Commonly Used Fitness Definitions & Terms
- Making sense of the inconsistencies

When I began establishing myself in Health and Fitness Training some years back, I found fitness definitions and terms to have a fair degree of variability among their meaning and use.


Often, two Exercise Authorities or Fitness Trainers may use the exact same term to infer different concepts, or may mean the same thing by using two distinctly different terms.

Here are a couple of examples:

I discovered that some regard a “Push Up” as a vertical dumbbell shoulder press, when others mean a chest exercise performed by pushing with the palms on a floor surface and raising the upper body;

I recall reading an article in a fitness magazine some years back which referred to a "Skull-crusher" as an excellent isolation exercise for the Triceps. Good heavens! I thought. What could the article be referring to by using such a horrific-sounding term? And why had I not heard of it before? I was relieved to find out that it referred to an exercise I do perform regularly – one of my preferred ones in fact, and something I always referred to as the "Laying Triceps Extension with EZ bar."

Different strokes for different folks? I think it's more a case that differences and inconsistencies will be commonplace in any global industry which is not internationally regulated - it calls for a commonsense approach by those who work in it.


A little inconsistency can be tolerated, but at times it has been frustrating to operate in a vocational field that has so many sporting bodies, authorities and standards. I found out on a fair number of occasions, that I needed to have synonyms or definitions ready on the fly when I received frowns or questions like "what did you mean by that term, never heard it before?" One of those people was me when I first learned of the term "Health Related Fitness."

Book, Websites and journals abound – and even after much reading up and exploring, I still did not uncover too much in the way of clear comprehensive resources which clearly set out the origin or fitness definitions of Health Related Fitness (also referred to as Health Related Physical Fitness), much less who accepts and applies them. And this is but one example.

I have since made it my business to find out more about the origins, meanings and intentions of such fitness definitions, not just for my own clarity and enrichment, but for you interested readers and all those I interact with in this industry. There is a list of fitness definitions and terms further down the page.


Who sets the gold standard and dictates what is universally accepted in the health and fitness industry?

Your answer is as good as mine.

It seems like we, as health professionals, work more like the way tropical fish move about in an aquarium than synchronized swimmers would travel through water. My take is that independent, governmental, global or private, health and fitness will continue to have its grey areas in what the standard of excellence and degree of acceptance is.

Nevertheless, as long as the various centers of excellence and certifying authorities around the world (and there are many) work to high standards, do not conflict with one another but rather collaborate, I think we can get along - and at least be recognized as experts in this universe of work.


Getting back to the specifics of the page, below is a list of common terms, fitness definitions, and their generally accepted explanations. Included are some terms that I use frequently in this particular Site and in my work (the list will be updated and more examples will be added in the future).

Please note, these terminologies and explanations in no way represent a universal catalogue. It would be close to impossible to distinguish and list all known health and fitness terms in use around the globe, much less standardize their meanings and applications. However, the list will, I believe, contribute towards the integrity of this Site, as well as provide the necessary clarity for you to better understand and enjoy your sojourn here with me.

Commonly used fitness terms

  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Physical Health
  • Physical Fitness
  • Health and Fitness
  • Health Related Physical Fitness also covered in more detail here
  • Health and Fitness industry
  • Total Fitness
  • All-round Fitness
  • Holistic health
  • Emotional wellness
  • Mental health
  • Sensible approach
  • Spiritual wellbeing
  • Skill Related Fitness
  • Average Everyday Person
  • Eating Plan
  • Diet
  • Trigger Food
  • Binge eating
  • Fat meter

So what lesson is to be learned?

To be cautious and not to assume that we, as Exercise Authorities or Fitness Trainers, have a standardized lingo with globally accepted fitness definitions and exercise terminology. We also need to keep in mind that although the industry is mostly US-pioneered and influenced, that we read widely and assimilate knowledge on our subject from all relevant sources and subject-matter experts.

Finally, we should adopt an element of common sense and dig a little below the surface when unsure, in order to properly understand what we’re learning or talking about. Ours, or more importantly, our clients’ wellbeing depends on this.

Return from Fitness Definitions to the Sensible HRF Home Page