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Popular Fitness Terms

There are so many words and phrases that get used and tossed around in the fitness industry. Especially if you are new to a fitness routine, no doubt you're encountering certain terms that you may be unsure about. If you want to make the most out of your workout routine, having a clear understanding of these expressions will help! To help you exercise with confidence, I have put together a must-know list of fitness terms and phrases that will help guide you gracefully through your MK programs or while at the gym, broken down to what they actually mean.


Rep: “Rep” is simply an abbreviation of repetition. Reps define the number of times you perform an exercise. For example, if you do 10 push-ups then stop, that is considered 10 reps.

Set: A set goes hand in hand with a rep. Sets refer to the number of times you will repeat your desired reps. For example, if you do 10 push-ups then have a rest, and complete another 10 push-ups followed by a rest, and a further 10, then you have completed 3 sets.

"Engage your core" or "activate your core, brace your core": This is a really common phrase that you’ve probably come across already. It basically means contracting your abdominal muscles in a way that helps to support your body (especially your lower back) during movements. To do this, think about drawing up through your pelvic floor muscles (like you’re stopping yourself from going to the bathroom) and drawing your belly button in towards your spine. While holding this position, exhale like you are blowing up a balloon. This will kick your deep abdominal muscles into gear and "engage your core". Engaging your core is also important for stability, which you rely on to hold a position steady!

Knees in line with toes” or “knees out”: This phrase probably makes you think of one key exercise: squats! With good reason, because squats are a common exercise performed incorrectly, which means you may not be getting the most out of them. “Keep your knees in line with toes” means being mindful that your knees are tracking directly over your toes at all times. In other words, your knees aren’t falling in, or going too far forward over your toes, as you squat down.

Spine in a neutral position” or “Keep your back straight / flat”: When I refer to your spine being in a neutral position, this actually means allowing your spine to follow its natural curvature. Your core should still be engaged, and your pelvic “tucked” so that you neck or your back should not be arched excessively.

Shoulders back and down” or “Keep your chest up and square”: I regularly make my posture a focus during the day or while I’m working out because good posture is important for general health! Activities that we do regularly, such as sitting at a desk or watching TV, can make it really easy to slump our shoulders, something that can negatively affect our bodies if done for too long. When you’re doing specific movements and going through your workout routine, you should be drawing your shoulder blades back (you might like to imagine that you’re sliding your shoulder blades down, not just sticking your chest out, as though you’re tucking them into your back muscles). This helps to stabilize and strengthen the surrounding muscles, which can help improve your posture over time, as well as prevent injury.

Soft knees” or “Staying light on your feet”: Maintaining soft knees means distributing your body weight over your foot slowly (rather than stomping) by landing on your toes first, and also by allowing your knees to bend gently as your feet reach the ground. This is really important for high-impact exercises because it can reduce the amount of impact on your joints.

HIIT: high intensity interval training. You give your absolute maximum amount of effort for a certain period of time. An example of a HIIT workout is sprinting as fast as you can for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest and repeating these intervals for 10-15 minutes. HIIT has many fat burning benefits, is effective on time and it also improves your body’s utilization of oxygen.

LISS: Low-Intensity Steady State and is exactly what it sounds like. LISS is exercise at a low but consistent intensity over a period of time. Some great examples of LISS are walking, cycling or swimming.

DOMS: If you ever hear the word “DOMS”, it’s actually an acronym for delayed onset muscle soreness. It’s a common condition for anyone new to exercise, if you are trying a new training program that sees you working different muscle groups, or training at a different intensity. You may have DOMS if your muscles are sore to touch, your body feels stiff and you have less mobility, or you feel like your muscles have less strength

"Spot reduction": Spot reduction is based on the idea of losing fat from specific areas of the body. Workouts that promise a loss of belly fat, or smaller thighs are aimed at people who would like to spot reduce. However, spot reduction is actually a myth because it isn’t possible to target fat loss from just one part of the body, and the way women lose fat can be determined by a combination of factors, including your genetic and stage of life. Everyone gains and loses fat first in different areas and has completely different genetic makeups.

Circuit training: It means that you do a particular exercise for a certain number of reps or amount of time before moving on to the next exercise. Unlike traditional weight training, circuit training is not always necessarily based on how many reps you can do in total, but more so how many reps you can do in a certain amount of time. Circuit training is an intense form of exercise that can help boost your fitness. If you want to work out at home, circuit training can be done with little to no equipment.

Plyometric training: also know as “plyo” or “jump training”. Where you are stretching a muscle or group of muscles, which is then followed by a rapid contraction. This combination of stretching and contracting helps to increase both power and speed, and can easily be done using your bodyweight as resistance. Some examples of plyo exercises are jump squats, jump lunges, box jumps.

Self-myofascial release: Some common forms of rehab can include stretching, massage and “self-myofascial release”, which most people know as foam rolling. This is a great way to reduce muscle tightness in your body. Foam rolling is similar to a massage, only you are able to control the pressure, and spend additional time on areas that you feel need a little more work! It may increase your range of motion, speed up recovery time and improve blood flow to your muscles.

Xoxo, MK

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