3 Fitness Terms You Need to Know

fitness terms you need to know
I Was Clueless When I Switched From CrossFit to Bodybuilding

Even though I came from a competitive CrossFit background, competed at CrossFit Regionals, and had been lifting for quite a few years, I was completely clueless when I switched over to bodybuilding back in 2017.

There was so much new lingo and terminology, I was ALWAYS picking the wrong weights and trying to go way too heavy or lift way too fast (read: am I embarrassed by the 2018 movement demo videos on our Paragon Training Methods YouTube channel where I’m lifting at lightning speed? ohhhh yes!)

It was a hard learning curve because my previous 5-6 years in the gym were all about going as fast as possible, as heavy as possible, emptying the tank, and winning workouts. So there was equal parts parts learning AND unlearning some old habits.

As always, trying to pass on tips, tricks, and thingsI learned the hard way (:


Must-Know Fitness Term #1: Progressive Overload

Progressive Overload means you are doing more work over time and increasing the difficulty in your lifts, runs, or workouts from week-to-week. This is a *really* important quality to look for in your workout program so you can get stronger, gain muscle, hit new PR’s, improve your endurance and aerobic base, improve your physique, or whatever your goal may be (:

In lifting, this might look like squatting every Monday:

  • Week 1 = 200 lbs
  • Week 2 = 205 lbs
  • Week 3 = 210 lbs, and so on.


In running, this might look like:

  • Week 1: 3 miles
  • Week 2: 3.5 miles
  • Week 3: 4 miles
  • Week 4: 4.5 miles, and so on.


You could also:

  • Increase reps/sets completed on a movement each week
  • Increase the tempo each week on a movement
  • Add pauses at the top or bottom of a rep
  • Rest less between sets each week


Only doing random class workouts OR not following any sort of plan when you go to the gym can land ya in the “random training = random and unpredictable results” camp. And while that’s fine every once and a while, it can be an easy way to spin your wheels in the sand, become frustrated, and not see as much progress or results from your time and energy spent working out if it’s a constant thing.

If you’re following a lifting program, make sure it has Progressive Overload!


Must-Know Fitness Term #2: Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy means “muscle building.” It’s how you want to train most of the time if your goal is to look your best.

If you see someone at the gym or on a figure stage with a really shredded physique, they probably did a LOT of hypertrophy work in the gym to look as they do.

Whether you your goal is to chase fat loss, muscle gain, or anything in-between, Hypertrophy training is an excellent choice to get you there. You’d just need to adjust your nutrition accordingly:

  • Goal = Fat loss: Eat in a calorie deficit below maintenance needs
  • Goal = Muscle gain: Eat in a calorie surplus beyond maintenance calorie needs
  • Goal = Maximize health, look and feel your best: Eat at maintenance calories


Ego is the enemy with hypertrophy training, however. It’s less about HOW MUCH weight you can lift, and more about HOW you lift it. Typically, you want to move well, net time under tension, move with control, maximize mind muscle connection, get full range of motion and into lengthened muscle positions, etc.

With hypertrophy, we’re also usually seeking movements or lifts that will isolate or target specific muscle groups (vs big compound lifts like squats or deadlifts that have a high recovery demand).

So you’ll often see movements like RDL’s (instead of Deadlifts), Heels Elevated Squats (rather than Back Squats), etc. You’ll usually catch a great pump from workouts as well! (:


Must-Know Fitness Term #3:  Reps From Failure & RPE

RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion: RPE is on a scale of 1-10. 10 being max effort “hi im dying, SOS”

RFF stands for Reps from Failure: which is how many reps you have “left in the tank” when you finish your lift set. With RFF, we’re asking “if someone had a water gun pointed at me, how many more reps could I possibly squeak out?”

Rate of Perceived Exertion and Reps From Failure are both ways of helping people understand how hard they should be working when lifting, running, etc. Percentage work can have limitations, so using RPE or RFF allows individuals to train smarter, listen to their body, and make adjustments in their workout efforts accordingly based on how they feel.

A newer lifter might think they’ll make faster progress by redlining, emptying the tank, and going as hard or as fast as possible every day. This would be an example of RPE 9-10, or ~0-2 reps from failure.

Training this way 24/7 every single time you workout isn’t really sustainable, could be a fast track to injury, and isn’t super conductive to consistently seeing progress over time. You’ll also feel like poo poo. We want to be TRAINING most of the time (RPE ~6-9), NOT competing (RPE ~9-10).

Rate of Perceived Exertion & Reps From Failure are also both great as they don’t require you to know your current 1-rep maxes. You’re going by “feel” and how hard you feel you’re working. RPE 7-8 or ~2-4 reps away from failure = where most of the magic usually happens (:


One More Piece of Advice

The #1 biggest piece of advice I can give when it comes to working out is to FOLLOW A PLAN (and make sure it’s actually a good one). So many people spin their wheels in the sand and get frustrated because they’re putting in time working out, but not actually getting to where they’re trying to go – and it doesn’t have to be that way.

  • are your workouts in alignment with your goals?
  • does programming have progression over time and progressive overload?
  • is the workout programming backed by science and the latest research studies?
  • is the programming planned out and periodized over the course of the year?


There’s a good reason why over 3000+ people around the globe choose to subscribe to our online workout programs over at Paragon Training Methods.

You can workout from home or in a gym. Workouts take 30, 45, or 60 minutes per session. And whether you want to lift 3 days per week, run AND lift, or just look and feel your best –  we have super effective workout programs that are backed by science that fit YOUR goals, YOUR life, and you’ll have a great time doing it.

Come see what all the hype is about and join now.

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