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Understanding Fitness Lingo

Fitness glossary from ATP to Wolff's Law

By Diana Rini, CPT


You finally muster up the courage to go to the gym. No sooner do you make you're way into the steel jungle than you hear comments like "I blasted 5 sets out yesterday" or overhear someone telling another person to "really feel the eccentric contraction" during an exercise. Having an understanding of fitness terminology will keep you from heading to the exit door.

At first, the world of the fitness center can be intimidating and overwhelming. It's easy to get confused at first; it's a new environment with new words and new people. You don't have to know all these terms to be successful. But possessing basic vocabulary and terminology can help the novice exerciser communicate with others in the gym. Soon, the terms will become second nature and you'll sound like an experienced lifter!

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). The immediately usable form of chemical energy needed for all cellular functions, muscular contractions.

Aerobic. With, or in the presence of, oxygen.

Aerobic System. The metabolic pathway that, in the presence of oxygen, uses glucose for energy production; also known as aerobic glycolysis.

Anaerobic. Without the presence of oxygen; not requiring oxygen.

Anaerobic Threshold (AT). The point at which exercise intensity can no longer meet the metabolic demands of the muscles aerobically and the muscles have to rely on anaerobic metabolism for ATP.

Body Composition. The makeup of the body in terms of the relative percentage of fat-free mass and body-fat.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness. The ability to perform large muscle movements over a sustained period; related to the capacity of the heart-lung system to deliver oxygen for sustained energy production. Also called cardiovascular endurance.

Concentric. A type of muscle contraction where the muscle shortens against a resistance when it is stimulated; also called positive work.

Eccentric. A type of muscle contraction where the muscle lengthens against a resistance when it is stimulated; also called negative work.

Endurance Training. Conditioning exercise, such as walking, jogging, cycling or traditional aerobics in which the intensity is maintained continuously between 50 and 85 percent of maximal oxygen consumption (functional capacity).

Hypertrophy. An increase in the size of individual muscle cells. The opposite is atrophy, or a decrease in the size of individual muscle cells.

Intensity. The physiological stress on the body during exercise; indicates how hard the body should be working to achieve a training effect.

Overload. The principle that a physiological system subjected to above-normal stress will respond by increasing in strength or function accordingly.

Repetitions, or "Reps". The number of successive contractions performed during each weight-training exercise. Called rep for short.

Rate. The speed you perform a repetition, usually expressed in reps per second. A rate of one rep every four seconds for a biceps curl would mean that you would lift the weight up in two seconds and lower the weight in two seconds.

Resting Heart Rate. The number of heart beats per minute when the body is completely at rest; usually counted first thing in the morning before any activity.

Set. A series of repetitions is a single set.

Target heart-rate range. The number of heartbeats per minute that indicate appropriate exercise intensity levels for an individual. Also call training heart-rate zone.

Weight. Usually expressed in pounds, it is referred to the amount you are lifting.

Wolff's Law. Principle stating that bone is capable of adjusting its strength in proportion to the amount of stress placed on it.

Diana Rini owns Matter of Fitness Personal Training Studio in Willoughby, Ohio, and focuses on educating her clients how to safely and effectively lose weight, get in shape, and improve their health. Visit their Web site at matteroffitness.com.


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