Michael Grogan is a Personal Trainer/Movement Coach in Melbourne CBD. He uses a combination of Gymnastic Strength, Advanced Mobility and Barbell Strength & Power exercises to achieve increased levels of performance and body composition with his clients. For more information follow him on Instagram and for enquiries contact [email protected]
Fitness is a broad term. You may look at an Olympic marathon runner and think ‘wow that guy is super fit’ however as much as this athlete has the ability to deliver blood to his/her working muscles (cardiovascular endurance) at the same time he likely may lack the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements (Power). Therefore can we really deem an athlete proficient in only 1 component of Fitness, ‘Fit’?
To classify someone’s fitness and give them an accurate tag to determine how fit they are; we really need to assess the components of fitness and how proficient the person is in each area to rate their level of fitness.
There are 8 key components of fitness, all with different criteria and training methods attached to improve the particular area. Once you know these areas you will be able to assess yourself according to their definitions and you will be able to answer this question more accurately: HOW FIT AM I?
1. Cardiovascular Endurance
Commonly referred to as ‘Cardio’, this is still the most commonly perceived determination of someone’s overall fitness although as we can see this component, although very important, only represents 11% (1/9) of our overall fitness. It is defined as the body’s ability to deliver blood to its working muscles.
A key example of this kind of fitness is running long distances such as Marathons or they Olympic 10,000m event.
To improve this area of fitness regular conditioning of running long distances would need to occur.
Example of testing in the gym: 3km timed treadmill run
2. Local Muscle Endurance
Muscle endurance is commonly mistaken for cardio fitness however it is very different by definition: A single muscles ability to perform sustained work. This along with cardio would be a common perception for overall fitness.
Key examples include: Rowing, cycling or kettle bell swings.
To improve this area of fitness conditioning would include extended periods of time working muscle groups at a sub maximal level of exertion.
Example of testing method in the gym: 1000m Row
Strength would be the traditional area of fitness that people associate with being strong. It is defined as the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance.
Key examples include holding or restraining an object or person.
To improve this area of fitness conditioning would include training at a steady tempo and performing multiple reps of an exercise.
You may have a strong strength base but not power or strength endurance and therefore have the inability to perform in most sports requiring these components such as soccer, basketball or most games sports.
Example of testing method in the Gym: Maximum amount of time held in a L-Sit (pictured below)
4. Strength – Endurance
Strength’s sister is Strength-Endurance; it is very similar to strength except it is a muscle’s ability to perform maximum contraction time after time.
Key examples include a rugby player continuously tackling during a rugby game or most kettlebell based activity in the gym
To improve this area of fitness you can group exercises together and work for longer periods of time; for example supersets or Met-Con workouts.
Example of testing method in the gym: maximal reps of Kettle bell swings in a 1 minute period of time.
Power is strength with a little more speed and is defined as: The ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements.
Key examples include jumping or Olympic lifting.
To improve this area of fitness you must develop your fast twitch muscle fibres in a way that makes the muscles contract maximally with force such as a barbell clean and jerk.
Example of a testing method in the gym: Measuring the distance attained in a standing horizontal broad jump.
Insert Pictures: Standing long jump
In my opinion one of the biggest keys to unlocking maximal performance is flexibility which is defined as the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue.
Key examples include performing a leg split or being able to perform a full depth squat.
To improve this area you must perform your exercises correctly using full range of motion and also actively find opportunities to lengthen your muscles through myofacial release and dynamic/passive stretching.
Example of a testing method in the gym: Sit and Reach test.
The ability to control the body’s positioning either a stationary or moving position.
A key example of this is a Handstand (stationary) or a Pistol Squat (moving)
To improve this area you must constantly challenge your stabilizing muscles in exercises like the single leg squat variation or single leg deadlift.
Example of a testing method in the gym: using a bosu ball attempt different levels of squat and assessing ability to balance.
Agility is the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions.
Key examples of this are turning in soccer or side stepping in rugby.
To improve this area you must perform exercises involving a change of direction such as ‘the suicide drill’. It also helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee and hip joints to keep them strong by performing x-band walks.
Example of a testing method in the gym: T-Test
Now you know the 8 components of fitness you can start to indentify the areas you are strong in and the areas you may need to improve. I would suggest you do this by testing yourself in each of the components of fitness and engaging in a specific exercise program to maximise your strengths and work on your weaknesses to achieve your particular goal. For all those wanting help setting up their testing or training program please get in touch with me.
But most importantly you now have the knowledge to more accurately answer the question of “How fit am I”