Are you confused about fitness lingo?

Do you hear people talk down the gym and think it’s pure gobbledegook?

After this post you should be a little less confused. I’ve combined some workout slang with some biological terms so that you can better understand articles when you read them and hopefully get better results because of it.

The fitness world is full of people trying to push products and methodologies which makes reading articles and posts a minefield. You can never really be sure if they’re telling the truth. Understanding is how you escape this.

Knowledge will set you free.

If you have anything that you want added to the list then let me know down below in the comments!

Also, if there is a specific word that you would like to know the definition of then hit command + F if you have a mac or control + F if you have a PC to search for it on this page.


Reps: A single movement carried out of an exercise. One rep of bicep curls would be a single bicep curl.

Sets: A set is an amount of repetitions you will or have completed. 3 sets of 8 repetitions would call for a total of 24 repetitions.

ATG: Ass To Grass or Ass To Ground. It means using full range of movement in the squat so that your butt is almost touch your heels.

Eating Clean: There’s no real definition for this which is why it’s not a great concept. It tends to mean not eating processed foods and sticking to fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish and meat.

Bulking: Going into a surplus of calories in order to build muscle.

Lean Bulk: Bulking with the aim of only gaining muscle and no fat.

Dirty Bulk: Eating whatever you want and as much of it as you want in an attempt to gain muscle. Normally associated with as much fat gain as muscle gain.

Hypertrophy: Increasing muscle size. Hyper meaning beyond or exceeding and -trophy is derived from the Greek word -trophia meaning nourishment. Hypertrophy simply means the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells.

IIFYM: If It Fits Your Macros. This is a diet template where you set certain ‘macros’ i.e. macronutrient targets and aim to hit them using which ever foods fit in to these numbers.

Macronutrients: Proteins, fats and carbohydrates. These are what make up calories.

Paleo: A diet structure heralding from our palaeolithic ancestors that excludes dairy, grains, legumes and processed meats and sugars.

Energy: The power from food that allows for reactions and activity to take place within the body.

Tissue: Any type of material found in the body of an organism.

Organism: A single living thing such as a plant, animal or human being.

Cell: The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Cells are made of cytoplasm and a nucleus surrounded by a membrane.

Muscle: A mass of fibrous tissue which can contract or relax to create movement or maintain a posture.

Skeletal Muscle: Muscle that is attached to the skeleton to move limbs and other parts of the body.

Chemical: A distinct compound or substance, especially one which has been artificially prepared or purified. It can also mean relating to chemistry. A chemical is really any substance that can take part in a chemical process. In fitness, chemicals are more referred to for their artificial nature.

Processed: Using chemicals or machines to change a substance in order to preserve it. When used on foods this has a tendency to reduce the amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients within the food and can involve adding chemicals that are potentially harmful.

Organic: A food that is free of artificial food additives and is created with fewer artificial methods. To be certified organic, food products must be grown and manufactured to set standards by the government. It is still widely debated as to whether organic is worth the extra money.

Artificial: Something that is created by human beings opposed to naturally occurring in nature. Usually, these things are created to mimic or improve upon something that is naturally occurring in nature. Such as artificial sweeteners copy sugar.

Sugar: A sweet crystalline substance in the carbohydrate family obtained from various plants, especially sugar cane and sugar beet, consisting essentially of sucrose, and used as a sweetener in food and drink.

Glucose: A simple sugar which is an important energy source in living organisms and is a component of many carbohydrates. It’s common in root vegetables and grains.

Glycogen: A substance deposited in bodily tissues as a store of carbohydrates. It is a polysaccharide which forms glucose on hydrolysis. The body stores this in the liver for less vigorous movement and muscles for more strenuous activities.

Fructose: A sugar of the hexose class found especially in honey and fruit.

Sucrose: Commonly referred to as table sugar and is a combination of glucose and fructose.

Carbohydrates: Any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body. Examples would be potatoes, rice and oats. Carbohydrates contains 4kcal/g.

Simple Carbohydrate: A less complex form of carbohydrate such as glucose or fructose that tends to have a sweet taste.

Complex Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates that are harder to break down and are commonly found in starches and grains.

Starch: An odourless, tasteless white substance occurring widely in plant tissue and obtained chiefly from cereals and potatoes. Even though starches are a complex carbohydrate some starches still break down into glucose quickly.

Fibre: A dietary material containing substances such as cellulose, lignin, and pectin, that are resistant to the action of digestive enzymes. It is a form of indigestible carbohydrate found in high amounts in vegetables and fruits.

Fat: A natural oily substance occurring in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs. Fat contains 9kcal/g.

Saturated fat: A type of single-bond animal or vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature, as that found in butter, meat, egg yolks, chocolate and coconut or palm oil. 

Unsaturated fat: A fat more commonly found in foods such as avocado, olives, nuts and fish. Unlike saturated fat, it is a liquid at room temperature.

