11 Fitness Terms Explained! Including “What is a Rep?
What is a Rep? Have you ever found your self asking the following questions in the Gym?
“What is a set?”
“How long should I rest”
“How much weight should I use”
These are the most common questions asked by fitness beginners in their first few days in the Gym.
This is especially true if you are trying to follow a fitness program for the first time.
Almost every fitness program will be written using the same terminology.
In the following blog post, I will break down all of this fitness jargon
1. What Is A Rep?
2. What Is A Set?
3. What Is Progressive Overload?
4. Weight Selection. How Much Weight You Should lift
5. Rest Periods. How Long You Should Wait Between Sets
6. Training To Failure
7. Warm-Up Sets VS Working Sets
8. Good Form VS Bad Form
9. What Is A Training Split? How Often You Should Train
10. Cardio Warm Up VS Warm-Up Set
11. The Best Beginner Program and Exercise Progressions
To explain all of these terms I will be using my “Ultimate beginner training template” as an example.
If you don’t have a training program yet or would like a free copy of this program please click the image link below!
1. What Is A Rep? How Many Should You Be Doing?
For the purpose of explaining sets, reps and rest periods we will use the “Squat” exercise as an example.
The Squat is a lower-body dominant exercise working most of your leg muscles in one single movement.
The squat starts in a standing position.
You drop your hips down between your legs as if sitting into an
Every time you go from the starting position, down into the bottom position and return back up to the original standing position you complete one repetition of the Squat exercise.
This is called a “Rep” for short.
“Reps” or “Repetitions” are then grouped into what are called “Sets“.
2. What Is A Rep And What Is A Set? How Many Should You Be Doing?
A single set is just a group of reps performed together.
In the “Ultimate Beginners Program,” you can see I have highlighted how many sets and reps you should be doing for this specific program.
Reps and sets are often written the same way on a training plan.
“4 x 8-10”
The first number indicates how many sets you should complete overall.
The second two numbers are a rep range.
On the ultimate beginners plan you can see the first exercise, the squat, is written with a recommendation of “4 x 8-10”.
This means you should perform 4 sets of squats. In each set, you should perform somewhere between 8 and 10 reps (Individual Squats).
Below you will see some of the more popular combinations of sets and reps schemes you will find as you progress on your own fitness journey.
“10 x 10” which is of course 10 sets of 10 reps. This can also be referenced as “German Volume Training”.
“5 x 5”, which is a common rep and set scheme for a more strength training focus.
“3 x 10”, a common recommendation for full-body training programs.
Certain rep ranges can emphasise particular adaptations (benefits) of lifting weights. That is Strength, Hypertrophy, or Muscular Endurance.
You can gain all of the above benefits by training in any rep range, as long as you adhere to the number one most important principle of strength training, Progressive Overload.
For this reason, you will use “4 sets x 10 reps” in this beginners plan.
Not because there is anything magic about this combination.
But because it allows you to receive all the benefits of strength training while doing enough reps to master the technique of each exercise. Added Bonus: its super easy to easy to remember.
3. What The Fudge Is Progressive Overload?
It’s important to remember that there is no magic combination of rep and set schemes.
Rather, you should focus on finding the right number of sets and reps that allows you to continually lift more weight over time.
The ability to add weight to the bar, add a few more reps, or perform an extra set with great technique, is your reward from your last effective training session.
This is called “Progressive Overload“…
4. Weight Selection. How Much Weight Should You lift?
Progressive Overload is something you earn from a previous good training session.
When you train hard enough, your body will be forced to adapt and get stronger.
As a consequence, you will be able to lift more weight or reps in the next session.
In this training program, you will need to perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
This means that you must do 8-10 reps of each exercise with perfect technique.
For each set to be effective, or “Hard enough”, you should be aiming to complete somewhere between 8 to 10 reps.
You should not be able to lift more than 12 reps.
I am going to repeat that last part.
You need to choose a weight that is light enough so you can just about do 8 to 10 reps with good form. Yet heavy enough that you can’t do 13, 14 or 15 reps.
If you can do more than 12 reps with any particular weight then this weight is too light for you.
Your body will not have any reason to get stronger by the next training session.
5. Rest Periods. How Long You Should Wait Between Sets
Like recommended reps and sets…When it comes to rest periods between sets there is no magic number.
