Bodybuilding Terms & Definitions Explained


Prolonged, moderate-intensity work that uses up oxygen at or below the level at which your cardiorespiratory (heart-lung) system can replenish oxygen in the working muscles. Aerobic literally means with oxygen, and it is the only type of exercise which burns body fat to meet its energy needs. Bodybuilders engage in aerobic workouts to develop additional cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as to burn off excess body fat to achieve peak contest muscularity. Common aerobic activities include running, cycling, swimming, dancing, and walking. Depending on how vigorously you play them, most racquet sports can also be aerobic exercise.


This is an abbreviation for the Adult Minimum Daily Requirement of certain nutrients as established by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Also called anabolic steroids, these are artificial male hormones that aid in nitrogen retention and thereby add to a male bodybuilder’s muscle mass and strength. These drugs are not without hazardous side effects, however, and they are legally available only through a physician’s prescription. Steroids are available in most gyms via the black market, but it is very dangerous to use such unknown substances to increase muscle mass.


Exercise of much higher intensity than aerobic work, which uses up oxygen more quickly than the body can replenish it in the working muscles. Anaerobic exercise eventually builds up a significant oxygen debt that forces an athlete to terminate the exercise session rather quickly. Anaerobic exercise (the kind of exercise to which bodybuilding training belongs) burns up glycogen (muscle sugar) to supply its energy needs. Fast sprinting is a typical anaerobic form of exercise.


Androgenics are drugs that simulate the effects of the male hormone testosterone in the human body. Androgens do build a degree of strength and muscle mass, but they also stimulate secondary sex characteristics such as increased body hair, a deepened voice, and high levels of aggression. Indeed, many bodybuilders and powerlifters take androgen to stimulate aggressiveness in the by resulting in more productive workouts.


A term referring to an even relationship of body proportions in a man’s physique. Perfectly balanced physical proportions are in a much-sought-after trait among competitive bodybuilders.


This is the steel shaft that forms the basic part of barbell or dumbbell. These bars are normally about one inch thick, and they are often encased in a revolving metal sleeve.


Normally measuring between four and seven feet in length, a barbell is the most basic piece of weight-training and bodybuilding equipment. Indeed, you can train every major skeletal muscle group in your body using on a barbell. There are two major and types of barbells used for exercise in common use, adjustable sets (in which you can easily add or subtract plates by removing a detachable outside collar held in place on each side by a set screw) and fixed barbells (in which the plates are either welded or bolted permanently in place). Fixed weights are arranged in variety poundages on long racks in commercial bodybuilding gyms, the approximate poundage for each one painted or etched on the bar. Fixed weights relieve you of the problem of changing plates on your barbell for each new exercise. While fixed barbells and dumbbells are normally found in large commercial gyms, adjustable barbell and dumbbell sets are more frequently used at home.


This is a bodybuiding exercise, which stresses the largest muscle groups of your body (e.g., the thighs, back, and/or chest), often in combination with smaller muscles. You will be able to use very heavy weights in basic exercises in order to build great muscle mass and physical power. Typical basic movements include squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. (You should also see the listing for Isolation exercise.)


A wide variety of exercise benches is available for use in doing barbell and dumbbell exercises either lying or seated on a bench. The most common type of bench, a flat exercise bench, can be used for chest, shoulder, and arm movements. Incline and decline benches (which are angled at about 30-45 degrees) allow movements for the chest, shoulder, and arms.


The scientific study of body positions, or form, in sport. In bodybuilding, biomechanics studies body form when exercising with weights. When you have good biomechanics in a bodybuilding exercise, you will be safely placing maximum beneficial stress on your working muscles.


The basal metabolic rate is the speed at which your resting body burns calories to provide for its basic survival needs. You can elevate your BMR and more easily achieve lean body mass through consistent exercise, and particularly through aerobic workouts.


A type of weight training applied in conjunction with sound nutritional practices to alter the shape of one’s body. In the context of this book, bodybuilding is a competitive sport nationally and internationally in both amateur and professional categories for men, women, and mixed pairs. However, a majority of individuals uses bodybuilding methods merely to lose excess body fat or build up a too thin part of the body.


This is a burning sensation that you feel in the muscle that you are training. This burn is caused by a rapid buildup of fatigue toxins in the muscle and is a good indication that you are optimally working a muscle group. The best bodybuilders consistently forge past the pain barrier erected by muscle burn and consequently build very massive, highly defined muscle.


A training technique used to push a set past the normal failure point, and thereby to stimulate it to greater hypertrophy. Burns consist of short, quick, bouncy reps 4-6 inches in range of motion. Most bodybuilders do 8-12 burns at the end of a set that has already been taken to failure. They generate terrific burn in the muscles, hence the name of this technique.


