Basic Fitness terms explained

Walking into a brand-new gym for the first time is fun and exciting but can also be scary and nerve-wracking for some, you know what is worse though? Walking into a gym and everybody using words, terms and phrases that you have never hear of before. As a CrossFit coach, I know we use about 50 CrossFit words and phrases that no ”outsider” has ever heard of. Things like; AMRAP, WOD, Thruster, Metcon and even the ”common” terms like; reps and sets.

I completely understand that not knowing what people are talking about can be very frustrating and de-motivating. Add in that it is your first-time walking into this gym and nobody explains to you what all of these words mean, that is a recipe for disaster.

Let me help. This blog is here to explain all of these general fitness terms to you, without any judgement. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you any longer. We’ll start with the easier and more obvious terms and move on from there.


Sets are what make up the volume of your workout. If you’re doing 4 sets of 8 reps, you do 8 reps, rest and repeat that a total of 4 times. Sets and reps are usually written down like this: 4 x 8, in this example the number represents the number of sets, the number 8 represents the number of reps


Reps or repetitions are what make your sets. Reps determine how long a set lasts and what fitness stimulus you’re going. Not getting too specific here but a general rule of thumb is this: 0-6 reps are used to gain strength; 6-12 reps are used to gain muscle growth (hypertrophy) and 12+ reps are used for strength endurance. These are all generalizations of course, there is more specific science and overlap behind it.


We touched on it briefly during the explanation of reps. Hypertrophy is a fancy term people use to describe ”muscle growth”. Hypertrophy or muscle growth gets stimulated by the appropriate amount of intensity, weight lifted, nutrition and rest.

HIIT / High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is just another way of working out. Rather than working out at the same pace throughout the workout, you take breaks between high intensity output. An easy example here is running, rather than running at the same pace for 90 minutes straight you work with higher intensity running with rest intervals. A well-known example is a ”Tabata”, a Tabata requires you to sprint for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest, for the given number of sets.

”Going to Failure”

Going to failure isn’t something you start with as soon as you walk into the gym for the first time, if it is, walk out of the gym right away.

Going to failure can mean 2 different things, ”technical failure” or ”muscle failure”. Technical failure means you perform reps at a certain weight until your form breaks down. So rather than doing a pre-determined number of reps, you keep going until you hit that point. Muscle failure goes a step beyond that, this is where you actual fail the rep you’re on. Just like technical failure, there’s no pre-determined number of reps, just keep going until you can’t no more.


AMRAP is a word we use a lot in CrossFit and gets used more frequently in ”conventional” gyms as well. AMRAP stands for ”As Many Reps/Rounds As Possible” in the given time frame. Let’s say your workout consists of 5 pull ups + 10 push-ups + 15 squats, as a 10-minute AMRAP. Your goal there is to get as many rounds and reps in within the 10 minutes. As soon as you’re done with one round you move on to the next one.

AMRAP and WOD example in one


WOD simply stands for ”Workout Of the Day”. This is another term we use a lot in CrossFit, to indicate the workout the people in our classes will be doing that day. Every day we use a completely different workout with different movements, time domains and stimulus, that is why we refer to it Workout of the DAY.

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