An Easy-to-Understand Glossary of Exercise Terms

people working outYou’re supposed to focus on anaerobic exercise, work on your core strength, or work at 85% of your maximum heart rate, but what does all that mean? Do the definitions really make sense?

Whether it’s your workout buddy, your trainer or the article you just read, get a handle on basic jargon often used when talking about exercise with this glossary of terms in layman’s language.

Aerobic exercise: The term aerobic means “with oxygen.” A rhythmic activity that increases the body’s need for oxygen by using large muscle groups continuously for at least 10 minutes is aerobic exercise. Think cycling, running or Zumba.

Anaerobic exercise: This is higher intensity activity that lasts a shorter time, where the demand for oxygen from the exercise exceeds the oxygen supply. Think, sprinting, jumping and heavy lifting.

Body composition: Percentage of fat vs. lean muscle tissue in your body.

Cardio or cardiovascular exercise: Requires and challenges the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Also known as aerobic exercise, see above.

Core: Muscle group at the middle of your body that support the spine and hips including abdominals, low back, hips and butt muscles.

Free Weights: Unlike weights attached to a machine, free weights are unattached and come in the form of dumbbells and barbells with weight plates (the weights you put on the end of the bar).

Heart Rate Training Zones: The zones are a measure of the percentage of your maximum heart rate, which is the most your heart will beat in one minute. 70% is a moderate training zone and 90% is a very high intensity.

Interval Training: Repeated short periods of intense exercise alternating with intervals of relatively light exercise. This approach may result in more gains and more calorie burn in shorter amounts of time.

Plyometrics: These are high impact explosive moves – mostly jumping. This allows a maximum force to be produced by the muscles involved, and so helps train for power along with agility.

Range of motion: A term that relates to the full potential for movement of a joint like a shoulder or hip. For example, the typical range of motion for a knee would be from 0 degree (fully extended straight knee) to 135 degrees (knee bent all the way).

Recovery: The period of time, usually resting, in between workouts. Most experts believe that recovery time is at least as essential as workout time, because this is the stage that the body adapts and responds to the challenges placed upon it during exercise.

Reps: Repetitions. Reps are the number of times an exercise is repeated within a single exercise set…. See “set.”

Resistance training: See “strength training”

Set: This is the basic unit or group of repetitions (see “reps”) you will perform of a singular exercise. For example, you might do 1 set of 10 reps or 3 sets of 12 reps.

Strength training: This is exercise against resistance (usually weights) that gets progressively heavier as you get stronger.

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