- 1. Inroduction
- 2. Exercise-/Physiology-Related Terms to Know: Definitions and Usage Examples
- 3. Nutrition-/Supplement-Based Terms to Know: Definitions and Usage Examples
- The definitions and usage of common muscle building related terms.
- About common nutrition and diet related terms.
- The definitions and usage of common fitness related terms.
Whether it’s through more efficient transportation, communication, technology, physical labor, education, etc., we (as a society) are perpetually seeking ways to improve the efficacy of daily activities. It’s only natural then that in our increasingly on-the-go, fast-paced culture that the modern lexicon rapidly adopts abbreviated/shorthand terminology (read: acronyms) to fit specific niches and subcultures.
You most likely know what an acronym is (unless you’re an EFL student, pun intended), but I’ll refresh your memory in case you’re drawing a blank. Acronyms are abbreviations formed by taking the first letter of other words and combining them to form a new term; a simple example is ASAP (or A.S.A.P.), which stands for “as soon as possible”. Sometimes these terms are phonetically feasible (e.g. ASAP may be pronounced “ay-sap”) but often they are simply sounded out as each letter individually (i.e. intialisms)
Consequently, it’s easy to get left behind (so to speak) if you’re unable to keep up with the lingo in your group. We all remember those days in high school when the cool kids were boasting about their PHAT weekend spent watching MTV at their friend’s BYOB party, but they forgot to have a DD and ended up receiving a DWI (not to mention they were subsequently SOL for car insurance and subject to joining an AA group). Now I mean c’mon…wouldn’t it be cumbersome and too energetically demanding to have to use unabbreviated tongue, especially when you’re already cranky from your low-carbohydrate diet?
Well fear not you gym-goers and meatheads alike out there, for I have compiled a (non-exhaustive) list of relevant and modern acronyms to keep you up to speed on jargon in the bodybuilding and fitness subculture. Who knows, maybe one day you will coin the next well-known acronym?
Exercise-/Physiology-Related Terms to Know: Definitions and Usage Examples
AMRAP (As Many Repetitions As Possible)
This term is generally used when writing out a workout program to denote a set of an exercise performed to failure.
Usage Example: “On my final set of tricep extensions today I’m shooting for AMRAP.”
ATG (Ass-to-Grass, usually referring to squats)
Rather self-explanatory, this is a common term used when people perform squatting exercises since the most beneficial squat range of motion (see: ROM) encompasses lowering one’s hips below their knees and standing back up. Some people may take this a tad too literally and actually attempt to touch their ass to the ground when squatting; if that’s your goal, more power to you, I guess?
Usage Example: “One of the first things I look for in the opposite sex is if they perform their back squats ATG; I can’t be in a relationship with someone who performs quarter squats like a pansy.”
BMI (Body Mass Index)
The BMI is widely used as a screening method for determining whether or not an individual is in a healthy weight range (based upon height, weight and gender).1 Its inherent shortcoming is that it does not take into account body composition and/or waist-to-hip ratio.
Usage Example: “Today my doctor told me to focus on eating less and exercising more since my BMI is in the ‘overweight’ range...I told him I’m just big boned.”
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
BMR is a baseline measurement of someone’s daily metabolic rate (e.g. caloric output) when taking into account several factors such as age, gender, height, weight, body-fat, activity level, etc. There are several methods to measure one’s BMR, but the simplest way is to use an online calculator, such as this one.
Usage Example: “The BMR calculator estimates that I burn 2000 calories per day.”
CNS (Central Nervous System)
Part of the nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord that is responsible for sending, receiving, and coordinating signals to all parts of the body. (2) If you use a modern pre-workout (see: PWO) supplement, it likely acts to stimulate your CNS.
Usage Example: “Man that cup of Starbucks brew has got my CNS cranking for the weight room today!”
DOMS (Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness)
After exhausting a muscle sufficiently through anaerobic pathways, the cells will actually be damaged and acquire a generous build up of metabolites in the surrounding tissue. This leads to an inflammatory-repair response in the interim after training has occurred. (3) Thus the simultaneous soreness that ensues is referred to as DOMS.
Usage Example: “I was planning on hitting my pectorals today in the gym, but man those bench presses from two days ago left me with some major DOMS in my chest.”
DYEL (Do You Even Lift?)
A blunt (and often shallow) way of calling out someone who professes to be a guru of fitness/nutrition yet doesn't look the part (e.g. they're skin and bones or fatty mctubbs).
Usage Example: "Hey bro, I always see you giving people exercise advice but never see you in the gym, DYEL?"
EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption)
A metabolic compensatory affect observed after one performs an intense workout (usually something like interval training, see: HIIT); caloric expenditure is elevated during this phase due to the body’s increased oxygen uptake. (4)
Usage Example: “I’m sure I have some mad EPOC going on after the wind sprints I did this morning.”
GPP (General Physical Preparedness)
A term used to denote the component of training focused on basic fitness factors, such as speed, mobility, strength, stamina, etc. (5) These are foundational skills an athlete should always be seeking to improve as they concurrently work on specific physical preparedness skills (see: SPP).
Usage Example: “Today coach Doe just had us do some GPP work via cone drills and sled dragging.”
HIT (High-Intensity Training, not to be confused with HIIT)
This is a training philosophy attributed to the bodybuilder Mike Mentzer. (6) His theory was that the best results from weight training are achieved from brief, very intense workouts as opposed to more volume-based workouts. An example of this would be doing one set of back squats to absolute failure and then maybe adding another intensity technique such as partial reps, rest-pause, etc. to overly exhaust the intended muscles.
Usage Example: “I’ve been training my legs with Mentzer’s HIT philosophy and am noticing substantial quad and hamstring hypertrophy.”
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training, often pronounced “hit”)
This acronym has been increasingly used in recent years as research shows it may be superior to other forms of cardio for improving body composition. An example of HIIT is performing maximal-effort sprints for a brief period (generally < 20 seconds) and actively recovering between them for roughly 45-60 seconds (in this case active recovery would just be walking).
Usage Example: “I’m just wiped out after the brutal HIIT session my trainer put me through today. Time to lay on the couch and watch some Pumping Iron.”
HST (Hypertrophy-Specific Training)
A method of training developed by Bryan Haycock concerned with the necessary stimuli and mechanisms related to muscle cell hypertrophy. (7) This isn’t so much an exact program as it is a field of ongoing research to optimize muscle growth through resistance training.
Usage Example: “My trainer follows HST principles and is always looking to provide progressive overload to my muscles; research has shown increasing mechanical load is necessary to prevent the repeated bout effect (see: RBE).”
LATT (Lactic Acid Threshold Training)
This term refers to training that results in an sudden increase of blood lactate levels, such as performing a burn-out set of arm curls; the ensuing burning sensation felt in the muscle is hypothesized to be the result of decreased lactate removal from the blood and other physiological factors. (8)
Usage Example: “My training partner put my back through hell with the LATT we performed after doing our warm-up sets of barbell rows.”
LISS (Low-Intensity Steady-State, often refers to “LISS cardio”)
This is a form of exercise (generally aerobic) that keeps the trainee’s heart rate relatively low (<60% of maximum heart rate, see: MHR). Examples of this would include fast-paced walking or a relatively easy bike ride.
Usage Example: “A lot of the soccer moms at my gym do LISS cardio on the elliptical machine.”
MHR (Maximum Heart Rate)
Rather self-explanatory, this term refers to the highest heart rate the trainee can achieve (given in beats per minute). A general rule of thumb is to take the number 220 and subtract your age from it (in years); that is your “theoretical” MHR.
Usage Example: “I feel like my heart is going to burst out of my chest when pushing myself to reach my MHR during training.”
MISS (Medium-Intensity Steady-State, often refers to “MISS cardio”)
This is colloquially referred to as “traditional” cardio and aims to keep the trainee’s heart rate in a zone between 60-80% of their maximum heart rate (See: MHR). For the majority of individuals this would be something like a moderate-paced jog.
Usage Example: “Much to my chagrin, research has shown that all the MISS cardio I’ve been doing on the treadmill may actually hinder muscle hypertrophy.”
MMC (Mind-Muscle Connection)
At first glance this probably sounds like some whimsical Zen-like phenomena, but the mind-muscle connection is a tangible experience when weight training. Essentially, this is the psychosomatic sensation/feeling you have between your muscles and your brain. The hypothesis is that the more you can concentrate/focus your mind on the working muscle(s) during a given exercise, the greater you can stimulate them. The best way to achieve this is to perform repetitions slowly and controlled to emphasize utilizing the correct muscle(s) for the exercise at hand.
Usage Example: “I watched an interview yesterday with the former great bodybuilder, Tom Platz, whereby he insisted that the MMC was a major focus of his training.”
NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
An often-overlooked aspect of daily caloric expenditure is an individual’s non-exercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT denotes the calories one expends on activities like walking up and down the stairs, brushing your teeth, cooking food, just everyday activity not considered diligent “exercise”. This is usually accounted for in one’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) as an “activity level factor”.
