An A-Z of baffling bodybuilding lingo

A is for… “Ass to grass”
A rarely-seen but highly sought-after squat consisting of good and proper technique, whereby the glutes (“ass”) travel almost to the ground (“grass”) before the person completes the concentric phase of the squat (ie stands back up again)

B is for… “Broscience”
The dubious wisdom, typically based on anecdotal evidence, first-hand experience or Google searches, of bros. A bro is a male (although a first-generation of female bro can now be found) who appears to walk around with an invisible rolled-up carpet under each arm, and whose diet consists of 85% protein shakes. An example of broscience is “bro, I’ve got to drink this SuperMaxProGainzZz shake within 20 minutes of my workout otherwise I’ll go catabolic, bro, and I’ll totally lose my pump”. This youtube channel – BroScienceLife is a hilarious resource for broscience comedy.

and also for…. “bulking up”
Also known as “off-season”, the time of year when your beloved bodybuilder turns from a small, lean, wizened figure to a somewhat larger version of themselves. Some bodybuilders purposefully bulk up over Winter in a bid to add more muscle size underneath (so they’ll be larger next time they diet down to get on stage). Others just enjoy their food a bit too much after they come off their diet. Either way, how effective bulking up is as an actual strategy is open to debate.

C is for…. “Catabolic”
The hormonal state which bodybuilders fear even more than PMT. Catabolic – the evil twin of anabolic – is the state in which the body is breaking (rather than building). Of course, catabolism is actually necessary (you can’t build without a bit of breaking) but the key is in knowing how to manipulate the situation. Too much catabolism (typically through stress) is not what we’re after.

and for… “Christmas tree”
Nothing to do with getting festive, but everything to do with getting lean for a bodybuilding competition. The Christmas tree refers to the pattern created by the muscles of the back where they lay across each other: a pattern you can only see when a person is lean.

and for… “clean eating”
A term to refer to real foods, ie ones grown in the ground or sprung forth from their mother’s wombs, as opposed to processed foods made in a factory or by a marketing man. Clean foods, clean eating and the dubious dichotomies encouraged by such thinking are behind perhaps the biggest row in the health and fitness industry at the moment. Washing your food with soap will not make it clean, by the way. Buying it from a farmer’s market (or Whole Foods), apparently, will.

D is for… “DOMS”
Not specific to bodybuilders but often referenced as a dubious matter of pride. Bodybuilders love to hate (and talk about) their DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness can result in problems sitting on the toilet (after leg training).

and for… “drop set”
A method of resistance training whereby a number of reps are performed at a heavy weight, and then the weight is immediately lowered (ideally, your training partner will remove some of the weight from the bar or stack so you don’t have to get out of position) and more reps are performed. The process can be repeated a number of times until you are left wondering why you can barely get a handful of reps out at a weight lighter than your Nan’s handbag.

E is for… “ego lift”
The lift you just about manage to struggle through after an attractive/younger/new person walks into the gym just as you are about to perform an exercise. Mistakenly thinking they are a) looking at you b) have calculated how much weight is on your bar and c) care, you add just a tiny smidgen more. Because you are the bodybuilder in this weights room, bro!

L is for…. “lean muscle”
Excuse me a moment.
I’m back! I just had to stab myself in the eye with a spoon. LEAN MUSCLE?! LEAN. MUSCLE? What other kind of muscle is there? Muscle tissue is, by definition, lean. It is the meat of the body. Body fat is the fat. Then there’s bone and fluid and all manner of other things. Please, don’t talk to me about lean muscle. Unless you’d like to explain what other kind of muscle there can be?

and for “lean bulk”
I have to be honest. I don’t even know what this means. To me, the term lean bulk combines the worst of all broscience. Bulking… horrible term which is meaningless really. And the idea of a lean bulk, presumably, is one whereby the bodybuilder puts on size, all of it muscle, and none of it fat. If anyone ever anywhere in the history of time has achieved this, please let me know. I’m even more interested if it was a natural bodybuilder. Because… just… no.
See also: “quality mass”.

