What does it mean to be fit? In a sporting context, fitness means having the physical qualities to perform physical movements at any time.
Sport requires athletes to have high levels of speed, strength, power, endurance and flexibility to perform optimally. These qualities are five key components of fitness that athletes must develop – in this article, we will explore each component.
What are the 5 components of fitness?
The five components of fitness are:
Breaking down the components of fitness
In this section, we will define each component of fitness and provide examples of each one by one:
Speed is the ability to move all or part of the body in the shortest amount of time possible.
For example, a 100m sprinter being able to move from the start line to the finish line as fast as possible is vital. In other sports such as football, being able to move quickly towards the opposition with the ball is an important component in the game for success.
Strength is the ability of a muscle to exert a force against a load and overcome resistance.
For example, a powerlifter’s quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and many other muscles work together to exert a force to lift a barbell loaded with weight plates off the ground. Similarly, in gymnastics, a gymnast must use the muscles predominantly in their upper body to exert a force against the vault in order to perform a handspring and be strong enough to hold their body in certain positions whilst in the air.
To understand power, we can draw upon our equations from physics:
Power = work done / time taken OR power = force x velocity
In other words, power is the ability to exert a large amount of force quickly. Therefore, there are two components to power – the amount of strength (force) and how quickly that force can be applied.
For example, a boxer applies a large amount of force onto the punch bag whilst moving their arm rapidly forwards.
Endurance is the ability to sustain performance. For example, a footballer being able to perform at their best for a full 90 minute game or a gymnast being able to repeatedly jump during a floor routine. Endurance is made up of neuromuscular endurance and metabolic endurance.
Neuromuscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to sustain forces as long as you need them while metabolic endurance refers to how efficiently and consistently your cardiovascular and circulatory system can provide fuel needed by those “muscles” during this time.
Flexibility is the range of movement possible at a joint or series of joints.
For example, flexibility around the hip joint and in the hamstrings is needed in taekwondo to be able to perform kicks as high as the opponent’s head.
Are there any other components of fitness?
A common question is how many components of fitness are there and are there any others than the ones mentioned above.
Above, we have covered five key components of fitness, but there are others!
- Reaction Time
- Body Composition
To learn more about each one, check out this article here!
Why is understanding components of fitness important as a coach or sport scientist?
By understanding each component of fitness individually, it is easier to understand the different requirements of the sporting activity. For example, we can look at three the major fitness components of a rugby player and a badminton player:
Above, we can see the different fitness components between the two sports. It is important for a coach or sport scientist to be aware of these differences when putting together a training programme.
Whilst a programme may comprise of all five components in order to produce a well-developed athlete, the training may be approached in different ways to meet the demand of the specific sport and enhance athletic performance.
Summarising the 5 components of fitness
Every sport has different physical demands – being fit means an athlete has the optimal level of physical components such as speed, strength, power, endurance and flexibility which allows them to meet the demands of their sport and perform optimally.
If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:
- Dingley, E (2021). Components of Fitness. Available from: https://sportscienceinsider.com/5-components-of-fitness/. [Accessed dd/mm/yyyy].
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Emily, co-founder of Sport Science Insider, graduated from the University of Leeds in 2020 and went on to become an accredited S&C coach with the UKSCA in 2022. A former athlete herself, Emily has since gone on to deliver S&C coaching for the Southern Academy of Sport, GB Rowing, GB Taekwondo and works currently as a full-time S&C coach at the University of Leeds.