Trans fat: A trans fat is a form of modified unsaturated fats and is very common in processed foods. It is the only form of fat that everyone believes should be avoided as much as possible.

Protein: Any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds which have large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies. In food, protein is prevalent in meats, fish, eggs as well as vegetable sources such as soy beans and are used for growth and repair. They contain 4kcal/g.

Amino acid: A simple organic compound containing both a carboxyl (—COOH) and an amino (—NH2) group. They are what build protein molecules.

Molecule: A group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction.

Calorie: A measurement of energy that is ingested through food and drink. A calorie refers to the amount of energy that is needed to raise the temperature of 1kg of water by 1 degree celsius. It is also known as a kilocalorie or kcal.

Nutrient: A substance that provides nourishment essential for the maintenance of life and for growth.

Digestion: The process of breaking down food in order to obtain the energy inside.

Metabolism: The chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. Within the body the metabolism refers to all of the processes that are involved in creating energy.

Hormone: A regulatory chemical produced in an organism and transported in tissue fluids such as blood or sap to stimulate specific cells or tissues into action.

Insulin: A hormone produced in the pancreas by the islets of Langerhans, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. The lack of insulin causes a form of diabetes.

Endorphins: Neurotransmitters, chemicals that pass along signals from one neuron to the next. Neurotransmitters play a key role in the function of the central nervous system and can either prompt or suppress the further signaling of nearby neurons. They have an analgesic effect meaning that they relieve pain – mental or physical. They may also be a predecessor to the dolphin, last seen in the mid to late cretaceous, jurassic, and meso-esoteric periods.

Glycemic Index: A scale that measures the effects of different carbohydrates on your blood sugar level. Below 55 on is considered low and above 70 is seen as high. Pure glucose is 100. The glycemic index isn’t something that most people need to worry about.

Supplement: A thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it. In terms of diet and fitness, supplements usually aid body function or aim to fix a deficiency in vitamins or minerals.

Whey Protein: A dairy protein supplement derived from milk. Whey is the watery part of milk that remains after the formation of curds.

Casein: The main protein present in milk and (in coagulated form) in cheese. It is used in processed foods and in adhesives, paints, and other industrial products. People supplement with casein due to it’s nature to be ‘drip fed’ into the body so you receive protein over a longer period of time. Whey is digested far quicker (30mins – 1hr after consumption) which spikes insulin levels.

BCAAs: Branch Chain Amino Acids. BCAA supplements are made of 3 proteins; valine, isoleucine and leucine. Leucine has been shown to increase MPS (muscle protein synthesis a.k.a. building muscle) while isoleucine has been shown to increase the stores of glucose within the muscle. Valine hasn’t shown to have any effects. Normally BCAAs come in the ratio 2:1:1 as leucine:isoleucine:valine but you can get different ratios.

Vitamins: Any of a group of organic compounds which are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.

Minerals: A substance that contains no carbon and that forms naturally within the earth. Your body uses these for building bones, creating hormones and regulating your heartbeat.

Cholesterol: A compound of the sterol type found in most body tissues. Cholesterol and its derivatives are important constituents of cell membranes and precursors of other steroid compounds, but high concentrations in the blood are thought to promote atherosclerosis. There are two types within the body; LDL and HDL. The DL means ‘density-lipoprotein’ while the L and H mean low and high respectively. Cholesterol is necessary for survival yet in high amounts within the blood it can cause heart attacks and strokes. Cholesterol is naturally created within the body but can also be derived from food such as eggs and dairy products.

BMI: Body Mass Index. It simply means how your weight correlates to your height. I really would not worry about BMI in the slightest. If you’re overweight, you know that you’re overweight from looking in the mirror. If you’re underweight then you’ll know as your mental cognition and performance will be lacking. Plus, you’ll be able to see it in the mirror. You can pay attention to BMI if you want to but there are much better markers of health such as body fat percentage, waist circumference and heart rate.

Lean Mass: The amount of your body taken up by anything that is not fat. Lean means without fat hence why lean meats are less fatty cuts of meat.

Electrolytes: Minerals in your blood and other body fluids that carry an electric charge. Electrolytes affect the amount of water in your body, the acidity of your blood (pH), your muscle function, and other important processes. You lose electrolytes when you sweat and those who are underweight and/or malnourished tend to be lacking in them. Low levels can cause muscle spasms.

Lactic Acid: A syrupy acid produced in the muscle tissues during strenuous exercise. This is what many people feel when they train for the ‘pump’ i.e. so many repetitions that they’re muscles seize up and they cannot lift seemingly easy weights. People believe that this causes larger muscles. For most, it does not.

Target Heart Rate: The heart rate you need to reach in a particular program. Normally these programmes are designed around cardio exercises such as running, cycling or swimming. They are also very prevalent in tabata/interval styles of training.

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