Fitness: The Five Components Of Fitness

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Michael Ryan 1This week, after examining some of the principals of exercise, Michael Ryan, of RnR Fitness in Tralee,  looks at the five components of fitness and how to train them effectively.

Components Of Fitness

The five components of physical fitness are:

• Cardiovascular endurance

• Muscle strength

• Muscle endurance

• Flexibility

• Body composition

These five components of physical fitness help measure your body’s ability to use oxygen as fuel, your muscular strength and endurance, the flexibility of your joints and your total body fat. A range of fitness test are undertaken to measure these fitness.

These fitness tests can be used to tailor a fitness programme to an individual in relation to current levels of fitness outlined in fitness components listed below.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance refers to the ability of your heart and lungs to work together to fuel your body with oxygen. The treadmill test is most used to test cardiovascular endurance. Aerobic conditionings, like jogging, swimming and cycling, are often types of training to improve cardiovascular endurance.

Muscle Strength

Muscle strength refers to the amount of force a muscle can exert, in a single effort. Exercises like the bench press, leg press or bicep curl might be used to measure muscle strength.

Muscle Endurance

Muscle endurance refers to the ability of a muscle to perform a continuous effort without fatiguing. Cycling, step machines and sit up tests are often used to measure muscular endurance.


Flexibility refers to the ability of each joint to express its full range of motion. Flexibility can be tested by stretching individual muscles or by performing exercises such as the lunge or the sit and reach.

Body Composition

Body composition refers to the amount of body fat you have in direct coloration to the amount of lean muscles, bones and organs. There are several tests that can be used to measure body composition. The pinch test and girt measurement with tape are often used to get an indication of body composition.

Improving Individual Components

Once clients five components of physical fitness have been documented and measured, the information collected can be then used to form the foundation of an individual fitness exercise plan which will include their goals and objectives

An effective exercise programme should include all five components of physical fitness.

While it may be necessary to emphasize certain exercises for one or more weaker components depending on the individual, it is fundamental not to over neglect the other components.

During the participation of any exercise programme the recovery blocks should also be prioritized and should allow 24 to 48 hours of recovery depending on which component of fitness is trained. All training goals should be SMART.

S- Specific (every goal should be clearly defined)

M-Measurable (a clear way to asses your progress)

A-Attainable (specific steps that will enable you to successfully complete your goal)

R-Realistic (there is no quick fix)

T- Time (set a timed ultimate goal and smaller timed goals along the way, which will lead to the ultimate goal in a set time period

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommendations for cardiovascular training

Frequency – 3-5 times per week
Intensity – 60-85% of max HR
Time – 150- 200minutes per week
Type – Aerobic ( running, cycling, swimming)

ACSM for muscular endurance

Frequency – 2-3 times per week
Intensity – 40-60% of 1 rep max
Time – 2-4 sets 8-12 reps
Type – Weights( free, machine, body weight)

ACSM for muscular strength

Frequency –  2-3 times per week
Intensity – 70-90% of 1 rep max
Time – 1 set 1-10 reps
Type – Weights( free, machine, body weight

ACSM for flexibility

Frequency – 2-3 times per week
Intensity – To point of tightness or slight discomfort
Time – 20-20 second bouts building up to 60 seconds on major muscle groups
Type -Static, dynamic, ballistic, PNF

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