32 Fitness Terms Every Beginner Needs To Know

Sweat logo

May 10, 2017

32 Fitness Terms Every Beginner Needs To Know - Hero image

Whether you’re about to embark on your fitness journey, are returning to exercise after a break or looking to level up your training, you may come across workout terms or acronyms you aren’t familiar with.  

However, it’s nothing to sweat about — with this guide to the key fitness terminology used in the Sweat app and by our trainers you’ll be able to tell your HIIT from your HIRT in no time. 

32 fitness terms you need to know

Let’s get started with these common fitness terms to help you better understand your fitness journey and get the most out of your Sweat workouts.  

1RM (One-Rep Max)

This is the maximum weight that you can lift for one repetition of an exercise. When you do a maximum lift, you should have nothing left for another repetition! Here’s how you can use 1RM to enhance your training

Active recovery

These sessions are designed to aid your muscle recovery and may even boost performance. An active recovery workout typically involves non-strenuous aerobic or physical activity and could be anything from walking or swimming to a gentle yoga flow or spending time gardening.


This acronym stands for “as many reps as possible”. An AMRAP workout is a type of high-intensity training where you push yourself as hard as you can during the work phase, and rest between sets.  

Rather than focusing on completing a specific number of repetitions, the aim is to complete the maximum number of repetitions of an exercise that YOU can do within a set time.  

If you want to try this workout style, give this free AMRAP workout from Chontel Duncan’s FIERCE at Home program a go. You’ll need dumbbells or a substitute for the workout.  

Burnout set

A burnout set is an exercise or set of exercises done at the end of a workout. These sets target the same muscle group worked during the main workout and are designed to encourage muscle growth. A lighter weight is used so you can complete a high number of exercise repetitions.  

Compound exercises

Looking to maximise your strength training and get the most out of your workout time? Enter compound exercises. These movements - which include squats, deadlifts and the bench press - use multiple muscle groups and joints at the same time, meaning more bang for your buck. The other kind of exercises you’ll see in strength training are isolation exercises, more on that later!

32 Fitness Terms Every Beginner Needs To Know - Picture Panel 2 - Desktop


Taking the time after your workout to cool down will allow your heart rate and blood pressure to gradually recover while helping to promote muscle recovery. Set aside 5-10 minutes after your session to walk on the treadmill or engage in some static stretching.


A circuit consists of a series of exercises performed in sequence, with a short rest in between each exercise. A circuit can be timed, where you do as many laps as you can in a given time frame — for example, there are seven-minute circuits in High Intensity with Kayla Itsines workouts) — or lap-based, where you complete a set number of laps.  

Give this circuit-based workout from High Intensity Zero Equipment with Kayla a go if you want to try circuit training — it takes 28 minutes and can be done at home or in the gym. 


This is a term you’re more likely to hear about after a Sweat session. This acronym stands for delayed onset muscle soreness and is the pain or stiffness you might experience 24-72 hours after your workout. It often happens if you’ve tried a new training style or dialled up the intensity and is a normal occurrence at any stage of your fitness journey. Keep in mind - you can also have an amazing workout and experience little or no muscle soreness. Want to know how to reduce DOMS? We’ve got you covered.


EMOM stands for every minute on the minute and is a type of interval training where you complete a prescribed number of reps within a minute, then rest for whatever time you have left until the next minute round begins. You’ll try to beat the clock to earn yourself as much rest time as possible.  

Foam rolling

Foam rolling is a self-message recovery technique (also called self-myofascial release) that you can perform before or after a workout or as a standalone recovery session. Foam rollers usually come in cylinder shapes, either smooth or with texture to increase pressure, or you can try a recovery ball for a more targeted massage. 

Functional exercises or training

Functional training refers to a training style or group of exercises which focus on movement patterns you tend to use in everyday life, such as squatting, bending to lift things off the ground, lifting objects above your head, carrying heavy bags, twisting, pulling or pushing.

HICT (High-intensity circuit training)

High-intensity circuit training is a style of training that follows a circuit structure but involves high-intensity exercises in order to build your cardiovascular fitness and strength.  

This training style typically combines both strength and cardio exercises in one workout.  

HIIT (High-intensity interval training)

This one is Head Trainer Kayla Itsines’ signature training style!

A HIIT workout usually consists of several work-rest intervals. During the work interval you work as hard as you can, raising your heart rate to its maximum zone or close to. During the rest interval you either rest completely or continue moving at a low intensity, allowing your heart rate to decrease.

Shorter HIIT sessions can be just as effective as longer steady-state workouts and are packed with benefits. Another bonus? HIIT workouts can be done at home, in the gym or outdoors.

HIRT (High-intensity resistance training)

High-intensity resistance training is what happens when you combine strength and high-intensity training. In a HIRT workout, you move from one strength training exercise to the next with short rest breaks designed to maintain a high heart rate. The resistance is provided by weights, resistance bands or gym machines to help strengthen and build lean muscle.  

These high-energy, full-body workouts are incredibly powerful and combine the benefits of cardio and strength training, but you’ll need to ensure you prioritise rest and recovery to avoid overtraining.

32 Fitness Terms Every Beginner Needs To Know - Picture Panel 3 - Desktop


Hypertrophy workouts are designed to increase the size and strength of your muscles. During a hypertrophy session, you focus on increasing your “time under tension” - completing a higher number of repetitions with the correct form to challenge your muscles and encourage growth.  