Usage Example: “Ever since starting my new desk-job my NEAT has gone down a significant amount due to the extended hours of sitting.”
PC (Posterior Chain)
This is an anatomical term referring to the muscles that comprise the backside (i.e. posterior). In humans the PC includes: the upper/lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Usage Example: “Compound movements, such as the deadlift and back squat, recruit many of the PC muscles when performed correctly.”
PNS (Peripheral Nervous System)
Portion of the nervous system comprised of ganglia and nerves outside of the central nervous system (see: CNS). The PNS is divided into the somatic and autonomic nervous systems, and serves to connect the CNS to organs and limbs. (9)
Usage Example: “Thanks to my PNS and the fight-or-flight response, my skeletal muscles have some major blood flow going on right about now!”
PR (Personal Record)
A term used to denote when an individual has improved upon a previous exercise achievement, such as his or her 1-rep maximum deadlift weight.
Usage Example: “I hit a new PR on my squats today, but the trainer said it didn’t count because I didn’t go ass-to-grass (see: ATG).”
RBE (Repeated-Bout Effect)
A phenomena whereby a muscle’s adaptation to eccentric exercise lessens the damage incurred by subsequent bouts of similar eccentric exercise(s). Analogous to delayed-onset muscle soreness (see: DOMS), the repeated-bout effect remains misunderstood mechanistically.10
Usage Example: “If it weren’t for the RBE my workouts would consequently be much shorter.”
RM (Repetition Maximum)
A term for all the blowhards out there, this is where you prove your strength (or lack thereof). The RM is a measure of how much workload you can lift for a given number of reps (in one set). It is most commonly tested for 1 repetition as a measure of the trainee’s absolute strength.
Usage Example: “The powerlifters in my gym often test their one RM for the deadlift, squat, and bench press to gauge their strength.”
ROM (Range of Motion)
Probably a familiar term for most gym-goers, the range of motion refers to the length of movement between eccentric and concentric contractions of an exercise.
Usage Example: “During the squat exercise, it is advisable to use as full a ROM as possible. Some people can even perform ATG squats!”
RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)
The rate of perceived exertion is a numerical scale that grades the effort it takes to perform a certain exercise. For example, on a scale of 1-10, if a trainee performed 1 set of 5 repetitions for the bench press at a RPE of 10, this would indicate that absolutely no more repetitions could be performed after the 5th rep since absolute muscular failure was reached at that point in the set. This is also often referred to as “autoregulation” since your training intensity can be manipulated on an instinctive basis.
Usage Example: “I’m just doing some relatively easy lifting today, so my RPE will probably stay around the 6-8 range.”
SPP (Specific Physical Preparedness)
Whereas general physical preparedness focuses (see: GPP) on basic skills such as speed, agility, flexibility, and so on, specific physical preparedness turns the training attention to sport-specific skills. For example, a basketball player may perform jump-shot training as a form of SPP.
Usage Example: “Our basketball coach often has us perform lay-up drills before practice to improve our SPP.”
TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)
This is the summation of all factors that account for your caloric burn throughout the day. These factors include: physical activity, basal metabolic rate (see: BMR), thermic effect of food (see: TEF), non-exercise activity thermogenesis (see: NEAT), etc. (11)
NOTE: It is still tough to accurately calculate someone’s actual TDEE, so take into account a conservative margin of error when determining your theoretical value.
Usage Example: “I’m trying to add some muscle mass right now, so I need to make sure my caloric intake is greater than my TDEE.”
TUT (Time Under Tension)
The time under tension is a measurement used in weight training that tracks how long a force is applied to the working muscle(s). (12) For example, a slow and controlled repetition tempo would have a greater TUT than someone who performs fast-paced repetitions. In theory, a longer TUT will often make a relatively light workload “feel” (see: RPE) like a larger workload.
Usage Example: “I’ve noticed improved growth in my biceps ever since increasing the TUT and lessening the weight when doing dumbbell curls.”
Nutrition-/Supplement-Based Terms to Know: Definitions and Usage Examples
AAS (Anabolic Androgenic Steroid)
A class of chemicals/drugs that are synthetic variants of naturally occurring male sex hormones. (13) These are potent substances to use for body composition enhancement and strength increases. Bodybuilders and athletes may use an AASs as a performance-enhancing drug (see: PED). Their safety and long-term ramifications on health are still up for debate when taken in pharmacological doses.
