Updated: Nov 16
Fitness is a deep, complex topic. So, when you read this article's title, Everything You Need To Know About Fitness, it'd be natural to think that this article is going to be as long as a book (or several books). That won't be the case. This article is everything you need to know about fitness from a zoomed out perspective.
The Components of Fitness
If you were to Google "the components of fitness", you'll get several answers all saying some form of the following: Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, Cardiovascular Endurance, Flexibility, and Body Composition. These five components are called... "The Five Components of Fitness" (gasps... didn't see that coming). They leave a lot to be desired. So does the definition of fitness (the quality or state of being fit... thanks Merriam-Webster).
Long story short, trying to find a good set of components to help explain to clients and others proved difficult. So, naturally, I wrote my own. And I did so by asking myself: "What are measurable aspects of the human body that can be improved through exercise and have an impact on a person's quality of life?" I tried to pay attention to how these aspects are trained and label my components with that in mind. Here's the result:
Return To Fit's Components of Fitness
Strength-Your body's capacity to manipulate or move objects.
Conditioning-Your body's capacity to move itself efficiently.
Power-Your body's capacity to move objects or itself in a very short time.
Core Fitness-Your body's ability to support and protect posture throughout activity and inactivity.
Flexibility & Mobility-Your body's capacity for range of motion.
Balance & Coordination-Your body's ability to move itself effectively.
Two things missing from Return To Fit's components that you might have been expecting: Body Composition and Mindset. Both do meet the standards: measurable, improved through exercise, & impacts a person's quality of life. However, you don't train body composition. You do train power. The goal of exercise is to improve fitness. Changes in body composition can be a natural result of improved fitness, but those changes are not and should not be the goal. You do train mindset, but those methods are so diverse from the other components that it really needs to be it's own thing. And these components focus on the physical, mindset is mental.
Tune into the Return To Fit Podcast to learn more about mindset training and other topics.
Strength is broken down into more specific functions or subcomponents: Lifting Strength, Pulling Strength, Pushing Strength, and Carrying Strength.
Lifting Strength refers to how much weight one can lift from a surface.
Pulling Strength refers to how much weight one can pull across a surface.
Pushing Strength refers to how much weight one can push across a surface.
Carrying Strength refers to how much weight one can... carry 🧠👈👉💥...🤯.
A variety of movements can be used to train each function as they all require a variety of muscles working together. These terms are functional to real life and don't isolate movements like the traditional terms of Push, Pull, Squat, & Hinge.
Conditioning refers to the cardiorespiratory systems efficiency and the muscular systems efficiency. Another word that fits here is endurance.
Improving your conditioning involves long distance running & other cardio activities, high repetition bodyweight exercises & calisthenics like pushups & jumping jacks, and high intensity, explosive movements like burpees, sprinting, and boxing.
Power is similar to strength, but it includes a time aspect. You are moving something in a very short span of time. This movement is explosive. This can be a sprint, a punch, a throw, a kick, a jump, or a combination of sorts (like a clean).
Core Fitness is constantly engaged in some manner and is critical to the previous three components. Core fitness supports those movements.
It also supports inactivity like sitting or standing. Core fitness can be trained through static exercises (like a plank) or dynamic exercises (like an ab wheel rollout).
The various exercises are broken down into the following functions: anti-extension, anti-rotation, and anti-lateral flexion.
Check out our 4 part series on Real Core Training to learn more about these functions and start training your core for real.
Flexibility & Mobility
Flexibility & Mobility are also important to the first three components. A limited range of motion limits Strength, Conditioning, and Power as well as creates injury risks.
Flexibility typically refers to how far muscles can stretch through a range of motion.
Mobility typical refers to how much far joints can move through a range of motion
Balance & Coordination
Balance & Coordination support your strength, conditioning, and power too (surprise)! An example would be staying balanced and not falling over during lunge.
While the nervous system is active in all of theses components, the training of balance and coordination rely heavily on the central, peripheral, & autonomic nervous systems for improvement.
The Benefits of Fitness Training
There are many possible benefits, so let's just make a list:
1. Reduced risk of diseases and other health conditions. Example heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, some cancers, osteoporosis, and more.
2. May help you lose weight naturally. When you engage in fitness training, your body undergoes adaptations that lead to the improvements you see in the components we talked about above. Not only does the training itself burn calories, but those adaptations can lead to an increased metabolism and possibly even weight loss.
3. May help improve your mood and boost your energy levels. Exercise releases serotonin and other hormones that can have a positive effect on our moods. As your body adapts to your training, you might also find you have more energy. This is due to a lot of things: energy systems working more efficiently, a stronger body means daily tasks are less demanding, and improved cardiorespiratory system function means more efficient supply of oxygen and calories when needed.
4. Other benefits include improved sleep, strong muscles and bones, higher quality of life, longer life, more resilient to injuries and less likely to fall.
That's everything you need to know about fitness. Stay tuned as we dive deeper into fitness and nutrition related topics.
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