You will want to wait long enough between each set to apply maximum effort again, without waiting around all day in the Gym.
Typically though, I will explain the following as a general rule of thumb
The higher the rep range, the lower the rest period.
For this program I find the sweet spot to be 1-2 minute rest period for all working sets taken close to Failure. (Explained in the next section).
Warm-up sets do not require as long a rest period as Working Sets.(Explained in Number 7 below).
6. But wait! what do you mean “Training to Failure”?
When you perform a set of an exercise. Every rep you do is slightly harder than the last rep. Your muscles work hard to lift the weight in the given exercise and eventually tire out.
If you focus on maintaining the correct technique of the exercise without stopping the set, eventually your muscles will become so tired that they will not lift the weight another inch.
This is called training to failure!
The closer you get to failure, the more stimulating each rep becomes.
When a fitness professional says you must “Train close to failure”,
They mean that you must lift a weight heavy enough, and perform enough reps with the correct technique so your body receives a signal that it must get stronger.
Although the most common phrase used is “Training to failure“, I will often say “Training to Stimulus“.
The goal is to lift enough weight for enough reps, with good form up to the point in which your body is forced to respond and get stronger.
The point of stimulus occurs just before all-out failure and is a far better target for completing a successful set.
Complete muscular failure, although very rewarding, can sometimes be quite dangerous. The closer you get to failure, the more likely you are to use the sloppy technique.
Training to a stimulus will allow you to rack up a lot of rewarding reps without also having to complete the more risky reps closer to failure.
7. Warm-Up Sets VS Working Sets. What’s the difference?
Beside each exercise on the program, I have left some empty spaces for you to write down how many reps, and what weight you for each Working Set.
A Working Set is any set taken close to failure. A set that will bring about some kind of reward or adaptation. A set that is hard enough to cause a change.
The purpose of writing down your reps and weight is so you have a target for the next training session.
If you trained each working set to the point of the stimulus (close to failure), in the next training session you should be able to lift more reps or more weight.
Congratulations you are making progress in the Gym!
You should perform a few “Warm Up” sets before you begin your first working set.
A Warm Up set is done before a working set with lighter weights and not taken as close to failure or stimulus. The purpose of a warm-up set is to
1) Warm up the muscle we are about to use.
2)Practice the skill of the exercise we are about to perform
3)Give your brain time to recognise that we are about to exert maximum effort.
You might only need 2 or 3 warm-up sets for each exercise on this program.
Make sure to start off light and build the weight up to what you will use for your first working set.
This process will take you a while to fine-tune.
Just remember, the purpose of a warm-up set is to allow you to lift as much as possible, as safe as possible in your 4 working sets.
8. Good Form Vs Bad Form
Every exercise, or movement pattern, should be learned as a skill first before being used as a tool to make changes on your body.
The correct technique used to complete an exercise is often referred to as “Exercise Form“.
Although form corrections are a lifelong pursuit, you should pay particular attention to the form of each exercise in your first few weeks of training.
The benefit we get from strength training will come from placing sufficient stress on the target muscle.
We do this by lifting weight in a specific exercise or movement.
Each movement is selected as it places a particular emphasis on stressing that target muscle.
“Good Form” is when you are using that exercise correctly to stress the target muscle in a safe manner.
When you use the “Bad form” you will be placing a lot more stress on ligaments, tendons and connective tissues. Over time this can result in injury.
Not only will poor form result in an increased risk of injury, but it will also be far less effective at stimulating the muscle and hinder your overall progress.
The closer you get to failure. The more difficult an exercise becomes. This is typically when good form breaks down and a person will resort to using the bad form in order to complete a set.
Remember though, an exercise is only beneficial for as long as it places most of the stress on the target muscle.
Continuing a set with poor form for the sake of lifting more reps or weight is counterproductive and dangerous.
For this reason, you will often hear a trainer tell their clients
“Never sacrifice the form of an exercise to lift more weight”.
Or as I beat into my clients…
“When the forms stop, so do you”.
9. What Is A “Training Split”? How Often You Should Train
A Training Split is how the muscles of the body or movements of the body get divided up and placed into a training plan. Usually, this plan will repeat every week be based on 1 week of training.