These workouts can follow different structures, including supersets, tri-sets, pyramid sets, circuits and burnouts and it’s a training style that complements strength training. If your goal is to build muscular strength, you typically use heavier weights and complete less repetitions. With hypertrophy training, the goal is to complete more repetitions using a lighter weight, relying on strength and endurance rather than momentum to complete each exercise. 

Isolation exercises

Unlike compound exercises, these are strength training exercises that focus on a single muscle group and generally involve a single joint in the movement, such as bicep curls.

Low-intensity or steady-state cardio

Cardio is any continuous exercise that increases your breathing and heart rate for a prolonged period of time, and there are a number of different styles of cardio you can choose from such as walking, cycling or swimming. Low-intensity or steady-state cardio is great for building your aerobic capacity and promoting good heart health. 

A low-intensity cardio session is typically performed at 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, making it a great warm-up, cool-down or active recovery option.  

Most programs in the Sweat app have recommended low-intensity cardio sessions. You can choose to make these sessions low-impact if you’re looking for something that’s kinder on your joints.


If you work out with trainer Katie Martin, you’ll be familiar with the megaset, where you perform a smaller number of exercises for a specified time or number of laps. It’s part of her signature style in her Strength & Sculpt program.

Metcon (metabolic conditioning)

Short for metabolic conditioning, metcon is a powerful workout style that increases your breathing and heart rate with exercises designed to build muscle and improve your fitness.

This training style consists of strength-building exercises done at a high intensity. As it’s an advanced training technique, you’ll need a baseline fitness level before you give it a try.

Cass Olholm includes this highly effective training style in her High Intensity Strength program, which brings gym-style training to your home. You can try a free Express Metcon workout from Cass here!


This one sounds fancy and scientifc but is very simple - it simply refers to jumping movements! Think squat jumps, lunge jumps, tuck jumps or burpees. 

Progressive overload

This training principle is a key part of Sweat programs such as BUILD and Strength & Sculpt and is a way of gradually dialling up the stress you put on your body over time to maximise performance and encourage muscle growth. There are four different elements of progressive overload: volume, intensity, density and frequency.

Pyramid training

This is where you structure your approach to sets and repetitions like a pyramid. It’s big at the bottom, and narrow at the top! As you move through the pyramid set, you’ll increase your weights while decreasing the number of repetitions.

Reps (repetitions)

These are the number of times you repeat a given exercise consecutively before taking a break. So if you complete 12 bicep curls before you rest, that would be 12 reps.  

32 Fitness Terms Every Beginner Needs To Know - Picture Panel 4 - Desktop

Rest day

Rest days are so important for your training and recovery, which is why they’re included in EVERY Sweat program. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a day off from your training. This could involve anything from lighter activities, practicing self-care or opting for active recovery.

RPE (Rate Of Perceived Exertion)

This is a subjective rating between one and 10 that measures the intensity of an exercise. It’s based on how you feel - physically and mentally - during that exercise. A score of one means you can easily do this all day, whereas a 10 means that was your absolute max!  

If you’re new to fitness, you might struggle to assess your RPE at first as you might not be sure what your maximum effort feels like. That’s okay! As you work out more frequently, you’ll get a better understanding of your body and be able to more accurately gauge your RPE.

Resistance training

Resistance training is any form of exercise that builds muscle strength and endurance. It can be bodyweight training like calisthenics, or strength training using weights and equipment.  


A superset is where you alternate between two exercises, with little or no rest between each. Supersets can consist of exercises targeting similar or complementary muscle groups, depending on if you’re trying to work and fatigue one particular area, or have a full-body workout that doesn’t require much rest between exercises.  


These can easily get confused with reps, but a set is when you complete several reps in a row. So if you complete 12 bicep curls before you rest, that would be one set. After a short rest, you might perform another 12 reps which would be another set. 

Sweaty selfie

This one is unique to the Sweat app! It’s the selfie you take at the end of your workout to celebrate your achievement. Share and tag @sweat in your social posts and you might be featured via Sweat’s stories.  


A tri-set is a combination of three exercises performed consecutively. Like a superset, it's a way to make more effective use of your training time.  


Tabata is a type of high-intensity interval training and involves short workout blocks that consist of 20 seconds at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  

This highly effective training style for building power and cardiovascular fitness was founded by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata, who compared the effects of moderate and high-intensity training. Tabata is a key component of Chontel Duncan’s FIERCE and FIERCE Zero Equipment programs, and she loves this intense but efficient training style. 


Looking for a surefire way to make your next workout more effective? Don’t skip your warm-up. It will help increase your body temperature and the blood flow to your muscles, preparing your body for a sweaty session and helping to reduce the chance of injury. 

Work out anywhere, anytime with Sweat

Ready for your first workout?

Looking for more ways to improve your fitness knowledge?

When you start a new program or experiment with a different training style, understanding the benefits of different types of exercise can help motivate you to continue. Make sure you read the Sweat blog for more expert advice, how-to guides, trainer tips and health and wellbeing essentials.

Sweat logo

A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


Recommended Stories

We have a feeling you’re going to love Sweat

That's why the first week is on us.