Glossary of Bodybuilding Terms
Abdominal fat – Fat that is deposited mainly on the abdominal area, thought to indicate a higher risk of heart disease.
Abduction — Movement away from the body such as what occurs when you raise your arm straight out to the side.
Abs — A slang term referring to the abdominal muscles.
Absolute strength – The maximum weight that a person can lift.
Achilles tendon – The tendon connecting the lower end of the calf muscle to the back of the heel.
Active rest – Rest for a sports injury in which light exercises are performed, which maintains flexibility without causing more strain.
Adduction — Movement of a limb toward the body such as what occurs when your arm is straight out to your side and you lower it down to the side of your body.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — The molecular “currency” that provides energy in cells for everything from protein synthesis to muscle contraction.
Adipose tissue — Where fat is stored in the body.
Adrenal glands – Two endocrine glands on the top of the kidneys which secrete cortisone, adrenaline and other hormones.
Advanced weightlifter — A person who has strength-trained steadily and systematically for at least one full year.
Aerobic capacity – same as VO2Max (see VO2Max).
Aerobic exercise — Prolonged (usually performed for at least 20 minutes continuously), moderate-intensity exercise that uses up oxygen at or below the level at which the cardiorespiratory system can replenish oxygen in the working muscles. Common aerobic exercise activities are walking, jogging, running, cycling, stair climbing, working out on elliptical exercise machines, rowing, swimming, dancing, and aerobic dance classes. Any long-lasting exercise that can be carried on within the body’s ability to replenish oxygen in working muscles.
Agonist muscle — A muscle responsible for producing a specific movement through concentric muscle action. For example, during the biceps curl exercise, the biceps muscle is the agonist muscle.
Amenorrhea – Absence of menstrual periods due to a low body fat percentage. This condition is not dangerous and is common in such sports as gymnastics, bodybuilding, and track and field.
Amino Acids – Called the “building blocks of life,” amino acids are biochemical subunits linked together by chemical bonds to form polypeptide chains. Hundreds of polypeptides, in turn linked together, form a protein molecule.
Anabolic – Metabolic process whereby smaller units are assembled into larger units. For example, the combining of amino acids into protein strands is a form of anabolism.
Anabolic steroid – A drug that encourages the synthesis of new living tissue, especially muscle, from nutrients.
Anaerobic exercise — Exercise that is higher in intensity than aerobic work. Anaerobic exercise uses up oxygen more quickly than the body can replenish it in the working muscles. Anaerobic exercise uses stored-muscle ATP, phosphocreatine, and glycogen to supply its energy needs. Common anaerobic activities are weightlifting and sprinting.
Anatomy – 1. The structure of the body; 2. The branch science that studies the structure of the bodies of humans and animals.
Androgen – Either of the male sex hormones testosterone and androsterone that increase the male characteristics of the body.
Ankle – The joint that connects the foot to the leg.
Antagonist muscle — The muscle responsible for actively opposing the concentric muscle action of the agonist muscle. Although this seems counterintuitive, the opposing force is necessary for joint stability during the movement. For example, during the biceps curl exercise, the triceps muscle is the antagonist muscle.
Anterior — Anatomical term referring to the front of the body.
Apple-shaped – Used for describing a person with a body that has fat deposits mostly around the abdominal area.
Arnold press – A type of dumbbell lift designed to work out the shoulders.
Assistance exercise — Typically single-joint exercises such as the biceps curl, triceps extension, and deltoid lateral raise. These exercises involve only a single muscle group.
Asymmetric Training – Any exercise that targets only one side of the body. One-arm dumbbell curls, lateral raises and triceps extensions are all examples of asymmetric training.
ATP — See adenosine triphosphate.
Atrophy — Wasting away of any part, organ, tissue, or cell, such as the atrophy of muscle fibers caused by inactivity.
Back – The series of muscles located on the dorsal region of the body. The back-muscle complex includes the latissimus dorsi, spinal erectors, trapezius, rhomboids and teres minor and major.
Balanced diet – A diet that contains the right quantities of basic nutrients.
Ballistic stretch — This type of muscle stretch involves dynamic muscle action in which the muscles are stretched suddenly in a bouncing movement. A ballistic stretch for the hamstrings might involve touching your toes repeatedly in rapid succession.
Bandage – A long strip of thin or elasticated fabric that is wrapped around a wound or injured part of the body to protect or support it.
Barbell – One of the most basic pieces of bodybuilding equipment. Barbells consist of a long bar, collars, sleeves, and associated plates made of steel or iron. They may be either adjustable (allowing the changing of plates) or fixed (the plates are kept in place by welded collars). Barbells average between five and seven feet in length, and usually weigh between 25 and 45 pounds.
Basal metabolic rate — The rate at which the body burns calories while awake but at rest (usually measured in calories per day).
Basic Exercises – Exercises that work more than one muscle group simultaneously. Basic exercises form the mainstay of a bodybuilder’s mass-gaining routine. Examples include: bench presses, shoulder presses, squats, deadlifts, and bent-over rows. Also called compound exercises.
BCAA – Branched-chain amino acid.
Beginning weightlifter — A person with less than six months of strength training experience.
Belt — Large leather support worn around the waist by bodybuilders. Weightlifting belts are usually four to six inches wide. They provide support to the lower-back muscles and spine.
Bench – A long seat in a gym, used for lying on when doing exercises.
Biceps – Flexor muscles located on the upper arm. The biceps are composed of two “heads,” and are responsible for bending the lower arm towards the upper arm.
Bioelectrical impedence analysis – An accurate method of measuring body fat using an electric current.
Biofeedback – Physiological or psychological symptom given off by the body. The best bodybuilders are those who recognize such biofeedback signals and use them to improve their training, eating, and competitive preparation.
Bis — A slang term for the biceps muscles.
BMI (Body Mass Index) – A measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. It is a useful measure for “average” people but should be interpreted with caution, especially when applied to athletes with considerable muscle bulk.
BMR — Short for Basal Metabolic Rate, the BMR is the speed at which the resting body consumes energy (calories).
Bodybuilding — A type of strength training applied in conjunction with nutritional practices to alter the shape of the body’s musculature. The sport of bodybuilding is a competitive sport in amateur and professional categories for males and females.
Body fat percentage — The amount of fat in your body, generally expressed as a percentage. For most bodybuilders, 8 to 10 percent is the off-season goal, while two to four percent is the competitive goal.
Bone density – The amount of bone tissue in a given volume of bone.
Branched chain amino acids – The amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine, so named because of their branched structure. They are a major constituent of muscle tissue and are preferentially consumed during intense exertion or dieting.
Bulking up — To gain body size and mass, preferably muscle tissue. Bodybuilding term which refers to the gaining of 30 to 40 pounds of body weight over a short period of time. This practice has become less common, given the increased number of competitions and the demand for guest posers on a year-round basis.
Burn — A slang term for the intense and painful sensation felt in a muscle that has been fatigued by high-rep sets.
Bursae – Flat sacs filled with fluid. They support and protect joints.
Bursitis – inflammation of a bursa, especially in the shoulder.
Buttocks – Another term referring to the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, extensors and abductors of the thigh at the hip joint.