The language of exercise and fitness – understanding commonly used fitness terms Part 3

From very technical terms used in sports science, like Resting Metabolic Rate (RMB) to everyday gym slang; the exercise and fitness arena is full of terminology that can at first seem baffling to the uninitiated.

Such terms are frequently seen in exercise and fitness literature and articles. Fitness professionals often use them when coaching and instructing. Consequently, being able to understand exercise terminology will ensure that participants are clear about the things they have to do; how what they are doing is affecting their bodies and the likely benefits they will drive from their chosen fitness program.

This is the final instalment of Technogym’s three-part series on exercise terminology. It brings together one of the most comprehensive lists of commonly used terms in exercise and fitness. Part 1 dealt with terms beginning with the letters A, Part 2, and this final part completes the alphabet with the letters O to Z.

A-Z of Commonly Used fitness terms Part 3 O-Z


One-Rep Max (1 RM) - The maximum amount of weight that can be lifted once after which the muscles reach failure and the weight cannot be lifted again without recovering. The 1 RM is a common measure of strength and the lifted weight will be different for different muscle groups and different exercises.

Overload Principle - This principle says that in order to keep making gains from an exercise program, you must find some way to make it more difficult. This is because bodies adapt to exercise. Once your body adapts to a given workload, it will not continue to adapt unless the workload is increased/made more difficult again.


Physical activity - Any bodily movement that uses energy. Walking, gardening, briskly pushing a child’s pushchair, climbing the stairs, playing football, or dancing the night away, are all good examples of physical activity. To improve your physical wellbeing from physical activity it needs to be of a moderate or vigorous intensity (see Overload Principle).

Physical fitness - The ability to perform every day tasks with vigour and alertness, and to also enjoy leisure pursuits without becoming unduly fatigued. Physical fitness includes a number of components consisting of cardiovascular endurance (aerobic power), muscle strength and endurance, muscle power, flexibility, balance, speed of movement, coordination and reaction time, and body composition.

Progression - The process of increasing the intensity, duration, frequency, or amount of activity or exercise as the body adapts to ensure that it continues to make improvements as a result of the Overload Principle (see above). Technogym’s mywellness Cloud is a revolutionary new open platform that allows individuals to measure and aggregate all of the data surrounding their physical activities, both inside the gym and out, making it easy to see how to progress their workouts and keep improving their fitness.

Plyometric training - A plyometric movement is a quick and eccentric (muscle lengthening) action immediately followed by a concentric (muscle shortening) action. Performing plyometric movements builds explosive power and can increase how high you can jump or how fast you move off from a static or relatively stationary position. Jumping down from a box with an immediate explosive vertical jump is an example of plyometric exercise.


Range of motion (ROM) - This is a term commonly used to describe the extremities of the movement a joint can make.

Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) - The RPE is a scale is used to measure the intensity of an individual's exercise by asking them to rate how they feel (both physically and mentally) in relation to exercise fatigue on a scale of 6-20 (original scale) or 0 -10 (modified scale). On the 0-10 scale 1 is least and 10 is most.

Repetition - The number of times an exercise is repeated within a single exercise “set.”

Resting HR - Rate at which your heart beats at rest (while sitting or being inactive). Low resting heart rates are generally a good measure of health and fitness.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) - Number of calories expended to maintain the body during resting conditions. Also referred to as basal metabolic rate.

Recovery - The time it takes to recuperate following a period of exercise. When you perform an exercise, you’ll eventually get to the point where you need time to rest or ease up. This is referred to as your “recovery” period, and can vary from several seconds up to several minutes depending on your level of fitness and the intensity/duration of the exercise performed.


Set - Repeating the same exercise a specific number of times. For example, if you did ten sit ups that would be one set of ten repetitions (reps). Sets are interspersed with a rest period. Hence you could do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Slow twitch muscle fibres - The slow muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibres and can keep going for longer before they fatigue. Therefore, slow twitch fibres are better for endurance sports like long distance running or cycling.

Specificity of Training Principle - This principle says that only the muscle or muscle group you exercise will respond to the demands placed upon it. The principle of Specificity also implies that to become better at a particular exercise or skill, you must perform that exercise or skill.

Static stretching - Used to stretch the muscles while the body is at rest. To perform a static stretch the individual elongates the muscles to the point where they feel slight discomfort (not pain). They then hold that position for up to 30 seconds before releasing.

Strength training (resistance training) - A type of physical exercise specialising in the use of resistance. For example, body weight, weight machines (Unica, Kinesis) or free weights to cause skeletal muscular contractions, which builds their strength, anaerobic endurance, and size. Ideal for strength training are Technogym’s Multipla and Pratica adjustable benches, designed for users who prefer a free weight experience.


Talk test - Method to ensure you are working out at a level where you can answer a question but not comfortably carry on a conversation. (See Moderate Intensity.)

Aerobic Target heart rate (THR) - You gain the most benefits (i.e. burn fat, lose weight) when you exercise in your ''target heart rate zone”, which is dependent on the quality you want to improve. Usually this is when your exercise heart rate (pulse) is 60%-80% of your maximum heart rate. Your THR represents a pace that ensures you are training aerobically and which can reasonably be maintained.


Waist to hip ratio - Your waist to hip ratio estimates the fat distribution in your body and is an indicator of the likelihood of developing weight related health problems. It is calculated by dividing an individual’s waist measurement by their hip measurement. Women should have a ratio of 0.8 or less; men should have a ratio of .95 or less.

Warm up - A term used to describe preparation for exercise activity by exercising at a low intensity (20-40% of your max heart rate), mobilising the joints and stretching. It can also mean practicing for a short time before the start of a sport activity.
Wellness - Wellness is usually defined in broad terms as a “lifestyle oriented towards well-being” that comprises both physical and psychological aspects. Technogym’s  essential components of wellness are: physical activity, proper nutrition and a positive mental approach.