A guide to naming exercises
Establishing a standard exercise naming convention is a worthwhile pursuit, especially for a collaborative software platform like FYTT where multiple stakeholders work together to create content. The problem is that the strength & conditioning profession does not have official standards for naming exercises. Professionals in the industry have varying preferences, which results in a lack of consistency, and can sometimes lead to confusion for both coaches and athletes.
In order to provide everyone with the best experience, we recommend adopting a consistent naming convention that everyone can follow. Below are some considerations and recommendations as you formulate your own strategy.
The ultimate goal of a naming convention is to convey instructions about what athletes need to do as clearly and concisely as possible. Any part of a convention that fails to accomplish this goal should be critically evaluated.
A secondary goal of a naming convention is to enable professionals to communicate using a standard nomenclature. This provides clarity when discussing exercise-related topics, and allows individuals to move from one organization to another without having to learn new terms and vocabulary.
A reasonable starting point is an article titled, Towards Standardization of the Nomenclature of Resistance Training Exercises, by Matthew C. Jackson, Lee E. Brown, Jared W. Coburn, Daniel A. Judelson, and Nick Cullen-Carroll. This article provides a good overview of why naming is important and some of the different strategies already out there.
The article concludes with the following recommended pattern: [specification][equipment][exercise]. We generally like this format, but there are nuances you may want to consider.
This includes things like bilateral/unilateral designation, bar placement, grip, stance, rack position, etc. This category is somewhat broad, so it potentially makes sense to break it down into separate pieces to ensure consistency.
The equipment is important because the nature of how equipment is moved by the body can affect exercise mechanics and muscle activation. There is a question about whether to use full equipment names or abbreviations ("barbell" as opposed to "BB"). The full name leaves the least room for confusion and misunderstanding, but requires more space on the page. The abbreviation is more concise, but assumes that the athlete knows what it means.
In most cases, the exercise component is pretty straight forward. We assume that our athletes will acquire some basic knowledge, so there is no need to re-invent the wheel and be overly descriptive. However, there may be cases when a movement needs to be laid out in more detail.
PROPER NOUNS AND SLANG
Consider whether or not you should shy away from using proper nouns or slang in favor of explicit descriptions. i.e., "Straight Leg Deadlift" instead of "Romanian Deadlift" or "Semi-Supinated Dumbbell Curl" instead of "Hammer Curl," etc.
Make sure to identify what assumptions you're making about what athletes know, or what you expect them to learn in order to understand your instructions. In other words, you probably expect them to learn common terms and what they mean, like press, curl, row, etc. But how much should you rely on "assumed" knowledge versus being descriptive?
For example, if we were to exactly follow the [specification][equipment][exercise] pattern, the full specification for the traditional "Back Squat" would actually be "High-Bar Back-Rack Barbell Squat." But generally the high-bar is assumed and the back-rack is shortened, and people quickly learn what it means to do a back squat. So decide if you want drop the high-bar and only add low-bar to specify a variation from the default, or just be fully descriptive in every case.