N is for… “natty”.
Natty can refer to peanut butter, or to bodybuilders. Both usages refer to the fact that there is nothing untoward added. Natty (“natural” or drug-tested) bodybuilders are tested – by urinology and sometimes polygraph – for banned substances. Peanut butter is not, but it’s probably a good idea to check the label for added sugars, oils and salt.

O is for… “one rep max”
Something bodybuilders rarely test, because we don’t need to (and don’t get the chance). Your one rep max (1RM) is the maximum weight you can lift for a certain lift, usually “the big three” (bench press, squat, deadlift). Bodybuilders don’t tend to train in a low enough rep range to ever really test their 1RM, and it can take so much out of you that we’re not normally willing to devote the recovery time to it.

and also for “off-season”.
ie now! The period of the time between the final competitive show in your bodybuilder’s season and the fateful day when they begin dieting for the next. Off-season typically starts the minute the bodybuilder exits stage left (“where is that Tunnock’s Tea Cake! I know I put it somewhere in my bag!”) and ends… well, that rather depends on how crazy they go in their off-season.

P is for “pump”
“Pumping iron”, “pump up”, “get my pump”… it’s all sounding slightly sexy on the gym floor but no, no, honest, we are just talking about muscles. (Does that make it worse?) The pump (the coveted pump!) refers to the swollen look a muscle takes on when it is full of blood (please, somebody pass me a shovel for this hole I’m digging myself into…) A pumped-up muscle looks rounder, fuller and harder (stop!), and therefore optimal for displaying to the judges in a bodybuilding show.

Q is for… “quality mass”
The elite standard of muscle tissue a bro embarking on a lean bulk intends to gain. As opposed to (one assumes), substandard mass. Quite how one is to assess the difference between quality mass and all-the-other-kinds-of-mass, I’m not too sure. Other than the obvious: when it’s body fat. But people intent on gaining quality mass rarely, if ever, gain any bodyfat in their quest. Ahem.

R is for… “refeed”
A bona fide nutritional protocol, refeeds are misunderstood, misused and misrepresented, often masquerading as “having a great big massive meal because I feel like it”. But bodybuilders have to give everything a label (and, when they’re dieting, have to justify every nutritional move they make). Used properly, a refeed is a meal (or part of a day) with increased calories, usually from carbohydrates, serving to boost a flagging metabolism, rebalance grumpy hormones and cheer up a dieting bodybuilder. What a refeed is not: a night out, followed by a takeaway on the way home, and then a few rounds of toast when you get in. That’s just lack of judgement (and real life!)

S is for “swole”
See “pump”. Swole – short for swollen, one assumes anyway – is to 2013 what pumped was to 1977. Often used by bros (see “broscience”) and sometimes confused with off-season.

W is for… “wheels”
A term used to refer to a bodybuilder’s legs, particularly when they are notably large or well-formed. I admit to not knowing why, other than the obvious: wheels are a method of transport, as are legs. Who knows. Some bodybuilding competitions award a “Best Wheels” prize.

and also for… “weeks out”
“Just squatted 1.2xBW ass to grass for reps, 3 weeks out”, your favourite bodybuilder might Tweet. What the bobbins are they on about now (and who cares?) Weeks out has come to be shorthand (helpful for Twitter!) for “the amount of time remaining in my diary between this day and the day on which my bodybuilding show is to occur.” Purely as an example, 3-4 weeks out is usually the roughest time for me.

What have I missed? I’ll pop it in a part 2….

An A-Z of baffling bodybuilding lingo is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

5 Responses to An A-Z of baffling bodybuilding lingo

  1. Helen Milton says:

    This is hilarious !!!


  2. Tara says:

    This is probably the funniest post you’ve ever written! I love the BroScienceLife page – I was just watching his videos last night haha I roll my eyes every time someone tells me they want to do a “lean bulk”. Oy.


  3. […] might also like The A-Z of Bodybuilding Lingo and the weeing-into-a-cup content of The Grime Behind The […]


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