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Exercise 101

Rhonda Beckham / Special to the Tribune

Many years ago, before I became a personal trainer, I would often buy a newsstand magazine that caught my eye with something like “lose belly fat fast” or “shed 10 pounds in three days.” I’d rush home all motivated, thinking I’d be getting back into my pre-pregnancy jeans in no time!

The problem was that the terminology used in the exercise descriptions was like reading a foreign language. I’ve always been good at language arts, but this stuff made me dizzy.

Fortunately, you can now watch a video on one of the many Web sites dedicated to helping the beginner get started. Of course, there’s no substitute for a professional trainer to show you the safest, most efficient way.



But if one of those health mags grabs your attention at the market or gym, here are some translations for you. I know many of you are getting ready to get back into the gym as soon as the kids return to school, so think of this as your prep class.

Remember all those vocabulary words from elementary school? Well, here is your elementary level fitness vocabulary. This primer will help as you keep reading my columns and other fitness information. But remember – doing these things is more beneficial than reading about them.



Abduction is to move a limb to the side, away from the body.

Adduction is to move a limb toward the center line of the body.

Aerobic or cardiovascular training means moving continuously (jogging, jumping or cycling), which elevates your heart rate between 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Concentric means the muscle shortens as it contracts.

Eccentric is the opposite of concentric – the muscle lengthens. It is important to work the muscles in a full range of motion, making sure you get a “stretch” on the eccentric phase.

Extension, for example, is lifting a straight leg behind you or reaching your arm in front of you.

Flexion, for example, would be bending the leg at the knee.

Isometric contraction occurs when there is tension on a muscle, but no movement is made, causing the length of the muscle to remain the same. An example would be to push the palms of the hands together as if in prayer.

Lateral is toward the outside of the body.

Medial is toward the inside of the body.

Muscle failure is just like it sounds – your muscle just can’t give any more, no matter what. The last repetition should be extremely challenging, but not to the point where you lose good form.

Posterior is the back or behind.

A rep, or repetition, is to complete one exercise from start to finish. For instance, in a bicep curl, you would lower the weight then bring it back up – that’s one rep.

Resistance or strength training works to increase power, endurance, and muscle strength, by using machines, free weight, body weight, or resistance bands.

A set is a group of repetitions performed for different exercises. For example, if your trainer says, “Complete three sets of 10 reps of pushups,” you will have done 30 pushups before she lets you do something more fun.

So the next time you read “Tone your tush in these four easy moves,” you’ll have an idea how to proceed. If you’re still not sure, call Help Me Rhonda.

I will be starting a Help Me Rhonda question-and-answer column, where you can e-mail or call me with any fitness-related questions, and I’ll do my best to answer all of them.

— Rhonda Beckham is a nationally certified personal trainer, with teaching certificates in Pilates and kick boxing.

Rhonda Beckham is owner of Help Me Rhonda Personal Fitness Training. She is a nationally certified personal trainer operating out of Sierra Athletic Club and a Pilates instructor at Emerald Bay Physical Therapy. She may be reached at (530) 208-6369, http://www.TahoeTrainer.com and rhonda@tahoetrainer.com.


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