Weight Training Glossary

A glossary of weight training terms. It’s incomplete and ongoing.

The ATP-PC system is the adenosine triphosphate and phosphocreatine cycle that provides muscles with the power behind weight training workouts.
BMI (Body Mass Index)
BMI or Body Mass Index is a simple calculation based on your weight and height that tells you whether you’re underweight, overweight or normal. It’s a crude calculation that can be quite inaccurate for muscular people but it’s used all over the world by the medical profession.
BMR (Base Metabolic Rate)
Your BMR or Base Metabolic Rate is the number of calories you burn a day just to stay alive. Your body needs calories just function normally and those calories constitute your BMR.
Bro Split
A form of split system training regime where exercises are split up so that each muscle group is trained only once per week, generally over three, four or five days. Bro splits are often criticised, particularly for non-steriod-using, natural bodybuilders, because a week is often considered too long between exercising each body part. They do work of course. The question is whether a split targetting muscle groups more frequently would work better.
Compound Exercise/Movement
An exercise that works a number of different muscle groups at the same time. This is as opposed to an isolation movement, which just works one muscle group (or certainly just very few). Example of compound exercises are the bench press, the deadlift and the squat.
DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
This is the muscle aching you get after a workout. It’s caused by microtrauma to the muscle fibres as a result of your workout and is usually felt most stronglt 24-72 hours after the workout. You want DOMS to confirm you’ve worked out hard, although within reason – you don’t want it so bad it incapacitates you.
Drop Set
This can sort of have two meanings. Let’s say you’ve done a set of curls with 40kg to failure; if you immediately, without any rest, drop the weight to 30kg, you’ll be able to do a few more reps. This is one definition of a drop set. The term is also used when, for example, you do sets with 20kg, then 30kg, then 40kg, then 50kg and then, after having the usual break between sets, drop down to 30kg and do another set. The difference in the two meanings is minor and only really relates to whether or not you take a break before performing the drop set.
A particular weight-training movement designed to work one or more muscle groups. May consist of a one or more of sets which each consist or one or more repetitions.
Hypertrophy is the process of breaking down muscle tissue during workouts and then rebuilding it again during recuperation periods. There are two sorts: sarcoplasmic, which is mainly responsible for muscle size and myofibrillar, which is mainly responsible for muscle strength.
Isolation Exercise/Movement
An exercise that works one muscle group (or very few muscle groups). This is as opposed to a compound movement, which works many muscle groups at the same time. Examples of isolation exercises are triceps extensions, curls and calf raises.
Lean Body Mass (LBM)
Your Lean Body Mass (LBM) is your weight minus the amount of fat you have.
Microtrauma is the damage that occurs to muscles during a workout. This causes the muscles to compensate and rebuild slightly bigger and stronger.
One-Rep Maximum
The maximum weight you can lift for one repetition. More precisely, this could be called your ‘actual’ one-rep maximum. There are various formulae and coefficients where you can plug in the weight you lifted and the number of reps you lifted it for (greater than one rep) and they will give you a ‘calculated’ one-rep maximum. These formulae are only approximations, although still a reasonable gauge of strength progress when you’re not performing ‘actual’ one-rep maximums regularly. Your ‘actual’ one-rep maximum may be bigger or lower than your ‘calculated’ one-rep maximum.
Power Cage/Power Rack
Power CageA power cage or power rack is considered to be the mainstay of strength training equipment. It consists of strong, well-built cage in which you can work out. Power cages will have safeties or spotter bars that can be set to a height where they take the weight if you get into trouble. They’re most useful for exercises such as the bench press, squat and shoulder presses.
Progressive Resistance Training
This is essentially what weight training is. The ‘resistance’ is the weight and when you can lift, for example, eight reps with a particular weight, you increase the weight so that you can now only manage maybe six reps. Then when you can lift eight reps with that weight, you increase it again. This is the ‘progressive’ bit.
Protein is one of the three major food macros, the others being carbohydrates and fats. Protein is considered essential for muscle growth although the amount needed for optimal muscle development is the subject of much debate and can range from 0.8 – 2.5g (or more) per lb of body weight (0.35 – 1.1g per kg of body weight).
Protein Synthesis
Protein synthesis is where ones body uses protein to rebuild and repair muscles that have been stressed during a workout.
Rep or Repetition
One complete movement of an exercise, usually consisting of a positive part where you exert effort against the resistance of the weight and a negative part where you’re returning the weight to the start position.
Rep Ranges
Training with a different number of reps per set can target your body in different ways. There is a lot of crossover but as a basic guide, see the following table:

Rep Range % of 1-Rep Max Target
1 – 4 85 – 100 Power and strength
4 – 7 75 – 85 Strength and some muscle size (hypertrophy)
7 – 12 65 – 75 Mainly muscle size (hypertrophy) and some strength
12 – 15 60 – 65 Muscle size (hypertrophy) and some endurance
15+ < 60 Mainly endurance

Do beware that this is a just a rough guide. In particular, the percentages of the 1-rep max will vary from person to person and, as I said above, there’s a lot of crossover on the rep ranges.

A collection of reps, after which you usually take a short break before performing another set or moving on to another exercise. A set may consist of any number of reps from one to 20 or more.
Smith Machine
Smith MachineAn exercise machine that has a horizontally fixed bar that travels up and down on bushes or runners inside a frame. The frame into which the bar fits will have lock-out holes and the bar will have hooks that can be locked into these holes by twisting the bar. The theory here is that it makes for a safer environment when training alone, although that is often hotly debated.
Split System
A training regime that splits up the muscle groups so that you’re only targeting a few muscle groups each workout. Beginners are best advised to train the whole body each workout but intermediate and advanced weight-trainers often find they make better progress by targeting fewer muscle groups each workout so that they can increase the intensity with which they work those muscle groups.
Spotter Bars/Spotting Bars/Safeties
Solid prongs or bars that attach to power cages, some Smith machines and some benches that are intended to catch the weight before it can do you any damage. On a bench press, for example, if you’re using proper form you’ll have a slight arch to your back and as a result your chest will be slightly raised. You’d set the spotter bars just below your raised chest height so that if you get into trouble you just need to drop your chest down and the spotter bars will take the weight.
A superset is a workout system where you perform a set of one exercise immediately followed, without any rest, by a set of another exercise. Supersets may consist of two exercise for the same muscle group, such as barbell curls followed by dumbbell curls, or the exercises can be for different muscle groups, such as bench presses followed by chins.
TEE/TDEE (Total Energy Expediture/Total Daily Energy Expediture)
Your TEE or TDEE is the number of calores you burn each day (usually excluding planned exercise). It is often calculated by taking your BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) and multiplying it by a number that represents your typical day. Some people walk or cycle to work, some people don’t. Some people sit in an office all day whilst others to manual labour on a construction site. So each individual will have a multiplier that reflects their life, usually ranging from 1.0 (bedridden) to 2.4 (professional sportsman). The aim is to find tune your TEE so that if you eat the exact number of calories in your TEE, you neither gain nor lose weight.
Working Set
A working set is one in which you push yourself hard and sometimes to failure. It’s common to have one or two warm-up sets to loosen the muscles and scan for any tweaks or injuries before going into your working sets. Essentially a working set is one that counts.