Knowledge is Power: 10 Physical Fitness Components

By Nicole Kurz | February 5, 2015
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When you think of the word “fitness,” what comes to mind? Do you picture four-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning snatching some absurd amount of weight, or triathlon competitor Chris McCormack crossing the finish line at the Ironman World Championships? Do you think about the fastest mile you’ve ever run, or the most weight you’ve ever squatted?

Physical fitness can be measured in many different ways. Back in 2003, in an effort to dumb it down for us normal humans who aren’t channeling our inner Thor, Coaches Jim Cawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax broke it down into 10 physical fitness components that we can all work to develop over time to achieve physical competence.

Since then, these 10 physical fitness components have been adopted by CrossFit, and are the basis for the programming you will see in every box around the country. So the next time you’re cursing Cindy, berating Annie, or just plain hating Fran, you know who to thank.

Channel your inner Froning and check out these 10 physical fitness components and our tips for a few ways you can get the most out of them in your everyday workouts.

10 Physical Fitness Components

1. Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance

Definition: The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.

How do I build mine?

Ah cardio, how we love thee… Have you ever heard the saying, “To become a better runner, you need to run more?” It’s kind of the same concept with endurance. Endurance is essential to a well-rounded athlete — it doesn’t matter how much weight you can lift or how fast you dive into a WOD if you can’t maintain a pace or finish for that matter. To train endurance, athletes should work on doing longer workout sessions where your heart rate reaches 60 to 80 percent of your max, and stays there for a period of time.

2. Stamina

Definition: The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.

How do I build mine?

Have you ever been half way through a hero WOD and considered it a real possibility that you needed a nap? Yeah, me too.

Last time I did Murph I considered taking a coffee break because I just didn’t have the stamina to do any more push ups. To build this physical fitness component, make sure you include bouts of high-rep gymnastic or body weight movements in your training. Fifty to 100 reps of anything in a given workout will build your stamina over time.

3. Strength

Definition: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.

How do I build mine?

Do you even lift, bro? No seriously, do you?

The best way to build strength is to lift weights and lift weights often. Vary your rep scheme and weight to promote muscle growth and grow stronger over time.

4. Flexibility

Definition: The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.

How do I build mine?

Mobility is key to joint and muscle health, and to preventing injury. If you’ve ever heard of Kelly Starrett or RomWOD, you know that building mobility is more difficult than it seems.

Working on mobility can be as simple as incorporating a lacrosse ball and a foam roller into your daily routine for a few minutes. If you really want to see big changes, try a mobility program that gives you daily exercises to work on to increase your flexibility.

5. Power

Definition: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.

How do I build mine?

Olympic lifts like snatches and cleans are amazing ways to build power over time. The explosive movements call on your muscles to react and fire quickly, and are a must-do in any well rounded fitness program.

If you want to work on explosiveness without picking up the bar, try movements like GHDs or handstand push ups.

6. Speed

Definition: The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.

How do I build mine?

There are many ways to build speed, but much like training for endurance, the best way to get fast is to, you guessed it, be faster.

Sprint drills can work wonders for building speed, especially if you make your work-to-rest ratio as short as possible while still allowing yourself to recover completely. Every minute on the minute (or EMOM) drills are also helpful, forcing you to complete a certain number of reps with minimum rest time between sets.

7. Coordination

Definition: The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.

How do I build mine?

As someone who regularly walks into walls when I’m actually aiming for doorways I can tell ya, CrossFit helped me tremendously here.

Olympic lifts are one excellent way to improve your coordination. The complex multi-joint movements force your brain and movement patterns to coordinate — otherwise you end up on your bum, which I have, many times. Practice makes permanent, so keep practicing.

8. Agility

Definition: The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.

How do I build mine?

Improving agility takes time, but an excellent tool to assist is a speed and agility ladder. Doing regular drills as part of your fitness routine will train your body to be able to quickly change direction and movement patterns. That, or you can play frogger in traffic.  But my way is safer.

9. Balance

Definition: The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.

How do I build mine?

Have you ever felt like you might go ket-splat when doing a one-legged deadlift or a single-leg squat?  Yeah, me too.  Balance is as important for these movements as it is to olympic lifts like the snatch.  Core strength plays into your balance, so be sure to do regular core work and focus on keeping a strong, tight core with every movement.  Yoga can also be particularly beneficial to developing balance, so add it into your fitness routine once a week and reap the rewards.

10. Accuracy

Definition: The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

How do I build mine?

Accuracy is particularly important for sport specific athletes, like football, soccer or baseball players. It always helps that when you throw the ball you actually make the touchdown or home run, right?

But for us common folk, accuracy is a way to ensure we get the most out of our workouts without hearing the dreaded “no rep.”  A great common exercise to help train accuracy are wall balls, ensuring your ball hits the target every time on the way up.

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