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If you don't know an ab from an abductor from an adductor, this glossary of fitness terms has what you need to know.


Abs: Abdominal muscles. Because the spine is supported by the muscles of the abdomen, back problems can result if the abs are weak.

Ab cruncher: Any of a variety of apparatuses that can help you work out your abs. The trick is, you have to use the apparatus. Just buying it and letting it sit isn't enough. In fact, not buying it and just doing crunches (sit-ups) works just as well.

Abductors: Outer thigh muscles.

Achilles' tendon: It connects the back of the heel to the muscles of the calf. When it's injured, it's not a subtle pain. A good reason to buy well-fitting, protective shoes.

Adrenaline: A hormone secreted by the adrenal glands--especially under stressful conditions--that induces symptoms such as accelerated heart rate and an increase in blood sugar concentration. The presence of adrenaline can improve your exercise performance; it can also make you overdo it, so watch yourself.

Adductors: Inner thigh muscles.

Aerobics: Although this refers to group exercise performed in a gym, usually to music, any exercise that gets the cardiovascular system working hard is an aerobic workout, whether it's at a gym, at home, on a playing field, a bike or a mountain path. "Aerobic" literally means "with oxygen"; aerobic exercise creates an increased demand for oxygen over an extended period of time. It trains your cardiovascular system to process and deliver oxygen quickly and efficiently to every body part. The bottom line for most folks: Aerobic exercise burns more fat than anaerobic exercise does.

Anaerobic: This type of exercise means, literally, "without oxygen." It generally requires short spurts of exertion, such as weight lifting and sprinting. Do remember to breathe, though.

Arteries: Large vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the body tissues. You can see the problem if they become clogged.

Biceps: Large muscle in the front of the upper arm.

Blood pressure: The pressure of the blood in the arteries.

Body composition: Generally speaking, this refers to the types and amount of tissues that make up the body. The four major components are muscles, bone, fat and organs. It is generally considered ideal for men to maintain a body fat level of 15% or less, and for women to have 25% body fat or less.

Boxaerobics: Also called cardioboxing, this is an aerobic and muscle conditioning form of exercise in which some basic boxing moves (such as the undercut, hook and jab) are blended with hi/lo impact moves. Sometimes lightweight gloves or even punching bags are used. But in case you're thinking this will be a good way to spar or try to slap someone upside the head, keep in mind that no physical contact with other class members is allowed. Nor is this a self-defense class. It's for fun and is a great upper-body workout.

Calf: The fleshy part of the back of the lower leg that consists of three muscles: the gastrocemius, soleus and plantaris.

Calisthenics: A type of exercise that emphasizes muscular work using resistance. And proof that maybe you can get a workout without a lot of running and jumping around. Though classes can have interesting names, such as Tons o' Toning, Body Sculpting or just plain Muscle Conditioning, they are pretty much old-fashioned calisthenics.

Cardio: Refers to an aerobic workout. Swimming, for example, is a form of cardio exercise.

Circuit training: A cardio and strength-building class that usually involves stations set up in a fitness classroom. For example, at one station you may do a specific arm exercise; after two minutes, you move to Station 2, where you may do lunges on a step aerobics platform; Station 3 may require you to jog around the room. You can also circuit train on your own, moving from, say, weight machine to cardio machine to weight machine.

Cross training: Unlike cross dressing, you wear whatever you want. But to properly cross train, you must do more than one type of fitness activity over a period of time, taking a more holistic approach to exercise, even if you're training for a particular event, such as a 10K. Cross training keeps you from overtraining one set of muscles or overperforming one skill. Such imbalance can lead to injury and burnout. For example, although you may primarily be a jogger, on Wednesdays you might swim or hike, and on Saturdays you might take an aerobics class or go roller-blading.

Cut: A hip way to describe good muscle definition, especially in a lean physique. As in: "Mike Piazza is really cut. Drew Carey is not."

Cycling: An outdoor or indoor bike exercise that gives you an aerobic workout and develops muscular endurance and leg strength.

Delts: Deltoids. These are the triangular-shaped muscles that cap the shoulders and raise the arms away from the side.

Exercise balls: Ranging in size from soccer balls to beach balls, these rubber tools are used in muscle conditioning. They provide resistance and are an alternative to the more traditional free weights and tubing.

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