How's Your Fitness Vocabulary?

Not sure what the difference is between your hip flexor or your hamstring? We've simplified some common fitness terms and phrases.
Hows Your Fitness Vocabulary
Abdominal muscles or abs: A set of eight small muscles that is located below your chest. These muscles help you to bend forward and twist from side to side. This group of muscles also assists with your regular breathing as well as supporting the muscles of the spine.

Activity: Body movement that is intentionally performed to improve health, cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and/or flexibility. The components of activity extend beyond traditional exercise to include everyday actions (i.e., the activities of daily living) that result in improvements to the body.

Aerobics: A variety of physical activity — such as swimming, walking, or running — that requires you to breathe a little harder in order to increase your heart rate. Literally, aerobic means "with oxygen."

Barbell: A long bar with disc-like weights attached to either end, and is a piece of equipment used for weightlifting. The weights are often adjustable.

Bench: A flat, cushioned surface that you lie down on when lifting weights overhead. This kind of weightlifting is often done with a partner so you can have another person safely spot you while you're lifting the weight.

Bicep: A set of two muscles that run along the front side of your upper arm. These muscles are used when you bend your arm at the elbow; for instance, the motion of paddling a canoe or kayak.

Cardiovascular fitness: Physical activity which strengthens your heart and the circulation of blood in your vessels. Improved cardiovascular fitness makes it easier for your muscles to perform greater levels of exercise with more efficiency.

Cardio plan, Weight Watchers: A one- to three-week fitness plan for all skill and energy levels. These plans are specifically designed to improve cardiovascular fitness over a period of time. Subscribers can see these on the Workouts page.

Circuit training: A series of exercises or activities that are performed in prescribed sequence as quickly as possible. Often, exercise equipment (such as dumbbells or a jump rope) or machines are a part of the series. Generally, circuit training focuses on working all of the different muscle groups as well as the heart and lungs.

Cool down: A gradual slowing down of activity for a few minutes at the end of a workout. This cooling down allows for your body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure to safely return to normal. For example, stretching at the end of your workout can allow your body temperature and heart rate to decrease gradually.

Core training: Exercises that strengthen the muscles related to the hip, abdominal, and pelvic area of your body. The core muscles are vital because they are the foundation for all other movement in your body.

Cross-training: This kind of training involves doing different kinds of activities throughout your regular workout week to avoid overuse injuries and to prevent boredom. Biking, running and swimming are three common activities often performed during cross-training.

Crunches: A modified sit-up that requires a smaller range of motion that reduces back strain. Crunches are one of the popular forms of exercise to strengthen the abdominal muscles.

Dehydration: A condition caused by losing too water from your body. This can sometimes happen during exercise if you sweat and don't drink enough water. It is recommended that you drink at least one or two cups (8 to 16 fluid oz) of water 15 minutes before exercise. This amount will vary depending on the length of your workout and the time of year.

Dumbbell: A short bar with weights at each end that can be held with one hand. Often dumbbell exercises are completed in pairs, lifting a weight in each hand.

Elastic fitness band: A piece of exercise equipment that is made of elastic tubing or stretchy plastic ribbon. Often, the tubing features handles on either end and is used for exercises related to resistance and strengthening.

Endurance: The ability to exercise your muscles over an extended period of time.

Exercise, Weight Watchers: A single fitness movement that is described through a video demonstration or as a part of a Weight Watchers Workout Routine. (These are only available for subscribers).

Flexibility: The range of movement in a joint or group of joints. When you are more flexible, you're able to move easily during daily activity and exercise without experiencing tightness, soreness, or injury.

Free weights: Hand weights that are often used for weightlifting exercises. Dumbbells and barbells are considered free weights. Because free weights are not constrained by the motion of a weightlifting machine, they allow for more natural movement that is more likely to be similar to real life.

Glutes: Short for the gluteal muscles or the buttock muscles. These muscles allow you to extend and rotate your thighs.

Hamstrings: Any of the three muscles at the back of your knee and thigh. Called "hams" for short. These muscles are used when you bend and flex your knees.

Hip flexors: These muscles are located near your pelvis and allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist.

Inhale/exhale: The combination of the inhale and exhale make up the rhythm of your breathing. Inhaling is when you draw in a breath, and exhaling is when you release a breath. Always exhale on the exertion part of an exercise.

Intensity: Intensity during exercise refers to how much work is being done during any given movement. The intensity of exercise has an effect on how many calories the body uses performing the exercise.

Intervals: Exercise that alternates between high intensity ("work") and easy or light intensity ("recovery"). Intervals are often used by athletes to improve their speed and endurance over time.

Joint: The point where two bones in the body make contact. For example, the knee joint or a finger joint.

Medicine ball: A heavy object, roughly the size of a volleyball, which is often used for strength training. Medicine balls are also commonly used in sports medicine as a tool for physical rehabilitation.

Metabolism: The total number of calories the body burns on a daily basis; includes the three major components of resting metabolism, physical activity and food digestion.

Quadriceps: The large muscle in front of the thigh. Called "quads" for short. Quadriceps are used when you extend your leg.

Range of motion: The range — usually measured in degrees of a circle — through which a joint, such as the knee or shoulder, can be flexed and extended.

Rate of perceived exertion, or RPE: RPE is measured when you rate how you feel when performing a physical activity (this is also called psychological perception). For example, you would indicate whether you are feeling fatigue or effort while during a specific workout.

Reps: Short for repetitions, which involves the repeated movement of one complete exercise.

Resistance training: A form of training in which each effort is performed against a specific opposing force. Methods of resistance training include using your own body weight, elastic fitness bands, free weights, or water. This kind of training particularly benefits the elderly and those at risk for osteoporosis and musculoskeletal disorders.

Sets: A collection of repetitions of a specific movement, such as an arm curl or a squat. For example, a set may have anywhere from three to 10 repetitions.

Stability ball: An oversize rubber ball that is used for a variety of exercises. The stability ball (or the Swiss ball) is particularly effective for core-strengthening and conditioning exercises. Balls come in a variety of sizes.

Strength training: The use of resistance training in order to improve your overall strength and health.

Triceps: The muscle located along the back of the upper arm, which is primarily responsible for straightening the arm.

Warm-up: A series of light, gradual exercises performed to prepare your body for physical activity, normally a slower version of the activity to follow. For example, an easy jog before a run.

Weight-bearing exercise: Exercise that involves your bones and muscles working against the force of gravity, and your feet and legs carrying all of your weight. Examples of this kind of exercise include walking, running, jogging and dancing.

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