Glossary of Fitness Terms

AEROBIC EXERCISE -- (Literally "with air.") A lengthy exercise that avoids becoming so vigorous it exceeds the body's ability to provide enough oxygen to support the activity. Aerobics include: running/jogging, treadmill walking/running, swimming, rowing, aerobics classes or cycling. By working the heart and lungs, aerobics help increase the capacity (fitness) of the cardiovascular system: it's ability to intake and use oxygen.

ANAEROBIC EXERCISE -- (Literally "without air.") High-concentration exercises which exceed the body's aerobic capacity (the ability to intake and use oxygen). Anaerobics can only be done for short periods of time. Typical anaerobics include weightlifting, and wind sprints on a track.

ATROPHY -- The loss of muscle size and strength over a period of prolonged inactivity. The average adult loses half a pound of muscle to disuse atrophy each year that they remain inactive. (Though science has shown muscle can be stimulated and "regained" when regular load-bearing exercise is started.)

BARBELL -- The long, straight iron (or other metal) bar used in two-handed weightlifting exercises. It is fitted with iron freeweight plates (weights) and collars (to hold the plates in place). A barbell may be used to work all the major muscle groups.

BASAL METABOLIC RATE (BMR) -- The lowest rate at which the body burns calories (at rest) to maintain survival. The BMR is usually measured by exercise physiologists early in the day, directly after the patient has had a good night's rest.

BODY COMPOSITION -- The ratio of body fat to lean body mass (muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, skin, and organs).
BURN -- A sensation of "heat" that builds up in muscles after prolonged, or particularly vigorous exercise. Some burn is good, when properly built-up-to; actual pain is a sign to stop the exercise, and to be more careful.

CARBOHYDRATES -- A primary energy producing food for humans and animals. Stored as glycogen in the blood, carbohydrates provide glucose: the body's primary source of energy. Sources of carbohydrates are found in foods containing high amounts of starches (bread, potatoes), sugars (fruits), and fibers
(vegetables, brans, etc.). Complex carbohydrates (such as are found in plants and grains) are preferable to simple sugars.

CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS -- A strong, healthy heart and lungs. Cardiovascular fitness is achieved through exercises which require cardiovascular endurance (such as aerobics, and circuit training with weights).

CIRCUIT TRAINING -- A method of weightlifting that can build both cardiovascular and muscular strength simultaneously. Circuit Training is done by choosing numerous weightlifting exercises (10 or more) and moving between them quickly enough between sets to keep the heart rate up in the aerobic range.

DUMBBELL -- A short, bar fitted with collars and iron plates. Used in one hand (or two dumbbells used in both hands simultaneously) to perform a large number of exercises that benefit every major muscle.

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS -- The nine amino acids which the human body cannot manufacture, and which must be taken in through the diet.

EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY -- The study of how the human body is effected by exercise.
FREEWEIGHTS -- (Either or both) weighted barbells and dumbbell used in weightlifting.

GLYCOGEN -- The "storage" form of carbohydrates in humans, an energy source used by the blood. Found primarily in the muscles and liver.

HIGH-IMPACT EXERCISE -- A strenuous form of exercise (such as running on a hard surface) which can shock and injure joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.

HYPERTROPHY -- "Muscle growth" stimulated as a result of pushing muscles to do more work (as in weightlifting) than they are used to doing.

ISOMETRIC EXERCISE -- Working the muscles and bones against immovable objects (walls, door frames).

ISOTONIC EXERCISE -- Exercises isolated on specific muscles, through the application of "constant tension" against movable resistance. An example of Isotonic Exercise is the lifting and lowering of a barbell during weightlifting.
LACTIC ACID -- A waste product produced in the body by vigorous exercise. It is generally advisable to drink sufficient amounts of water after exercising, both to rehydrate the body, and to help flush the lactic acids from the body.

LIGAMENTS -- The connective tissue between bones.

METABOLIC RATE -- The speed at which the body naturally burns calories, at rest.

METABOLISM -- The complex physical and chemical processes in living organisms which are necessary to maintain life.

MUSCLE FAILURE -- The situation which exists when a muscle has been pushed to and past its limits, so no more work can be done without resting (as in the inability of a weightlifter to complete one more repetition with a weight).

