Yesterday, we opened up the discussion that you most likely have something missing from your workouts. So many routines only emphasize basic strength or cardiovascular fitness, but miss the boat on a bunch of other essential components. (Read What are Your Workouts Missing? Part 1)
Without ALL SIX aspects of fitness, you will never reach your full potential. You just won’t.
We already learned about the obvious…strength and cardio. On top of these two, power and balance are equally important. Power is being strong and fast, while balance means that you can control your body in precarious positions. Power and balance both contribute to a body that is less likely to get injured. These four factors combined are clearly important for being the fittest you can be.
You’re probably wondering what else there is?
These final two components are so frequently overlooked, yet they play a huge role in how well your body can move. Let’s take a look…
5. Coordination. Picture yourself sitting on the sidelines watching a 14 year old girls’ volleyball game. Some of the girls are killing it…they move well, they look athletic and they just look sharp. Some of the girls look a little more like giraffes, tripping over their feet, unsure which arm moves with which leg, or how to jump and land properly. The difference between the more athletic girls and the slightly less athletic girls is coordination.
I use 14 year olds as an example, because this is really when your body’s natural ability to coordinate becomes most apparent. When you can’t quite pinpoint what makes certain people more athletic than others, the answer is usually coordination.
Coordination means that your brain is able to send appropriate signals to all the right body parts at all the right moments. When the left leg engages, the right arm should engage. When a forward step is made, the deep core muscles should activate a split second beforehand. When the arms pull backward, the chest muscles should release and the shoulder blades should slide together. When you jump, the ankle, knee and hip should extend in a sequence.
This can be learned. It is true that coordination comes more naturally for some, but if you aren’t particularly coordinated, there is still hope for you. Your worst enemy is weight machines, which do all the coordinating for you.
To develop coordination, you must challenge your body by moving and stabilizing multiple body parts simultaneously. To begin with, try a simple squat to overhead press, then graduate to reverse lunges with a knee drive in the "up" position. You can even incorporate an arm swing, making sure opposite limbs are forward at any given position.
If you want to test your coordination, try a dead bug. It may humble you very quickly!
6. Flexibility. Ah yes, that one. Many of us would admit that we’re not very flexible. We laugh at the thought of touching our toes, but we instinctively know that being tight isn’t good. “Yeah, I probably should work on that more.”
I usually use the words flexible and mobile interchangeably. Flexible refers to the length of a muscle. Mobile refers to how well a joint can move, so the flexibility of the muscles that attach around the joint play a role. Mobility is a more all-encompassing term.
Many joints should be very mobile, like the ankle joint, hip joint, thoracic spine (upper back) joints and shoulder joint. Some joints should not be mobile, like the knee joint and lumbar spine (lower spine) joints. What happens when the knee joint moves too far? Ligament tear. It’s just not designed for mobility. However, if the hip joint, which is designed to be very mobile, is stiff (from tight hamstring, let's say), then the knee joint (or very often the lumbar spine) may be required to move more than it should. Hello injury!
All biomechanics aside, proper mobility is important. Stretch and move your joints several ways. Move them dynamically, making them work through their full and deepest ranges of motion. A good example of this would be a deep squat, a deep lunge, bent-over thoracic rotations, or my all-time favorite the 3-step lunge. This is where yoga comes in very handy – it can dramatically improve your dynamic mobility.
Also, stretch your joints statically, or hold them in a stretched position so they begin to release and lengthen. This is typically what we think of with “stretching”. You can try this static stretching routine.
Ok, now what? So, now you should be fully aware that fitness means so much more than being strong and having cardiovascular stamina. It also includes power, balance, coordination and flexibility/mobility.
If you want to understand what it feels like to move and feel like an athlete, having a very well-functioning body, all of these components should be included in your routine.
This seems complicated, right? How are you supposed to work on all of these things? It seems terribly impossible when you’re already thinking about your workouts as separate strength training days and cardio days. Should you also have a separate power day? Maybe a mobility day or a balance day, too? And then what about coordination?
Let’s integrate all of it together for the BEST WORKOUT EVER!
In your dynamic warm-up, you can include exercises that improve your dynamic flexibility/mobility and work on your balance. This is also a great time to try exercises that require you to coordinate different body parts.
As you move into the main portion of your workout, you can do resistance exercises that build strength. You can also incorporate movements that require speed so you can begin working on your power capacity.
If you move through your strength and power exercises quickly, with minimal rest, you will notice your heart and breathing rates elevate…hey, look! Cardio! The best strength and power movements will also require you to coordinate various body parts. Nothing should be isolated out, and everything should have to work together.
As you cool down, foam rolling with contribute to greater joint mobility by loosening up the muscle fibers. And if you've ever foam rolled, you know it requires coordination! Follow this up with some static stretching to continue to work on flexibility/mobility.
Incorporating all six components of fitness is incredibly important for you to reach your full potential. A couple of these may come more naturally to you, while others may be more of a struggle. No matter what, do not ignore any of them. Work on your strength, cardio, power capacity, balance, coordination and flexibility. Don't overwhelm yourself, just choose a well-designed plan that integrates all of them seamlessly.
*Are you lost? I know this may seem like too much to think about when you're simply trying to get a workout DONE. If you could use a little direction, I encourage you to have a coaching call with me. I can chat with you to help troubleshoot your fitness journey and point you in the right direction. Click here to learn more.