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  • Fitness Terminology

    Before you start an exercise program, consult your therapist and physician.

    We would like to introduce you to some common fitness terms that will hopefully improve your knowledge of and interest in physical fitness.

    Fitness - sound physically and mentally; AKA healthy

    Repetitions (commonly called "reps") - the number of times one repeats a movement. For example, if you lift a weight with your arm 10 times, you have performed 10 repetitions.

    Set(s) - a discrete number of repetitions. For example, if you lift a weight 10 times, rest, and lift the weight 10 times again, you have performed "two sets" of 10 repetitions.

    Muscle - the contractile unit responsible for moving your bones.

    Tendon - the non-contractile unit that transmits the force of the muscle to the bone. Tendons connect muscles to bones.

    Ligament - the soft tissues that hold two or more bones together.

    Cartilage - connective tissue that covers the ends of bones and acts as a cushion to absorb shock and a smooth surface to decrease friction between two or more bones in a moving joint.

    Aerobic Exercise - The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as "any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature." Aerobic means in the presence of oxygen. In other words, your body is burning its fuel (glucose) in the presence of oxygen. It is performed at less than 85% of your maximum heart rate. An aerobically fit individual can work longer, more vigorously and achieve a quicker recovery at the end of the aerobic session. Jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics classes, and rowing are examples of aerobic exercise.

    Anaerobic Exercise - working at higher than 85% of your maximum heart rate. It involves short bursts of exertion followed by periods of rest. Anaerobic means in the absence of oxygen. In other words, it is the burning of glucose, by the body, without the use of oxygen. Weight training and sprinting are examples of anaerobic exercise.

    Plyometrics - Exercises characterized by the application of a quick muscle stretch followed by rapid muscle shortening enabling muscle(s) to achieve maximal rates of force development. They are intended to improve reactive/explosive muscle performance.

    Circuit Training - selected weight-training exercises performed one after another in an exercise sequence, usually using lighter weights and short periods of rest.

    Flexibility - the total range of motion in a joint or joints.

    Strength - a muscle(s) ability to generate force. It is usually measured with a one repetition maximum.

    Resistance Training - the use of external force to build up the body's ability to exert muscular force. AKA - weight or strength training.

    Endurance - the ability of muscle(s) to contract repeatedly and resist fatigue.

    Core Strength - a multi-joint exercise, involving larger muscle groups such as the chest, back, hip/thigh, and shoulder muscles. Core exercises should receive priority because of their direct application to a sport.

    Cross Training - the use of more than one type of exercise to achieve your training goals.

    Periodization - according to the American College of Sports Medicine, periodized training is planned variation in the total amount of exercise performed in a given period of time (intensity and volume of exercise). All periodization terminology describes either a certain type of training, a certain portion of a training cycle, or a certain length of time within a training cycle.

    Proprioception - the body's ability to sense where it is in space. For example, close your eyes and touch your nose. How were you able to move your finger to your nose without seeing it? Your body uses its sensory system in the joints and muscles to know where it is going. Balance and coordination both depend on your body's proprioceptive skills.

    Pilates - a series of non-impact exercises designed by Joseph Pilates to develop strength, flexibility, and balance.

    Bosu Ball - an exercise ball that's been cut in half with a platform on the bottom.

    Exercise Ball - a large rubber ball 55 to 85+ centimeters in diameter used for strength, balance, and flexibility exercise. AKA therapy ball or Swiss ball.

    Medicine Ball - weight balls (4-12 inches in diameter) used for resistance or plyometric training.

    Dumbbell - Weights used for exercising consisting of a handle with either detachable metal plates or fixed weights at each end.

    Barbell - Weight used for exercise, consisting of a rigid handle 5-7 feet long, with detachable metal plate that slide on and off the ends.

    Maximum Heart Rate - the fastest your heart can beat. It is found by taking 220 and subtracting your age. (Max HR = 220 – age)

    Target Heart Rate - your target heart rate is a range you exercise in and should be 60-85% of your maximum heart rate. - (220 – age) x 60% = bottom end of Target Heart Range - (220 – age) x 85% = top end of Target Heart Range - Exercise is considered aerobic if performed within this range.

    Warm Up - a five to eight minute period of gradual exercise (involving the larger muscles of the body) to increase circulation and decrease joint stiffness, in preparation for exercise of a greater intensity.


The information in this medical library is intended for informational and educational purposes only and in no way should be taken to be the provision or practice of physical therapy, medical, or professional healthcare advice or services. The information should not be considered complete or exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes without first consulting with your physical therapist, occupational therapist, physician or other healthcare provider. The owners of this website accept no responsibility for the misuse of information contained within this website.