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What does that mean?

Have you ever read a fitness article and been completely stumped? All that exercise terminology zooming over the top of your head can be a confusing experience. I’ve been there.

Before I was a fitness professional, certain exercise terms bewildered me. It was like the writer was speaking a totally different language. If it wasn’t for the pictures and videos, I’d have drawn a blank.

Getting and keeping yourself in shape is tough enough without being confused with exercise jargon. Let The Balance Guy clear up your confusion by defining some exercise terms currently used in fitness magazines.

  1. Adduction – it’s not just the name of that thigh machine at the gym. This is a motion bring your arms and legs back towards the midline (middle) of the body.


Examples include push-ups (where your chest muscles come together),chest fly’s and cable hip adduction.

  1. Abduction – This is the opposite of adduction and another outer thigh exercise Jane Fonda used to do. This is any motion away from the midline of the body


Examples of this body movement include a lateral shoulder raise, dumbbell reverse fly and hip clam exercise

  1. Concentric contraction – You know the muscle pump you get after your 12th set of bicep curls? This is why. Concentric contractions happen when your muscle overcomes the weight (or gravity) and the muscle shortens and you see the muscle bulging through your skin. .


Movement examples include the up phase of a push-up or coming up from the bottom of a squat.


  1. Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS – You know the feeling after a tough training when sitting up and down is a traumatic event? You can thank DOMS for that.


DOMS is a state of muscular pain and discomfort that can begin several hours after bout of intense exercise and can last for up to three days. DOMS is thought to be caused by micro tears in your muscles that need extra time to heal.


  1. Eccentric contraction – This is the major cause of DOMS. Eccentric contractions happen when the weight (or gravity) overwhelms the muscle and the muscle lengthens. These contractions also help us get stronger,

Movement examples include the lowering down portion of the squat or the arm coming down during a biceps curl.


  1. Lactic acid – Are you familiar with the burning sensation in your muscles during intense exercise? You have lactic acid to thank for that. Lactic acid is produced in muscle cells and red blood cells.

It forms when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy during times of low oxygen levels, like during your 12th set of triceps extensions or at the end of a long cardio training.

  1. Isometric contractions – This is when the muscle produces force but there is no movement, unlike concentric/eccentric muscle contractions.

Exercise examples include front planks, side planks, and wall squats.


Isometric exercises are the ones we love to hate but they are good for you. Trust me, I’m a trainer.

  1. Mobility – This is the degree to which a joint (hips and shoulders for example) is allowed to move before being restricted by surrounding tissues which include ligaments, tendons and muscles, otherwise known as the range of motion around a joint.

Exercise examples include hip extensions, shoulder dislocations and spiderman with rotation. These double as excellent warm up drills.

Next time you read anything fitness, you’ll feel like a pro.

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About Shane McLean

Shane McLean is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer in Dallas Texas. Moved here 12 years ago from Melbourne Australia. Specializing in stability core, strength and mobility programs. The four fundamentals to healthy skeletal health. Shane tailors training's to meet your strength, nutrition, injury management and mobility needs. His motto is "to improve one’s balance, strength and mobility no matter your age."

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