Five pivotal markers on your path to success!
By Kerri Kasem
Component #1: Muscular Strength
This is easily the most recognizable of the five components of fitness. Everyone knows what strength is. After all, if you were to see someone lifting a car over their head, it wouldn’t take a college degree to figure out they have a great deal of strength.
What is muscular strength?
Muscular strength is the ability of your skeletal muscles to exert force, and testing for strength consists of performing a single repetition of moving the greatest weight that you are capable. Depending on the muscle or muscle group, the appropriate exercise may vary.
How to improve your muscular strength
While there are a number of ways to improve your strength, a great place to start is calisthenics. They are safe, they improve mobility, and you don’t even have to leave your house! All you need is the weight of your own body. They contribute to the other components on this list, as well.
Some calisthenic exercises you could try include:
- Assisted Pull-ups/Chin-ups
(For beginners, try what are called “negative repetitions”. Start in the upwards position of each exercise, and lower yourself down, slowly.)
Component #2: Muscular Endurance
Have you ever seen that man or woman at your gym doing countless push-ups, and barely breaking a sweat? Maybe you’ve seen someone do a seemingly endless amount of squats? Well, both are great examples of muscular endurance, the second of the five components of fitness.
What is muscular endurance?
Muscular endurance is the capability of your skeletal muscles to carry out a prolonged activity without becoming fatigued. In other words, it’s the “staying power” of your muscle fibers. A test for this component focuses on reaching the max number of repetitions in a given exercise.
How to improve your muscular endurance
In the same way that calisthenics help you build strength in the beginning stages of your fitness endeavors, they also continuously help you to develop more endurance, at the same time, as you increase the number of your repetitions. Give it a try! You really can’t go wrong with calisthenics.
Component #3: Cardiovascular Endurance
Runners, swimmers, and cyclists; cardiovascular endurance is their forte, and third on our list of components of fitness. Many people correctly associate this one with the heart’s endurance, though it is often mistaken to be synonymous with muscular endurance.
What is cardiovascular endurance?
Unlike muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance strictly concerns your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Specifically, their ability to distribute oxygen throughout your body during long periods of strenuous activity. Generally, testing for this component is simple, with a mile run or a step test, though there are many other options to suit your tastes.
How to improve your cardiovascular endurance
To develop your cardiovascular endurance, pop in an exercise tape, or just go to YouTube if you threw away your VCR, a long time ago. You can also try going out for a brisk jog, but don’t fall into the trap of limiting yourself to jogging. Too much of a good thing, and all that. If you find yourself jogging too often, explore some other options, such as the programs or classes at your local fitness center. Remember, the goal is to get your heart pumping, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish this, including:
- Jumping Rope
- Aerobics Classes
Component #4: Flexibility
If you’re not stretching, rest assured you are not alone. This is one of the most overlooked and neglected components of fitness, despite its importance. Sometimes, you might forget. Other times, you may just skip it. Either way, it’s just as important as the others and needs its own special attention, even if you don’t think that being able to do the splits is an awesome skill.
What is flexibility?
Flexibility is the full range of motion of any given joint, and is dependent primarily on the length of the associated muscle fibers. Basically, the longer your muscle can stretch, the greater your flexibility. If you are curious about flexibility, ask about a sit-and-reach test at your local fitness center.
How to improve your flexibility
Exercises for flexibility can consist of entire workouts, on their own, ranging anywhere from five to thirty minutes in duration. Before a workout, warm up with full body dynamic stretching, and end with static stretches, but never do them beforehand. Never perform static stretching on cold muscles. Remember your stretches. In addition to increasing flexibility, you will also reduce your risk of injury during exercise and physical activity.
Component #5: Body Composition
When you wake you up in the morning, when you have a little too much cake, when you finish a workout, or when you catch a glimpse of your butt in the mirror, what do you do? Be honest, now. If the answer is “I step on the scale!” then it’s time to stop.
What is body composition?
Body weight comes from a lot more than just fat. Bones, organs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, water, anything that hasn’t exited your digestive system, and much more; everything has weight. Your body weight is the sum of all these, and your body composition is the percentages of each. The number on the scale is subject to change as you engage yourself in a healthy lifestyle. With exercise and a healthy diet, there is more happening than just a reduction in the size of fat cells. Water will fluctuate (as always), muscle tissue will grow, and a number of other things will happen, as well.
Testing your body composition
If you would like your body composition tested, avoid what is called a BMI. A body mass index (BMI) is a weight classification based off of your height and is notoriously inaccurate for assessing progress in an active individual. Instead, ask a qualified fitness professional or doctor to perform a skin caliper test.
How to improve your body composition
I saved this component for last because it is the most difficult to improve on. Many misinterpret a healthy body composition as the result of physical fitness. This is true to an extent, but it’s still a component of its own, and improvement does not end with exercise. Healthy eating habits are of paramount importance if you want to actually reduce fat, and keep it off. For best results, make an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD).