At the Gym

At the Gym

I rather[1] cruelly dedicated my last post to those learners who failed in their New Year’s resolution to quit[2] smoking. To make amends[3] for my cynicisms, here’s a post dedicated to those who fulfil[4] their New Year’s resolution to go to the gym more.

If you are an urbanite then most of the exercise you take is probably at the gym – if you take any. People go to the gym to do aerobics or to build up their muscles. Aerobics and other group exercises to music, such as jazz dance, are meant to strengthen[5] the heart and lungs[6]. Taking exercise specifically to develop[7] your muscles is called bodybuilding[8]. A colloquial way of saying this is “to pump iron”. A person who regularly exercises to develop their muscles is a bodybuilder.


Be aware of[9] the right verb to use with each activity:

take exercise               do aerobics                 get fit              keep/stay fit

Getting Fit

One of the aims[10] of going to the gym is to keep fit[11]. This has evolved into a noun/adjective: we talk about keep-fit classes in the UK. These are called (physical) fitness classes in the USA and Australia. Be careful with the expression “s/he’s fit!” because in British slang it means you think someone is sexually attractive. You should also take care with the word ‘fitness’; in English it simply means the condition of being physically fit and does not have the specific connotations it has when used in other languages.

Expressions with ‘fit’

Three English expressions:

To be fighting fit        To be as fit as a fiddle[12]         To be as fit as a flea[13]

mean ‘to be in good health’.


Most of the muscle vocabulary comes from Latin and is more or less the same across different European languages; e.g. abductors, adductors, pectorals, biceps, etc. You should know the abbreviation ‘abs’ (= abdominal muscles) and the term “one’s six pack” for visibly well-developed abdominal muscles). One term you might not know is the hamstring for the three muscles behind the thigh[14] that flex the knee[15].

Some Typical Exercises

  • We say you do press-ups in Britain when you lie flat[16] on the floor with your face down and you try to push your body up with your arms, while keeping your legs and back straight[17]. This is called doing push-ups in the USA and Australia.
  • You do squats when you bend[18] your legs under your body and then straighten[19] them (going up and down).
  • If you do squat thrusts, you put your hands on the floor and move your legs from a bent[20] to a straight17 position by moving your feet in a single movement.
  • You do sit-ups when you lie flat16 and then bring your head up to touch your knees.
  • Be careful with the expression to do the splits, this is a false friend and refers towhen you lower you body so that both your legs are flat on the floor in the opposite directions. If you put your weight on one leg which you flex, while the other is straight, this is called a hamstring-stretching[21]

Some Fitness Machines

  • A rowing machine imitates the action of rowing[22] a boat (logically!).
  • A treadmill is a machine that measures your speed[23] while you walk, jog[24] or run on it. Originally, treadmills were wheels with a prisoner inside that were used to drive[25]
  • An exercise bike imitates the action of a bicycle but does not move.

For more footnoted articles about sports, see Yes 15 (

[1] rather – (in this case) somewhat, quite

[2] to quit (quit-quit-quit) – stop

[3] to make amends (make-made-made) – atone,

[4] to fulfil – (in this case) satisfy, execute

[5] to strengthen sth.make sth. stronger

[6] lungpulmonary organ

[7] to develop sth. – (in this case) expand sth., build sth.

[8] ‘culturism’ does not exist as an English word!

[9] to be aware of – be conscious of

[10] aim (n.) – objective

[11] to keep fit – maintain your body in a good physical condition

[12] fiddle – violin

[13] flea – (Siphonaptera) small insect that cannot fly but can jump and drinks humans’ and animals’ blood

[14] thighupper leg, the part of one’s leg around one’s femur

[15] kneemid-leg articulation

[16] to lie flat (lie-lay-lain) – be in a horizontal position

[17] straight – in line, not flexed

[18] to bend – flex

[19] to straightenmake sth. straight17

[20] bentangled, arched, flexed

[21] to stretch – extend, tense

[22] to rowmove a boat with oars (= long sticks with paddles at the ends)

[23] speed – velocity

[24] to jogrun at a slow, regular speed for exercise

[25] to drive (drive-drove-driven) – (in this case) power, cause sth. to function


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s