10 Lesser Known but Very Important Fitness Terms


Science / Health

You have your gym clothes, and your trainers. You’re motivated to get really fit this year. So, you decide to research the best types of exercise for your body. However, you find that there are some terms you don’t know. For instance, you hear about HIIT training Sydney locals seem to love. Should you try it?

If you aren’t familiar with a term, you might not be aware of all the benefits of a particular exercise. So, let’s examine some of the lesser-known terms of the industry so you can do the training that suits you the best.


HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. It refers to intense bursts of exercise followed by a short period of recovery. This process gets your heart rate up and keeps it high, but you don’t exercise for very long, since you get the same benefits from it as some other fitness manoeuvres.

This kind of training helps to burn fat because of what’s called ‘excess post exercise oxygen consumption’. The process helps you burn more calories even after workout because your body has to work hard to return to its resting state.


Tabata is an HIIT protocol that is widely used, whereby you do 20 seconds intense set of exercises followed by 10 seconds of rest. This you repeat eight times, resulting in about four minutes of exercise in total. It has really high fat-burning power. You can join reformer pilates classes as well for even better results.


Isometrics refers to the practice of holding a particular body-position under tension for an extended period of time. Some examples of this are squats and planks. It’s recognised as a way to build muscle stability and strength, but also to build mental resilience, because it can be extremely uncomfortable.


Plyometrics refers to squat jumps, burpees, broad jumps and box jumps—anything that gets you jumping and breathless. It’s about increasing strength, which in turn means you can utilise your muscle fibre earlier and with greater efficiency. This gives you greater ability when picking up weights and sprinting.

These exercises also get your heartrate up and burn calories.

Foam Rolling

Here you roll your limb over a foam roller, to loosen up knots in the fascia of your muscles. This will release tight muscles and enable you to perform activities with full range of motion. In turn, this enables you to perform your other exercises properly.

Active Recovery

When you work out, your muscle fibres are broken down, so you do need some form of rest to rebuild and recover. This is why experts suggest a day of rest after an intense workout.

During this day, rather than being a couch potato, you can go for a gentle stroll or swim. It will prevent you from stiffening up and losing range of motion. This is called active recovery. Going for a walk will increase the circulation and help to relieve the pain.

Compound Exercise

Compound exercise is training that works a variety of muscle groups simultaneously. For example, you can do squats, lunges and deadlifts. You work on overall muscle mass rather than muscles in isolation, which is a more balanced way of training your body in its entirety. It also burns calories.

Mechanical Efficiency

Mechanical efficiency is the percent of total chemical energy produced that results in muscle work. The remainder of the percentage is lost as heat. So, cycling has a mechanical efficiency of 20%, while swimming has an efficiency of 5-9.5%. It’s always best to focus on greater mechanical efficiency for building muscle and burning calories.


RPE stands for ‘rate of perceived exertion’. This will be different for everyone. If your trainer, for instance, tells you to work at an RPE of 1, it will mean that it’s easy for you. If he or she tells you to work at an RPE of 10, you’re working at a pace that you never thought you could work at.

Super Set

Super setting is taking two exercises and doing them one after the other. For instance, you work two muscle groups, like arms then legs without resting in between the two sets of workouts. However, you’re resting one set of muscles while the other is working.

Another approach is to do two exercises that focus on the same area to fatigue one muscle group. Alternatively, you can pair push and pull movements.

These sets are useful for building strength and saving time. Doing this will also raise your heartrate.


Once you know these unusual terms, you can go to the gym with greater confidence. Chat to your personal trainer or gym instructor about including new types of exercise in your routine, or simply focus your training on the exercise that suits your needs.

Learning new terms means knowing all the options available to you. This gives you more choices AND healthy, goal-directed plans for your training.