Fitness for Dummies: What Is BMI and Other Frequently Asked Questions

sam-sabourin-481689-unsplashWhen you’re just hopping on the fitness train, learning the lingo takes as much focus as learning to squat. There are tons of questions you should be asking yourself on your fitness journey, and even more words in the fitness dictionary it can be helpful to know. We pulled together some of the most frequently asked questions in our world—and the answers that will help you figure out what the heck it all means.

Question: What Is BMI—and How Can I Find Out What Mine Is?

Answer: BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It’s a basic measurement of your body fat based on height and weight—you’ll often hear personal trainers talk about it when they set goals with you. A high BMI is often an indicator of other health issues (or their potential), but it’s also not the end-all, be-all of body fat ratio. Some scientists think a BVI—or Body Volume Indicator—or even body fat percentage are more accurate ways to measure your overall health.

Still, if you want to find out your BMI, there are plenty of calculators online—like this one—that will help you find your answer!

Question: What Is a Target Heart Rate?

Answer: You’ve probably been hearing more about target heart rate since the advent of wearable fitness trackers. People track their heart rate to find out what zone they’re in—is their heart beating at a rate that will burn fat or boost cardio conditioning?

You can calculate your rough target heart rate for the target zone you want to be in with this formula: just subtract your age from 220. Your target heart rate is 60-85% of that. Not much of a math person? Check out this chart to show where your heart rate should be depending on your age group.

Question: What Is HIIT?

Answer: HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, and it has a fan club. Most fitness professionals say that HIIT can make you faster, stronger, burn more calories, and get you faster results. They’re right. It’s also better for people on the go—so you can get in a great workout with less time.

Question: What Are Plyometrics?

Answer: Plyometrics, like HIIT, is an intense version of cardio training that works in explosive movements to increase speed, burn fat, and strengthen your joints (think bursts of energy: jump squats, broad and vertical jumps, explosive skipping if you’re so inclined). These exercises are designed to increase power, but if done incorrectly, can cause injury. Make sure you talk to or work with a personal trainer to get the quality of the exercise down—because with plyos, quality, not quantity, will make all the difference.

Question: What’s a Health (or Biological) Age?

Answer: Your biological or health age is how well or poorly your body is conditioned in comparison to your actual, chronological age. For example, if you’re 50 years old, but you’ve led a healthy lifestyle for years, work out consistently, and eat right,  your body might physiologically be 40. Determining your biological age is a little bit imprecise—there’s no way to determine it accurately. But there are ways to figure out a more personalized version of your life expectancy: examining your lifestyle, heredity, location, and general daily stress levels with a doctor can help you get a better idea of where you stand.

What is Hypertrophy Training?

Answer: Hypertrophy training is specifically designed to tear and build muscle. By stimulating your muscles, damaging them, and triggering repair, the state of hypertrophy makes your cells physically bigger as they respond to the stresses of weight training—which also leads to the release of cortisol, testosterone, and growth factor, all of which help regulate cell activity and promote growth.

Question: What Is Body Fat Percentage?

Answer: Body fat percentage is different from BMI, and it’s pretty straightforward: it’s the percentage of fat you have on your body. Easy, right? Bodybuilders or people trying to get lean take this number seriously—the less fat on your body, the more pronounced your muscles get. The ideal body fat percentages measure as follows:

For women:

  • Essential fat: 10 to 13%
  • Top athletes: 15 to 20%
  • Fit women: 21 to 24%
  • Healthy/acceptable: 25 to 32%
  • Overweight: 33% plus

For men:

  • Essential fat: 3 to 5%
  • Top athletes: 6 to 13%
  • Fit men: 14 to 17%
  • healthy/acceptable: 18 to 24%
  • Overweight: 25% plus

Question: What’s My Body Type?

Answer: Women especially know this question in terms of their body shape. But in fitness, body types aren’t pear, apple, or hourglass-shaped. They’re endomorph, ectomorph, or mesomorph. Your body type will help you determine what workouts will work best for you.

  • Endomorphs: These people are bigger: their bodies naturally hold fat and they have unforgiving metabolisms.
  • Ectomorphs: These people are lean and long, without a natural propensity to bulk up. They have a tough time building muscle.
  • Mesomorphs: These people have an easy time building muscle, lose and gain weight easily, and are built for powerful movements.

(Keep in mind that you probably fall somewhere in the in between, and a personal trainer can help you identify the category you may fall under.)

Question: What’s a Spot?

Answer: Spot is a verb—when someone, like your personal trainer, spots you, it’s when they either lightly assist or simply keep an eye on you while you lift. It’s mostly a safety practice—dropping a weight on your head isn’t good for anyone.

Need a spot? Our personal trainers can help. There’s plenty more to learn in the fitness world—come in for a free trial and ask away. There’s no such thing as a stupid question.