Fitness Buzzwords Decoded


I don’t know about you, but there have been more than a handful of times when I’m in a class and a trainer yells something, whether it is encouragement or the name of an exercise, and I’m totally lost. Forced to do that awkward move-a-little-and-look-around dance until I figure out what it is I’m supposed to be doing, and usually by then, the class has moved on to the next exercise. To help my fellow workout enthusiasts, I’ve decoded these fitness buzzwords for you.

Eight count: this one’s pretty easy, right? You get in your plank, you’ve been holding it for a while and your trainer says ‘alright, eight …’ And then you wait, and wait some more – the song changes, and just when you start to question if you’ve blacked out from the burn of your shoulders, the instructor says “seven.” This when you realize eight count actually means 90 seconds.

Knees to elbows (K2E): Undoubtedly, the first time I heard this I thought it was a joke, that my coach was just singing random lyrics from a Lil Jon song. Turns out, not only is it a move to try at Studio Paris this weekend, its also a killer ab workout. You start hanging from a bar, or rings, and (literally) lift your knees to your elbows. Hello six pack.

Dig deep: No matter what workout I’m doing, whether I’m in a class or with my trainer, I inevitably hear the phrase, “dig deep.” At first I wasn’t sure if this was a new move I hadn’t heard of or a type of breathing technique to get through the extra reps. To my surprise, it was actually a mantra that I use quite often now. When I hear this, I know I have to find it in myself to go past the physical pain and continue to push. Throughout my marathon training, I found myself repeating this over and over (ok, I may have been more like, “f’cking dig deep, girl!”). It teaches you that the pain is only temporary, and the pride of achieving your goal is forever (yeah, I went there).

Ass to grass: Finally, a phrase that I can relate to – take a minute, sit down, catch your breath, after all you’ve just completed five chin ups without assistance and you deserve to take a minute and sit on the turf. Nope, couldn’t have been more wrong. “Ass to grass” actually refers to a type of squat. This squat is so obnoxious, you cruise past parallel and actually almost touch your ass to grass. Yeah, not just a clever saying.

Tap it back: I’ve tried (and loved) many different spin classes – from those at big-box gyms, to boutique studios, to large chains with cult followings – and although they can be very different, one thing remains the same: the phrase, “tap it back.” What exactly am I tapping and where? Contrary to what’s implied, you’re not actually tapping anything. This is a movement completed thrusting one’s hips backward and then rapidly returning to the initial position. All while holding one’s core tight, keeping the shoulders down, gripping the handlebars lightly and pedaling furiously, got that all down?

Mind body: No, I’m not referring to the amazing app where you schedule your workouts for various studios across the city. Mind Body refers to the mental connection you have with yourself during a workout. It’s acknowledging what your body is doing and staying present in the moment. I’m a strong believer in blocking out what happened previously in your day and what you have after to just focus on you and your body. Although this term is usually thrown out there during a yoga or Pilates class, I wouldn’t be surprised if you strength coach drops it in there as your hoisting 40 lb dumbbells above your head.

Pulse: that dreaded word you hate to hear but your instructor loves to say. After doing what feels like a million squats, you think you’re finished, but then you hear, “now pulse.” This does not mean stop, put two fingers on your wrist and check in with your heart rate. What she’s referring to is that tiny movement at the bottom of your squat that gives the extra burn and undoubtedly get you closer to that Beyoncé bootie.


It’s completely normal to be nervous about trying a new studio, class or routine. When you have no idea what a term means, chances are that you’re not alone. Always feel free to ask your trainer/coach/instructor, they are more than willing to help you out. Chances are, you’ll get a good laugh out of what you thought it was versus what you’re actually doing. Even if you don’t understand everything coming out of your trainer’s mouth, the important part is that you’re making the effort to stay active and have fun.

Fitness Trends Move

About Rachel Mitz

The self-diagnosed work-out-a-holic, Rachel Mitz can be found all around Chicago, staying fit when she isn't crunching numbers as a director of corporate finance for a commercial real estate company. Chicago area bred and University of Illinois alum, Rachel works hard and plays hard so her daily workouts are her chance to connect with her mind and body. Rachel keeps it exciting by creating up a lineup of both fun and challenging morning workouts from personal training sessions, to boot camps, to spin classes or runs along the lake front (she just completed her first marathon in October). For fun, you can find Rachel trying new restaurants, traveling, volunteering with her favorite middle schoolers at San Miguel or enjoying a glass of red wine and fro-yo.