The 5 components of fitness

 

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science and Medicine, there are 5 health related components of physical fitness:

Body Composition

Cardiovascular Fitness

Flexibility

Muscular Endurance

(Absolute/maximal) Strength.

 

 

I have seen/heard many people add on other components to this list, but for the purposes of definition; Agility, Balance, Co-ordination, Power, Reaction time and Speed, are “Skill Related Components of Fitness.” Skill per se is LEARNED.

 

Naturally there is plenty of overlap with these components. For example:- the long distance runner will almost always have good muscular endurance and the Sprinter is usually very strong. Each will have quite a different body composition – fat/muscle/bone content (water percentage should be very similar).

 

When we started Westmeath’s Fittest Company in 2014, we attempted to have the competition representative of these 5 components. Indeed, when we founded Maurice Looby Fitness, we wanted to include all 5 of these components in our classes.

 

It has been with great interest that I have observed the health and fitness trends of the last 30 years (I can scarcely believe I’m old enough to say that😬🏃‍♂️💪😱). Most of these “trends” are cyclical and come back every few years in one form or another. A few years ago Road Running really made a comeback. Take the Dublin Marathon for example – in the 80’s entries were huge. By the mid to late 90’s entries had decreased so much that the organisers had to consider abandoning the event. Then by the late 00’s numbers had increased massively again. Economically, what was happening in the late 80’s 90’s & 00’s? Recession, boom, recession.

 

Today in 2019, there are not nearly as many road races as there were 3 or 4 years ago (some might say that’s not a bad thing), but the “better” more established ones are really flourishing – Mullingar Half Marathon, Trim 10 mile, Dunshaughlin 10k, Dublin City Marathon come to mind.

 

However, there has been a slight shift in fitness popularity – weight lifting and resistance training has gained a lot of momentum as has Grappling and MMA.

 

So are u a Greyhound or a Collie?

 

Physically we tend to fall into one of two categories, and whether we realise it or not, this greatly affects our choices in the exercise that we do, or DON’T do. Genetics are the primary determining factor here. We are born with predominantly either slow twitch muscle fibres or fast twitch muscle fibres. Yes we all have both types and there is evidence to suggest that up to 20% of our muscle fibres are both/neither (which is good because these can be trained towards giving us better power or endurance), but we tend to have a lot more of one over the other. Are you a gym rat or a road dog – do you prefer the more explosive based exercises or the long duration lower intensity exercises?? Our genetic make up greatly affects our choices here. Naturally we tend to lean towards exercises and sports that we are “better” at (that’s all relative). The more slow twitch fibre people will usually prefer endurance type exercise & sport; while those with predominantly fast twitch fibres usually opt for power based sports. Please note: Within team sports there is always a cross section of muscle twitch fibre predominant positions – think of the striker or the full forwards necessary explosive speed, versus the midfielders necessary endurance. Of course both need/desire/have the others qualities, but to a signicantly lesser extent.

 

A fast twitch muscle fibre has a low aerobic capacity and high anaerobic capacity. This means that they fatigue quickly but are used predominantly in activities which require high power, such as jumping and sprinting. They have a relatively fast contraction time.

 

A slow twitch muscle fibre is characterised by a relatively slow contraction time, low anaerobic capacity, and high aerobic capacity, making the fibre suited for low power, long duration activities.

 

All-rounders in sport and exercise, while being predominantly one or the other (explosive Greyhound or durable Collie), tend to have a good balance of ALL 5 of the fitness components. The elite marathon runner usually will NOT have this balance, no more than the elite Power lifter (ask one to try the others sport😬🤣). It’s the men/women in the middle that make for the best and fittest “Athletes”. If you want to be an all-rounder at ANY level – you need to train ALL OF THE 5 COMPONENTS OF FITNESS, and not just the one or two that you are good at or that you really like. This requires more frequent “getting out of your comfort zone”! It requires more discipline. If you’re a gym bunny and love the squats and the bench and the deadlift, but shudder at the thought of running 5 or 10k – to be a true all-rounder – it’s the cardio you need to work on a bit more. It doesn’t have to be running. It can be ANYTHING that increases your heart rate to at least 70% of its maximum for 10, 20, 30 minutes plus. Rowing, cycling (but work on the down hills and flats aswell!), swimming, dancing etc. If you’re a pure endurance person and hate the gym, likewise, you need to work on your strength and perhaps try to bulk up a little. Nutrition, of course, plays a huge part in everyone’s fitness and health.

 

Westmeath’s Fittest Company 2019 are the team from the County Council. They also won in 2018 and 2017. This years team is comprised of 2 triathletes, one distance runner and one county hurler. For evidence, and a good example, of the overlapping of the 5 fitness components, you need look no further. Given their sporting backgrounds, unsurprisingly, all four score very high in cardiovascular endurance. Their body composition for an event such as this is excellent – I suspect all of them close to and UNDER 10% bodyfat. This as a result of the amount and type of training that they do. Following on from this is a naturally good level of flexibility. If we’re flexible, our joints can easily move through their FULL RANGE OF MOTION, leaving us far less likely to get injured, and more economical in our movement. Regular gym work (low weights with high repetitions) added to their own sport specific training ensures these guys have excellent muscular endurance. (Yes endurance athletes do use the gym!). The last component could be their weakness – Maximal Strength. Simple body weight is the major determining factor here. Quite simply; bigger is stronger. However, it would be unwise to underestimate the max strength of a, relatively light, trained athlete!
Who do you think the best all-rounders are?

Who do you think would win in a test that accurately reflected the 5 components?

What sport would they come from?

Rugby? Soccer? GAA? Sprinting? Distance running? Cycling? Swimming? Gymnastics? Basketball? Badminton? Tennis? Golf? Boxing? Darts😬

 

Let the debate begin. Again

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