Grammar for Exercise, Part 2

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15 December 2022

Last week, we looked at common phrasal verbs and gerunds linked to exercising and health. For this week's Everyday Grammar report, we will continue to explore exercise vocabulary. We will learn different prepositions, verbs, and nouns we can use when talking about what we do to exercise and how we use our muscles.

Let's start with common prepositional phrases.

In shape, into shape and out of shape

Two common prepositional phrases we use for talking about physical health is being "in shape" or "out of shape." Another one you will hear is getting "back into shape."

If you are "in shape," you are physically strong and fit. People who are in shape likely exercise regularly and eat well.

Adam was so in shape last year. He worked out almost every day.

If you are out of shape, you are not physically fit. "Out of" is used to show a change away from the usual or expected form.

Dmitry was out of shape after his knee operation.

When you are out of shape, you may want to get "back into shape." This means you start doing physical activity to become fit and strong.

Brittany's new year resolution is getting back into shape by doing yoga three times a week.

Engage and activate

When you work out, it is important to do exercises the right way. This helps keep you safe from injury and makes your efforts more effective.

You might hear someone tell you to make sure you "engage your muscles." The verb "engage" means to involve. When you "engage" your muscles, you are using them.

Exercise like yoga engages your core muscles.

A similar verb is "activate." This means to make active. When we activate our muscles, we "turn on" or start to use them. This activation is created by the connection between our brain and muscles.

If we activate our muscles for exercise, we can better engage the muscles and use them!

It's important to activate your stomach muscles to support your back.


Now let's look at some nouns you can use to talk about your exercise routine.

Activities like weightlifting and high intensity training have special words that describe and differentiate between groups of exercises.

A "rep," for example, is a shortened form of "repetitions." A rep is the number of times you do the movement of an exercise.

She did 10 reps of squats.

A "set" is group of reps. There are usually about 8 to 12 reps in a set. There may be fewer reps if the exercise involves heavier weights. And there may be more if the weights are lighter. After each set, you should rest for a minute or two.

I like to do four sets of eight reps of biceps curls.

A "superset" is a combination of exercises in a sequence with no break or rest. So, you do one set of one kind of exercise, centering on one muscle or group, then immediately change to the other kind of exercise, centering on a different muscle or group.

Our superset today includes chest flies and a tricep dip.

A "circuit" is a combination of three or more exercises that you complete back-to-back with no rest in between. Circuits combine strength training and cardio. Cardio is any kind of exercise that gets your heart to beat faster and harder for a period of time.

I jumped and did pushups and lunges for my circuit today.

An "interval" is the amount of time you take to do the exercise.

We do two-minute intervals of the circuit before taking a 20-second rest.

Finally, a "round" is how many times you complete a group of circuit exercises.

I completed five rounds of the circuit before the time finished.

Final thoughts

Today we looked at more common expressions for exercise, including the prepositional phrases "in shape" and "out of shape" and verbs like "engage" and "activate." We also looked at the differences between "rep," "set," and "superset," among others.

Let's end this report with some homework.

Try to make some more sentences with either the verbs, prepositional phrases or the nouns that we talked about today.

You can talk about which muscle or body parts you activate or engage while you work out.

Or you can describe your workout routine with nouns like "round," "interval," or "circuit."

Share your work in the comments!

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

gerund – n. (grammar). the -ing form of a verb that acts like a noun

routine – n. a series of actions that are repeated in the same way in a given situation

destination – n. a place to which a person is going, or something is sent

gym (gymnasium) – n. a building or room for exercise

yoga – n. a system of exercises for gaining bodily or mental control and well-being

coren. all the muscles in your torso or middle part of your body

abdominal – n. the part of the body below the chest that contains the stomach and other organs

intensity – n. extreme degree of strength, force, energy, or feeling

squat n. a position in which your knees are bent, and your body lowered so that you are close to your heels or sitting on your heels

biceps curlsn. an exercise where you bend your arms at the elbow to strengthen your bicep muscle or the front part of the upper arm

tricep dip n. an exercise to make your triceps, the large muscle in the back of the arm, stronger

chest fliesn. exercises to make your chest muscles stronger

cardio n. any type of exercise that causes the heart to beat faster and harder for a period of time

pushup – n. an exercise in which you lie on your stomach and raise and lower your body by straightening and bending your arms

lunge –v. to move or reach forward suddenly in a forceful way