This is the Physical fitness condition of the heart, circulatory system and lungs that is indicative of good aerobic fitness.


A method of pushing a muscle to keep working far past the point at which it would normally fail to continue contracting due to excessive fatigue buildup. In cheating you will use a self-administered body swing, jerk, or otherwise poor exercise form once you have reached the failure point to take some of the pressure off the muscles and allow them to continue a set for two or three repetitions past failure.


A bar attached high on the wall or gym ceiling, on which you can do chins, hanging leg raises, and other movements for your upper body. A chinning bar is analogous to the high bar male gymnasts use in national and international competitions.


A special form of bodybuilding through which you can simultaneously increase aerobic conditioning, muscle mass, and strength. In circuit training, you will plan a series of 10-20 exercises in a circuit around the gym. The exercises chosen should stress all parts of the body. These movements are performed with an absolute minimum of rest between exercises. Then at the end of a circuit, a rest interval of 2-5 minutes is taken before going through the circuit again. Three-five circuits would constitute a circuit-training program.


This movement consists of raising a barbell or two dumbbells from the floor to your shoulders in one smooth motion to prepare for an overhead lift. To properly execute a clean movement, you must use the coordinated strength of your legs, back, shoulders, and arms.


A clamp is used to hold plates securely in place on a barbell or dumbbell bar. The cylindrical metal clamps are held in place on the bar by means of a set screw threaded through the collar and tightened securely against the bar. Inside collars keep plates from sliding inward and injuring your hands, while outside collars keep plates from sliding off the barbell in the middle of an exercise.


A relatively new form of bodybuilding competition in which man-woman teams compete against others with particularly appealing posing routines featuring adagio and other dance movements and lifts. Also called, “Mixed Pairs Competition,” this event is rapidly gaining international popularity. With the bodybuilding community and public, and is held in both amateur and professional World Championships.


A term used to denote a bodybuilder who has an extremely high degree of muscular definition due to a low degree of body fat.


The absence of fat over clearly delineated muscular movement. Definition is often referred to as “muscularity,” and a highly defined bodybuilder has so little body fat that very fine grooves of muscularity called “striations” will be clearly visible over each major muscle group.


This is the hardness of the muscle, which is also related to muscular definition. A bodybuilder can be well defined and still have excess fat within each major muscle complex. However, when he has muscle density, even this intramuscular fat has been eliminated. A combination of muscle mass and muscle density is highly prized among all competitive bodybuilders.


Parallel bars set high enough above the floor to allow you to do dips between them, leg raises for your abdominal, and a variety of other exercises. Some gyms have dipping bars, which are angled inward at one end; these can be used when changing your grip width on dips.


Sometimes called “water pills,” these drugs and herbal preparations remove excess water from bodybuilder’s system just prior to a show. This reveals greater muscular detail. Harsh chemical diuretics can be quite harmful to your health, particularly if they are used on a chronic basis. Two of the side effects of excessive chemical diuretic use are muscle cramps and heart arrhythmias (irregular heart beats).


Essentially, a dumbbell is a short-handled barbell (usually 10-12 inches in length) intended primarily for use with one in each hand. Dumbbells are especially valuable when training the arms and shoulders, but can be used to build up almost any muscles.


Movements such as (e.g., a seated pulley row, barbell curl, bench press, or seated calf raise, etc…) that you perform in your workouts.


A special type of barbell used in many arm exercises, but particularly for standing EZ-bar curls wherein it removes strain from your wrists. An EX-curl bar is also occasionally called a “cambered curling bar.” Albert Beckles, one of the sport’s most successful professionals, whimsically calls this piece of equipment a “wiggly bar” because of its shape.


That point in an exercise, which you have fully fatigued your working muscles. They can no longer complete an additional repetition of a movement with strict biomechanics. You should always take your post-warm-up sets at least to the point of momentary muscular failure, and frequently past that point.


A suppleness of joints, muscle masses, and connective tissues, which lets you, move your limbs over an exaggerated range of motion, a valuable quality in bodybuilding training, since it promotes optimum physical development. Flexibility can only be attained through systematic stretching training, which should form a cornerstone of your overall bodybuilding philosophy.


Forced reps are a frequently used method of extending a set past the point of failure to induce greater gains in muscle mass and quality. With forced reps, a training partner pulls upward on the bar just enough for you to grind out two or three reps past the failure threshold.


This is simply another word to indicate the biomechanics used during the performance of any bodybuilding or weight-training movement. Perfect form involves moving only the muscles specified in an exercise description, while moving the weight over the fullest possible range of motion.


Equipment such as: Barbells, dumbbells, and related equipment. Serious bodybuilders use a combination of free weights and such exercise machines as those manufactured by Nautilus and Universal Gyms, but they primarily use free weights in their workouts.


