This five part series was inspired by my attempts to have my university students think more critically about health and fitness. These tools... the six components, two definitions, the S.A.I.D. principle, and the percentage of training efforts profiles...are what I have utilized to do so. Here's a list of lessons that I have intended with each:
Six Components (see Part 1)
- Show the various physical abilities that we can train to improve or allow to deteriorate
- Begin to gain appreciation of our ability to specifically adapt and specialize
Two Definitions of Fitness (see Part 2)
- There is a spectrum of fitness from generalist to specialist
- You and your efforts determine where you are along that spectrum
S.A.I.D. Principle (see Part 4)
- You should expect specific adaptations from specific efforts
- The purpose of exercising can be more than just "it's good for me". An evolution of this would be: "I expect this exercise to do this for my fitness"
Percentage of Training Efforts Profiles (see Part 3)
- To assess the relative utility of different fitness brands, disciplines, and / or exercises
- To introduce the concept of exercise training program design
At this point in class, where I've introduced all these concepts, I typically can determine the students' level of enthusiasm to learn more. If enthusiasm is high, I'll elaborate on exercise training program design. This elaboration starts by pointing out a few things that the training efforts profiles fail to communicate:
- Some efforts are more versatile in their abilities to improve multiple components of fitness. For example, a squat has a greater potential than a bicep curl to improve muscular strength, muscular power, cardio endurance, and mobility.
- Which component(s) being utilized / improved isn't based entirely on the type of effort; the frequency, duration, intensity, and volume of the effort(s) can change which component(s) are being utilized / improved. For example, the bench press exercise can change from a muscular strength effort to a muscular endurance effort based on how much weight is used and how many repetitions are completed.
If I have a group of students who lack enthusiasm to learn more, I'll go light on all the intricacies and just make sure to hammer home this point:
Identify what exercise you enjoy, and do it.
If they haven't had the misfortune to experience it for themselves, I tell them that too often you'll hear arguments of whose fitness is "better". I've heard fitness generalists ridicule the efforts of specialists and specialists of one component ridicule the efforts of other component specialists.
I realize that there is pride and other forces that fuel this pettiness, but with so many people still not exercising, I don't think anyone should be discouraged from doing or trying any kind of exercise.
So, if there is one component that you particularly enjoy training, take pride in being a specialist. If you lack a preference to training any one component, be comfortable in taking a generalist's approach towards fitness.
whether you’re a prideful specialist or a generalist, there are several important caveats that I mentioned in Parts 1-4 that should be repeated before we end this series:
Specialists: keep in mind that focusing a much higher percentage of training efforts towards only one or two components may lead to a deficit in another potentially important component. To determine if this is the case, you can start by asking yourself these questions:
- "Would my performance or health (or both) improve by devoting more efforts towards improving another component?"
- "What about devoting LESS efforts to a component?"
- "Why am I specializing in the first place? Do I dislike training the other components? Do I know that training the other components will hinder my performance? Or, am I just unsure of how to integrate efforts towards improving other components into my specialist program?"
Generalist: keep in mind that it's likely that your percentage of training efforts should be slightly unbalanced across the six components. A consideration of the items listed below will influence the specific "unbalancedness" of your efforts:
- Your health history
- Your exercise history
- Your needs
- Your goals
- Your preferences
You may be thinking that these questions and considerations don't seem so easy for an exercise layman or even a fitness enthusiast to accurately answer / consider on their own. If you're wondering of what to do about it, here's where I tell you why there are people like myself.
The asking of these questions and consideration of these considerations are things you can expect from any high quality health, fitness, or performance service. I'd like to say that you can expect this from ANY health, fitness, or performance service, but the industry as a whole isn't quite there yet. In the mean-time, as the industry continues to grow and improve, my obviously biased advice is to find a health, fitness, and performance expert and be willing to pay a premium for their services. In my humble opinion, it's well worth it.