MUSCLES -- The fibrous tissues of the body which, among other things, make bodily movement possible. Muscles come in several "types." The striped (or striated) muscles are called "voluntary," those which are capable of strong, controllable, contractions. These skeletal muscles themselves come in two types: fast twitch (for energy bursts) and slow twitch (for slower, more efficient energy burning). Smooth, or "involuntary," muscles are less powerfully contracting, and perform such functions as aiding in digestion. Finally, the cardiac (heart) muscles are a form of striped-involuntary muscle.
NEGATIVE RESISTANCE -- The "return" (or second) action in a two-part Isotonic Exercise. In doing a weightlifting Bench Press, for instance, negative resistance is encountered on returning the bar to the chest from the raised position. (Also called the "eccentric action," or "muscle lengthening" portion of a
weightlifting exercise.)

OVERFAT -- An imbalance of too much fat in the body versus the amount of lean body mass (muscle and bone). Not to be confused with "overweight." Since muscle weighs more than fat, a well-muscled (healthy) person can weigh as much, or more, than a person of a similar age and frame who is overfat. Generally
speaking, men are considered to be healthy if they are in the 15-to-17 percent bodyfat range. Women are healthy with a bodyfat ratio of about 22 percent.

OVERLOAD -- Purposely placing a larger amount of stress on a muscle than it is usually used to performing. In weightlifting, to achieve muscle growth (hypertrophy) some overloading of the muscles is necessary.

OVERTRAINING -- Doing too much (or too vigorous) exercise over a longer period of time than the body can tolerate, leading to weakness, fatigue, and possible injury.
POSITIVE RESISTANCE -- The "power" (or first) action in a two-part Isotonic Exercise. In doing a weightlifting Bench Press, for instance, positive resistance isencountered on lifting the bar off the chest. (Also called the "concentric action," or "muscle shortening" portion of a weightlifting exercise.)

PROTEIN -- Amino acids which are essential in the growth and repair bodily tissues. Common food sources of proteins include meats, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, and legumes.

PULSE RATE -- The number of beats-per-minute of the human heart.

RANGE OF MOTION -- The proper arc of movement -- from the beginning, through the middle, and on to the end -- of an exercise. Also, the range of comfortable and proper movement of a joint of the human body.

REP (or REPETITION) -- One complete motion of moving a weight through the beginning, middle and end of an exercise. For instance, in a Bench Press, one rep would constitute starting with the bar at the chest, pushing it up to almost locking the arms out at the top, and then lowering the weight back to the chest.

RESISTANCE -- The weight (or other resisting force) being pushed or pulled against in weightlifting.

SET -- A defined number (or group) of repetitions taken together without rest. In weightlifting, for instance, exercises are usually broken up into "reps" and "sets." Doing three sets of between 8 to 12 repetitions with a specified weight is common.
SPOTTER -- A "partner" who watches over someone who is doing weightlifting exercises, to make sure that the exerciser does not drop a heavily loaded barbell or pair of dumbbells. Spotters are used for safety reasons.

STEROIDS -- (Also called "Anabolic Steroids") Prescription drugs derived from growth-stimulating male testosterone. Though long taken by some professional and amateur body builders -- and other athletes -- to increase muscle size and endurance, there are side effects (including liver and heart damage, and mental problems) associated with the use of some steroids. While certain steroids are available for use in the U.S., others are banned.

STRENGTH TRAINING -- Weightlifting: working the muscles against resistance to build muscular strength and endurance, and to add tone and shape to the body.

SUPPLEMENTS -- Any nutrients introduced into the human body to enhance health, physical growth, or performance. Common supplements are vitamins and minerals, or proteins (in drinks, powders and bars).

TENDONS -- The connective tissues between muscles and bones.
TONE -- The firmness and shape of the muscles. Body toning usually follows using lighter weights and doing more repetitions in an anaerobic/strength training program. Muscle "bulk" comes more from fewer reps/sets with heavier weights.

WARM-UP -- Gentle stretching and exercising done to gradually increase blood circulation to (warm up) muscles, and loosen up for a more sustained bout of exercise.