Common Health and Fitness Jargon

Posted on 09. Apr, 2009 by in Exercise

Have you ever read somebody else’s workout journal or a health and fitness article and wonder what some of the words meant or what those obscure abbreaviations stand for? I was in the same boat when I was just first starting out. I encountered this a lot when I was first introduced to online workout journals in forums like ttmembers.com or ClutchFitness.com. I wanted to see what people were doing and it’s also a great motivator to see other people who were working as hard, if not harder, as I did.

After reading through many workout journals and workout routines for awhile, seeing the abbreviations and definitions are almost second nature to me but for people who are just starting out, reading through them can be mystifying.

So, I compiled the most common health and fitness abbreaviations and definitions in this post so you can either print it out or bookmark it for future reference. Here they are:

  • BB or Barbell – weights with long handles
  • BW or Bodyweight – the use of one’s own bodyweight during exercise(s)
  • DB or Dumbbell – weights with short handles
  • A Dumbbell

    A Dumbbell


  • KB or Kettlebell also see this post by clicking here.
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – this is the amount of calories your body burns at rest. In other words, you will burn calories at this rate even if you don’t exercise.
  • Calorie – in terms or weight loss, this is the unit of energy that food can potentially produce. If a person does not spend enough energy on physical activities, this energy is then eventually stored as fat.
  • Calorie Deficit – this is the situation when people spend more calories than they consume (eat). In other words, calories in is less than calories out. You would want to have a calorie deficit to achieve fat loss. (cal in < cal out = fat loss) also see this post by clicking here.
  • Calorie Surplus – this is the opposite of calorie deficit. In this case, calories in is more than calories out which may result in either fat gain or muscle gain depending on the quality of your nutrition. (Calories in > calories out = fat gain or muscle gain)
  • Cardiovascular Activity (traditional or steady state cardio) – when people talk about cardio, they typically refer to aerobic exercises which are exercises that help improve the consumption of oxygen in the body such as running, cycling etc. at a moderate level for longer periods of time. During cardio activities, our body gets oxygen from the blood for its fuel source. This is also the reason why it’s called “aero” bics.
  • Core – in general, this is an area of your body wherein there is very little skeletal support which is mainly the abdominals and the lower back. The muscles in this area are the target of core training.
  • EZ Bar– just like the Barbell but with bent handles for a different grip which tends to be easier on the wrists. This is suitable for people who have wrist problems/injuries.
  • Heart Rate – this is the number of heart beats per minute (bpm). An average person would have 70 bpm. This may vary among people depending on their age, genetics, and health.
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT or intervals) – this is the most current type of “cardio” which is the opposite of traditional cardio because they are done by alternating jogs and sprints. Intervals are anaerobic which means that the body does not draw its energy from oxygen but still burns carbohydrates or sugar. See this post for an example of intervals.
  • Macronutrients – these are the nutrients that our body needs in large amounts as the name implies (macro = big). They are comprised of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
  • Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilián

    Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilián


  • Micronutrients – these are the nutrients that our body needs in small amounts as the name implies (micro = small). These are generally made up of vitamins and minerals.
  • Repetitions or Reps – the number of times you repeat an exercise or lift a weight. (i.e. 10 pull ups performed consecutively = 10 reps)
  • RM or Repetition Max – the maximum number of times you can perform an exercise or lift a certain weight. (i.e. 10 RM of Bench Press at 45 lbs would be the max number of presses I can perform at that weight)
  • Sets – the number of times you perform a set of one exercise (i.e. 10 pushups = 1 set then, another 10 pushups performed 30 seconds after the first set is considered a 2nd set)

    Normally, I would write out my workouts in this way –> # of sets x # of reps x weight lifted and it would look like this: 5 x 10 x 125 for 5 sets of 10 repetitions with a 125 lb weight.
  • Superset – this is a set of two exercises. Most of the time, the exercises are non-competing which means that you are targeting non-opposing muscles. An example of this would be an upper body exercises such as barbell curls paired with a lower body exercise such as the squats.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive in any way but it will be a good starting point for beginners. I will try to update this list when I think/find more mystifying fitness words in the future.

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  • Hey, why the new digs(blog page)? I was used to the old one…it was homey.

    Anyhow, nice list of those things which many of us take for granted. HIIT’s, DB, BB, RDL’s, etc. It can be confusing, but I’d rather type BB vs. Barbell.

    later, mikeZ

  • admin

    Hey Mike, I didn’t like the background on the other one. I felt like I couldn’t see the words that much…lol.

    I know what you mean about writing it out. We do it so much that we just want to shorten it right? Plus, most people already know what they stand for but it’s good to be reminded of them every now and then.

  • risi13

    Very useful, where did you find the definitions for all this jargon? I'm a twitter subscriber to Bally total fitness and they send out “coded” messages in the fitness jargon all the time. This is going to come in very handy to me.

  • AnnaDornier

    Some of the definitions are just second nature to me because I deal with
    them everyday. I got some of them from my personal training manual.

    Anna