On this page, some basic terminology associated with bodybuilding is defined as used on this site…
General Weight Training Terms
Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers
H.I.T. (High Intensity Training)
Microscopic Muscle Tears
Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibers
Static Contraction Training
Accessory Muscles – The muscles that are required to perform an exercise that are not the target muscle. See also Stabilizer Muscles.
Aerobic – Longer duration exercise aimed primarily at increasing fitness levels and burning calories. See also Anaerobic and Cardio.
Anaerobic – Shorter duration exercise aimed primarily at increasing strength levels. See also, Aerobic.
Anabolic – A metabolic state where the body is building tissue. The goal of mass gain training (bulking) is, through diet and rest, to keep the body in this state as much as possible. The opposite of Catabolic.
Bulking – The phase of bodybuilding training where you are attempting to gain muscle mass.
Burn – The burning sensation sometimes felt with intense exercise. Having to do with lactic acid (a change in muscular acidity levels) as your body regenerates energy through glycolysis.
Breathing Sets – Pausing at the top of each exercise within a set to breath. Typically you take three deep breaths and then perform another rep. For more, check the Workout Routine Methods Page.
Cardio – Exercise aimed at increasing the heart rate in order to improve cardiovascular performance and burn fat. Not a central part of mass gain. See also, Aerobic.
Catabolic – A metabolic state where the body is breaking down tissue to fuel energy needs. The goal of mass gain training is to avoid this state as much as possible while the goal of cutting is to keep to this state as much as possible. The opposite of Anabolic.
Cheating – When failure has been reached during a set, swinging or jerking the weight (using improper form, momentum) in order to squeeze out additional reps – An advanced technique that should be used with caution. Or, a beginner who just doesn’t know what he is doing.
Circuit Training – A form of weight training where you are moving quickly between exercises with the goal of a quick workout that provides anaerobic as well aerobic benefits. Not ideal for mass gain.
Compound Exercise – An exercise which requires more than one joint movement. The focus of training programs geared toward gaining mass and strength. See also Isolated Exercise.
Concentric – The concentric part of an exercise, also referred to as the positive, is the portion where you are raising the weight (going against gravity). See also Eccentric.
Cumulative Fatigue – Doing a number of work sets where the goal is to reach muscular fatigue or failure only on the last rep of the last set. For more, see the Workout Routine Methods Page.
Cutting – The phase of bodybuilding training where you are attempting to “get cut” – lose body fat in order to show defined muscle. Trying to cut and bulk at the same time is a big but common mistake.
Eccentric – The eccentric part of an exercise, also referred to as the negative, is the portion where you lower the weight (resist gravity). Research shows that it is this portion of an exercise that stimulates the most muscle and is therefore responsible for the greatest growth. Many training systems emphasize the eccentric portion of exercises for this reason. See also, Concentric.
Failure – Lifting to failure requires you to lift to complete muscle exhaustion, the point where you cannot complete another rep and fail in an effort to do so. See also Fatigue.
Fast-Twitch Fibers – The muscle fibers primarily responsible for short explosive activities. To gain significant muscle mass, you must train to affect these muscles. See also Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibers.
Fatigue – Lifting to fatigue means you stop short of failure, lifting to the point you feel your muscles about to give out but stop a rep or so before they fail. This provides an adequate solution for those who cannot workout to failure because they train at home or do not have the services of a spotter.
Free Weights – Weight training utilizing dumbbells, barbells and weight plates. Free weights are important to mass gain, as opposed to machine-based training, because they better allow the development of accessory muscles necessary to support increased muscle mass. For more see Free Weights Vs. Machines.
Genetic Potential – The muscle building potential of someone based on their unique genetic make-up.
Hardgainer – A general term referring to anyone who has trouble gaining muscle weight (just about everyone).
Hardgainer Training – A training philosophy characterized by low volume training and an emphasis on rest time.
H.I.T. (High Intensity Training) – A training philosophy that recommends low volume training, full-body routines and workouts done with maximum intensity.
Hyperplasia – The concept that muscle mass can increase when fibers split to form new fibers. Somewhat controversial if it can occur in humans. See also Hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy – Muscle growth occurring as a result of the muscle fibers increasing in size. See also Hyperplasia.
Intensity – A measurement of how much effort is being expended. To gain mass, it is critical to work with maximum intensity.
Isolated Exercise – An exercise requiring only one joint movement, used to isolate a specific muscle. See also Compound Exercises.
Juiced – One of many slang terms for steroid use. Go to the Anabolic Steroids Page for more.
Lift Heavy – Reference to the mantra that to build muscle you should lift heavy weights for less reps rather than lift light weights for higher reps.
Machine-Based – Exercise with the assistance of machines that follow a pre-determined path. Not ideal for mass gain as the accessory muscles are not as effectively hit. For more see Free Weights Vs. Machines.
Max – Your max is simply the maximum amount you can lift for a given number of reps. Your 1RM is the maximum you can lift for one rep. Many routines use percentages of your 1RM as a way of defining the amount of weight you should be lifting for each set. For example, a routine may suggest 3×10 at 80-90%. This routine calls for you to do 3 sets of 10 reps at 80-90% of your 1RM for that particular exercise.