For the sake of practical programming, the muscle groups are split up into
Legs (Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings and Calf muscles)
Shoulders (Front, Middle and Rear Delts)
Chest (Pec Major and Pec Minor)
Back (Lats, Traps, Rhomboids and Spinal Erectors)
Arms (Biceps, Triceps)
Core (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques, Lower Spinal Erectors, Transverse Abdominus)
For most Gym beginners I recommend training 3 days a week doing a full body split.
80-90% of the benefits of attending the Gym can be achieved in just 3 training sessions a week.
The other 10-20% of the results can be achieved by coming in for 4, 5 or even 6 training sessions a week.
That being said, the risk of burn out dramatically increases over 3 or 4 training sessions per week.
For this reason, the beginner program is designed using 3 full body sessions a week.
In each training session, you will train every muscle group in the body using 5 or 6 different exercises.
This training plan is designed to be very easy to follow while also giving you the best results possible.
You should learn the correct form of these exercises first before using them as a tool to achieve your goals.
When you are confident in your technique you can start adding sufficient weight to stress the target muscle appropriately. That is, training close to failure.
You should follow this exact program 3 days per week, leaving at least one days rest between training sessions.
(Disclaimer: If you have any previous injuries, mobility or stability issues you may have to correct those before starting this program)
Each training session should take you approx 1 hour to complete.
If you have 4 sets per exercise, and 1-2 minutes rest per set, then this program will take you approx 50 minutes to complete.
With 10 minutes to spare for a good “Cardio warm-up” at the beginning of your session.
10. Cardio Warm up Vs Warm-Up Sets
A “Cardio Warm Up” is different than a “Warm Up Set”.
A cardio warm-up is done before a training session with the goal of increasing the heart rate and preparing the cardiovascular system for exercise.
Usually, this is the first thing you should do when you land into the Gym. I recommend choosing one of the following 3 options.
Start off slowly and begin to raise your heart rate using one of these machines.
A cardio warm-up is crucial for reducing the risk of injury mid-session and will allow you to push harder in each working set.
A good cardio warm up is the best pre-workout energy shot you can take!
11. The Best Beginner Program And Exercise Progressions
The exercises on this workout program are specifically selected for beginners in the Gym.
Just because these are “Beginner” exercises does not mean they are not a great exercise for achieving your goals.
The exercises highlighted below are selected because they can produce an effective stimulus to lots of muscle for growth, while simultaneously having a low learning curve.
There are a few technical considerations for each exercise which means you can start making progress on day one.
Unlike a training split designed to target every little muscle group individually, this plan is designed around 5 main movements.
Using just 5 main movements you can train every muscle in the body, especially the core when you start into exercise progressions.
Eventually, you can swap out the exercises on this template for another exercise in the same movement pattern.
Exercise Progression Example:
The chest press machine is a “Pushing to the front movement pattern”.
You simply push to the front of your body.
This is the exact same movement as a Bench Press.
Eventually, after mastering the chest press machine you can swap in the Bench press Instead.
This is called an exercise progression.
You should aim to work towards learning a barbell exercise for each of the below 5 movement patterns.
From left to right:
Squatting movement pattern which will become a barbell squat
Pushing to the front which will become a barbell bench press
Pulling from the front which will become a barbell row
Pulling from overhead which will become a chin-up
Pushing overhead which will become a barbell overhead press
Set yourself a goal of progressing on from each of these movements to barbell movements within 6 months of training.
Naturally, you will be keen to try lots of other exercises in that time frame.
For this reason, I have also added a few optional extras at the end of the training plan if you want to try a few new exercises.
I encourage you to follow your interest as much as possible, AFTER, you have your main workout completed.
Remember, you have joined the Gym with a goal in mind.
Its called a “Workout for a reason”. You have to do the work first and then you can do the fun exercises!
What Kind Of Results Can You Expect?
If you are new to the Gym this is the only template you will need for the next 6 months of training.
Use this exact program to get started and then start swapping out the exercises and work towards the barbell variations.
Once you master the skill of each movement you can use it as a tool to achieve any goal you like!
Improve your Cardiovascular health,
look and feel more fit
Don’t forget to claim your free copy of “The Ultimate Beginner Gym Program below”.
PS. I have been thinking about making some beginner exercise videos for this program. Let me know in the comments section if you would like to see these videos?