What does it take to reach a high level of physical fitness? How is it defined?
At the gym, you might see some people who appear to be running a marathon on the treadmill. Others with enormous muscles might catch your attention across the way. In the other room, with yoga-poses galore, you might wonder how it’s possible to be so flexible.
Take notice of the individual strengths of these people and determine how to put the best of all worlds together to create the best possible version of yourself. It’s helpful to remember the five components of fitness when determining how to achieve your fitness goals.
The five components of fitness consist of:
- Muscular Strength
- Muscular Endurance
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Body Composition
What should you do to improve yourself in these five areas? It will take more than a casual trip to the gym once a week, but you’re ready to go, so let’s do this!
This component of fitness is the amount of force a muscle (or muscle group) is able to move during a single repetition. You often use muscular strength, whether it be carrying your heavy briefcase to work, lifting boxes on moving day, or wrenching off lug-nuts while rotating your tires.
Being strong makes every-day tasks much easier, and generally makes your physical appearance much more impressive. The best exercises to improve your muscular strength include (but are not limited to!):
- Heavy Squats
- Heavy Deadlifts
- Heavy Bench Press
- Muscle Isolation Movements
- Bicep Curls
- Tricep Extensions
- Leg Extensions/Curls
- Shoulder Raises
Remember, heavy is relative to your physical abilities. If you’re trying to lift more weight than you’re ready for or able to do with correct form, you might be doing more harm than good.
So you’re feeling pretty strong, but do your muscles have great definition? Lifting heavy weight is great for your strength, but repeated repetition of lighter weight will help your muscles look more fully developed and help you achieve a leaner look. It’s not always about how you look, however. Increasing muscular endurance makes it easier to go for long hikes, play with your kids at the park, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator at home and work. Great exercises to help you improve in this area include:
- Step-Mill or Stair Climbing
- High-Repetition Strength-Training Exercises
- Bench Press
- Etc… The list goes on and on…
Remember to choose weights that will completely fatigue your target muscles by 12-20 repetitions. If you’re doing a plank, don’t limit yourself. Hold yourself up until you drop to the floor in a sweaty, burned-out mess! While stair-climbing, you should be at a level that has your legs burning for 30-45 minutes. This is also a great way to get in some desired cardio!
How many times have you been walking up the stairs and soon realized you were tired and out of breath? It doesn’t have to be that way, and it might not even take much to take your breath away. It might take as little as walking across the parking lot to find your car. Either way, it’s time to improve your cardiovascular endurance.
Doing your cardio not only helps improve your ability to easily perform daily tasks, but it can help prevent many chronic diseases. If you want achieve a high level of fitness, you need to consistently elevate your heart-rate for an extended period of time. This will help increase blood-flow throughout your body to help deliver nutrients to broken-down muscles and tissues, as well as keep you from becoming so tired while performing simple daily tasks. Improving your cardiovascular endurance can be as simple as:
- Group Cardio Classes
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Remember to work hard! If you’re not tired and sweaty after a cardio-session, you should probably re-evaluate your current program. Your body craves the burn!
Almost everyone wishes they were a little more flexible. After all, if you don’t have great flexibility, it will be incredibly difficult to find success with your strength and endurance training. Muscles are required to stretch and contract in order for them to break down and become stronger. Tight muscles also contribute greatly to joint and back pain.
Flexibility is often the most neglected component of fitness, but it very-well may be one of the most important! There are many great ways to improve your flexibility including:
- Dynamic Stretching
- Static Stretching
Don’t forget to warm-up before performing static stretches, or just stretch after your workout. Muscles will be much more pliable when they are warm, resulting in a deeper, fuller, more beneficial stretch.
This is your body-fat to lean-mass ratio. While individual goals may vary, most men feel pretty lean around 12% body fat while most lean women live around 17%. Body-fat percentage is generally a good indicator of your physical fitness, so it’s important to hit and maintain your goal.
Many factors contribute to your body-fat percentage. Everything from lifting weights, performing your cardio, and probably most important, eating clean, will guide you towards your goals.
Having a regular body-fat checkup with your personal trainer is imperative to make sure things are going in the right direction. It will keep you on track and make sure you’re not letting yourself slip.
If you’re looking to get fit, or trying to improve the progress you’ve been making, be sure to diversify your workouts. A healthy body is not built on dumbbells alone… or the treadmill alone… or just on the yoga mat. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to reach your fitness goals!