Microscopic Muscle Tears – Small tears in muscle fibers occurring due to extreme stress – the goal of weight training to build muscle is to create this stress. Given adequate opportunity through nutrition and rest, the muscles will repair and rebuild themselves stronger.
Momentum – Refers to allowing the laws of physics to aid in the lifting of weights rather than lifting with a controlled tempo where the muscles must do all the work.
Muscle Confusion -The concept that in order to continue gaining muscle you must keep changing the way you approach weight training in your sets and routines in order to prevent them from adapting. See the page Weight Training Routines: Change is Good.
Overtraining – A progressive condition where the body incurs more muscle damage then it has the opportunity to repair and rebuild – Overtraining Syndrome (OTS). For more, see the article Adequate Rest to Avoid Overtraining and Increase Muscle Growth.
Periodization – A training philosophy that has phases based on different levels of intensity. For example, a month of light training followed by a month of heavy training where the emphasis is placed on cumulative gains (as opposed to incremental gains from workout to workout).
Plateau – A point where progress slows or halts and it becomes seemingly impossible to make gains. Indicates a need to change your training program. For more, see Weight Training Routines: Change is Good.
Progressive Overload – This is the concept that you must keep increasing the resistance used with each workout. If you squat 150 lbs. for ten reps one week, the next week you should increase that weight to 151 lbs. or more. This progression is proven effective for increasing muscle mass.
Pyramid Routines – Routines that use sets at different levels (different rep totals) to form a pyramid. An effective technique for mass building. For more, see the Workout Routines Methods Page.
Reps – A rep, or repetition, is the completion of the full motion called for by a particular exercise. For example, with the bench press, lowering the weight to your chest and then pushing it back up to where the arms are straight (but not locked) is one rep.
Routine – A routine is the workout you perform. Encompassing the exercises performed, order of exercises, tempo, methods used and splits used as well as additional aspects.
Sets – A set is the amount of reps you do before resting. If you were to follow a routine that called for 3 sets of ten reps of bicep curls, you would do 10 reps, rest and then repeat two more times.
Set/Rep Lingo – Sets are typically written in the following way…
This routine calls for you to do 3 sets of 10 reps of lat pulldowns.
The above routine calls for you to do one set of ten reps, then, after resting, a set of 7 reps and then after another rest, a final set of three reps.
The amount of weight you lift for each set is the amount of that brings you to failure or fatigue in the given number of reps. For example, for the above bench press routine, you would pick a weight that you could do for a maximum of ten reps and then adjust the weight (raise it) to the maximum weight you could complete 7 reps of and then adjust again for the final set of 3 reps. If you are a beginner, you will have to do some experimenting to find the weights that you can handle for each exercise.
Show Muscles – Those muscles that you show-off – typically referring to the biceps, chest and ab muscles.
Slow Lifting – A radical training philosophy that has you performing reps at an extremely slow rate. For more see Slow Lifting and Static Contraction Training.
Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibers – The muscle fibers primarily responsible for muscular endurance. See also Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers.
Spotter – A person who watches you lift and helps move the weight out of harms way when your muscles fail. A spotter (or self-spotting apparatus) is necessary when working out to failure for some exercises like the bench press.
Splits – Dividing the body’s muscles into groups for the purposes of splitting up workout routines (working different muscle groups on different days). For more see Splits for Bodybuilding Workouts.
Stabilizer Muscles – Muscles that may not actually move during exercise but provide support to the exercise – the muscles that hold you in place so you can perform the exercise. Machine-based training reduces the need for these muscles and therefore limits their development. This can negatively impact the development of major muscles as well as functional strength. See also Target Muscles and Accessory Muscles .
Static Contraction Training – A radical training philosophy that has you, instead of performing a complete rep , holding a weight at a specific point. For more see Slow Lifting and Static Contraction Training.
Superset – Doing two exercises back-to-back. For example, completing a squat set and then immediately doing hamstring curls. For more, see the Workout Routines Methods Page.
Symmetry – Referring to the way a physique looks, how balanced the muscles are – a judging criteria in bodybuilding competition.
Target Muscles – The main target of a particular exercise (the bench press targets the pecs). See also, Stabilizer Muscles and Accessory Muscles.
Tempo – Tempo is the rate of speed that you perform a rep. It is often written as Eccentric/Bottom/Concentric with a count of seconds used to judge the time. A 3/0/1 rep would be performed with a count of three seconds on the eccentric portion (lowering the weight), no count at the bottom, and then a count of one while raising the weight (concentric portion) to complete the rep. For more see Weight Training Tempo.
Volume – The amount of work performed.
Volume Training – Typically referring to high volumes of work (high-volume training). Can be too much for hardgainers and potentially create overtraining.
Warm-Up Sets – In front of work sets, sets performed with lower weights to warm-up the muscles and help prevent injury.
Work Sets – The sets within a routine meant to do the actual work (as opposed to warm-up sets).