A Beginner’s Guide to Decoding Workout Terms

Do you ever feel like people at the gym are speaking in another language? In our last post we introduced common cardio machines. We hope you’re getting your sweat on and trying out some new machines! If you’re thinking about the different benefits of cardio vs weight training you can check out this post. However, today’s post focuses a little more on muscle training.

Today we’re talking training terms! We’re going to explain and clarify terms that are commonly used in the fitness world.

Body Positioning

These are words that explain the body’s position in space. You might hear them used when explaining an exercise or stretch or referring to a part of the body.

  • Anatomical position is the position in which the body is standing upright. The arms are down at the side and the palms are facing forward. This position is often used as a reference point for movements. 
  • Proximal means close to the center of the body. For example in the body, the shoulder would be the proximal joint while the wrist would be further away from the center.
  • Distal means away from the center of the body. An example of this would be the wrist is the distal joint and the shoulder is the proximal joint because it is located closer to the body.

Planes of Movement

Planes of movement can be thought of as imaginary lines that divide the body. The body can be divided three different ways that create planes called sagittal, frontal and transverse. Exercises in a plane means you are doing a movement that is in parallel to the plane.

  • Sagittal plane divides body into left and right. This plane would draw a line from between your eyes down that puts each arm and leg in different planes. A movement in this plane is raising one of your arms out in front of you or doing a bicep curl.
  • Frontal plane divides body into front and back. This plane cuts the body in half widthwise. A movement in the frontal plane is raising your arm out to the side.
  • Transverse plane divides body into upper and lower sections. This plane splits the body at the waist and runs perpendicular to the body. A movement in the transverse plane is usually a rotational movement, such as spinning in a circle or swinging a golf club.

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Biomechanics is the name for how the body interacts to make movement happen. In order to scratch your face, muscle, bones and joints are all working together to make it happen. Learning about biomechanics is an important part of design safe and effective training program.

  • Agonist is also known as the prime mover. It is the muscle that does the bulk of the movement that you want to happen.
  • Antagonist is the muscle that does the opposite action. It is a muscle that can slow down or stop the movement.
  • Synergist is a muscle that is assisting the agonist. A synergist can be a muscle that stabilizes the joint while other muscles make it move.

Muscle actions

Biomechanics explained that many different muscles are involved in a movement. Since each muscle has a different job during the movement, they are doing different actions.

  • Concentric action is when the muscle decreases in size when it contracts. A classic example of a concentric contraction is a bicep curl. The muscle shortens because the force that makes it contract is greater than the force resisting it. Swimming and cycling require concentric muscle action at almost all times.
  • Eccentric action occurs when the muscle lengthens during the movement. The muscle lengthens because the force that makes it contract is less than the force resisting it, so the muscle is lengthening. This contraction is seen when the lowering down something heavy or when slowly sitting down into a chair.
  • Isometric action is when the muscle length does not change. The force that is contracting it is equal to the force that is resisting it. Two examples of isometric contractions are planks and wall sits.

Happy Exercising!

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