that causes the muscles to contract in order to increase strength and tone muscles. Body weight training is a form of resistance and so is weight training. Cardio would not be resistance.

Set: A workout containing the number of reps a specific exercise is done. Usually you’ll hear it in the context of “four sets of 15 repetitions with 25 pounds).


What are some words you hear often at the gym? Did I miss something? Let me know below!

Posted on November 5, 2015 and filed under Fitness & Health.