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There is nothing worse than when you enter a gym environment, whether it be personal training or a gym, and you start hearing words thrown about and you are unsure what they mean.

This blog is to break down a few terms that trainers and gym goers may use:

Sets and Repetitions – a repetition is the number of times you perform a specific exercise – if you did 10 squats this would be classed as 10 repetitions. A set is the number of times you perform 10 repetitions. If you completed 10 repetitions on a squat that would make 1 set.

Intensity – when resistance training intensity is expressed as the percentage of your 1RM. This refers to the amount of weight lifted, which allows programs to be specific to an individual, at a certain percentage of your 1RM you should be able to perform a certain number of repetitions. For example, at 75% of your 1RM you should be able to reach 10 repetitions.

% 1RM – % 1RM refers to a percentage of your 1RM, you should then be able to lift this weight for a certain number of reps. For example, If you can bench 30kg for 1 rep you may be asked to lift 75% 1RM which would be 22.5kg.

Volume – volume looks at the number of repetitions x load (weight) x sets. So, 3 sets of 10 repetitions with 50kg would mean a volume of 10 repetitions x 50 = 500 x 3 sets = 1500kg for that one exercise.

Overload – both volume and intensity help achieve the overload principle. Is the intensity of the exercise higher than normal to create a physiological adaptation? The body adapts when the muscles are taxed to a point where they have to grow stronger to lift the weight. If you train with 3 sets of 10 repetitions using 40kg, the following week you will look to try 3 sets of 10 repetitions on 41kg. The body responds by growing the muscle fibres to grow stronger and sometimes bigger, ready to handle the extra load.

Rest Intervals – this is the time you take between sets, to rest. It can either be short (0-30s), moderate (60-90s) or long (3 minutes plus). The optimal range for hypertrophy is 60-90s, this is because it allows for the majority of a person’s strength capacity to be recovered – which improves consistently, the more you train with less rest – allowing you to lift at a higher percentage of your 1RM throughout your training. Resting longer (3 minutes plus) is ideal for strength trainers or powerlifters as full recovery occurs and short rest (0-30s) is not sufficient enough for recovery, but may be used for rest in a cluster set.

Super-set – two exercises performed back to back, usually with no rest or a short rest period between the two. For example, a set of squats directly followed by a plank.

Circuit – completion of a number of exercises one after the other. Each exercise or ‘station’ is carried out for time or reps, you then have a short rest period before moving to the next exercise.

DOMS – delayed onset of muscle soreness. After a workout, usually 24-72 hours you may feel a little pain and stiffness in your muscles. This is a not a sign of a bad workout. The workout has caused micro-traumas in the muscles, as the previous day you worked out a took your muscles near their limit.

Aerobic – training that targets the heart and lungs, increasing your heart and breathing rate in order to target oxygen utilisation in the body. This can be done through a variety of ways, running, swimming and/or cycling to name a few. Aerobic training simple means with oxygen.

Anaerobic – this form of training uses brief bursts of activity, usually a sprint, which causes oxygen demand to be greater than the supply. The body utilises stored energy in the body to provide energy. Anaerobic simply means without oxygen.

HIIT – high intensity interval training. Training that requires you to carry out a short burst of activity, at a high intensity – sprint – followed by a low intensity rest period, repeated for a number of reps.

Cardio – this is just an abbreviation for cardiovascular training. See aerobic definition.

Isolation Exercise – this is an exercise which targets one muscle group, or as small amount of muscles as possible, usually an exercise that involves movement at one joint. For example, a leg curl, targeting the hamstrings.

Compound Exercise – this an exercise which targets several muscles or groups of muscles in one exercise, usually involving movement at several joints. For example, a squat, targeting the hamstrings, quadriceps, core, calfs.

Re-hab/Pre-hab – this refers to rehabilitation. Pre-hab is a term used by trainers when using exercise to try and reduce the chances of injuries. Re-hab is post injury and involves getting the injured area moving and building up strength and its range of movement.

PB – this is your personal best, this can refer to a weight lifted, distance run, time it takes to run a certain distance.

Target Heart Rate – this is the percentage of your heart rate that a trainer may wish you to work at. To get health benefits it is recommended to work between 60-85% of your maximum. See image to the right for target heart rates.

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