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The Fitness Terms You Need to Know

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Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting your fitness journey, understanding common workout terms is essential for achieving your goals. From active recovery to plyometrics, each term represents a key component of a successful fitness regimen.

This guide to fitness terms explores the meanings and benefits of some of the most common fitness terms.

Active Recovery

Active recovery is a term that is typically paired with the term “active rest day.” Those that schedule six days of workouts a week will often make sure that one day a week is dedicated to active recovery, or intentionally spending time recovering while staying mobile. Swimming and walking are great low-impact activities for active recovery days.

Active recovery can help to improve blood flow, reduce muscle soreness, and promote faster recovery between workouts.

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A circuit is a fancy way of saying a combination of exercises. Circuits are best known for building endurance.

Some popular circuit exercises include bodyweight movements such as push-ups, squats, and lunges, as well as equipment-based exercises like kettlebell swings, battle ropes, and medicine ball slams. Likewise, popular circuits in the pilates and barre world might include a Pilates jump board sequence, mixed in with Pilates arm sculpting, and a booty burn.



Every proper and safely executed workout includes a warm-up. A warm-up can help to increase blood flow to the working muscles, improve joint mobility and flexibility, and prepare your body and mind for the upcoming workout.

Warm-ups can include a variety of different types of movement including walking, arm swings, lunges, and squats. Typically, warm-ups last for about 10 minutes, and then you’ll move into your workout.

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Every well-executed workout also includes a proper cooldown. Cool-downs are designed to lower your heart rate and mobilize muscles and tissues that may have become tight during the workout. Cooling down properly after a workout can also help to improve flexibility and range of motion, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance overall workout recovery.

Typically, cooldowns are slowed-down versions of your workout routine but can also include activities similar to those in a warm-up such as brisk walking, active stretching, and more.


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Pacing is the speed at which you work out. If you are returning from an injury it’s important to keep a slower pace in mind. If you are training for a specific event or competition, you might find yourself working with a trainer that coaches you to increase your pace or speed over time.  Common ways to measure pace include using a heart rate monitor or tracking your time or distance during a workout.

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Reps refer to the number of times you repeat a specific exercise. In a group class setting, much of the time the instructor will count your reps to coach you through until the end. Varying the number of reps you perform can help to challenge your muscles in new ways and prevent plateauing in your fitness progress.


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Sets are simply groups of reps. For example, if you’re doing squats, you could do two reps of five squats, so you’d do five squats, rest, and do five squats again.

If you are in a class setting, you might find yourself doing three sets of 12 reps! If working with weights, It’s important to balance the number of sets you do with the amount of weight you use to ensure safe and effective workouts.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is also known as cardio exercise or just cardio for short. It often involves repetitive, rhythmic movements that increase your heart rate and breathing, resulting in improved cardiovascular endurance. Examples of aerobic exercises include jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing.

Anaerobic exercise

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Anaerobic exercise is any activity that requires short, intense bursts of energy without the use of oxygen. It involves high-intensity movements that push your muscles to their maximum capacity. Examples of anaerobic exercises include sprinting, weightlifting, and plyometrics.

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Cross-training is an invaluable part of anyone’s fitness protocol and involves mixing different types of exercises into your routine. Different athletes tend to use different forms of cross-training, such as Pilates, yoga, or swimming, depending on their needs and goals.

Incorporating a variety of cross-training exercises into your fitness routine can help to prevent injury, improve overall fitness, and keep your workouts fresh and engaging.



DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is the muscle fatigue or soreness you might experience 24 to 48 hours after a workout or a new class. Inflammation is a normal part of recovering from a workout, but if you are still sore three days after your workout, it’s a sign that you may need to take it easier during your next class.


HITT is short for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a type of workout that alternates between short periods of high-intensity exercise and periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. The idea behind HIIT is to maximize calorie burn and boost cardiovascular fitness in a shorter amount of time than traditional steady-state cardio workouts.

HIIT workouts can be done with a variety of exercises, including bodyweight movements, cardio machines, and free weights. They can also be modified to fit any fitness level, making it a versatile and effective workout for beginners and advanced athletes alike.



Isometrics describe the held contraction of specific muscle groups. Essentially, it involves holding a position or a static contraction of a muscle group without any movement. It targets specific muscles and helps to improve strength and endurance. Examples of isometric exercises include planks, wall sits, and static holds with weights.

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Plyometrics is a type of exercise that focuses on explosive, rapid movements to increase muscle power and speed. It involves jumping, hopping, and bounding movements that target the muscles used in explosive movements. Examples of plyometric exercises include box jumps, jump squats, and power cleans.



Resistance refers to the added load behind any given exercise. Resistance is important because it helps increase muscle strength as your body is acting against a force. While bodyweight exercises use the body and gravity as their medium of resistance, weights, dumbbells, therabands, and springs are other common mediums of resistance in the fitness world.

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By understanding these common fitness terms, you can better understand coaches and instructors in group fitness classes, comprehend the meanings and purposes behind specific exercises, and optimize your fitness routine.

Jenn Vigh Jenn Vigh
Jenn is a pilates and yoga instructor, an aerialist, and a travel blogger with 5 years of experience in nonprofit communications, and over 10 years of experience writing, teaching, training, performing and collaborating with creatives across the globe. For the last 6 years, her American home-base has been Austin, TX, where she’s worked with the aerial dance company, Blue Lapis Light, and enjoyed the sunshine with her world-traveling yorkipoo, Sheila. Read Full Bio »
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