Usage Example: “The use of any AAS, such as deca-durabolin, is illegal in most all sports, but that hasn’t stopped some athletes from using them inconspicuously.”
BCAA(s) (Branched-Chain Amino Acid)
An increasingly popular subset of amino acids, comprised of leucine, valine and isoleucine. The use of BCAAs as a sports supplement has become popular in recent years due to findings of their positive effect on muscle protein synthesis. (14)
Usage Example: “Since initiating BCAA use, I’ve noticed improvements in my recovery time between workouts.”
CBL (Carbohydrate Back-Loading)
A method of dieting (as outlined in the CBL book by John Kiefer) whereby the majority of carbohydrates are eaten in the evening after a bout of resistance training has occurred. This theoretically works in concert with biorhythmic hormonal patterns. (15)
Usage Example: “I’ve had several clients get shredded to the bone following the CBL protocol; not to mention they got to cap off their nights with pizza and ice cream while doing so.”
CKD (Cyclic Ketogenic Diet)
A variation of low-carbohydrate dieting involving periodic “carb-loads” to get the body out of ketosis. Ketogenic diets are inherently very low in carbohydrates (see: VLCD) and higher in proteins and fats, diverting the body to utilize fats for energy since glucose stores are depleted. In medicine, this diet is often used to treat epilepsy. (16)
Usage Example: “I’ve been a bit cranky lately since I’m on a CKD in hopes of having my body beach-ready by the time June rolls around.”
EFA(s) (Essential Fatty Acid)
In general, essential nutrients are necessary to our survival and must be obtained through diet. Essential fatty acids, such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 moieties, are necessary for cardiorespiratory regulation, immune function, brain health, cell integrity, and a variety of other processes within the body. These EFAs are abundant in foods like salmon, tuna, sesame seeds, walnuts, and others. (17)
Usage Example: “A friend of mine doesn’t eat a lot of fish, so to make sure he meets his daily EFA quota he supplements with fish oil.”
EAA(s) (Essential Amino Acid)
Any of the nine amino acids that humans need to obtain through dietary means. These include: histidine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, isoleucine, leucine, and lysine. Amino acids are necessary for protein synthesis to occur in the ribosome; proteins then go on to serve a plethora of biological functions.
Usage Example: “An increasingly popular area of research is the effect of EAA supplementation on athletic performance. Personally, I’ve noticed marked improvements in my strength since I started taking EAAs.”
GDA (Glucose Disposal Agent)
A rather unique category of supplements that aim to enhance uptake of glucose into cells (e.g. mimic the effects of insulin). Common GDAs include: alpha-lipoic acid, vanadium, berberine, and chromium. The efficacy of many GDAs is underwhelming, but they remain a topic of intense research due to their potential implications on treatment for type-2 diabetics.
Usage Example: “I recently purchased a GDA to take with my high-carb meals and noticed that I feel quite a bit less bloated than before.”
IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macronutrients)
Despite being a rather intuitive and common sense way of dieting, IIFYM is still a heavily scrutinized mantra in bodybuilding/fitness subculture. Essentially, the theory is that food choice is a non-issue so long as you meet your daily caloric and macronutrient (i.e. proteins, carbohydrates and fats) goals. However, many individuals will argue that certain foods are inherently “dirty” or “off limits” and should never be eaten, regardless of their macronutrient and caloric content (e.g. the anti-IIFYM train of thought).
Usage Example: “Ironically, I often hear people say they recently started following an IIFYM diet; unbeknownst to these individuals, IIFYM is the same thing they were doing in the past, just with irrational fear of certain foods.”
IF (Intermittent Fasting)
An emerging trend in recent years, intermittent fasting is a method of eating whereby the individual abstains from food for a period of time (generally >16 hours) and then ingests their required macronutrients in the “feeding window” (generally <8 hours). This pattern of eating flies in the face of the more common frequent-meals-throughout-the-day regimen.
Usage Example: “I’ve been following IF for years and noticed no difference in my body composition compared to when I would eat 6-7 meals spaced evenly throughout the day. So much for the whole ‘meal frequency debate’…”
LCD (Low-Carbohydrate Diet)
While low-carbohydrate is relative to the individual, it is safe to classify a diet as low-carbohydrate if it contains <20% of total caloric content from carbohydrates. Many people follow these types of diets to lose weight/body-fat, and/or to control their blood glucose levels (as in the case of diabetics).
Usage Example: “My nutritionist has me on a LCD until I get my bodyweight in a healthy BMI range. I can’t wait until I get to eat some pasta and rice again.”
