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[Article] Bodybuilding Terminology



An established lift that can be performed with free weights or a commonly used machine. Basic exercises include squats, bench presses, military presses and leg curls.

Short, quick partial reps performed at the end of a full-rep set to take muscles beyond failure

To utilise looser form in order to perform additional reps. This technique should be used only in a limited fashion after achieving failure with full reps in good form.

A workout methodology used to boost overall conditioning. One set for a bodypart is followed immediately by one set for another bodypart until several (or all) bodyparts are stressed in the same workout.

A lift that stresses two or more bodyparts. For example, bench presses are a compound lift because they stress the chest (pectorals), shoulders (front deltoids) and upper arms (triceps).

To flex a muscle throughout a lift in order to focus perpetual pressure on it.

A period of time dedicated to a specific training strategy. For example, a bodybuilder may perform a "heavy cycle" of low-rep training for eight weeks. See also "periodisation".

(a.k.a. drop set) | Progressively lighter sets of the same exercise. For example, you may do barbell curls with 100 pounds, followed immediately by 80-pound barbell curls and then 60-pound barbell curls. In this manner, you boost intensity and pump out many more reps than you could have with only 100 pounds.

To train twice per day. Double splitting is typically done by competitors in precontest mode.

The point at which no additional full-range repetitions can be performed in the same manner. A trainer can go beyond failure by changing the parameters of the reps through such techniques as cheating, forced reps or partial reps.

To perform additional repetitions with assistance after reaching unassisted failure. Spotter(s) should help only enough to keep the weight moving.

Four or more different exercises for one bodypart performed back-to-back without resting.

Low-rep training. This term is generally applied to maximum sets of six reps or fewer, and it is relative dependent on your strength level. Six hundred pounds is not heavy to a trainer who can deadlift it 10 times, but 300 pounds is heavy to a trainer who can lift it only five times.

(a.k.a. HIT or Heavy Duty training) | An exercise philosophy that prescribes pushing most working sets to full-rep failure or beyond. HIT also calls for low-volume workouts and a low workout frequency.


To alternate high-rep sets and low-rep sets of the same exercise.


A workout's degree of difficulty, influenced primarily by effort, pace and weight resistance. Typically, the more intense a workout is, the more sets are pushed to failure or beyond.

A lift that stresses only one bodypart. For example, dumbbell flyes are an isolation exercise because they work only the chest, and leg extensions work only the quads.

To flex a muscle hard and hold it for a few seconds as part of a training strategy.

To continually alter workouts in order to discourage the muscles from becoming accustomed to a pattern of exercises, sets and reps.


Predominantly,the lowering of a weight during a repetition. When performing negative (a.k.a. eccentric) reps, you receive assistance in raising the weight and then resist gravity when slowly lowering it, thus stressing muscles only during the negative portion.

Performing a greater volume and/or intensity of work than you are capable of recovering from. Overtraining leads to stagnation, lethargy and, eventually, muscle loss.

Repetitions performed through a less-than-full range of motion. Partial reps can be done after achieving failure with full reps in order to extend a set. You can also perform partials to focus on a specific area of a lift. For example, top deadlifts apply most of the stress to your trapezius and upper back and boost your strength for full-range deadlifts.

The pausing and flexing at the midpoint of a rep to increase muscle stress.

A process of alternating cycles of weight training. For example, a bodybuilder may do four weeks of low-rep training (heavy cycle) followed by two weeks of high-rep training (light cycle).

A training impasse. You reach a plateau when you cannot increase the weight or reps for an exercise after a certain period of time. For example, if you can get six reps with 225 pounds for bent barbell rows, but over the course of four weeks or more you can't get seven reps with that poundage, you have hit a plateau for that exercise. The term can also apply to your entire programme — if you have stopped making noticeable progress for weeks or months, your efforts have plateaued and need to be analysed and altered.

Predominantly, the raising of a weight during a repetition.

To perform an isolation exercise before a compound exercise for the same bodypart. Utilising this technique, you stress the targeted muscle first and thus make the compound lift also focus more on that targeted muscle. For example, by doing flyes (an isolation lift) before bench presses (a compound lift), your pec strength is diminished before beginning bench presses, thus during that exercise the pec muscles reach failure — the whole point of bench presses — before the fresh front delts and triceps.

To place a greater training emphasis on a specific bodypart or exercise. Someone with lagging calves may prioritise them by training them first during every other workout or increasing the training frequency for that particular bodypart.

To utilise greater weights for lower reps for each subsequent set of an exercise. For example, a pyramid may consist of 12 reps with 135 pounds, 10 with 185, eight with 205 and six with 225. Pyramids can also be descending.

The principleof reducing rest intervals between sets over time. This is often done to improve conditioning for a bodybuilding competition.

To rest briefly after reaching failure in order to perform additional repetitions.

A grip contrary to the most accepted manner. For example, reverse-grip bench presses are done with an underhand grip, as opposed to the traditional overhand grip.

Sets for a bodypart done throughout a workout for another. Staggered sets are typically reserved for calves or abdominals. For example, you could perform one set of a calf exercise for every three sets of an exercise for another bodypart.

To hold your flexed muscle(s) still against resistance. For example, after reaching failure during a set of barbell curls, you can further tax your biceps by holding the weight up and steady for as long as possible.

Part of a lift that is difficult to get past in order to complete the movement. If you stall just before locking out a bench press, that is your sticking point.

Two different exercises performed back-to-back without resting between them.

Three different exercises performed back-to-back without resting between them.

The quantity of sets and reps performed in a workout.

A maximum set, as opposed to a warm-up set or the initial sets of an ascending pyramid. Some trainers count only the final one or two sets of an exercise (where they use maximum poundage) as working sets, as the preceding sets were performed in anticipation of maximum intensity in the final one(s).