Burpees And Other Exercises Explained

Who's Jack, and why is he jumping?

Anytime is the right time to get in shape. There are a myriad of exercises out there you can try—some extreme, some simple. And, what’s most interesting to us, of course, is that some exercise names have curious word origins, as well! Let’s explore a few that may inspire a workout . . . or two.


We define plyometrics as “a system of exercise in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and suddenly contracted,” like skipping, lunges, or jumping rope. The term is a combination of Greek roots that mean to increase measurement, or plio (“more”), and metric (“to measure”).

A fellow named Fred Wilt coined the term after watching Soviet athletes warm up for track-and-field events. It sounds hard, so maybe we should (huff, puff) take a break now? Nope . . . next exercise, please!


Save the snickering ’til later. This is a real thing! (For those who missed it, it’s one of those funny words you probably don’t know.) Fartlek is “a training technique, used especially among runners, consisting of bursts of intense effort loosely alternated with less strenuous activity.” It is Swedish, coming from fart or “speed” and lek or “play.”

And, here are some different ways you can . . .  fartlek on your own (thanks triathlete.com!):

Spotlight: Run 30 seconds hard, 90 easy, 60 moderate, 60 easy, 90 hard, 3 minutes easy. Repeat 3 or 4 times.

For the dogs: When you pass a dog, speed up! The smaller the dog, the faster you go!


This one is for really strong people. Our definition states powerlifting is “a competition or sport involving three tests of strength: the bench press, squat, and two-handed dead lift.” The name itself seems pretty self-explanatory, lifting things using power . . . .

This is an extreme sport for both men and women, and powering through with sheer raw strength is the goal. Not for the faint of heart, we would guess.


A little less “extreme” here. Calisthenics are old-school “gymnastic exercises designed to develop physical health and vigor, usually performed with little or no special apparatus.” It comes from the Greek words kallos (“beauty”) and sthenos (“strength”). Maybe this is how you get that beautiful Greek-God bod?

Remember elementary school? Sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups (sensing a theme here)—now you’re in the calisthenics zone.

Jumping jacks

Splay your legs out to the sides . . . and raise your arms in the air, and keep ’em there. Now, repeat until you drop or the gym teacher blows the whistle. You’ve just done a set of jumping jacks. (Note: The military calls this exercise a side-straddle hop because jumping jacks is just too cute for the armed forces.)

Why Jack? Why not jumping bills? Well, there’s a little dispute here. Some say the exercise was named after famous American General John “Black Jack” Pershing, because he used the move to break in new recruits. Or, maybe (as The Daily Beast reports), jumping jacks were named after fitness guru Jack LaLanne. A third theory: It is merely mimicking the children’s game: jacks.


Stand straight. Squat down. Kick your legs straight out behind you. Bring them back. Stand up. Repeat. Friends, that is a squat thrust . . . also known as a burpee.It was named for the man who invented this exercise in 1930, American physiologist Royal Burpee. This is now a standard gym class move and a really fun one to say. Maybe not as fun to perform . . . . phew!

Bird dog

In this case, a bird dog exercise means you plop down on all fours on an exercise mat, then point your left arm outward while stretching your right leg backward. (Or, vice-versa.) Seemingly named for the resemblance to the posture of the animals, maybe this a move to practice while you bird-dog the star athletes at your gym?

Fun fact: In yoga, this move is called the Balancing Table pose or Dandayamna Bharmanasana in Sanskrit.

SLBR (slobber)

The supine (“lying on the back”) lateral  (“of or relating to the side”) ball roll (SLBR) is also nicknamed slobber because well . . . sound it out.

This looks insanely difficult. You lie down on an exercise ball, arms stretched out to the sides holding a dowel rod. You roll side to side on top of the ball, trying not to fall off, and presumably, not to slobber.

Butt kick

This is not the same as “kicking someone’s butt.” Instead, the butt kick is when you basically run in place, making sure that the heels of your shoes touch (or nearly touch) your backside.

Livestrong.com says “butt kicks are an effective warm-up exercise as well as a beneficial exercise for runners who are trying to improve their stride. This exercise intensely works your hamstrings.”


The inchworm is an innocuous little creature. Also called a measuring worm, it “doubles itself up at intervals and then gradually stretches itself straight again.” That’s precisely what this exercise does, too.

Stretch yourself out on the floor as if you were about to do a push-up. Then, gradually begin to inch your feet forward until you’re in a standing position. (While keeping your hands on the floor, of course.) Seems reminiscent of an old dance move—with this one you’ll get in shape and tear up the floor!

What about the torturous treadmill?

Did you know the treadmill was first created as torture device? No wonder you don’t want to go to the gym. Check out the explanations behind the treadmill and other exercise equipment to really whip your butt into gear.

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Word of the Day

Can you guess the definition?


[ fur-kin ]

Can you guess the definition?

Word of the day

[ fur-kin ]