MCT(s) (Medium-Chain Triglyceride)
An increasingly popular area of nutrition is that of medium-chain triglycerides due to their ability to be absorbed and utilized without energy, unlike long-chain triglycerides. Fatty acids are chains of hydrocarbons, and when bound to glycerol (as esters) they are denoted as short-, medium-, or long-chain triglycerides, respective of how many carbons are in the fatty acid chains. Specific examples of fatty acids found in MCTs are caprylic acid and capric acid, which are 8 and 10 carbons long, respectively. Good sources of MCTs include milk fats, coconut, and palm kernel oil. (18)
Usage Example: “Many people fear eating saturated fats, however MCTs are readily used as an energy source in humans and have many health benefits.”
PCT (Post-Cycle Therapy)
A familiar term for those using hormonal substances as performance-enhancing drugs (see: PED) is post-cycle therapy. PCT is the period after which steroids and/or pro-hormones have been used (read: cycled). It is advisable during this period to restore the body’s natural endocrine functioning as much as possible by cessation of exogenous hormone use and initiation of supplements (and/or drugs) that support endogenous hormone production.
Usage Example: “Steroids and/or pro-hormones can cause permanent endocrine damage if the user does not have a proper PCT planned after they use such substances.”
PED(s) (Performance-Enhancing Drug)
Any drug that is taken for the purpose of improving athletic performance and/or body composition is generally referred to as a performance-enhancing drug. Many sports organizations have a list of banned substances for the athletes to abide by, so it is recommended to be familiar with what your specific organization does and does not allow as far as PED use goes.
Usage Example: “I don’t personally have issues with people who choose to use PEDs, but I do have a problem when those individuals use them and compete in organization that bans their use—that’s cowardly.”
Pro-hormones are substances that are metabolized to a biologically active hormone. An example of this is pro-insulin which is enzymatically cleaved to yield active insulin. PHs are still somewhat popular in the supplement industry as there are several compounds that serve to increase androgen levels, which is favorable for body composition and strength increases. Alas, many PHs are illegal and often inefficacious.
Usage Example: “In my opinion, if you’re going to use a PH, you might as well just take an AAS instead; they both serve the same purpose, just that one of them is actually much more potent and efficient than the other.”
PWO (Pre- and/or Post-Workout)
Pretty self-explanatory, this term is often used in reference to specific supplements geared to these respective timeframes. For example, many supplements categorized as “pre-workouts” contain ingredients that are beneficial before a training session (such as caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, etc.)
Usage Example: “I see a lot of people in my gym chugging their PWO shake right as they leave the gym, but I prefer to wait until I get home to down my shake.”
RDI (Reference Daily Intake)
The standard used by the FDA when assessing food labels, the reference daily intake is the level of a nutrient that is considered to be adequate for 97–98% of healthy individuals in every demographic in the United States. (19)
Usage Example: “The RDI is a decent tool when trying to determine the adequate intake levels of micronutrients, but it should serve merely as a starting point for individuals.”
SARM(s) (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator)
An emerging field of medical/pharmaceutical research is selective androgen receptor modulators. These differ from typical steroids (see: AAS) in that they can be designed to target specific tissues in the body. (19) For example, prostate hypertrophy is a common side effect of testosterone use, thus a SARM that targets muscle and bone tissue specifically could evade that issue.
Usage Example: “In the coming years we might see a paradigm shift in PED use from traditional AASs to SARMs.”
SERM(s) (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator)
Commonly used as part of post-cycle therapy (PCT), selective estrogen receptor modulators are compounds that agonize or antagonize estrogen receptors in tissues. Estrogens are the primary female sex hormones due to their role in menstrual cycles, but they are also found (at much lower levels) in males.
Usage Example: “Since testosterone may be enzymatically converted to estrogen, via aromatase, it is wise to consider the use of a SERM during PCT.”
TEF (Thermic Effect of Food)
The thermic effect of food is the physiological process of using energy to ingest nutrients; when we eat, it takes energy to digest the nutrients, as several metabolic pathways are necessary to complete the process. Thus, metabolic rate rises after the ingestion of a meal. (20)
Usage Example: “Most people think that eating frequently acts to stoke their ‘metabolic fire’, so to speak, but the literature has shown that if energy intake remains the same in a 24-hour period, then meal frequency has little difference on the total TEF.”
VLCD (Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet)
Given that the term “low” is relative, very low-carbohydrate diets are generally reserved for diets with comprised of <10% total caloric intake coming from carbohydrates. An example of this kind of diet would be the ketogenic diet (see: CKD).
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