Performing a series of 4-6 exercises, done with little or no rest between each movements, and a rest interval of 3-4 minutes between each giant sets. You can perform giant sets for either two antagonistic muscle groups or a single body part.


This means increase in muscle mass and an improvement in relative muscular strength. Hypertrophy is induced by placing an “over-load” on the working muscles with various training techniques during a bodybuilding workout.


The International Federation of Bodybuilders, the gigantic sports federation founded in1946 by Joe and Ben Weider. With more than 120 member nations, the IFBB proves that bodybuilding is one of the most popular of all sports on the international level. Through its member national federations, the IFBB oversees competitions in each nation, and it directly administers amateur and professional competition for men, women, and mixed pairs internationally.


The degree of effort that you put into each set of your workout. The more intensity you place on a working muscle, the more quickly it will increase in hypertrophy. The most basic methods of increasing intensity are to use heavier weights in good form in each exercise, do more reps with a set weight, or perform a consistent number of sets and reps with a particular weight in a movement, but progressively reducing the length of rest intervals between sets.


In contrast to a basic exercise, an isolation movement stresses a single muscle group (or sometimes just part of a single muscle) in relative isolation from the remainder of the body. Isolation exercises are good for shaping and defining various muscle groups. For your thighs: squats would be a typical basic movement. While leg extensions would be the equivalent isolation exercise.


In the universally accepted and applied IFBB system of judging, bodybuilders are evaluated in three distinctly different rounds of judging, plus a final posedown round for only the top five competitors after the first three rounds have been adjudicated. In Round One, they are viewed semi-relaxed from the front, both sides, and back. In Round Two, the competitors are viewed in groups and individually in seven well-defined compulsory poses. And in Round Three, they perform their own uniquely personal free-posing routines to their own choice of music. Overall, this use of three rounds of judging and a posedown round results in a very fair choice of the final winners of a bodybuilding championship.


A slang term for anabolic steroids, e.g., being “on the juice.”


Most intelligent bodybuilders take a one- or two-week layoff from bodybuilding training from time to time, during which they totally avoid the gym. A layoff after a period of intense pre-competition preparation is particularly beneficial as a means of allowing the body to completely rest, recuperate, and heal any minor training injuries that might have cropped up during the peaking cycle.


This is a leather belt 4-6 inches wide at the back that is fastened tightly around your waist when you do squats, heavy back work, and overhead pressing movements. A lifting belt adds stability to your midsection, preventing lower back and abdominal injuries.


The size of the entire physique, or the size of each muscle group, As long as you also have a high degree of muscularity and good balance of physical proportions, muscle mass is a highly prized quality among competitive bodybuilders.


Couples’ competition, a relatively new form of bodybuilding competition in which man-woman teams compete against others with particularly appealing posing routines featuring adagio and other dance movements.


An alternative term for “definition” or “cuts.”


A manufacture, of exercise machines. Used many gyms.


The National Physique Committee, Inc., which administers men’s and women’s amateur bodybuilding competitions in the United States. The NPC National Champions in each weight division are annually sent abroad to compete in the IFBB World Championships.


The applied science of eating to foster greater health, fitness, and muscular grains. Through correct application of nutritional practices, you can selectively add muscle mass to your physique, or totally strip away all body fat, revealing the hard-earned muscles lying beneath your skin.


A term reserved for use when referring only to a bodybuilder who has competed in the Mr. Olympia or Ms. Olympia competitions.


A special type of barbell used in weightlifting and powerlifting competitions, but also used by bodybuilders in heavy basic exercises such as squats, bench presses, barbell be rows, standing barbell curls, standing barbell presses, and deadlifts. An Olympic barbell sans collars weighs 45 pounds, and each collar weighs five pounds.


The type of weightlifting competition contested at the Olympic games every four years, as well as at national and international competitions each year. Two lifts (the snatch and the clean jerk) are contested in a wide variety of weight classes.


The amount of weight that you force a muscle to use that is over and above its normal strength ability. Applying an overload to a muscle forces it to increase in hypertrophy.


The absolute zenith of competitive condition achieved by a bodybuilder. To peak out optimally for a bodybuilding show, you must intelligently combine bodybuilding training, aerobic workouts, diet, mental conditioning, tanning, and a large number of other preparatory factors.


The abbreviation for “peripheral heart action,” a system of circuit training in which short 4-6 exercise circuits are performed in order to stimulate cardiorespiratory conditioning and further physical development.


The flat discs placed on the ends of barbell and dumbbell bars to increase the weight of the apparatus. Although some plates are made from vinyl-covered concrete, the best and most durable plates are manufactured from metal.


Each individual stance that a bodybuilder does onstage in order to highlight his muscular development.


The amount of weight that you use in an exercise, whether that weight is on a barbell, dumbbell, or exercise machine.


