Why Do So Many Exercises Have Foreign Names

Ever wonder why so many exercises have foreign names? Read on.

Have you ever noticed how many of the exercises and exercise equipment athletes use today have foreign names—e.g., Romanian Deadlifts, Bulgarian Split Squats, the Swiss Ball. Why are so many exercises named after foreign countries and how did they get their names. Do they simply sound cooler with a foreign name, do foreign countries create better workout routines, or are some athletes ahead of the rest of the world in the fitness and athletic field. Here is an in-depth look into the origin of some of the most common exercises athletes use today and how they can benefit you on the field.

1. Romanian Deadlift

Most athletes have performed the Romanian Deadlift. It is a variation of the classic Deadlift, targeting the hamstrings, glutes and low back with a slight bend in the knees and hinge at the hips. Many have speculated that Romanian Olympic lifters pulled their Deadlifts from a different hip position. Terry Todd, Ph.D., an exercise historian and co-founder of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas, believes Bob Peebles, a famous Tennessee weightlifter and strongman of the 1940s, who once held the world record for the Deadlift, lifting 725 pounds while weighing only 190, raised his hips so they were almost straight, which is the starting position for the Romanian Deadlift. Check out all-pro quarterback Drew Brees's Kettlebell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift in the video player above.

RELATED: 3 Common Romanian Deadlift Mistakes

How to Perform:

  1. Load a barbell with a weight you can lift for 10-12 repetitions.
  2. Grab the bar with a clean overhand grip.
  3. With your chest out, back flat, and knees bent, lift the bar up to your thighs.
  4. Lower the bar to about 2 inches from the floor, keeping your back perfectly flat or arched and your knees slightly flexed.
  5. Return to the almost erect position; that is one repetition.
  6. Sets/Reps: 3x10-12


  • Strengthens lower back, glutes, and hamstrings
  • It is a functional movement
  • Builds jumping strength for sports such as basketball, volleyball and football
  • Helps balance anterior muscle-dominant athletes such as track sprinters

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat is an advanced variation of the Split Squat, with the rear leg elevated. This increases the difficulty by allowing a deeper squat targeting the quadriceps, thighs and glutes. Although the specific origin of the Bulgarian Split Squat is unknown, there was a movement called "the Bulgarian wave" that offered changes in sets and reps and could have inspired the exercise name. Watch the video player above to see the Bulgarian Split Squat in action at NFL Combine training.

How to Perform:

  1. Stand with a bench about 2 feet behind you and place the instep of your right foot on the bench.
  2. Hold dumbbells at arm's length at your sides, palms facing in, or place an EZ bar or barbell evenly on your back.
  3. Keeping your torso upright, lower your body and bend your left knee until your left thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. Your lower left leg should remain perpendicular to the floor.
  5. Pause at the bottom, then push yourself back to the starting position as quickly as you can; that is one repetition.
  6. Sets/Reps: 3x10-12 each leg


  • Strengthens quadriceps, thighs and glutes
  • Excellent single-leg exercise for equal leg strength
  • Increases balance and stability
  • Benefits quadriceps dominant/single leg sport athletes such as sprinters, soccer players, and football players

3. Turkish Get-Up

Since the kettlebell craze, athletes and others have started incorporating kettlebells into their daily workout routines. One kettlebell exercise is the Turkish Get-Up, made popular by CrossFit. The Turkish Get-Up most likely began in Germany, Austria or France as a stunt performed by entertainment balancing troupes. Instead of using a dumbbell, stuntmen would use another person. How the name came about, however, is still unclear according to sources. Check out the video player above to learn how to master the Turkish Get-Up with strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle.

How to Perform:

  1. Grab a light dumbbell or kettlebell.
  2. Lie on your back with your legs straight.
  3. Hold the dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand with your arm extended up.
  4. Keeping your elbow locked and the weight above you at all times, move your legs and left arm underneath you to push yourself up.
  5. Stand up, keeping your right arm straight and the weight overhead.
  6. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position; that is one repetition.
  7. Sets/Reps: 3x10-12


  • Strengthens the core, shoulders, hips and glutes
  • Requires simultaneous movement in multiple planes, similar to movements in sports
  • Benefits all athletes who perform multidirectional movements

RELATED: How to Improve Your Turkish Get Up

4. Swiss Ball Jackknife

Although the name includes "Swiss ball, this piece of equipment did not originate in Switzerland. In 1963, Italian manufacturer Aquilino Cosani developed a special technique for manufacturing large toy balls made of durable, burst-resistant vinyl to replace rubber. These large colorful balls were sold throughout Europe under the brand names Gymnastik or Gymnic. Shortly thereafter, English physiotherapist Mary Quinton discovered them while visiting Bern, Switzerland, and she began using them in her intervention treatment programs for newborns and infants with cerebral palsy. Despite the Italian origin, it was American physical therapists who coined the term "Swiss balls" after witnessing the use of the balls while visiting several Swiss clinics. The term "jackknife" received its name because it resembled a move of the same names performed by divers.

How to Perform:

  1. Start in push-up position with your shins on a Swiss ball.
  2. Your body should form a straight line from heels to head.
  3. Without rounding your lower back, contract your abs and use your feet to pull the ball toward your chest by bending your knees.
  4. Pause, and return to the starting position; that in one repetition.
  5. Sets/Reps: 3x30


  • Strengthens the core, hip flexors, shoulders and triceps
  • Increases balance and stability
  • Benefits any athlete who needs a strong core

5. Judo/Hindu Push-Up

The Push-Up is a great all-around exercise for athletes looking to strengthen their core, chest, triceps and shoulders. The Judo or Hindu Push-Up is a variation of the classic Push-Up, allowing you to get more work in the core, hips and lower back. It is named Judo or Hindu because of its use in judo and because it promotes positions that facilitate the ability to pin someone and hold them down.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin in standard push-up position, but raise your hips so your body forms an inverted "V."
  2. Keeping your hips elevated, lower your body until your chin nearly touches the floor.
  3. Lower your hips until they almost touch the floor and simultaneously raise your head and shoulders toward the ceiling.
  4. Reverse the movement back to the starting position; that is one repetition.
  5. Sets/Reps: 3x10

6. Russian Twist

The Russian Twist is an excellent exercise for strengthening the core, especially the obliques. While the exact origin of its name is unknown, it is speculated that the Russian Twist was developed  in the former Soviet Union during the Cold War as a training exercise for Russian soldiers. Check out Peyton Manning's Russian Twist in the video player above.

How to Perform:

  1. Grab a medicine ball, dumbbell or weight plate and sit on the floor with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees.
  2. Hold the weight straight out in front of you and keep your back straight
  3. Explosively twist your torso as far as you can to the left, and then reverse the motion, twisting as far as you can to the right; that is one repetition
  4. Sets/Reps: 3x30


  • Strengthens the core, obliques, shoulders and hips
  • Benefits any athlete who performs multidirectional or twisting motions, such as baseball, softball, football (quarterback), tennis, and volleyball players

RELATED: The One-Minute Core Challenge


Presto, Greg. (2014). Fitbie. Odd-Sounding Exercises You Should Try. Retrieved from <http://www.fitbie.com/tips/print/5933>.

Evolution Chair. (2013). Stability Ball History. Retrieved from <http://www.evolutionchair.com/sci_hist.htm>.

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