The Components of Fitness in Sports- What are they?

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In this post, we discuss the various components of fitness in sports, provide practical sporting examples for each component and explain why the components of fitness are important.

The Components of Fitness in Sports include:

  • Cardiovascular Endurance 
  • Muscular Strength/Power
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Co-ordination
  • Power
  • Reaction time

It is important to note that these components of fitness are divided into two categories: Health Related Fitness and Skill Related Fitness. 

Understanding these different components of fitness allows athletes, coaches and managers to assess, plan and improve specific areas of fitness. This knowledge enables athletes to train using targeted training approaches such as interval training or continuous training.  For more information, you can explore our articles on the different methods of training or types of practice.

By understanding the different components of fitness, athletes and coaches can better plan their training sessions and incorporate periodisation. Athletes and coaches can focus on improving specific components, such as cardiovascular endurance or muscular strength.

What are the Health related components of fitness?

The health related components of fitness are: 

  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Muscular Strength/Power
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Speed

What is Cardiovascular Endurance?

The definition of Cardiovascular Endurance (also known as Aerobic Endurance) is the ability to continue exertion while getting energy from the aerobic system used to supply the body with energy. 

In other words, the ability to exercise aerobically for a long period of time without getting tired. Our article on the different energy systems provides more information on how the aerobic system works and the benefits of this system to athletes.

Sporting Examples of Cardiovascular Endurance:

Examples of sports/athletes who need to a high level of cardiovascular endurance are marathon runners and long distance cyclists (such as those who complete the Tour De France cycle race). If a marathon runner does not have a high level of Cardiovascular endurance for their race, they would become easily fatigued, be slower in the race and may not even be able to complete the race. 

Continuous training would be a good method of training for coaches and athletes who wish to improve their cardiovascular endurance.

Long distance cyclists need a high level of Cardiovascular Endurance

What is Muscular Strength/Power?

The definition of muscular strength or power is the maximum force a muscle/group of muscles can apply against a resistance. 

It is an indicator of an athlete’s overall strength. An athlete capable of lifting heavier weights exhibits higher muscular strength than other athletes.

Sporting Examples of Muscular Strength/Power

Olympic Weightlifters are good examples of athletes who demonstrate a high level of muscular strength and power. If they did not have a high level of muscular strength, the weight lifter would not be able to compete against the other athletes to lift such heavy weights. 

Athletes looking to enhance muscular strength/Power can benefit from weight training.

What is Muscular Endurance?

The definition of muscular endurance is the ability to move your body and muscles repeatedly without fatiguing. It is very easy to get Muscular Endurance and Cardiovascular endurance mixed up. Muscular endurance is the muscles ability to performance for a long period of time whereas Cardiovascular endurance is the ability to use the aerobic system for a long time. 

Sporting Examples of Muscular Endurance

A good sporting example to use for muscular endurance would be that of a long distance swimmer or a long distance cyclists. Athletes in these sports would be using their muscles for a long period of time. If the athletes muscles became fatigued quickly, they would not perform competitively or might fail to finish the race.

Continuous training or Fartlek training would be extremely useful to an athlete looking to improve their muscular endurance. 

What is Flexibility?

The definition of flexibility is the range of movement available around a joint. 

Sporting Examples of Muscular Endurance

Gymnasts require good flexibility to be able to perform some of the specific moves in their routines (e.g. pikes, backflips or cartwheels). 

Limited range of motion can hinder their performance and increase the risk of injury. Flexibility training and stretching are effective methods to improve an athlete’s flexibility.

What is speed?

Speed is the ability to move quickly across the ground or move limbs rapidly through movements.

Sporting Examples of Speed:

100m sprinters are a prime example of athletes who have a high level of speed. As the worlds fastest 100m sprinter, Usain Bolt is able to complete the 100m race faster than any other human.

Strength training, weight training and interval training are all extremely beneficial methods of training for athletes looking to improve their speed in their sport.

Success in Sport
Sprinters need speed to win a race

What are the Skill Related Components of Fitness?

The skill related components of fitness that will be discussed are:

  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Co-ordination
  • Power
  • Reaction Time 

What is Agility?

Agility is the ability to change direction at speed.

Sporting Examples of Agility:

Footballers, Tennis players and netball players are all sporting examples of athletes who need to change direction quickly in their sports. Footballers who can change direction quickly have an advantage in dodging opponents, finding open spaces, and gaining an advantage. A further example is of how a Tennis players must be able to reach the opposite side of the court swiftly when their opponent hits the ball in the other direction.

Agility is important as this can provide advantages to an athlete if they are able to change direction quickly. 

Interval training, strength training and skill specific exercises (Cross court runs) are beneficial to athletes who wish to improve their agility.

What is Balance?

Balance is the ability to maintain your centre of mass, over a base of support. Another definition of this is to maintain equilibrium within your centre of mass.

Sporting Examples of Balance:

Gymnastic is a sporting examples that can test an athletes balance, particularly on apparatus such as bars and balance beams. Another example is a skier who is able to balance whilst completing in a slalom race. Misjudging balance in this sport can result in falls, missing slalom posts, or having to slow down, which could reduce the chance of winning.

Flexibility training and weight training are effective methods of training to improve balance.

What is Co-ordination?

The ability to move two or more body parts under control, smoothly and efficiently

Sporting examples of Co-ordination:

Tennis is an excellent example of a sport which demands co-ordination. A tennis player must be able to control the racket while simultaneously moving across the court. Another example would be a gymnast performing on the pommel horse. They must use their arms to stay on the horse while coordinating the rest of their body to execute the routine.

Strength training and interval training are valuable for athletes who aiming to improve their co-ordination.

Energy systems Explained - What are the three energy systems in sport

What is Power?

Power is the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible. Power can also be known as ‘Strength x Speed’

Sporting Examples of Power

A Javelin or Shot Putt thrower is a good sporting example of an athlete who uses power. The ability to throw the object further depends on the athlete’s speed and strength, provided they use the correct technique.

Strength, weight and interval training are useful training methods for athletes and coaches who wish to improve their power.

What is reaction time?

The definition of reaction time is how quickly someone can respond to a stimulus.

Sporting examples of reaction time:

Numerous sports require athletes to have quick reaction times. Examples include goalkeepers, cricket batters, badminton players, netball players and boxers.

Athletes who can respond quicker will be in a better position to beat their opponent and win. For example, if a cricketer is able to respond to a bowl quickly, they can judge whether to hit the ball or protect the wicket. A further example is how a goalkeeper will have a higher chance to save a ball if they can respond quickly and save the other team from scoring a goal.

Interval training specifically adapted to improving an athletes reaction time would be beneficial to an athletes reaction time.

Components of Fitness – Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed the different components of fitness, provided sporting examples for each component of fitness and what methods of training would benefit the particular component of fitness.

As a recap, the components of fitness discussed in this article are:

  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Muscular Strength or Power
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Co-ordination
  • Power
  • Reaction time

It is important to note that once an athlete has determined which component/s of fitness they wish to develop, they will need to create an appropriate training programme. For further information on this you can read our article on periodisation and methods of training.

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