A second form of competitive weightlifting (not contested in the Olympics, however) featuring three lifts: The squat, bench press, and deadlift. Power lifting is contested both nationally and internationally in a wide variety of weight classes for both men and women.


The act of gradually adding to the amount of resistance that you use in each exercise. Without consistent progression in your workouts, you won’t overload your muscles sufficiently to promote optimum increases in hypertrophy.


The tight, blood-congested feeling in a muscle after it has been intensely trained. Muscle pump is caused by a rapid influx of blood into the muscles to remove fatigue toxins and replace supplies of fuel and oxygen. A good muscle pump indicates that you have optimally worked a muscle group.


A type of workout used just prior to a competition in which the lengths of rest intervals between sets are progressively reduced to increase overall training intensity and help further define the physique.


Each individual count of an exercise that is performed. Series of repetitions called “sets” are performed on each exercise in your training program.


The actual amount of weight that you are using in any exercise.


The brief rest between sets that allows your body to partially recuperate prior to initiating the succeeding set. Usually between 1-3 minutes.


The same as cut up.


Also called a training schedule or program, a routine is the total list of exercise, sets, and reps (and sometimes weights) used in one training session.


A grouping of repetitions that is followed by a rest interval and usually another set. Three to five sets are usually performed of each exercise.


The hollow metal tube fit over the bar on most exercise barbell and dumbbell sets. This sleeve makes it easier for the bar to rotate in your hands as you do an exercise.


Training partners who stand by to act as safety helpers when you perform such heavy exercises as squats and bench presses. If you are stuck under and weight or begin to lose control of it, spotters can rescue you and prevent needless injuries.


Prescription drugs which mimic male hormones, but without most of the androgenic side effects of actual testosterone. Many bodybuilders use these drugs to help increase muscle mass and strength.


A stalling out of bodybuilding progress.


A type of exercise program in which you assume exaggerated postures that stretch muscles, joints, and connective tissues, hold these positions for several seconds, relax and then repeat the postures. Regular stretching exercise promotes body flexibility.


Tiny tears in a bodybuilder’s skin caused by poor diet and in addition, rapid increases in bodyweight. If you notice stretch marks forming on your own body (usually around your pectoral-deltoid tie-ins), rub vitamin E cream over them two or three times per day, and try cutting back on your body weight by reducing body fat levels.


The tiny grooves of muscle across major muscle groups in a highly defined bodybuilder.


Series of two exercises performed with no rest between sets and a normal rest interval between supersets. Supersets increase training intensity by reducing the average length of rest interval between sets.


Concentrated vitamins, minerals, and proteins used by bodybuilders to improve the overall quality of their diets. Many bodybuilders believe that food supplements help to promote quality muscle growth.


The shape or general outline of a person’s body, as when seen in silhouette. If you have good symmetry, you will have relatively wide shoulders, flaring lats, a small waist-hip structure, and generally small joints.


The male hormone primarily responsible for the maintenance of muscle mass and strength induced by heavy training. Testosterone is secondarily responsible for developing such secondary male sex characteristics as a deep voice, body hair, and male pattern baldness.


Series of three exercises performed with no rest between movements and a normal rest interval between trisets. Trisets increase training intensity by reducing the average length of rest interval between sets.


A prominence of veins and arteries over the muscles and beneath the skin of a sell-defined bodybuilder.


The 5-15 minutes session of light calisthenics, aerobic exercise, and stretching taken prior to handling heavy bodybuilding training movements. A good warm-up helps to prevent injuries and actually allows you to get more out of your training than if you went into a workout cold.


The same as Poundage or Resistance.


In order for bodybuilders to compete against men of similar size, the IFBB has instituted weight classes for all amateur competition. The normal men’s weight classes are 70 kilograms (kg), 154 pounds (lbs); 80 kg, 176 lbs; 90kg, 198 lbs; and over 90 kg. In a minority of competitions, particularly in the Far East, one additional class 65 kg, or 143 lbs is also contested.


The competitive form of weight training in which each athlete attempts to lift as much as he can in well-defined exercises. Olympic lifting and power lifting are the two types of weightlifting competition.


An umbrella term used to categorize all acts of using resistance training. Weight training can be used to improve the body, rehabilitate injuries, improve sports conditioning, or as a competitive activity in terms of bodybuilding weightlifting.


A bodybuilding or weight-training session.

About The Author


Lee Hayward is a former competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online coaching people since 1997. His work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes. Lee's main focus right now is with helping men over 40 - who don't want to be fat anymore - lose the gut, build muscle, and get back in shape. If you're ready to "Start Again" for the last time and finally build a lean healthy body that you can be proud of, just e-mail Lee to discuss a realistic action plan that's right for you...

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