What does it mean being fit? The importance of training all fitness components

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We have previously seen that having a body similar to models does not necessarily mean to be fit, in fact it may actually be the opposite. So what exactly would it be to be fit?

For me, being fit means having the ability to carry out any daily activity (walking up stairs, lifting objects, sitting/getting up, jumping a puddle, etc.) without producing an excessive effort or fatigue.

And this is achieved by training to have a functional body.

To better understand this concept, let’s talk about the components of fitness.

Components of Fitness

There are different classifications for these components according to the author you read, but for simplicity, I will just list and briefly describe them with no specific classification considered: 

1- Strength: it is the ability to overcome resistance through muscle tension. Example: lifting an object.

2- Muscular endurance: ability to generate and repeat muscle contractions in a certain period of time. Example: lifting an object several times.

3- Cardiovascular resistance (or cardiopulmonary or aerobic resistance): the heart’s ability to pump blood out and thus supply the tissues with the necessary oxygen to produce movement.

4- Flexibility: refers to the range of motion of a joint (point where two bones meet). This ability is gradually lost since adolescence, so it must be constantly trained.

5- Speed: ability to produce movement in the shortest possible time.

6- Power: ability to exert maximum force (or close to the maximum) at high speed. Example: A punch in boxing, a service in tennis.

7- Agility: ability to quickly change the direction or position of the body. Example these magnificent waist breaks performed by Shane Williams.

There are other derived components such as coordination, balance, etc. but those described above are the fundamentals.

So, a functional body is that capable of displaying all those components in an acceptable way.

I know people who feel that they are fit because they run about 40 km a week or others who think the same because they lift weights 3 times a week. They are surely in better shape than sedentary people but they definitely do not have a functional body.

In the case of the runner, he/she basically trains his cardiovascular endurance, while the one who lifts weights will surely have more strength and muscular endurance, which is quite good, but neither does he/she have a fully functional physical condition (example).

You might be asking yourself, how do I train all the fitness components? Do I have to sign up in a gym? Not necessarily.

Although in a good gym, with good instructors, you can get excellent results, you can also achieve them in the comfort of your home, in a park or on the beach with little or no equipment at all. Well, you actually need something, your body. 

Bodyweight training: Calisthenics

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Calisthenics simply refers to the exercises you can do with the weight of your body. For example, push-ups, squats, jumps, pull-ups, etc.

One of the main advantages of calisthenics, in addition to not requiring great equipment, is that it is based on movements that recruit muscle groups (not isolated muscles), which is the key for achieving a functional body.

Many of the gym machines isolate muscles or make you train seated which prevents the activation of your core stabilizing muscles (abdomen and lower back).

Training strength and muscular endurance using calisthenics.

You simply need to set the difficulty of the exercise depending which fitness component you want to train: 

For strength training you need to perform an exercise that would let you do maximum 5-6 repetitions. 

If you want to train your muscular endurance you may choose an easier variation of the exercise that would allow you to do 15 or more reps. 

For example let’s say you can barely do 5-6 classic push-ups, that would be the exercise to train your strength. If you need to reach 15 reps to improve your muscular endurance, you can just try doing pushups with your knees on the floor. 

There are different options for different exercises. Below some ideas: 

Push-ups:

If you have never done push-ups, start with those or just on a wall. 

If you easily do more than 15 classic push-ups, you can try the declined version, then the spiderman and finally the bestial one-handed.

There are more options, but with those I bet you have enough for a few weeks.

Squats

For beginners, use a bench or chair to perform squats like these, then progress to classic squats, and when you are more advanced try pistols squats!

Pull-ups

This video shows a good progression of pulling exercises. When you master them you can go to the proper pull-up.

To increase the difficulty simply use a weighted backpack or a towel to also train your grip strength (video).

Still easy? Let’s see how many muscle-up can you do! (tutorial muscle-up)

Train power with calisthenics

For the upper body, clapping push-ups or spartan push-ups like these are a great way to train your power.

For the lower body, as simple as doing jumping squats o jumping lunges.

But definitely a good sprint session (running at maximum intensity) in a park is an excellent option for power training. 

 

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After a good warm-up of at least 5-10 minutes, you can start with 50 – 100 meters sprints or by time, about 15-20 seconds running and 30-60 seconds of rest.

Try changing directions and you’d also be training your agility.

DISCLAIMER: do not jump from the sofa to sprinting. This is a wonderful exercise in terms of hormonal, cardiovascular and fat burning impact but it’s also very demanding. I recommend it when you already have a good aerobic and strength base.

Minimal equipment

Another fun way to train power is throwing an object (tennis ball, baseball or just rocks) as far as you can or looking to hit a target (cans, plastic bottles, the photo of your boss/some ex, etc.).

How about kicking a soccer or rugby ball as far or as high as you can? Try to jump and grab it in the air to train your coordination.

Cardiovascular Resitance

Multiple ways to train it: from the simplest options such as walking, running or dancing to others that require certain equipment such as skipping rope, cycling, rowing or swimming.

Flexibility

This is a quite neglected ability especially among men (can’t deny it, we rather grab a barbell or run behind a ball instead of stretching) but it is just as important as any of the others fitness components. 

Always stretch over warm muscles after your workout (or at least after a warm-up). This will improve your flexibility. I recommend you to try some yoga or pilates to improve your strength and balance as well.

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Conclusions

Going up stairs, lifting a 3-year-old kid, carrying luggage or changing a tyre should not be something highly physically demanding for anyone.

To get a functional body the only requirement is to make the decision to achieve it.

As you could see there are many options, it is not necessary to spend lots of money in the most modern and fancy gym. 

You might need to make a minimal investment in a skipping rope or some ball, but again, it is not fundamental.

The only thing you need is your body, a space of at least 2 x 2 and maybe a park if you want to do sprints or throws. 

There are no excuses! Get to move!

 

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