36 Fitness Terms Every Beginner Needs To Know

There’s HIIT and HICT and even HIRT. But what do these fitness terms even mean?

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May 10, 2017 - Updated June 19, 2024

Britany Williams Kayla Itsines Katie Martin

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 you'll come across at the gym, in the Sweat app and by our trainers you’ll be able to tell the difference between aerobic and anaerobic fitness in no time. 

36 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 next Sweat session.  

1RM (One-Rep Max)

This is the maximum weight that you can lift for one repetition of an exercise. After performing your one-rep max, you should have nothing left in the tank for another repetition! Here’s how you can use 1RM to enhance your training

Active recovery

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 gardening. These sessions are designed to aid your muscle recovery and may even boost performance.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic means “with oxygen” and this kind of exercise is typically rhythmic and repetitive with a steady supply of oxygen to the body. Think walking, cycling and swimming. Aerobic activity will increase your heart rate and how much oxygen the body is using.


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 then 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.  

Anaerobic exercise

Unlike aerobic exercise, anaerobic means “without oxygen”. This type of movement won’t make your body use oxygen like it does in aerobic exercises, instead breaking down glucose for energy. Anaerobic activities are typically higher in intensity and shorter in length. Think HIIT training, sprinting and weightlifting. 

Burnout set

A burnout set is an exercise or set of exercises done at the end of a workout. These sets target and fatigue 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. Trainer Kelsey Wells is a huge fan of including burnout sets in her programs, such as PWR.

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 several 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, but more on that later!

Britany Williams


While we know it’s not always at the top of your priority list, taking the time after your workout to cool down will allow your heart rate, breathing, body temperature 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 so you can come back even stronger for your next session. Not sure where to start? These are some of our favourite cool-down exercises.


A circuit consists of a series of exercises performed in sequence, with a short rest in between each. 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 free circuit-based workout from High Intensity Zero Equipment with Kayla a go if you want to try circuit training — it takes just 28 minutes and can be done at home or in the gym. 


This is a term you’re more likely to know 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. While it's definitely a sign you've worked hard, you can also have an amazing workout and make progress while experiencing 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. The choice is yours - move with speed and intensity to get the reps done quickly so you have more rest, or move at a slower pace but get less rest time before the next minute begins!  

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. We love these foam roller exercises to help level up your muscle recovery.

Functional exercises or training

Functional training refers to a training style or group of exercises that focus on movement patterns you 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.

Heart rate zones

Your heart rate is measured in beats per minute and heart rate zones refer to five different percentage ranges of your maximum heart rate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the easiest way to work out your max is to take 220 - your age = your maximum heart rate.

In Zone 1 you’re working at 50-60% of your max, in zone 2 you’re working at 60-70%, in zone 3 you’re working at 70-80%, in zone 4 you’re working at 80-90% and in zone 5 you’re working at 90-100%. It’s common to think that zone 4 and 5 are the best places to train in, but zone 2 cardio offers incredible benefits and should be part of everyone’s routine.

Heart rate variability (HRV)

Once something that could only be tracked with specialised devices, fitness wearables have seen this metric getting plenty of attention as a health stat to watch. Your heart rate variability (or HRV) is the measure of variance in time between your heartbeats. Everybody’s HRV is unique and what’s high for you may be low for somebody else, but a high HRV is generally considered to be a good thing. If you’re tracking your HRV, a healthcare professional is best placed to help you interpret the numbers.

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, aiming to raise your heart rate to zone 4 or 5. 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 each week to avoid overtraining.

Kelsey Wells leg press


Trainers Kelsey Wells and Katie Martin gare both big fans of hypertrophy workouts which is a type of strength training 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. 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 which recruit multiple muscle groups, 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 and 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 the premise of plyometric exercises is actually 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, PWR Strength 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.  

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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 an active recovery session.

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 you were working at your absolute max! Some workouts in the Sweat app use RPE to help you gauge how heavy you should be lifting in each set.  

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 by working against resistance. It can be bodyweight training like calisthenics, or strength training using items such as gym equipment, free weights or a suspension trainer.  


A superset is where you alternate between two exercises, with little or no rest in between. Supersets can consist of exercises targeting similar or complementary muscle groups if you’re trying to work and fatigue one particular area, or opposing muscle groups for an efficient 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 your second set. 

Sweaty selfie

This one is unique to the Sweat app! It’s the selfie you take at the end of your workout to share just how good it feels to Sweat with the community. Share your selfie and tag @sweat in your social posts and you might be featured via Sweat’s stories. 


Similar to a superset, a tri-set is a combination of three exercises performed consecutively, targeting the same area of the body in slightly different ways to fatigue and overload the muscles.


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. 

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When you start a new workout program or experiment with a different training style, understanding the benefits of different types of exercise can help motivate you to continue. The Sweat app is packed with features to help personalise and level up your fitness journey, such as our muscle group feature, weight tracking and search functionality. After more expert advice, how-to guides, trainer tips and health essentials? Make sure you stay up to date with the Sweat blog for the latest fitness and wellbeing news.

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* 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.


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