What are these 10 elements (sometimes called components or principles) of fitness and why are they important?
The idea of the 10 elements is that they cover all the things that you can do to round yourself off as an athlete. Even though you may feel you don’t need a particular element, you can’t really work on 1 element alone. Working on one helps another, more on this later.
Maybe you looked at them before and thought, “Why do I need these elements?” “I am not trying win a gold medal at the Olympics? You’re right but these 10 elements are also useful in our every day lives. In fact working on these 10 elements to some level regularly are more useful to you and me than all of them may be for a very specific sport. Think shooting, or archery, or even a 100m sprinter. To be great at these sports you may not need all 10, but you have to be exceptional at only a couple of them.
There is some argument that there are actually 11 elements but more about the “11th “ one later.
So why are they important? Yes they round you off as an athlete if you work on all of them but developing all of them to some degree mean that you are at less risk of injury, imagine if you didn’t work on your flexibility or mobility but spent all of your time lifting heavy weights or just running, you are more than likely to suffer an injury which is going to affect your progress in these areas.
Here are the 10 elements
1. Endurance (cardiovascular or respiratory endurance) – This is about being able to work for a period of time with an elevated heart rate. Think, running, cycling, swimming, etc. Simply put this is your body’s ability to take in and deliver oxygen to working. Why is it important for everyday life? It can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases by ensuring the CV system is functioning better.
2. Strength – Get some weights any weights and lift them. I’m talking anything, bottles of water, babies, shovel some dirt in the garden. Of course you can also get some dumbbells/kettlebells/barbells. They work too. Why is strength important? Muscle strength is not only important for our overall health. Strong muscles help reduce the risk of injuries by supporting our skeleton. The classic case here is a sore back is often caused by weak supporting muscles of the core and glutes. The great thing here is you don’t have to lift heavy weights to reap the rewards.
3. Flexibility –Flexibility can be defined as how far you can move through a particular movement or stretch. Think of the classic hamstring stretch, standing with your feet together and legs straight, can you touch your toes? Can you touch the ground or go even beyond? Why is this important? Good flexibility can help reduce the risk of injury, because our muscles and joints have the ability to move further without over stretching. This doesn’t only apply to sporting pursuits like, running, or lifting weights but also to some people’s favourite pastimes like gardening and dancing.
4. Muscle endurance – This is all about our muscles ability to perform the same of similar movements for a period of time. Think of a plank hold, can you hold it for 15sec, 30sec 60sec or longer? The longer you can hold it the better your core muscles endurance is. Why is it important? Less chance or fatiguing you muscles and therefore less chance of tearing or straining them, plus you will be less tired when you are playing with your kids, or playing with your friends, or carting your groceries up to your apartment. How good would it be to be able to play with your kids longer than you used to?
5. Balance – It goes without saying that balance is important in our everyday lives. I’m sure we have all heard of an elderly (or not so elderly) family member who has lost their balance fallen over and injured themselves, or even broken a hip, shoulder or wrist. Like most things if you don’t use it you lose it, working on your balance should be incorporated into every training program. It’s easy to work on too instead of standing on both feet for a basic exercise like a shoulder press or a bicep curl, balance up on 1 leg. Don’t forget to switch legs. You can even stand on 1 leg with your eyes closed and see how long you can balance without falling over. You may have seen this as part of an ageing test.
6. Coordination – So you’re not trying to be a world class drummer like Dave Grohl (Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters front man) but for me coordination is as important as balance, improve it and you are less likely to end up on your backside and injured or less likely to cut your finger instead of the plant while gardening. Even everyday activities like driving a car or riding a bike require coordination. These things become easier and remain easier as we get older of we work on our coordination.
7. Agility – The ability to change direction or body position quickly. If you compete in combat sports or play competitive sports especially ball sports agility is vital. The more agile you are for these sports the better you will perform. I believe that agility goes hand in hand with flexibility and coordination, in that these 3 skills keep us supple and feeling young. I also believe that developing these 3 skills has an effect on how we age. If you don’t believe me watch how a dancer moves as they age, they are light on their feet, usually still have amazing flexibility, agility and seem to effortlessly float along as they walk.
8. Speed – The ability to get from one point to another as quickly as you can. I’m certainly not going to be contending for the 100m sprint at the Olympics, but I love to work on my speed with sprints. So in our modern world without the need to be able to run away from a wild animal that may be chasing us we probably don’t need speed in our everyday lives but if you are training for a distance event like a 5k, 10k half or full marathon etc working on your speed can help you get to the finish line faster.
9. Power – The ability to move and object at maximal or close to maximal force. Think of a weight lifter lifting a weight that is seemingly impossible to move but somehow they can get it off the ground and up over their heads within the blink of an eye. Most sports have an element of power, for example a shot put thrower, a tennis player hitting a serve or a boxer looking for that knockout punch.
10. Accuracy – The ability to control a movement accurately. Obvious examples are a darts player, a snooker player or an archer, others are a tennis, or table tennis player hitting a ground strong or a serve in the right spot, or a basket baller shooting a basket. Accuracy was more useful for our ancestors who had to hunt for their food, but is less important in modern life.
One could argue that, speed power and accuracy are not really required in the modern world unless you are playing a competitive sport or have a very specific job role, however while I think it is difficult to work on just 1 of these elements alone. As you work on one you are getting benefits for some of the other elements. For example if you were to work on your accuracy by shooting some hoops on the basketball court, or simply throwing a ball with a friend or a child you are more than likely also improving your coordination and endurance of the muscles in your shooting/throwing arm.
The 11th Element
Body composition – Body composition is the make up of your body, i.e. the percentage of muscle, fat, water and bone that makes up your body. This is a result of training, working on the 10 elements as well as your diet and your individual physiology.
A good training program should cover all 10 elements to ensure you are not only feeling better today, but also ageing better.